Here's a preview of this weekend's big games:
Winnacunnet @ Timberlane
"Nobody wants the fourth seed. Nobody wants to play BG. We've played both them and Exeter, and I would much rather play Exeter in the playoffs than BG."
Those are the words of Winnacunnet head coach Ron Auffant following his team's convincing 27-14 win at Alvirne last Friday night. He knows that if his Warriors win their last three games, they will likely get the coveted third seed, and avoid playing Bishop Guertin in the D-II semi-finals.
Winnacunnet's final two games are against Merrimack and Spaulding, which should be wins for Auffant's squad. This weekend's game however is a big one. This Friday night, the Warriors travel to Plaistow to take on Timberlane. The winner will be the odd's on favorite to get the number 3 spot.
If Winnacunnet wins on Friday, the two schools will both have 3 losses in the division. Alvirne only has 2 losses, but they still have to play BG, and the Warriors beat the Broncos head-to-head so they hold the tie-breaker there. Dover also has just 3 losses, and they hold the tie-breaker over Winnacunnet, but they also still have to play Exeter.
Meanwhile if Timberlane wins, they would still have just two losses in D-II. And they would likely get the third seed...unless they lose the last week of the season at Alvirne. Then the Broncos would get it...unless they somehow lose to Merrimack this weekend. Confused yet?
Getting back to Timberlane/Winnacunnet, it should be noted that the Warriors did defeat the Owls last year around this time of the season. They were te only team other than BG to take down Timberlane in the regular season. And you know they're riding high after that huge win in Hudson last weekend. Also playing into Winnacunnet's favor is the health woes of the Owls. Starting quarterback Nate Lawrence was injured early in the third quarter of last Saturday's tilt with Exeter and did not return to the game.
Londonderry@ Nashua North
This one is all about playoff positioning in D-I. As it stands right now, North is the second seed and Londonderry is fourth. But one game here could change all that. If the Lancers win this one, they'll both be 5-2 and Londonderry will have the tie-breaker. But The Titans on the other hand, can improve their shot at a semi-final round home game with a win.
There really is 6 playoff caliber teams in D-I, and anytime two of them square off it's a marquee matchup. Hard to believe that between Salem, North, Pinkerton, Londonderry, Central and South two of them won't make it in. With how hyped up these matchups are, it actually could come down to who has more games left to play against the three teams at the bottom of this division. And you don't have to look because I already did...Salem still has Concord and West, while South and Central get to play Memorial.
As for this matchup, a key will certainly be the health of Andre Williams, the star running back for North. And I know what you're thinking, Londonderry got blown out by Pinkerton, how will they have a chance in this one? Well, they actually had the lead in that one until late in the second quarter. An that was 3 weeks ago, they seem to be playing better football now. The Lancers are a gritty team, I think they'll make this one a game, especially if Williams can't go.
Exeter @ Dover
This may seem like a lopsided matchup, but it still means a lot for both teams. Dover needs a win to have a shot at the aforementioned third seed in the D-II playoffs. And needs a win so hat they still have a shot at the division's top overall seed.
Injuries will also play a role in this one. Blue Hawk starting quarterback Carson Cross has missed the last two games because of mono. He may or may not play in this game. The question is, with this being Exeter's last game before BG, will they even chance it? And for Dover, starting running back Justin Dube suffered a concussion in the BG game, and hasn't played since. Boy, you hate to see anyone get hurt in a 51-0 blowout, let alone a starter on a team fightig for a playoff spot. There is a small chance Dube will play, but more than likely they'll hold him out and hope he's ready for next week when the Green Wave play at Keene. They'll need a win over the Blackbirds to have any shot at a playoff berth. Still, Dube might be out for the rest of the year. He's also a starting forward on Dover's basketball team, and if he suffers on more concussion he'll miss the entire basketball season.
Con-Val @ Souhegan
It's the Senior Game for Souhegan, and what great class it is. Many players in their class will likely go on to play college ball, including Division I prosect Steve Jellison and quarterback DJ Petropulos. They took Milford lightly, but I doubt they will do the same vs. Con-Val. Not only because it's the Senior Game, but also because Con-Val has a 5-2 overall record. And also because if they lose, the Sabres will also likely lose the top spot in the D-III playoffs to Portsmouth. Con-Val meanwhile is currently tied with Milford for the third seed.
Pinkerton @ South
Boy, will it be a fun weeknd at Stellos Stadium! Friday night you have Londonderry and North and then Saturday it's a rematch of last year's epic D-I title game. True, both starting runningbacks from that game, Zocco and George are gone but there are still plenty of plaers on these squads who played in that classic matchup.
The stakes were obviously higher then, but this game still means quite a bit for the Astros and Purple Panthers. Both teams are in serious danger of missing the playoffs. South has 3 losses, a loss here and it will be nearly impossible to make it in, and they still play at Londonderry next week. And Pinkerton only has one loss in the division, but their last three games including this one are @ South, @ Central and vs. North. Ouch!
The key matchup here will clearly be the Pinkerton running game vs. South's ability to stop the run. The Astos live and die by their ability to run the ball, and lack of rush defense is the reason why the Purple Panthers have three losses. They've struggled in that department due to the absence of star linebacker Demitri Venetos. They'll need him in there to stop Eric Gunto and company.
This is also a matchup of differing styles on offense. Pinkerton is a run-oreinted team, they rarely throw the football. Contrast that with South, a team that does run the ball at times, but they're at their best when they open things up and let quarterback Keith Farkas make plays. Whether the Purple Panthers an contain the Astro running game is the biggest question in this one. But not far behind is whether the Pinkerton secondary can keep up with the quickness of South's receivers. Keep your eye on wideouts Nick Haskell and Nilsson Basora in particular.
Bishop Brady @ Bow
Two of the better teams in Division-V square off in a possible playoff preview. In D-V, there is less certainty about which teams will make the playoffs. More than likely, it will be Trinity, Bow, Pelham and Bishop Brady. The uncertainty is more with the order those four teams will finish in. This game will undoubtedly play a role in that. And picture of this ordering got cloudier this past weekend when Bow was upset by Somersworth. Going into that game, Bow was 6-0, and Somersworth was just 2-4. Will the Falcons get back on track here? On the other hand, Bishop Brady has won their last two games on the last play of the game, will they make it three in a row? Should be a good one in Bow.