Friday, October 31, 2014

Bell Brothers Returning to Bishop Brady

We've received confirmation that Jourdain and Joe Bell are transferring back from Lee Academy in Maine to Bishop Brady in Concord, NH. The Bell brothers are 2 of the state's top prospects and their return likely makes Bishop Brady the favorite this year in D-II boys basketball. Their 'Big 3' of the Bell brothers and Brendan Johnson will be as good as any trio in the state, regardless of division. The Giants also return 6'6" junior forward Aaron Svendsen and sophomore sharpshooter Matt Quirk. These guys play an up-tempo game and will put up a lot of points. Brady advanced to the D-II quarterfinals last season, and their head coach Mark Yeaton resigned at the end of the season.

This now makes 4 players in the past few weeks who have returned to the NHIAA from a prep school, with the others being Trevon Maughn (from Hyde's School back to Memorial) and Zach Bergeon (from New Hampton back to Campbell High).

"The education at Lee Academy was not as rigorous as Bishop Brady and it lacked the religious component that the boys had become accustomed to" said Marsha Snow, the Bell brothers' mother.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

ESPN NH Friday Night Lights Football Poll - Week 9

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN NH Friday Night Lights football poll.

1. Pinkerton
2. Bedford
3. Salem
4. Londonderry
5. Windham
6. Concord
7. Exeter
8. Kennett
9. Portsmouth
10. Manchester Memorial

A few notes...
Salem and Londonderry. It's a tossup for that #3 spot. Who really deserves it? We'll finally find out on Friday night when the 2 teams square off. The winner solidifies their spot in the top 3, but more importantly they clinch a playoff berth while the loser will watch the playoffs from the sidelines. Expect a packed house and a great game in this one.

Windham deserves the #5 spot, ahead of Concord and Exeter. Windham is unbeaten, hard to justify putting a 2 loss team ahead of them., especially considering both Concord and Exeter have lost to a team below them in the rankings (Concord fell to Memorial and Exeter lost to Goffstown). Windham will play either ilford or Trinity in the first round of the playoffs yet they easily beat both of those teams in the regular season. Their toughest game in the playoffs will likely come from either St. Thomas or Kennett.

Concord gets the slight nod over Exeter for the #6 spot since they took unbeaten Bedford to OT and they crushed Portsmouth 41-7 last week. Plus Exeter lost by 2 TDs to a now un-ranked Goffstown team.

Kennett is deserving of the #8 spot. I have them 3 notches below Windham, because even though both are unbeaten in D-II Windham has played a tougher schedule and still had a higher margin of victory.

Portsmouth gets the nod over Memorial. Both have identical 5-3 records, but Portsmouth beat Memorial head-to-head.

As big a game as Salem vs. Londonderry is, also keep your eye on Goffstown vs. Memorial Saturday and Concord vs. Exeter on Friday. Concord makes the playoffs with a win OR a Memorial loss. Memorial makes the playoffs with a win AND a Concord loss. Whoever makes it travels to Bedford in the playoffs next weekend.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Player Transfer Recap - Boys Basketball

With all of these kids switching schools it can get confusing to keep track of them all. So with the season only a few weeks away we've put it all in one place. So below is a listing of the player transfers, followed by a breakdown of what it means for each division.

Jourdain Bell - Bishop Brady to Lee Academy (Reclassifies to 2016)
Joseph Bell - Bishop Brady to Lee Academy (Reclassifies to 2017)
Brett Hanson - Manchester Central to Tilton School (Reclassifies to 2016)
Wenyen Gabriel - Trinity to Wilbraham & Monson (Reclassifies to 2016)
Luke Rosinski - Pinkerton to Kimball Union Academy (Class of 2016)
Caleb Green - Londonderry to Proctor Academy (Class of 2017)
Geo Baker - Buckingham Brown & Nichols to Pinkerton Academy (Class of 2017)
Ben Swett - Exeter High to Phillips Exeter Academy (Reclassifies to 2017)
Josh Joyce - Gilford to Holderness School (Class of 2015)
Matt Glassman - Bedford to Lawrence Academy (Reclassifies to 2018)
Jesse Stiffler - Sunapee High to Newport High (Class of 2016)
Ryan Rondeau - Central Catholic to Pelham High (Class of 2015)

Also, it was previously reported that Trevon Maughn was transferring from Manchester Memorial to Hyde's School and Zach Bergeon was transferring from Campbell High to New Hampton School. However both players are back at their original schools - Maughn is at Memorial and Bergeon is at Campbell. Both are seniors this year.

