Nate Emerson and Kennett square off with Windham
Concord (5-0) at Pinkerton (4-1)
Concord has been the Denver Broncos of the first half of the NHIAA football season; they can score a ton and no one has won with more style points attached but can they stop anyone when it matters? On top of that do we definitively know if they have they beaten anyone yet?
The Crimson have beaten two teams that hover above .500 (Manchester Central & Merrimack both currently 3-2) but it’s been an easy slate of games overall. Comparing their early season schedule to a team like Exeter (who has faced four teams with winning records that have spent time in the statewide top 10 rankings) is like comparing Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’ vs. Sandra Bullock in ‘The Proposal’ (ninety god awful minutes we are never getting back) ,it’s not close. All of this doesn’t mean Concord isn’t going to follow the same script and run Pinkerton right off the field Friday night, if they do though we’ll know it was against a legitimate contender. Consider this as their first measuring stick game.
Concord has spread the carries amongst Wally Ndi (526 yards on 39 carries) and Leo Sudieh (419 yds. on 35 carries) and watched Robbie Law complete 72% of his passes to the tune of 516 yards and 4 touchdowns. It has been without question the best offense in the state of New Hampshire.
The Astros defense led by all-state linebacker Matt Madden will pose the biggest challenge this team has faced so far and as is usually the case with Brian O’Reilly coached teams Pinkerton is getting better by the week. The Astros have the size to control the line but do they have the speed on the edge needed to contain Ndi and Sudeih? Is the Manny Latimore and eight yards of dust offense multi-dimensional enough to stay with a Concord offense that averages 50.8 points per game? And if Pinkerton is down two scores late can they move the ball throwing it behind QB Jack Hanaway, who has only thrown 17 passes (completing 8 for 134 yards) all season long?
We’ll have the answers Friday night as Pete Tarrier and Jon Kesty will have all the coverage in our New Hampshire Sportspage Game of the week.
Spaulding (3-2) at Bishop Guertin (4-1)
There was a great line by former Redskins (and yes they need to change that name) QB Joe Theisman after his team was battered by the Raiders in the 1983 Super Bowl, ‘They handed it to us on a tray and the tray was bent.’ That’s what Spaulding did to Winnacunnet last weekend. While the Warriors were still focusing on an arch-rival they lost to two weeks ago the Red Raiders pounded the Warriors to the tune of 385 yards on the ground and a 42-29 final score that was not nearly as close as it sounds. What the win does is put a playoff berth in the Fighting McIsaac’s hands.. a win on the final weekend of the season at Dover (and that won’t be easy) likely gets them in. Throw in a victory next weekend against Exeter and Spaulding is your North sub-division champion.
Travis Cote’s Bishop Guertin team has survived the loss of running back C.J Boykin to an elbow injury and stands a play away from a 5-0 start and all the talk that goes with it of being the best team in the state. The schedule Gods have been kind to the Cardinals who have faced Winnacunnet, Exeter, Keene and Spaulding at home. They’ve won by pounding the football (the preferred method) behind Kelvin Rivera and Mike Devereaux and also by throwing the football behind third year senior starter Tom Hurley ( a very solid Plan B). Expect to see two teams at Stellos Stadium this weekend who will try to beat the other at the line with execution. A win here might sway some people to begin to notice that BG is the best team you are hardly paying attention to, and for this program and their army of supporters that has got to be a first…
St. Thomas (5-0) at Portsmouth (4-1)
A new rivalry where the players involved will need no introductions. These two schools go at it from across the Sullivan bridge in every other sport and so why not renew acquaintances on the gridiron. These are two programs that have made a lot of noise the past few years but in separate divisions. Re-alignment brings them back together Friday night and for a young Saints team with very strong senior leadership it is a match-up with the Clippers at a time in the season Portsmouth usually starts rounding into form.
Brian Pafford’s team has a huge test next weekend at Plymouth (a game we will be at) and there are more than a few smart people who feel like the spread offense Portsmouth runs will be a tougher match-up for Plymouth than what the Bobcats saw when they dominated Trinity two weeks ago.
