We’re adding a few layers to this weeks Thursday column. I’ve been meaning to post a column on passing/rushing/receiving leaders from each division so I’m packing that into this column today.
We’re also going to look at the playoff picture in all four divisions and will do our best to tell you who’s IN and who’s (at least temporarily) OUT.
Today’s preview is sponsored by our longest running partner (over 10 years of supporting high school sports coverage in New Hampshire) Sentinel Title Services in Rye, NH.
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We will have coverage of two more games this weekend, one a Thursday special (weather permitting) tonight between Merrimack (5-1) and Concord (4-2).
Matt Corsetti & Jennifer Chick-Ruth will bring you all the highlights plus the post-game interview with the winning team.
The game was moved up because of a planned memorial for former Concord standout Leo Sudieh who tragically passed away on September 18th.
Leo was a player we covered & interacted with quite a bit in his fantastic career which included a state title in 2013.
Jennifer Chick-Ruth produced a video we wanted to share with our audience as we send our deepest condolences to Leo’s family & friends as well as the Concord football community.
The video is located at the bottom of this column.
We will also bring you coverage of Exeter’s showdown with Dover in a game that likely eliminates the losing team from the playoffs. Justin McIsaac & Nichole Marrero will call the game live and bring you all the highlights plus the post-game interview with the winning team.
Salem (4-2) at Winnacunnet (5-1)
You’re begging for a Popsicle headache if you try to find a pattern to Division I, and that’s a good thing, the parity not the headache caused by it.
Salem beat Pinkerton who beat Londonderry who beat Salem & Windham and oh by the way Windham beat Salem.
These were the two teams we had picked to meet in Durham a year ago but all-state running back Josh Sibanda was suspended after too many unsportsmanlike penalties and the Astros went to Salem (in a game we covered) and knocked off the undefeated Blue Devils. Meanwhile, Winnacunnet survived an all-time classic against Bedford before beating Goffstown & then Pinkerton on the way to the title.
Both teams are going to be in the playoffs again this season, the question is whether they’ll be hosting playoff games or getting on the bus. The outcome of this one will determine a lot in that regard.
Here is your Division I playoff picture heading into Week 7:
South/East: (1) Pinkerton (1) Winnacunnet (3) Londonderry (4) Salem
(On the outside looking in: (5) Exeter (6) Windham (7) Dover
North/West: 1) Bedford 2) Merrimack 2) Nashua North 4) Concord
(On the outside looking in: 5) Goffstown 6) Manchester Central 7) Nashua South
Exeter (3-3) at Dover (3-3)
The coverage of Exeter is sponsored by Sandy Healy at Re-Max
Justin McIsaac called this a ‘Loser leaves town’ match-up after we covered Dover’s win over Portsmouth-Oyster River last Friday night and it’s an accurate description.
The loser here is not getting one of the four playoff spots in the South/East configuration but the winner only stays alive for the time being, with a lot of help needed to get themselves a spot.
This edition of the Exeter Blue Hawks is staying in games with their defense. Since losing their opener convincingly to Salem 28-7 Bill Ball’s defense has kept them in games they would lose to Pinkerton (17-7 in a game we covered) and Winnacunnet (21-7). They’ll face a Dover offense led by Ty Vitko, Aaron Oroh (up for Player of the Week) and Luc Normandeau. They have an excellent offensive coordinator in Eric Cumba and a head coach in Ken Osbon who has faced Exeter enough times to have seen everything they can throw at him.
If I’m Dover my goal is to get this game into the high 20’s and see if the Exeter offense can keep up. Getting there is the hard part, but if Vitko & company can hit on a couple of home run plays early they give themselves a chance to pull the upset on their home field in a game we will bring you all the highlights of.
Merrimack (5-1) at Concord (4-2) Thursday night
I’ve talked enough with Merrimack head coach Kip Jackson to know he’s a ‘pump the brakes’ kind of coach when it comes to looking ahead, in this case to the post-season chances of his football team.
That would be the appropriate approach for a very tough Merrimack team that closes the season with this game at Concord, a showdown next weekend with the co-leader in the West conference Nashua North (5-1) and then a season finale at Bedford. You might have heard of them…
The Tomahawks were the greatest show on shortened grass two years ago behind the aerial attack of Justin Grassini. This edition is built on an excellent defense and an emerging all-state performer in Tristan Wood.