Additionally, Manchester West and Timberlane are moving down from D-I to D-II, Pembroke is moving up from D-II to D-I, Pelham is moving down from D-II to D-III.

What these changes mean for Division I...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Announcing Elite Preseason Warm-Up by 603 Elite

603 Elite, a new basketball training and player development organization, is launching their first program this Sunday at the SportsZone in Derry, NH. It's called the Elite Preseason Warm-Up, and it is a 3 session program being offered to boys or girls in grades 9-12 looking to strengthen their skills in preparation for the upcoming high school basketball season.

The workouts will take place on Sunday November 2, 9 and 16 with the girls session from 3:30 - 5:30 and the boys session from 6-8. 603 Elite was formed by the husband and wife team of Jordan and Jennifer Fithian, who both starred on the basketball court for Division I Binghampton University and now coach the NHTI women's basketball team together. Also coaching the program will be Don and Tom Poitras, who were both standout players at Bow High School and later at Rivier College.

"The program is for players looking to get ready for their high school season" said Jennifer Fithian. "In addition to drills each session will also include an information seminar for the players and their parents on topics such as NCAA regulations, eligibility and what it takes to be recruited as a kid from NH."

For more information, or to register for the program, visit 603elite.com.

"We believe in fundamentals, and getting back to the basics" Jordan Fithian added. "We'll do drills in a team setting, rather than solely focusing on individual skills that won't translate to a team game. Each session will build on the one before it, wit a steady progression of drills. We'll be doing drills involving offense, defense, rebounding, dribbling - all at an elite level."

Jordan Fithian is from Kansas, and he was named Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year and Mr. Basketball for Kansas as a senior at McPherson High School in 2004. He started as a freshman at Binghampton and played his final 2 years of college ball at Emporia State. For the past 2 years he served as an assistant coach under Paul Hogan for the NHTI men's basketball team before joining Jennifer on the NHTI women's staff this year.

Jennifer Fithian starred as high school player at Bow High, where she won Class M Player of the Year as a junior and senior and was named Miss NH Basketball in 2002. She was then a standout player for Binghampton, as a 2 year captain and all-conference defensive team as a senior. Fithian was an assistant coach under Karen Pinkos for the SNHU women's basketball team in 2011-2012 and at NHTI under Kevin Gibbs in 2012-2013 before being named the NHTI head women's basketball coach beginning this year.

Don and Tom Poitras are brothers and are also cousins of Jennifer Fithian. The Poitras brothers were both standout players at Bow and at Rivier, where they started all 4 years and scored over 1,000 points.

"We're exciting to kick this program off, it's an awesome opportunity for the kids" said Jordan Fithian.

"Both Jordan and I as well as Tom and DJ all have unique experiences from our playing days, and we look forward to passing that knowledge on to the local high school players" said Jennifer Fithian.

The program is still accepting more players to sign up, but hurry because it begins this Sunday.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Defense & Running Game Lead Exeter Past Memorial

Tough defense, a strong running game and discipline. That's the blueprint of Exeter Blue Hawk football. Bill Ball has been running that system for years and it continues to work. It worked again on Friday night, as Exeter only gave up 1 offensive touchdown to an explosive Memorial team, they used 6 different ball carries and scored 3 rushing TDs, they had 0 turnovers and only 1 penalty all game. That's Exeter Blue Hawk football right there.

