Here's a look at this weekend's big games:
Pinkerton @ Manchester Central
These are two teams who are playing their best football as of late. Pinkerton's low point was against Salem, and Central's was their poor showing vs. Nashua North. But both squads have righted the ship. With a win, Pinkerton keeps their hopes for a home playoff game alive. Central meanwhile, is in a three-way battle for the 4th seed, and a win over the Astros will give them a very good shot at it, although they still have to play Salem week 10.
Of course the big story heading into this matchup is the absence of Pinkerton star running back Eric Guinto. As reported by the Union Leader's Marc Thaler, Guinto will be out for the next two games as a result of the concussion he suffered in the Astro's win over South last Saturday afternoon.
Pinkerton still has other backs who can handle running the ball, but certainly nobody as good as Central's Mike Cavanaugh. Of course the Little Green defense is not as good as the Astro's. With Guinto, this would have likely been an easy win for Pinkerton, but without him it could go either way.
This will be a good test for Central's sophomore QB Jared Chandler. The last time he faced a defense this good was week 3 against North, and he struggled mightily in that game, although his receivers diddrop some catchable balls. For Pinkerton, it will be interesting to see if they air it out more without Guinto. Last year whe he was injured, the Astros still had Chris George and Colby Verge to carry the ball. They don't have that kind of depth this year. They do have a very good offensive line, though.
Nashua South @ Londonderry
Another BIG game in Division I. South has very little chance at making the playoffs, since even if Central loses their last 2 games and South wins their last two games, the will still be tied at 4-4 with Central holding the tie-breaker. For Londonderry it's pretty simple, beat the Purple Panthers this Friday night, and they're in.
That will be easier said than done, however. South is finally healthy on defense, and they're very explosive on offense. When Farkas, Paradis, Haskell, Basora and McRae are clicking, they can play with anyone in the state. Londonderry on the other hand, is a more balanced team. They're balanced between offense and defense. And they also balance the run and the pass well on offense. Sean O'Gorman and Alex Lambert have both had monster games in recent weeks for the Lancers.
Should be a good ballgame in Londonderry, with a lot on the line for both teams.
Milford @ Portsmouth
This is a big game on the seacoast Friday night, and I'll be covering this one for Friday Night Lights on WGAM. Portsmouth finally has their roster healthy, and it showed as the Clippers demolished Kingswood 52-6 last weekend. Milford meanwhile, didn't rest up and pat theselves on the back after their HUGE upset of Souhegan. Last week they beat a decent Goffstown team in convincing fashion, 34-14. Both of these teams are healthy and playing very good football going into this ballgame.
These teams have very differing styles offensively. Portsmoutb likes to spread teams out and pass the ball, with quarterback Nate Jones and all-state wideout Mike Montville. Milford on the other hand, likes to run, run, run, power football up the middle. They're eld by running back Josh Ibarra, who has had monster games in each of their last two big wins.
These same two teams will almost certainly meet in the D-III semi-finals next weekend. The winner of this game will get home field advantage next week. Knowing that, will Coach Jones and Coach Murphy use their whole playbook, play their starters the whole time and risk injury, etc.? Should be interesting to see what happens.
This matchup is also a re-match of last year's D-III semi-final game in Portsmouth where the Clippers barely beat the Spartans to advance to the championship. It was a very close game though, and if not for some costly penalties and turnovers, Milford could have easily won that game.
Bow @ Trinity
While there other games on Saturday, this one is the only marquee matchup. So there should be a good crowd on hand at Gill Stadium, or as many people you'll see for a regular season Division V contest. A couple weeks ago, Bow as riding high and sitting pretty with a 6-0 record. At that time they still had a shot at the top seed in D-V if they could win their last three games. But then they lost to Somersworth and Bishop Brady the last two weeks, and Trinity has clinched the top spot in the Division as a result. The Falcons will make the playoffs whether they beat the Pioneers Saturday or not, but they could finish anywhere from 2nd-4th, depending on what happens this weekend.
If you think you'll see a lot of passing in this showdown, think again. Both squads are big, tough hard nosed teams who like to run the ball and wear down opposing defenses. Both teams have exceptional defenses and running games. Trinity is led by halfback Connor Lyons, and Bow has a pair of bruising backs they rely on.
Which Bow team will show up on Saturday? The team that went 6-0, including a win in Pelham, or the team that lost to a bad Somersworth team and got destroyed by Bishop Brady? And is Trinity really THAT much better than everyone else in D-V? Surely, we'll get some answers this Saturday night.