We’re down to 14 teams as three divisions will play their semifinal round Saturday afternoon while Winnisquam & Franklin meet for the Division IV title Saturday night in Laconia.
Last week Justin McIsaac & I picked every game all the way through the championship games in our playoff podcast (which you can listen to here) and after one round I’d say we’ve come away on the high side of mediocrity.
McIsaac went 2-2 with his Division I picks (with a predicted Londonderry/Bedford final) while I went 3-1 with a prediction of Salem meeting Bedford in Durham.
In Division II McIsaac went 3-1 but his pick of Milford getting to Durham and subsequently becoming the Mayor of Milford was crushed by Alvirne’s win on Sunday.
Meanwhile, I went 2-2. (John Stark hung in early against St Thomas but when Jake Cole went down with an injury the rout was on) while my UNH pick of Plymouth vs. Alvirne remains alive.
In Division III we both went 2-2 and both have Campbell and Monadnock winning again this weekend. Do not lie to me and tell me you saw Stevens shutting out Trinity coming…unless your last name is Silva.
Finally, McIsaac went 1-1 in Division IV while I picked Franklin over Newfound to get to 2-0.
Please note that next week’s championship game previews will be made up entirely of blind quotes from opposing coaches asked to breakdown the teams in the championship games.
We will be covering two games this weekend…both in Division II.
Pete Tarrier & Nichole Marrero will be at Portsmouth high school Saturday at 3:30 when St Thomas hosts Alvirne for a trip to Durham while ‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick-Ruth & Matt Corsetti will in Plymouth when the defending champs take on red-hot Souhegan.
We will have all the play by play & highlights plus the post-game interview with the entire winning team as they punch their ticket to UNH next weekend.
Today’s preview and Saturday’s coverage of Souhegan vs. Plymouth is brought you by our friends and partners at White Mountains Community College. (click to visit the WMCC website)
White Mountains Community College will have an open house on Friday November 16th at their Berlin campus location and this weekend look for the world premiere of ‘The Franchise’ Jennifer Chick Ruth’s WMCC/NHsportspage pre-roll commercial!
(4) Pinkerton at (3) Salem
The Blue Devils make the rare road game in Round 1, home game in Round 2 loop. They now face a Pinkerton Astros team they’ve had success against the past two seasons, winning two of their three meetings.
Will Michaud has really stepped up his play for Salem over the last month of the season. He was a big part of knocking off defending champion Winnacunnet last weekend with 221 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.
Pinkerton came up huge in going down the road to Londonderry and knocking off the 8-1 top seed.
Gannon Fast (89 yards rushing in the mud and 2 touchdowns) came up big as he always seems to do and Nick Lombard made the game-clinching tackle on 4th down when he sniffed out a Lancers screen pass to Jeff Weidenfeld.
Londonderry feels like Cole Keegan was interfered with on 3rd down late in the 4th quarter and the pictures online seem to give those feelings a lot of weight.
With Fast and Gennaro Marra (110 yards against Londonderry) you have two all-state backs to rotate and Hall of Fame head coach Brian O’Reilly has a lot of confidence in QB Aidan Goujon throwing the football.
Field conditions, as poor as they may end up being, won’t favor one team or the other. Expect another low scoring/closer game with the winner moving on to UNH next Saturday.
(2) Merrimack at (1) Bedford
Let’s cut to the chase………whether Merrimack has a chance to beat undefeated Bedford or not doesn’t matter as much as whether the Tomahawks feel like they can beat the Bulldogs the second time around.
The 56-14 score from two weeks shouldn’t be brushed aside. Going into to that season finale the winner of the game was going to earn home field for this win or go home match-up.
Coming into the Bedford game the Merrimack defense led by Jared Dyer and Adam Thornton had given up a total of 70 points the entire eight-game season. Giving up 56 to one team had to feel like on the wrong end of an avalanche.
Expect head coach Kip Jackson and Co. to come up with a plan to slow Bedford down but the offense under Dave Jackson is going to need to score more than 14 points to beat the last undefeated team in Division I.
Now, it’s time to talk about the Bedford defense which at times has looked like the ’85 Bears.
It starts with their two defensive ends Andrew Twite (75 ½ tackles & 8 ½ sacks) and Christian Bourgeois (69 tackles & 13 ½ sacks). They have been consistently good all season long and their ability to make plays in the backfield, knocking down balls and pressure the quarterback has been tremendous for Derek Stank’s team.
That pressure off the ends is backed up by maybe the best linebacking group in the state; ILB Harrison LeGoullon, LB Ryan Toscano (who is also the team’s leading rusher), MLB Alex Pantelakos and OLB Zach Garron.
As a group, they average 215 lbs and with maybe their biggest difference maker 6’4 310 lb. Torey Helton playing in front of them Bedford has been as dominant as any defense in the state.
(5) Souhegan at (1) Plymouth
Apparently watching Pete Tarrier interview the entire Milford football team in front of their bus fired up the Souhegan Sabers because Robin Bowkett’s team hasn’t lost since that night on September 28th.