See how easy it was to drift to next week? If the Clippers make the same mistake St. Thomas has enough talent and intelligence (head coach Eric Cumba of St. Thomas is one of the good ones..) to pull the upset. For all the attention paid to players like Carmen Giampetruzzi, Donovan Phanor, Ivan Niyamugabo and Jared Kuehl The Saints have a player of their own who belongs with every player on that list in Jake Geppert. The senior RB/WR/CB/S is a playmaker on both sides of the ball and comes into this one with 621 combined yards rushing and receiving.
Fair or unfair the Clippers face the same set of questions Concord does; they can score but can they stop anybody when they have to? The past few weeks give you an indication they can as this is a unit that has played better by the week under defensive coordinator Kevin Mills. Remember, when quarterbacks Donovan Phanor and Nate McFarland went down in the first half of the Trinity game they didn’t just lose them on the offensive side of the ball. Mills lost two premier defensive backs and their absences forced players like Nick Mackey, playing in his first varsity game, to cover the likes of Austin Chambers, Ryan Boldwin and Tristen Theroux in space. With Phanor and McFarland back this defense is whole again and should be ready to contend for another title.
Winner here takes over sole possession of first place in the sub-division.
Justin McIsaac will be calling all the action live on WTSN radio 1270 AM (find him online or on TuneIn Radio on your phone.. and if you’re not listening to games on TuneIn Radio download it now and come join us in 2013..come on now..
Windham (4-1) at Kennett (3-2)
You really cannot overstate how big last weekend’s come from behind (more like come from already in the loss column) win over Milford was for Bill Raycraft’s team. Windham proved themselves as a formidable program a few years ago but what the win over a good Milford team did was forge an identity (and I hate terms like forge an identity, it sounds like something Frodo and Sam did..but anyway..) for a new crew of players at Windham. Joe Lorenz and a senior group that won about 80% of their games moved on last spring after taking Trinity to the wire at Gill stadium last November. In their place have stepped quarterback Brendan McInnis (595 yards through the air) and a running backs by committee of Kurtis Jolicoeur (276 yds. Rushing), Kellin Bail (247) and Shane Lafond (215). The defense made huge plays when they had to and now the Jaguars have the look of a Division II playoff team.
Kennett has been a very nice story as Mike Holderman has done a terrific job in opening up the offense with Will Pollard under center. Pollard won a quarterback battle in the pre-season with Nick Graziano and to say it worked out well for both would be an understatement as Pollard has emerged as one of the ten most prolific passers in the state (661 yards and 6 touchdown throws) while Graziano is second in the division in receiving yards with 232 through five games.
Winner here continues the good vibes provided from a very strong start. Win or lose though each team stands in very good shape to advance to the post-season in November.
Raymond (0-4) at Campbell (3-1) and Pelham (4-0) at Epping-Newmarket (2-2)
We bring you a first ever dual match-ups in a single preview to highlight the state of affairs in the often overlooked Division III race. On its own merit winless Raymond at Campbell and Pelham traveling to 2-2 Epping-Newmarket doesn’t offer up enough intrigue to go into any sort of lengthy discussion but what the two games together illustrate is the biggest issue in the new division.
First the evidence before the argument:
Bow 42, Gilford 7
Pelham 56, Newport 6
Somersworth 34, Bishop Brady 26
Campbell 29, Bishop Brady 28
Gilford (North sub-division), Newport (West) and Bishop Brady (East) are your current leaders in three of the four sub-divisions. Each team is winless against any of the four teams in the South Division and in most cases the games have not been close. The fact that Bishop Brady was able to compete with Somersworth (currently last in the south division) and Campbell makes them clearly the 5th best team division-wide, but while they are clearly not as good as the four teams in the south division their playoff chances are decidedly better than those four teams.
It is the teams in the south that are on the outside looking in as two of the four teams (Pelham, Bow, Somersworth and Campbell) will be sitting home on the first weekend of the playoffs no matter how much success they have in non-sub-divisional games. This kind of unbalance takes a lot of the excitement out of the Division III race.
Not only do only two of the top four teams in the sub- division make it to the playoffs but once they arrive they have to face each other again in an elimination game. Meaning theoretically that the two best teams in Division III will square off two full weeks before the championship game.
Fair? No. But at least we are very clear on what we have and because of this our eyes will keep wandering to the same four teams when the scores come in every Saturday night. The winner of the South sub-division is your clear cut team to beat. We have a month to find out who that is.