Thursday, July 23, 2009

Super Saturday Preview

This weekend is another big one, folks. There will be 9 playoff game played across the state. Divisions I, II, and VI have their semi-final matchups, and Divisions III, IV, and V have their championship games. 8 of the 9 games will be played Saturday. And as of right now, all 8 of them will be played at 1 PM. Be sure to tune in for a special "Super Saturday Edition" of Friday Night Lights on WGAM 900/1250 AM and from noon-4 PM for coverage of all 8 games.

Now, for a breakdown of all 12 games, beginning with the semi-final games in D-I, D-II, and D-VI.

Division I

Pinkerton (4) @ Salem (1)

A couple major things to keep an eye on here that will affect how this game turns out. One is the health of Pinkerton halfback Eric Guinto. Clearly, The Astros are a vastly different football team when Guinto is in the lineup. He missed the last two games with a concussion, and they lost both of them. The good news for Astros fans is that Guinto is expected to be back in the lineup for this weekend's game. The bad news is that Mike Mazzola will not. Mazzola was ejected from last Saturday's game vs. North and suspended for this game for unsportsmanlike conduct. Pinkerton will moss him on both sides of the football. And as for Guinto, he's back but whether he's 100% and ready to touch the ball 20 or more times on offense is a different story.

The question with Salem is which Blue Devils squad will show up. The team that went 9-0 to start the season, or the team that got smoked by Central last Friday night 45-7? I don't think Salem is as bad as they looked against the Little Green, but I don't think they're as good as they looked the first 9 weeks either. If the four D-I teams are at full strength, anything can happen.

If anything good came out of Pinkerton playing without Guinto the last couple weeks, it's that Pinkerton was forced to open things up offensively. QB Ryan Simpson through a lot of passes last week, and with Guinto back, the Astros could have more balance to their offense heading into the playoffs.

Salem got behind Central, and tried to open things up and let Cannone through last week, but every time he dropped back, he had a Little Green pass rusher in his face, causing either a sack or incompletion. The Blue Devil offensive line will have to do a better job this week against a good Pinkerton line.

I like Salem to win a close one.

Manchester Central (3) @ Nashua North (2)
This is just a semi-final game, but if you ask me these are the two best teams in D-I right now. They're also the two best teams in the state not named BG.

Central started the year 1-2, but they are a different football team now. Jared Chandler has improved a ton over the course of the season, his line is giving him more time, and Junior Brown, who missed the beginning of the season, has emerged as a go-to receiver with great speed. The line is also blocking better for halfback extraordinaire Mike Cavanaugh, who had a slow start but is now a candidate for the Mr. Football award. But most all, the Little Green have improved on the defensive side of the football.

North on the other hand, has been a good team all year long. Their only loss was to Salem a few weeks ago, in a game that star halfback Andre Williams missed. Williams is fine now, and so is defensive lineman Kevin Rosenberg.

This game could really go either way, and the winner will have a very good chance at winning D-I. I'll take North in a nail biter.

Division II

Alvirne (4) @ Bishop Guertin (1)

BG once again showed why they are the best team in the state with their 42-0 win over Exeter last Saturday night. Alvirne meanwhile, beat Timberlane 32-7 to get into the playoffs for the first time in 10 years. Even though the Owls were playing without Furey in that game, the Broncos were without their starting QB Jonathan Baldwin. And to win by that wide a margin is impressive. Still, BG beat Alvirne 48-0 2 weeks ago. It would be silly to expect a result this time that was much different.

Winnacunnet (3) @ Exeter (2)
This should be a fun one on the seacoast. It is always a great atmosphere, packed stands and a loud crowd anytime these two rivals square off, whether it's in football or basketball. They met in the first round of the playoffs last year in basketball, so it's only fitting that they do the same on the gridiron. Especially since with division realignment, this might be the last time they play each other in football for quite some time.

On the field, this should actually be a very good, competitive football game. I think Coach Ball still has a bad taste in his mouth from when his team was upset by Winnacunnet in the regular season a couple years ago. He wants his team to get back on the winning track after last week's embarassing 42-0 loss to BG. And while Exeter also has Guertin and Timberlane as rivals, for Winnacunnet, their only rival is Exeter. The Warriors get up to play the Blue Hawks more than any other game on the schedule. This might be a semi-final game, but for Winnacunnet, THIS is their championship game. They've already had a very good seaon by their standards, but to beat Exeter would be the ultimate win for them.

If they hope to win, Winnacunnet will have to play smart. In the regular season meeting between these two teams, they had a number of bad penalties and turnovers in a 21-6 loss. If they can win the turnover battle, they can win this game. That is easier said than done however, when you're talking about a very disciplined Blue Hawk squad.