The result was a 24-14 win for Exeter over Manchester Memorial, in a D-I clash where both teams were 5-2 coming in. Sophomore QB/DB Kyle Ball rushed for 2 TDs while Nicholas Flodstrom rushed for 103 yards and 1 TD. Neil Vorster, Chris Henry and Mark Cicchini led the way on defense for the Blue Hawks, who will host Portsmouth in the D-I quarterfinals in 2 weeks.

With that being said, Exeter and Memorial are actually 2 very evenly matched football teams. Memorial has some explosive skill players like Daquan Henclewood, Isaac Velez, Harmel Nkongolo, Tyler Pelletier and Bobby Cipolla. The Crusaders were also able to match up with Exeter's size up front, with guy like Anthony Angerami, Tom Joyce and Derrick Terrezano.

So what was the difference? Converting in the red zone. Exeter scored every time they got there, whereas Memorial had 2 trips to the red zone where they came away with 0 points. That's the difference in the game right there.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

ESPN NH Friday Night Lights Football Poll - Week 8

Here's how I voted in this week's ESPN NH Friday Night Lights football poll.

1. Pinkerton
2. Bedford
3. Salem
4. Londonderry
5. Windham
6. Manchester Memorial
7. Concord
8. Exeter
9. Portsmouth
10. Kennett

A few notes...
Again, I have Pinkerton barely ahead of Bedford. It's just because Bedford had another close win last week (needing OT to beat Concord), while Pinkerton has won by 3 or more TDs every game and the only close win they had (over Salem) came when their most explosive player TJ Urbanik got hurt and was limited to just 8 yards on 3 carries.

Salem and Londonderry are a tossup for the #3 spot. Again, we won't know for sure who's better until they square off on Halloween. It's scary to think one of them will be left out of the playoffs (get it?).

Teams 5 through 10 are all pretty even. I mean seriously, I'm not sold that Windham is 5 spots better than Kennett. After all they are both in D-II and both undefeated. I was waiting for Kennett to beat a team above .500 before putting them on my ballot. Not only did they beat Lebanon last weekend but they won it easily. That combined with Goffstown falling to Central means Kennett is definitely deserving of the spot.

Teams 6 through 9 are all pretty even as well. Portsmouth has more injuries than the other teams in that group and they lost to Exeter by 2 scores so I have them at #9. Exeter lost by 2 TDs to a now unranked Goffstown team so I have them a little lower at #8. And then you have Memorial and Concord both at 5-2, but Memorial beat Concord so they get the #6 spot. Yes, Memorial lost to Bedford 41-7 whereas Concord took the Bulldogs to OT, but the Memorial/Bedford game was WAY back in week 1, and was played before the Crusaders made the switch to Isaac Velez at QB. At any rate, we should definitely have a better idea of where these 4 teams stand after Friday night, since you have Exeter vs. Memorial and Portsmouth vs. Concord.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Player Transfer Recap - Girls Basketball

With all of these kids switching schools it can get confusing to keep track of them all. So with the season only a few weeks away we've put it all in one place. So below is a listing of the player transfers, followed by a breakdown of what it means for each division.

Madison Springfield - Marianapolis Prep to Conant High (Class of 2016)
Casey Evans - Londonderry to St. Andrew's School (reclassifies to Class of 2016)
Amanda Torres - Trinity to Proctor (reclassifies to Class of 2017)
Gabrielle Hunter - Bedford to Tilton (reclassifies to Class of 2016)
Kylee Julia - Campbell to Tilton (reclassifies to Class of 2016)
Hannah Fabiano - Campbell HS to Trinity HS (Class of 2017)
Angelina Marazzi - Memorial to Northfield Mount Hermon (reclassifies to Class of 2016)
Jenoyce Laniyan - Memorial to Bedford (Class of 2017)
Abby Streeter - North to BG (Class of 2017)
Bri Nordengren - Merrimack to BG (Class of 2017)
Lexie Hamilton - Hanover to Sunapee (Class of 2016)
Nicole Anderson - St. Thomas to Marianapolis Prep (Class of 2017)

What these transfers mean for Division I...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mr. Football Watch

With only a couple weeks left to the regular season, here's a look at the early favorites for the 2014 NH Mr. Football award. It's the statewide MVP award for NHIAA football. A player At this point there appears to be four favorites (listed alphabetically)...

