It only took two weeks of the regular season to feel like playoff spots were already on the line. Londonderry now owns the tie-breaker in their conference over Salem as a result of their 28-21 win in one of our games of the week (Betley Chevrolet Game of the Week highlights) while Plymouth picked up a very good win and in turn owns the tie-breaker over John Stark (Box Score).
Week 3 will be no different and today, as we do every Thursday through football & basketball season, we take a look at the biggest/most interesting games on the schedule.
Passing, rushing & receiving leaders have been updated for all four divisions. We are still getting statistics from new teams every day (John Stark, Winnisquam & Gilford-Belmont sent their first two games in on Tuesday) and we’d obviously like to have every team in the state represented.
Please send your stats to email@example.com
I spend about four hours every weekend (usually on my laptop during Patriot games) getting the stats entered and I’ll take on another hour if teams are willing to send them along.
Your early leaders:
I also want to thank four football programs and their head coaches for reaching out to me this week about becoming Gold Level supporters of our team.
As most of you know, but new readers we get every year as seniors leave and freshman arrive may not, our team of six people cover high school sports in our home state after working at our ‘real jobs’. So we depend on the support of coaches & parents through a one-time registration which makes it possible to fund the operation of the website.
Thank you to Bill Ball of Exeter football, Keith Jones of Milford football, Bill Raycraft of Windham football, Bob Polish and the staff at Bow football and Jimmy Lauzon of Londonderry football.
Each team will have access to every full game video we produce.
Speaking of which, we will be out at two games on Friday night:
Pete Tarrier & Jennifer Chick-Ruth will bring you coverage of Manchester Central at Merrimack
Nichole Marrero & I will be in Derry to bring you all the highlights and the post-game with the entire team when Pinkerton hosts Exeter.
Today’s column is sponsored by our new partners at White Mountains Community College.
Click on any of their ads on our homepage to learn more about their open house dates, academic programs and a campus near you.
We’ll be awarding the WMCC athlete of the month award for September in early October and every month throughout the school year.
Exeter (1-1) at Pinkerton Academy (2-0)
Two Hall of Fame coaches square off in a good one Friday night.
Dover being tied 28-28 with Pinkerton midway thru the 3rd quarter last Friday was the eyeball emoji tweet score of the night (my father would faint at the level of confusion that sentence would bring him) until the Astros shifted gears and scored 28 straight points on route to a 56-28 win. Still, it gave head coach Brian O’Reilly all the ammunition he needed as his pre-season #1 heads into this one against Exeter.
Exeter was no match for Salem in Week 1 and then cruised past Timberlane (The Owls are struggling on the line and that’s a bad place to struggle) last weekend. Junior Ryan Grijalva has been running the offense for Bill Ball’s team from the quarterback spot while Zach Tucker & Derek Edmiston lead a legion of ball carriers.
These are two Wing-T offenses that won’t throw the ball much, although Aidan Goujon of Pinkerton is more than capable.
You get the sense neither coach is satisfied with where his team is at right now but one of the legendary coaches will walk off the field Friday night feeling a little better about where things stand 1/3 of the way through the season.
Manchester Central (2-0) at Merrimack (2-0)
This is going to be a really fun game for us to cover tomorrow night.
Merrimack’s offense is usually very good under head coach Kip Jackson & offensive coordinator Dave Jackson, and it is again after two blowout wins to open the season.
It’s the defense though that has been a revelation early on as Adam Thornton, Tristan Wood and defensive end Jared Dyer have been all-state worthy through two games.
They’ll face a high powered Central offense Friday night, led by maybe the best passer in the state in Alex Hawkom. He has targets galore in Nick Olibrice, Miguel Gensee, and Dylan Feliciano. Ryan Ray’s team will run the ball out of the spread with Emmanuel Munyanya & Cooper Varano, so expect Thornton and Wood to have their eyes in the backfield Friday night.
Merrimack has put up 78 points in their first two games so it falls on a Central defense led Terrence Stroud (a very good run-stopper), and a linebacking group led by Varano, Max Brown and Joseph Martinez to slow them down enough for the Little Green to leave Merrimack with a win.
Goffstown (0-2) at Bedford (2-0)
If you had told me the Grizzlies were going to start the season 0-2 I would have been surprised but not shocked. Merrimack is never an easy place to win and I’m high on Dante Laurendi’s team at Nashua North (picking them to win the West).
