Sunday, August 29, 2010
NH Notebook Football Power Poll - Week 1
Each week of the high school football season starting today I'll be posting my top 10 teams in the state. My Power Poll is how I rank the top teams at that particular time, not necessarily the order I feel they will end the season in. In other words, if at any given time you took two teams and they played each other at a neutral site, the team ranked higher in the poll would be the favorite.
Back in May I released my Preliminary Power Rankings. You will notice that other than a couple exceptions, my rankings haven't changed a whole lot. Without any further ado, here is the NH Notebook Football Power Poll - Week 1.
Yes, they lost to Division III Goffstown the other night in the Queen City Jamboree. And while they didn't look terribly impressive in that game they are still the state's top team on paper and until they get beat in a real game I intend to keep them in this spot. In fact losing that game to Goffstown is the best thing that could have happened to Coach Gati's team. Why's that you ask? Because this team has so much hype around them entering the season. ESPN even has them as the #8 ranked team in New England, the only NH team in the top 10. Plus these are high school kids after all. Anytime kids get that kind of hype swirling around it's understandable if they get a little complacent. Their loss on Friday night is just what they needed to humble them, bring them back down to earth and get them re-focused heading into the regular season. There's also a chance that the graduation losses of Darren Brown, Dillon Cohen and Alex Sobrado will hurt the team more than people think. Friday night's results don't knock Salem off the top of my rankings. The Blue Devils might still be the favorite, but not as big a favorite as before. North, Central and even Pinkerton are breathing down their necks.
2) Nashua North
Karkhanis, Williams and Co. are rearing to go. The Titans had a heartbreaking loss in the D-I title game last year to Salem. They have most of the team back and you can bet they want revenge this year. Look for their offense to be even more efficient this season now that they will only have 1 QB. Last year Brandon Karkhanis and Dylan Brodeur took turns under center seemingly every other possession. Sometimes North even switched their QB mid-drive. Both players threw the ball differently and had didn't rapport with their wideouts, had a different rhythm with the backs and a different cadence when calling plays, demeanor in the huddle, etc. So while switching the QB's constantly certainly kept opposing defenses off balance it kept the other North players off balance as well. This year they will just have the one QB in Karkhanis, plus stud running back Andre Williams and do-it-all playmaker Jahmar Gathright and wideout Anton Marinchik. They also return more talent on their offensive and defensive lines than any team in the state. And most importantly...who ISN'T rooting for this team right now? I would personally like to wish the best of luck to North's Cooper Doucette with his health and a speedy recovery. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family.
3) Manchester Central
I think most people would agree that if there was one team that looked the best at Friday night's Queen City Jamboree it would be Central. The Little Green definitely struggled out of the gate in 2009, but judging by their play vs. Timberlane the other night that will not be the case this time around. Junior QB Jared Chandler looked very sharp, as did senior running back Khari Halliburton. Last year Chandler was a 5'6" sophomore QB who didn't practice with the first team offense until right before the season started. This year it's his team. He took his lumps at the beginning of the year, but got better as the season went on. Then he had a full summer practicing with the first unit, and with his favorite weapons in Halliburton, WR Junior Brown and Mr. Versatility Curtis Bayne. All of this showed on the field Friday night, when the whole team was in sync and on a mission. That was a scrimmage though. Now, Coach Ray's team must prove that they're the real deal when it counts.
Pinkerton looked solid against BG Friday night at the QCJ. They beat the Cardinals and that was without starting QB Chris St. Onge. St. Onge will be ready to go on Saturday when the Astros host Timberlane, and so will the tough defense and stable of running backs who Coach O'Reilly has to play with this season. Look for freshman Manny Latimore, Kevin Davies, Mike Mazzola and Emmitt Smith to all get carries this year for Pinkerton. I was giving Trevor Knight some hype before, but it now looks like Latimore is likely the state's top 9th grader. Anyone who can not only make the varsity team but start at a school with 3,500 kids deserves some props. On the lines, the Astros aren't as big as they were last year but they are quicker. And Luke Somers returns as a playmaker on both sides of the ball. Somers and Mazzola give the team two of the state's hardest hitters on the same defense. For them to be ranked #4 is pretty good considering they graduated their starting QB (Ryan Simpson), RB (Eric Guinto), plus two lineman who are now playing Division I college football (Ben Proulx and CJ Trieb).