Connor DiCesare, senior QB, Portsmouth High - this kid is putting up video game type numbers on a weekly basis. He's had to carry the offense often times, throwing it 20-30 times or more each week. And even with the defense focused on stopping him he has still produced, leading the Clippers to a 5-2 record. Even more impressive is that DiCesare is a first-year starting varsity QB and Portsmouth is the smallest school in D-I and in their first year in D-I yet he is still putting up huge passing numbers and leading his team to wins.

Eric Fairweather, senior QB/DB, Londonderry High - possibly the most dangerous dual threat in terms of rushing / passing in the state. One of the state's leaders in rushing yards, passing yards and touchdowns. He's a a threat to either throw or pass for a TD on any given play. Fairweather missed much of last season with injuries. Not only was he trying to get healthy over the off-season but he had to adjust to a new coach (Jimmy Lauzon) and new offensive system. Not only that, but Fairweather has also been a hard hitting ball hawk on defense, all while leading the Lancers to a 6-1 record.

TJ Urbanik, junior, RB/DB/KR, Pinkerton Academy - the most dynamic, explosive player on the squad most consider to be the top team in the state. Pinkerton is 7-0 and Urbanik has been their MVP so far. He's a threat to go for 6 anytime he touches the football, whether running the ball, catching passes out of the backfield or returning a kickoff. His value to the team was evident in the Salem game when he left after the first series and then the team struggled to move the ball. Urbanik impacts the game in all 3 phases, as he is also a tough defensive back.

Michael Vailas, senior, QB/DB/KR, Bedford High - where would Bedford be without Mike Vailas? That's something that Coach Hines probably doesn't want to even think about. The Bulldogs are 7-0 and are arguably the best team in the state. Their starting RB entering the year only played 1 game before suffering a season ending injury and over 5 other key starters have missed games due to injury, yet they are still unbeaten. Why? One reason is depth (over 100 kids in the program). But Vailas is a bigger reason. This kid is a play maker, plain and simple. Whether it's running the offense, making highlight reel runs, completing key 1st down passes, returning punts for touchdowns or making hard hits or intercepting passes on 'D', nobody helps his team win in more ways than Vailas. Not bad for a kid who's never played QB before.


Other candidates to watch out for down the stretch...
Brendan McInnis, senior QB, Windham High
Robert Law, senior QB, Concord High
Stephen Hedberg, junior QB, St. Thomas
Daquan Henclewood, senior RB, Manchester Memorial
Brendan Johnson, senior QB, Bishop Brady
Jack Mahoney, senior RB, Alvirne High
Elyjah Dejoie, senior RB, Somersworth High

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Vailas Leads Bedford Past Concord in OT Thriller

Bedford is now a perfect 7-0 on the season, but on Friday night (on their Senior Night) they got their toughest test of the season so far against the defending champs Concord. Senior Robert Law (arguably the best QB in the state) engineered a terrific drive in the closing minutes of regulation, ending in a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie it up 16-16 and force overtime.

But then in OT senior Michael Vailas (arguably the best player in the state) scored on a 6 yard TD run (his third TD run of the game). Vailas ran in the 2-point conversion. Then on defense Vailas made the hit of the game, drilling Law in the backfield for a 5 yard loss. Concord had one last chance, on 4th and goal from the 5. Law's pass was deflected and fell incomplete, thanks to blanket coverage by Jonathan Hoaglund. Bedford wins 24-16 and then celebrate on their home field.

"We were feeling down after they got that 2-point conversion to tie it" said Vailas. "Our corner played it good, we just got unlucky on that play. Then when I scored the 2-point conversion it got me jacked up. And on defense, we saw they had 3 backs so I knew I could jump in and make the tackle."