Jared Dyer and Adam Thornton will be tasked with containing the leading rusher in Division I, Tide quarterback Zach Miles, who has rushed for 704 yards and thrown for 713. Eric Brown’s team has enough weapons to spread Merrimack out, with Adrian Kennedy (322 yds. receiving) and Isaac Gladey (312 rushing) prominent among the Concord playmakers.
Concord closes with Manchester Central (fading but still alive) and Nashua North (if you’re Concord you’re hoping North has already locked up a top 2 seed by the finale) so they have a tough closing stretch.
The winner here has a much clearer path to the playoffs.
Bow (5-1) at Hanover (6-0)
Huge match-up in the North Conference with the Falcons, winners of five in a row and finally being interviewed on camera by Jen Chick-Ruth & Matt Corsetti, heading west to face unbeaten Hanover.
Head coach Sam Cavallaro’s Hanover team has gotten a big season out of Simon Roach (832 yds. rushing) and very good production on both sides of the ball from Bobby & Elijah Putnam, Kegan Silovich, Jeffrey Holt (107 receiving yards), Caleb Morse, Jack Loftus (259 rushing yds.) and Chris Robertson.
They’ll close with John Stark next weekend (in a game we’ll be covering) and a season finale against fellow unbeaten Plymouth at home.
In Division II the two conference winners earn the top two seeds and after that teams, 3 thru 8 are all earned regardless of what conference you come from.
Here is your Division II playoff picture heading into Week 7
Don’t bother committing that order to memory because an awful lot is going to change, both in the seeding and the teams that are in & out. Souhegan (3-3), Pelham (3-3) are very much in the race and if my Gilford-Belmont Golden Eagles can upset Kennett this weekend with a game at Sanborn the following week, they could throw their hat into the ring as well.
Alvirne (5-1) at John Stark (4-2)
Another really good match-up in a division full of them.
Head coach Tarek Rothe and the Broncos have gotten off to a 5-1 start behind a very good & experienced offensive line playing well in front of QB Kyle Gora. Alex Giuffrida has played very well at running back while Gora has the luxury of throwing to four wide receivers in Kyle Boucher, Jack Reagan, Paul Manzi & Morgan Williams that are all over 6’2.
Mitch Daubach leads the defense from the linebacker spot alongside Grady Hudson while Tommy Keegan anchors both the offensive & defensive lines. Adam Tice has also been a standout at defensive end. The task against the Generals will be limiting the production of the leading rusher in the division Jake Cole (860 yds).
Stevens (5-1) at Lebanon (3-3)
This one got a whole lot more interesting when Keaghan McCallister was suspended for two games before the Cardinals lost their first game to Laconia last Friday night.
Now they will again be without the second leading rusher in Division III when they travel to play a Lebanon team very much in need of a marquee win. Chris Childs’ team can run it behind Wade Rainey (397 yds rushing and 281 receiving) or take their shots downfield with the leading passer in the division Jon Willeman (823).
These two scrimmaged when they were in different divisions so there will be familiarity when they renew acquaintances. If Lebanon wants a home playoff game they have to come away from this one with a win.
Here is your Division III playoff picture heading into Week 7
Laconia (4-2) at Monadnock (6-0)
Great win by Craig Kozens team last week, with or without McCallister that’s a very good Stevens football team, can they build on that this weekend against one of the two best teams in the division?
When we covered Campbell’s win in Laconia three weeks ago I was struck by the fact that the Sachems came out and threw 30 times on Campbell (going into the game I didn’t even know Karter Greenwood was their quarterback….and I’m the guy adding their stats every week).
Greenwood has a good arm and made some good throws but ultimately Campbell blew the Sachems out in the 3rd quarter and won going away. What struck me the most about the result was that it seemed like Kozens and his staff didn't feel like they could run on Campbell. Will that be the case against a very good Monadnock defense led by Chandler Matson, Lincoln Blodgett, and Joey Joslyn?
Jake Steele is an all-state back for Laconia (732 yds. rushing) but don’t sleep on Kelby Brooker (505 yds, and coming on of late) who is more of a bruising back compared to Steele who gets you with his speed & agility.
What I’m interested to see here is if Laconia throws their hat in the ring as a true title contender with a very good showing in Swanzey Friday night.
Division IV playoff picture
Four teams get in and besides Winnisquam & Franklin no one is assured of a playoff spot yet…we’ll be in Tilton on October 27th when the top two teams in the division square off.
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Get all the football scores from Friday night, a look at the Saturday games and analysis from Pete Tarrier & Dave Haley.