Exeter finally got starting QB Carson Cross back last week. OL/Dl Dylan Ryan also returned to the lineup after getting injured in the Dover game. He only played DL though vs. BG, but he hopes to play both sides of the ball like usual this Saturday. Look for the Blue Hawks to get back to their bread and butter: running the ball out of the Tight-T formation. Winnacunnet has had the most success this year when they put the ball in QB Steve Cronan's hands and let him make plays, either by throwing the bal downfield or running with it. His favorite receiver is senior Harry Knowles. The Warriors did have success throwing the ball in the first meeting. But Exeter was up by 3 TD's in the second half, so they could afford to play a prevent defense. The key for Winnacunnet will be not digging themselves into an early hole. If they can do that, and still have success throwing the ball it will be a ballgame.

I look for an angry Exeter team to show up. That BG game must have really ticked them off. I'm sure they want to show that they're better than that. Should be a heck of a game between these two teams. And you can listen to live play-by-play of this game, on 1540 AM WXEX or online at

Division VI

Campbell (4) @ Inter-Lakes (1)

Campbell played much better football as the season went on, after a very rough start. They head to the playoffs on a 7 game winning streak. Inter-Lakes has been dominant all year, going 9-0 in D-VI play. The Lakers are probably the least talked about team ever to go undefeated in their division. Surely part of the reason for that is because the one non-league game they played they lost 35-14 to Somersworth, a team that didn't even make the playoffs in D-V. I think all three of these D-VI playoff games should be good, competitive ball games. With the exception of the week 1 meeting between these two teams, the 4 D-VI playoff teams have played each other very tight this year.

Newfound Regional (3) @ Winnisquam Regional (2)
Winnisquam won the first meeting 20-0 back on October 3rd. Newfound is looking for revenge.

Now, here are my previews of the three championship games being played Saturday:

Division III

Portsmouth (2) @ Souhegan (1)

Both of these teams got here by virtue of absolute blowout wins in the semi-finals. Portsmouth scored the first 43 points in their game vs. Con-Val, while Souhegan showed the entire state that their previous loss to Milford was a fluke by defeating the Spartans this time around. So something has to give here. Now as we all know, the Sabres destroyed the Clippers in their first meeting. But both Nate Jones and Quinn McCann were out that game for Portsmouth. Incidentally, both players were on the High School All-Star Sports Show this past Monday night on WTSN AM 1270 that I'm the producer for. Both players said that because the were missing so many key players that game, they don't even count that game as a loss for them. As far as they're concerned they're undefeated. They're healthy now, and they're a confident bunch heading into this game with Souhegan.

Let's not forget though, Portsmouth was also healthy 2 weeks ago, and beat Milford by 1 touchdown...the same Milford team that Souhegan beat 37-0 last Saturday. I'm not sayin'...I'm just sayin.

The key in this game will be whether Portsmouth can limit its turnovers. If Portsmouth turns it over a lot, especially early, Souhegan could blow them out. Otherwise I think the Clippers will give them a game. You still have to like the Sabres though, either way. They're just too big, fast, and talented.

Division IV

Laconia (2) @ Plymouth (1)

Laconia showed that their loss to Monadnock was a fluke, as they crushed Hanover in the semi-finals. And Plymouth's Kyle McAuliffe showed that his injured hand was nothing to worry about, as he had yet another big game for the Bobcats in their win over Kennett.

The first time these teams met, it was a 13-7 win for Plymouth. Close game, only 7-0 Plymouth at the half. Plymouth has the longest winning streak in NH football history, and the second longest winning streak in the country. If anyone can break it it's Laconia, though. Unless of course they schedule Souhegan next year...

Division V

Bishop Brady (3) @ Trinity (1)

Bishop Brady pulled an upset if you can call it that, and beat Pelham last weekend. They've been as good as anyone in D-V over the second half of the season. Trinity meanwhile, has been dominant all year. Their closest game was against Kearsarge, a team that didn't even make the playoffs. Go figure. The Pioneers beat Bishop Brady in the regular season by 3 touchdowns way back in week 2. Bishop Brady is better now, but Trinity is simply a step above the rest of D-V this year. Will they move up to D-III or IV next season? Stay tuned...


  1. winnacunnet always has the better athletes, exeter is just so well coached that they are extremely hard to beat. Winnacunnet has to spread exeter's defense out and create 1-1 matchups in order for winnacunnet to win. Winnacunnet utilizing their athletes will be the determining factor of the outcome of the game

  2. Winny will win - they are much tougher. Exeter is very soft this year.

  3. I love how everybody is so willing to make excuses for Portsmouth and nobody says anything, but the second Souhegan people tried to with the loss to Milford, people just lambasted them up and down these blogs. It's not just Jeremy, but everyone especially that Roger Brown.