Souhegan has won five in a row with four of those wins coming against either playoff teams (Bow in back to back weeks) or teams in Pelham & Hollis-Brookline who treated those games like playoff games. Souhegan beat them all and now they go back to Plymouth a year & a week after the Bobcats beat Souhegan in the first round. (highlights from that game)
On Saturday they’ll have to slow down the Plymouth rushing attack led by Owen Brickley (4 touchdowns last week against Hanover) and Patrick Malm. Linebackers Jacob Grassett & Michael Maroun are going to have to play very well for Souhegan to win but their play of late gives the Sabers more than a punchers chance.
Souhegan is headed up north Saturday believing they can knock off the champs.
(3) Alvirne at (2) St Thomas played at Portsmouth high school
A rematch of a Week 2 game the Saints won 26-22 on the road.
These are two teams that win with their depth, Shawn DeKorne is a player of the year candidate but the Saints have playmakers on both sides of the ball including a defense led Evan Briggs (their leading tackler for most of the season), Hunter Lassard, Will MacLean (he always seems to make a play when they need it) and Stone Compton.
Tarek Rothe’s Broncos will spread the wealth offensively between sophomore quarterback Kyle Gora (839 yards passing and 10 rushing TDs), Alex Guiffrida (470 yds. while battling injuries) and wide receiver Jack Regan (440 yards & 6 TDs).
On defense, it’s about covering the Saints in space, a Saints team with as good a group of receivers as any team in the state. With the game now being played on the turf at Portsmouth, it means the speed of St Thomas will not be negated by field conditions.
(4) Hillsborough-Deering-Hopkinton at (1) Monadnock
Take a look at the box score above (we’ll wait…)……
The statistic that tells you everything is the fact that the Red Hawks had 16 rushes in the first meeting against the Huskies and finished the game with minus 3 yards.
Even if the numbers are a little skewed by sacks against QB Caleb Yianakopolos the end result is still negative yardage. Running back Colby Quiet has had an all-state season, and one worthy of player of the year mention, and he only gained 15 yards in 8 carries.
So for the four seed to have a chance on Saturday they need to solve the riddle that is the Monadnock defensive line. A unit who has been as good as any unit in any division in the state this season.
(7) Stevens at (3) Campbell
These two teams didn’t meet during the regular season and if the Cougars felt a sense of relief when the Cardinals knocked off 2 seed Trinity it should have been short-lived.
Stevens being counted out and then knocking off a higher seed in the playoffs is a movie I’ve seen before and on Saturday, make no mistake, they’re more than capable of beating Campbell.
Paul Silva’s Cardinals lost to Trinity 39-6 two weeks ago so to turn around and beat them 7-0 in Manchester last Saturday night was nothing short of shocking. Silva can game plan with the best of them, as we saw with his 2016 champions who knocked off two teams in Monadnock and Inter-Lakes Moultonborough that had beaten his team during the regular season.
In that championship season the Lakers went up and down the field on Stevens all day but when they met for the rematch at UNH Silva came out with an entirely new defensive scheme. Expect more of the same on Saturday.
For Campbell, the loss at Monadnock seemed to take some of their momentum away (Highlights of Monadnock/Campbell) as they’ve been less effective to close the season. Still, the win over Laconia was a good one and they go into this one having familiarity with Stevens (they beat them twice last year).
The goal for Glenn Costello’s team was to get back to UNH. They were pretty sure in their minds who would be there waiting for them if they made it, and now with a win at home on Saturday they get back to Durham.
Possibly for a rubber match against the Monadnock Huskies.
(3) Franklin vs. (1) Winnisquam
First, a quick programming note…we had hoped to cover this game but with the game being played on Saturday night we don’t have a videographer available. Which I’m disappointed by because both of these teams deserve more coverage from us.
The turf will benefit the Bears more than the Golden Tornadoes, only because Phil Nichols (789 yards passing and 8 touchdowns) can spread the ball around to Gunnar Horman (his top target with 361 yards and 5 touchdowns) and speedsters Garrett Mango & Brycen Wiles.
Running back Angelo Glover, who went over 1,000 yards on the season against Franklin, might be the best back in the division and it’s a hard-hitting defense led by Kobe Briand, Caden Remillard, and Wiles.
Franklin will rotate Harrison Clark (speed) and Taryn Laramie (size & strength) at quarterback. Laramie is a load to take down and a big hitter on the defensive side of the ball.
Jeff Davis’s team has been led by their defensive line where Nick Fransen, Ben LaFrance & Dawson LaFrance have been beasts in the middle of the Franklin defense.
Winnisquam head coach Pat Riberdy is a very smart offensive coach and on Saturday night he’s going to pound Angelo Glover between the tackles and try to sneak a few screen passes over Franklin’s defensive line when the time is right.
Nichols ability to throw the football might be the difference in this one.
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 Souhegan head coach Robin Bowkett…live from a bus headed to Plymouth.
We will preview every playoff game around the state.