Now it gets tricky with a trip to Bedford, who looks every bit like the juggernaut we predicted they’d be. The cluster on their side of the draw includes Central, Bedford, Merrimack, Nashua North, Nashua South, Concord & Goffstown and only four are getting in.
5-4 is not going to get you in unless you own a few tie-breakers and Goffstown just lost one to North.
What it all means is although it’s not Goffstown’s last stand Friday night… it’s getting late early.
Bow (1-1) at John Stark (1-1)
I’m not going to lie when I made my prediction for staff picks I just went with the home team in this one. That’s how close I think these two teams are.
Don’t expect a lot of scoring in this one but instead two teams that will run the football and try to wear the opposing defense down. Steve Guerette has been terrific in the first two games of the season for the Falcons and his ability to contain s very good Generals running attack, led by Jake Cole and QB Nate Tower will be essential if Bow is going on the road and coming away with a win.
The John Stark spread offense of a year ago has been replaced by a focus on running the football but Tower throws the ball well and in receivers like Aaron Bergeron they won’t be afraid to throw deep if Bow dedicates too many players to the box.
Plymouth (2-0) at Gilford-Belmont (2-0)
We’ll get to the alma mater in a moment but in my weekly podcast with Justin McIsaac, I listed Plymouth as one of my five teams UP. Which might seem short-sighted for a team that owns back to back Division II championships.
The reason the Bobcats have stood out is that they had to replace a ton of all-state performers from a year ago and so far the underclassman that have stepped up have performed very well.
Yes, Plymouth caught a break in opening the season with a pair of home games but they beat two teams (Bow & John Stark) that I expect to see in the playoff hunt all the way until the end of October. That’s the sign of a true program.
Now on to my beloved alma mater…
The 2-0 start (with wins over Pembroke Academy & Merrimack Valley) has been a terrific start for head coach Josh Marzahl and a very young Golden Eagles team.
Quarterback Alex Cheek (267 passing yards through two games), tackling machine Jon Mitchell (29 through two games), defensive end Malik Reese (6’4), Brandon Gallagher (54 yds. receiving) and receiver Curtis Nelson are all sophomores.
This is a sophomore class that won titles at the youth and middle school levels (losing only one game in 7th and 8th grade….to Plymouth coincidentally) and their goal is to put the program on the map. Senior leaders like Patrick Carr (89 yards receiving at tight end and the game-winning field goal against Pembroke) and Ethan Roy have played major roles and you get the sense there is a good mix of underclassman and senior leaders.
Are they ready to beat Plymouth on Saturday? No (that won’t stop me from taking them in staff picks) but that hardly matters.
What it gives them is a measuring stick game against the reigning champs. They should go into this one with a lot of confidence and nothing to lose. The 2-0 start gives them the house money to just compete on Saturday afternoon in front of a good crowd in Gilford and continue to build the program.
Monadnock (2-0) at Lebanon (1-1)
A year ago Campbell and Monadnock were head & shoulders above the rest of the division on their way to the most competitive championship game played at UNH last November.
This year Laconia, Lebanon and Trinity have joined the new look Division III, but it’s still fair to ask; are Campbell & Monadnock still head & shoulders above the rest of the division?
We’ll know more after this one. Lebanon could not stop John Thibeault of Trinity last weekend and that does not bode well with reigning player of the year Chandler Matson, Tim Hart (your Dion Lewis clone) and QB Tim Santaw rolling into town.
Head coach Chris Childs has faced Monadnock in the past and knows what to expect. The question is can their line wear down the Huskies over four quarters to stay in this one?
I’m going to be sprinkling previews of Division IV teams as I work my way through the coaches (my days for the last three weeks have consisted of about 40 Adrenaline Fundraising cookie dough deliveries so I just haven’t had the time yet) so look for that beginning next week.
Listen LIVE to the New Hampshire High School Football Show with Pete Tarrier & Dave Haley every Saturday morning at 9 am.
You can listen by clicking the listen live link right on our homepage or on 99.9 FM & 1370 WFEA radio in the Manchester area Saturday mornings. Our guest on Saturday will be Windham head coach Bill Raycraft.
Get all the football scores from Friday night, a look at the Saturday games and analysis from Pete Tarrier & Dave Haley.