  4. It's not excuses. The fact is that Souhegan's injuries played a large role in their loss to Milford. And the fact is that Portsmouth's injuries played a large role in their loss to Souhegan. Both teams are healthy now. We'll see what happens...

  5. would love to see a Laconia upset of Plymouth and end the streak.

  6. Happy Valentines Day 12:16. No love for you this time as Plymouth rolls again and the streak is on...

  7. Bozek only carried the ball 10 or 12 times the first meeting. The holes were there at times.
    I think plymouth will be seeing little Bozek's in their sleep after Saturday.
    The STREAK ENDS and Sachemes win 21-14.

  8. Bozek only carried the ball 9 times and it was due to the fact he was stuffed with the exception of a 17 yd gain early and ended up with 37. Why keep giving him the ball when it doesn't work. laconia tried it with Birt last year and he too was ineffective. Won't be close if the rain doesn't play a roll. Plymouth 31 - 14

  9. Jeremy who do you think will win the Winnacunnet-Exeter game? Winnacunnet seems to be on a hot streak but their last 4 wins are against teams that have not done well and Timberlane had lots of injuries. Exeter was idle then was badly beaten by BG. Will Exeter be sharp? Winnacunnet seems confident in the papers. Roger Brown picked Winnacunnet, Marc Thaler picked Exeter. Any key injuries to watch for?? Should be a good battle. What is yor pick and why? Great job with this. Makes the season even more fun.

  10. 11:36, I try not to make picks. Where these are just high school kids anything can happen. I try to give the readers the facts, things that I know about the teams that will impact the game, key players and what I think the deciding factors, and let the reader can make an educated prediction. Not to mention I broadcast all of the Exeter games for an Exeter radio station, so it's a little bit of a conflict of interest.

    But I won't dodge your question. If I had to make a pick I would say Exeter. Like I said in my above post I think Exeter is going to be ticked off after how the BG game turned out. I expect them to really come out to play. And like you said, Winnacunnet hasn't beaten anyone good lately. Just looking at last week alone, Exeter played BG, while Winnacunnet played Spaulding - polar opposites there. I think that will have an effect on what happens. The Warriors will have to adjust to playing a real team again. And after playing BG, Winnacunnet should be easier. It's like when you're playing baseball, znd you're on deck. You warm up with a heavier bat, with a donut around it. After swinging that around a few times, you pick up your real bat and it's a lot lighter. Last week, when Exeter and Winnacunnet were "on deck" for this matchup, Exeter was warming up with a heavy bat and donut around it, while Winnacunnet warmed up with a tee-ball bat.

    As for key injuries, I mentioned Dylan Ryan in my above post. If he's abck at 100%, and playing on both the o-line and d-line, the Blue Hawks will be in good shape.

  11. 7:30, Birt ran a 56 yard touchdown when It was dry, once the rain hit turned out to be the qualizer for Plymouth last year.

  12. Anonymous 10:58

    I just checked the NH Football Report. Roger picked Souhegan. What are you complaining about?

  13. 7;30 hes the rushing average for regular season plymouth laconia game. Hay 5.5 Bozek 4.5 mCaullif 4.2!

  14. Brady will lose. Trinity will expliot the undersized linebacker there.

  15. 3:33, Brown, being a Portsmouth native has blogged multiple times about how a 49-6 thrashing by the Sabers was due to a missing QB, when the facts are that if Jones was in he never would've had time to throw anyways. If it was one or two scores like when Souhegan lost to Milford with almost their entire line missing, I'd understand. However, all of Portsmouth including Brown just seems to be coming in so cocky (Jones and McCann on that radio show too) thinking they're "undefeated." Please, the Sabers will thrash them once more and the debate will be put to rest.

  16. I believe Roger is from Nashua, not Portsmouth.

  17. Portsmouth may win or they may lost by 30, but the facts are tnat "if Jones was in he never would've had time to throw." The facts are that Portmouth was missing a bunch of players, including their quarterback. I check hsi site first thing every day and he did pick Souhegan to win. Not sure what you're beef is. Did he not vote for you to win Mr. Football or something?

    -- J. Backlund

  18. trinity will move up to D-III and they will easily win it this year.

  19. 10;25, who cares who that guy is, really? Nobody really cares about either team, though if I were to predict it, I'd say Souhegan by a land slide. About time those cats move up. And as for Trinity, just shut it, please! So tired of hearing about the Pioneers...

  20. You'll stop hearing about them if all those points about them being bad are proven. The people advocating Trinity state facts; results from games, average points scored (43), etc. Everyone talking down about them makes up fake matchups to make them sound bad. Trinity will obviously move up next year, and you will know how good they really are then. Personally I think a team that beats its opponents by an average of 33 points would definitely be competitive in a higher division.