Friday, October 17, 2014

Upset in the Valley

By: Ross Laorenza
For the first time in their history Merrimack Valley defeats Laconia, by a 20-17 final. The Pride gained possession with 4:35 remaining in the fourth quarter, trailing 17-14, on their 29. Led by quarterback Ian Curtin (#19), Merrimack Valley would drive 71 yards and score the go ahead touchdown on a 2-yard rush by Colby Weyant (#18). Along the way Curtin would convert on two 4th downs over 10 yards with passes up the seam to Evan Martin (#25).

“He’s the most ball savvy receiver on the team,” said Pride head coach Jim Coll after the game.

Martin was hoisted overhead by his teammates as they gathered in their post-game huddle. Both passes were bullets from Curtin, who took over the starting role after an injury to Ivan Niyomugabo against St. Thomas.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

North Andover Fall Ball 2014 - Week 6 Recap

The North Andover Youth Center Fall Ball is widely considered the region's most competitive and best run high school basketball fall league. The league is in its 10th year, and through the first five weeks of the 2014 season 'The Barn' had already had over 40 college coaches come through to scout the local talent. This was week 6, and both the New Hampshire Notebook and the Boston Herald were on hand to cover the games.

This is a good league for the NH teams to play in. Not only do you get to play against mostly MA teams who you don't have to play during the high school season, but you get to play in a league that in general plays at a higher level, faster speed and more physical than most NHIAA games which raises the level of play of the NH teams. There is no shot clock in the NA Fall Ball, but the MA kids are used to playing with one so they just naturally play a faster, more up tempo style game.

The league has 16 teams, 4 of which have NH players on the roster. On Tuesday night all 4 of those teams took the court. The schedule went:
Game 1: Londonderry vs. Lawrence
Game 2: Salem vs. Medford
Game 3: Pelham vs. Methuen
Game 4: St. John's Prep vs. Tewksbury

The night was highlighted by an overtime, comeback win by Londonderry over Lawrence, Pelham falling to Methuen in a nail-biter and in the game of the night it was St. John's Prep overcoming a tough start to run away with the win over a good Tewksbury team. Local kids who stood out included Cody Ball (Londonderry), Keith Brown (Pelham) and Ben Judson (St. John's Prep). Here's our recap of all the action.

Spartans Fall Classic - Girls Tourney Recap

We continue our coverage of this past weekend's Spartans Fall Classic with the girls tournament recap and player evaluations. The tourney was held at the RIM sports complex in Hampton and run by the NH Spartans AAU program and its director Chris Coates. The NH Notebook was in the house all weekend to cover the high school divisions.

The MA Huskies took home the championships in both the Varsity Division and the 9th Grade Division. They beat the NE Rebels 62-38 in the finals of the HS Division and they defeated the NH Spartans 53-22 in the finals of the 9th Grade Division. The Huskies had multiple teams in both divisions which all played well. Their coach Hank Desantis had to be pleased. The HS Division especially was loaded with talented college prospects, so to win by 20+ in the finals is very impressive.

The Huskies were led by two of the top young prospects in the entire state of Massachusetts in Anna Kelly and Shannon Murphy. Both are future D-I college players. Despite the fact that a MA program won titles in both of the high school age divisions, there was a lot of NH talent in action. Some of the the top local prospects included Taylor Choate (Nashua North), Sarah Thomas (Bishop Brady), Ashley Coneys (St. Thomas), Kelsey Coffey (Londonderry) and Nicolette Arnold (Pinkerton). This was our first look at Arnold, a freshman phenom who has a bright future ahead of her.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

ESPN NH's Friday Night Lights Football Poll - Week 7

Here's this week's top 10 NHIAA football teams regardless of division, as voted on by the members of ESPN New Hampshire's Friday Night Lights staff.

1. Pinkerton
2. Bedford
3. Salem
4. Londonderry
t-5. Concord
t-5. Windham
7. Portsmouth
8. Exeter
9. Alvirne
10. Memorial

Also receiving votes:
Goffstown, Bow, Kennett, Nashua South

Here's what my ballot looked like...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Spartans Fall Classic - Boys Tourney Recap

Yes it's football season, but this past weekend at the RIM sports complex in Hampton was on of the region's biggest tournaments of the fall AAU season. It was the Spartans Fall Classic, run by the NH Spartans.