5) Bishop Guertin
BG is not used to losing. Even though it was only a scrimmage, you know that their loss on Friday night to Pinkerton must have left a bad taste in the mouths of coach Tony Johnson and his team. Guertin had their whole team there on Friday and they lost to a Pinkerton team that was without their starting QB. This shouldn't come as a complete surprise however. The immense number of key seniors they the Cardinals graduated this spring has been well documented. Still, they still have Steve Cuipa at QB, the electrifying Mike Kelley in the backfield along with returning starters Nick Cooke and Kyle Karaska. Senior Kyle Remillard also showed that he can make some plays out there as well. Everyone knows BG won't be as dominant as they were last year. But they are still good enough to be a top 5 team in NH.
6) Nashua South
Ok, so last year South had a high powered offense but no defense. By season's end they finished a disappointing 6th place in the division after winning the title in 2008. So how is this year going to be any different than 2009? Well for one, I have them ranked as the #5 team in the division, which is only 1 spot better than last year. Also, the defense simply CANNOT get any worse than it was last season, especially at a football school like South. If I know Coach Knight he won't allow it to happen. They have nowhere to go but on that side of the ball. And offensively they will be right there with Salem as the top 2 offenses in the state. Senior QB Keith Farkas led the Purple Panthers to the title as a sophomore. He's ready for a big year, and he has 3 talented weapons at his disposal in Armond McRae, Nilsson Basora and Derek Paradis. These guys will put up A LOT of points. If their defense can turn things around they will move up in the rankings very soon. If not they could once again be on the outside looking in come playoff time.
QB Steve Cronan enters his 3rd year starting under center for the Warriors. For the past couple years though, his favorite receivers were Harry Knowles, Jesse Gould and Jason Busfield. All 3 players have graduated. And judging from their play in scrimmages, the side of the ball where Winnacunnet needs the most work is actually on defense. Still, this is a very well coached team led by Ron Auffant. They have a certain toughness and grittiness that I really enjoyed watching last season when I covered their games. Cronan is in for a big year, as is running back Bret Taylor and linebacker Mike Trainor. The Warriors have enough other players back from last year's squad to make them a tough opponent for anyone. I have them ranked #2 in D-II behind BG, but the gap between the Cardinals and them is definitely smaller than it was a year ago. If there's one D-II team that's actually happy Guertin that stayed put it's Winnacunnet, because now they get a chance to get some revenge and finally beat their rival.
For the 3rd year in a row Souhegan has the talent to be able to compete with the big boys in Divisions I and II. Last year was clearly the best team, and it would have been VERY interesting to see how they would have done against a team like BG, Salem or North. The Sabers graduate key players Steven Jellison, DJ Petropulos, Sean Cultera, Colin Cray and Tyler Wing and had lineman Wes Crowell transfer to Worcester Academy. But as they showed Friday night they still have plenty of talent. They only beat Manchester West by a touchdown, but they still showed some signs of their dominance from the past couple years. Plus they played that game without stud WR Brendan McKenna, a possible Division I player at the next level. The one concern for them from that game has to be stopping the run. West QB Aaron Martin ran for nearly 150 yards in just 2 quarters of play.
It is a credit to the program that Coach Ball has put together over at Exeter that virtually every player who got significant playing time last year has graduated and his team still makes the top 10. This will be Exeter's first season in Division I after moving up from D-II. With their track record, nobody is doubting that the Blue Hawks can handle the switch. But with how much they lost, and how little amount of starters they have returning, this is not expected to be one of the stronger Exeter teams in recent years. So while Coach Ball welcomes the challenge of playing in D-I, I'm sure if there's one season he'd pick to not be the team's first in it's new division it would be this one. Two players in particular who are returning for Exeter are OL/DL Brad Tiernan, a fierce pass rusher and solid offensive lineman and Jamie Tymann, who started 6 games last year in place of Carson Cross (who was out with mono). Tymann did a very nice job of running the offense when he was in there. Both Tiernan and Tymann are only juniors, so watch out for them in 2012!
After years of being a struggling program, Coach Nimblett has really done some positive things to get them headed in the right direction over the last couple years. They made the D-II playoffs last year and I expect them to be an even stronger team this season. Alvirne returns playmakers like Jesse Horn, Jonathan Baldwin, Sean Sipsey and Evan Anaya. These are all guys who help the team on both sides of the football. The Broncos get the nod for the #10 spot over Londonderry. The Lancers graduated nearly all of their key players from a team that missed the playoffs last year. So Alvirne gets the nod for now. They have a tough test week 1 though against #3 ranked Central.
Just missing the cut: Londonderry, Plymouth