  21. Trinity being bad in D1 4 years ago is not an adequate excuse to say they are bad now. Those kids are long gone. No one claims that Trinity can beat the good teams in D1 or D2. You act like all positive claims about trinity are such a longshot. Wasn't North considered a joke in D1 until this year? Teams improve. Trinity is doing great, and people need to stop trying to take away from it.

  22. what people need to realize is that when trinity was getting demolished in D1, the program had fallen apart, they didn't really haven any players and they have to deal with one of the lowest enrollments in NH. So the program dropped from D1 to rebuild and to join a division where they can be competitive. now the program has rebounded, the kids who were on the team when they played the jv schedule have vastly improved on the field. Trinity should most certainly move up a division or two and be competitive. Although these teams aren't very good, Trinity could definitely compete with the lower half of D1.

  23. Oh my god, you people just physically cannot stop yourselves, can you? South and Londonderry would MURDER Trinity, and they're not even playoff teams. I will give you one thing, you'd beat Concord and West, no doubt, so would tiny Campbell. However, once Trinity moves up to D-IV or D-III, that'll be as far as they go. Having seen Trinity and all of the top teams play this year, Souhegan, Portsmouth, Laconia, and Plymouth would all lay a beat down on Trinity if Trinity were in D-III or D-IV this year. We shouldn't even be talking about Trinity. If you're so impressed by 43 points a game, why don't you talk about BG, Salem, Souhegan, and Portsmouth: all teams that do just that in much tougher competition with much better teams. As someone who has seen Trinity play a couple times this season, I honestly can say say that bigger schools would beat up the Pioneers. Trinity is a product of a weak division, and their talent that I've seen with my own two eyes isn't overly impressive. Trinity might be a 3 or 4 seed in D-III/IV, but they'd miss the party in I and II for sure, and thus should not even be in this discussion. Let's talk about the legit teams now please!

  24. Both Jeremy and the top posts have great points about the Exeter Winny game. Winnacunet certainly has the better athletes and i would even venture to say the better players, but think exeter comes away with this one. Exeter gets by with minimum talent and maximum discipline. They are a very difficult team to beat because they don't ever beat themselves. This should be a very hard fought interesting game, much like last years Timberlane Exeter game

  25. Souhegan, play first then talk about how cocky the other team is. it comes off like the sabres are the cocky ones. hopefully it is a good game

  26. 7:06 from a while ago, Roger Brown is a Portsmouth guy as he writes for the Portsmouth papers and lives in the area. I know what that guy was talking about when he talked about Brown pooh-poohing the loss to Souhegan, but who really cares? We'll see tomorrow!

  27. You Souhegan people make me sick. Portsmouth was missing some good players in that first game. Just the simple fact. Anyone who wouldn't mention that probably isn't a very good reporter.

    Don't be like BG supporters. Show some class.

  28. How do we make you sick? I'm just saying we'll know for sure around 3 or 4 this afternoon! Either way, I was more upset with how people attacked Souhegan for mentioning injuries and how it seems that Portsmouth can get away with it. Both are good teams and we'll know for sure who's better/how much better this afternoon!

  29. Who attacked Souhegan? Are you saying it's not newsworthy to mention that Portsmouth was missing four two-way starters = two QBs. two Division I college athletes (Montville and Jones) and two of them All-State players from last season? I hope you're smarter than that.

    If anyone knows about injuries it should be Souhegan, who got stomped by an average Milford team when they were missing players.

    I think Souhegan should win handily today, but may I suggest some sensitivity classes.

    "Attacked" Souhegan? What a laugh.

    Good luck and enjoy the game. For your sake I hope Portsmouth doesn't win. You'll look pretty silly if they do.

    Enjoy the games!

  30. I would just like to say as a Senior on the Souhegan football team, we are not looking to rub it in like 7:55 is. Portsmouth played their hearts out and made it a close game for a while before we finally got into gear midway through the 3rd to pull ahead 49-29. Great job by the players and coaches for Portsmouth. I've never been more tired in my life! No huddle sucks on defense, especially when every play is a pass or sweep.

  31. Congradulations to both teams. This was a fun game to watch and both teams played hard. I believe the score was not indicative of how close the game was for almost three quarters. Unfortunately Portsmouth had three touchdowns called back on penalties.

    Jellison was too much for Portsmouth.

    I hope the Soughegan player (Ginnard?) is ok.

    Two things that didn't make sense to me. How come there wasn't an ambulance at the field. The game was stopped for over half hour to attend the injured Soughegan player.

    The second thing is - why is football the only major NHIAA sport that has its championship game played at the home field of the top seed. All championships should be at a netural site.

    Again, congradulations to Souhegan from a Portsmouth parent.

  32. Too many divisions. With 6 divisions, it's tough to have neutral sites for all 6 title games.