There was 49 girls teams and 40 boys teams, ranging from grade 3-12. Some good competition, players really getting after it out there, and lots of local talent on display (particularly on the girls side). The New Hampshire Notebook was in the house on both Saturday and Sunday to cover the action and scout the NH prospects.

We begin our coverage with the boys tournament, where Mass Elite ran away with the championship in the 10th/11th grade division. Mass Elite crushed the CC Bulldogs 83-41 and in the finals they beat the Gladiators 65-36. Mass Elite was led all weekend by the dynamic back court duo of D.J. Frechette (Nashua High South) and Ryan Veguilla (Bishop Fenwick).

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Exeter Over Portsmouth for Hard Fought Conference Win

Exeter has one of the state's top defenses and on Friday night they lived up to the hype, holding a high powered Portsmouth offense to just 2 touchdowns and 17 total points. They were going up against one of the state's top quarterbacks in Conor DiCesare, who has a a strong arm and a talented receiving core (5 different Clippers had 3+ catches). But the Blue Hawks intercepted DiCesare 3 times and came up with a goal line stand, holding Portsmouth to a field goal after it was 1st and goal from the 4.

Exeter also got a strong game (on both sides of the ball) from Nicholas Flodstrom, who rushed for 131 yards and 2 touchdowns on just 11 carries. Kyle Ball, Mark Cicchini and Shane Quimby all had interceptions for the Exeter 'D'. Ball (only a sophomore) was starting his second varsity game at QB and threw a 23 yard TD pass to Chris Kelley (who also rushed for 71 yards).

DiCesare did manage to throw for 262 passing yards and 2 TDs. He threw a whopping 54 passes, completing 32. All of the pressure was on DiCesare, with his team playing from behind for most of the game and with no balance on offense (Clippers had just 14 yards rushing).

Hollis-Brookline Shuts Out Pelham

By: Ross Laorenza
Matt Ferenczhalmy broke the stalemate, with a 15 yard rushing touchdown and just over 8:00 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, as Hollis-Brookline would go on to beat Pelham, 7-0. After three plus quarters of grinding down the Python defense, the Cavaliers were able to capitalize on excellent field position near midfield. Ferenczhalmy shared the load with fellow senior Andrew Butler on the scoring drive.

“It was huge for us. We talked about 6’ windows on either side. Windows between scoring and being stopped short,” said Coach Chris Lones after the game.

Lones’ team improves to 3-3 on the season with a victory over a tough Pelham squad. Turnovers played a crucial role in Friday’s game. Pelham appeared to be driving late in the game when a Trevor Gagnon pass was intercepted over the middle by Joe Brooks.

Hollis-Brookline lost a scoring opportunity to interception at the end of the first half as well, losing possession at the Pelham three yard line.

Great defense throughout the game forced teams to punt a combined 14 times. Pelham had one final chance to comeback with less than a minute to play. After a sack and two incompletions Gagnon had one final heave down the right sideline, but it too fell to the turf sealing the victory for Hollis-Brookline.

Final score, Hollis-Brookline: 7, Pelham: 0.

From Harris Family Track and Field in Pelham, New Hampshire, Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Spartans Fallball Classic On Tap This Weekend

This weekend is one of the biggest tournaments of the fall AAU basketball season. It's the Spartans Fallball Classic, being run by the NH Spartans and coverage by the New Hampshire Notebook. It takes place this Saturday and Sunday at the RIM Sports Complex with more games also at Winnacunnet High and the Marstin School, all in Hampton, NH.

The tournament schedule has been posted and can be viewed here: http://nhspartans.com/schedules/

The NH Notebook will cover the high school age divisions of the tournament, both on the boys and girls side. We'll have analysis and evaluations on some of the tournament's top prospects. Good luck to all teams participating this weekend!