Monday, October 25, 2010
NH Notebook Football Power Rankings - Week 9
We are really starting to get down to the nitty gritty here. The teams who are playing well going into the playoffs will have a BIG advantage to win it all. You also need to be playing good football over these next couple weeks in order to even make it into the playoffs.
D-I, D-II and D-III each have 5 teams fighting for 4 spots. The other divisions are also far from settled. These next 2 weeks (and only 1 week for the bottom 3 divisions) are crucial.
Here's a look at how the top teams rank at this most critical time of the season.
Pinkerton just keeps rolling along, as they took care of business vs. Concord this past weekend. The order that the other 11 teams in this article are ranked could be debated. But there's no debating that RIGHT NOW the Astros are the #1 team in New Hampshire. Nuff said.
Dover might have only beaten Londonderry by 1 point, 34-33 on Friday night. But I put less emphasis on cross-division games that don't count in the standings than I do for division games which do count in the standings. Plus, the Lancers are playing good football right now. A week ago they beat Nashua South and the week before that they NEARLY defeated Central. I had Dover ranked #3 last week. They won this weekend, and the team who was #2 then (Salem) lost. And I can't justify putting the team that beat Salem (South) ahead of the Green Wave after South just lost to Londonderry. I realize I have Dover ranked much higher than others. But like I have said time and time again, it's all about how the teams are playing RIGHT NOW. And right now on a neutral field the Green Wave would be favored over any team in the state other than Pinkerton.
3) Nashua South
The Purple Panthers have 2 very good wins in the last 2 weeks, beating both Salem and Nashua North. Sandwiched in between was an overtime loss to Londonderry. But I have dismissed that loss to a degree because of the South players who were injured in that game and now healthy (Basora and Odell) and because of the weather conditions which HEAVILY favored power, run oriented Lancer team over a finesse, pass happy Purple Panther squad. Questions still remain about South's defense, as they gave up 54 to Londonderry and 34 to Salem. But with the way Farkas, McRae, Paradis and company are playing right now, there's no question these guys can put points up on anybody.
4) Bishop Guertin
Good win for the Cardinals by going to Hampton and taking down Winnacunnet 28-14 on Friday night. They still have a lot of injured players, but guys like Andrew Crane, Blake Boudreau, Kyle Remillard and Alex Eaton are all REALLY stepping up for them. They're a football factory, so even when they have injuries they have other guys ready to step in and fill the role. Remillard and Crane were supposed to be starters this year, but Eaton and Boudreau weren't. But both of those kid are flat out animals on the field. They might not be starters if everyone is healthy, but they would definitely start for any other team in the state. Not only that, but this is the year after Guertin graduated THIRTY FOUR SENIORS...and they STILL have crazy depth! Like I said, they're a football factory. And I'm sure they're chomping at the bit to get a rematch with Dover in the playoffs. THAT would be a game worth the price of admission.
They were #2 last week, but the loss to South drops them down. The Blue Devils are a good team, and they barely lost to South. But Pinkerton, Dover, South and BG are playing better, more consistent football RIGHT now than Salem is. Coach Gati still has a dangerous team, that on any given day has the talent to run anyone in NH off the field. The question is consistency, and defense. Luckily for them they finish up with Londonderry and Concord, so a playoff spot should be a certainty. Still, either the Lancers or the Crimson are capable of pulling an upset, especially Londonderry.
6) Manchester Central
Over the last 3 weeks Central has won, but they've beaten 3 teams unlikely to make the playoffs (Exeter, Londonderry and Memorial). They've also only won each game by 1 score. With games coming up against Pinkerton and South to end the season it is time for the Little Green to show people whether they're contenders or pretenders. They definitely have the size, speed and talent to do it. "KK" Halliburton has had a big year running the ball, and this team has plenty of playmakers on both sides of the football. They're undefeated this season at Gill Stadium (4-0), but none of the teams they beat are as good as #1 ranked Pinkerton.
Souhegan continues to roll light along. Another week, another blowout win in Division III. 8 weeks in, and still the only blemish on their record is a close loss to Central a few weeks back. This week they face winless Pelham, who lost 45-0 to the same Con-Val team Souhegan just beat by 3 touchdowns. That game could get ugly. But it will be interesting to see if Bedford can give the Sabers a game on November 5. Coach Beliveau's team is hands down favorite to win the division. Luks, McKenna, Dwinell and company are rearing to go. As long as they don't get complacent and take any teams lightly, it should be a 3rd straight title for them. And then we'll have the whole off-season to debate who the Sabers would do if they were in a higher division.
8) Nashua North
This is a very good team with a lot of talent, and they're the only NH team to beat #1 ranked Pinkerton. That being said they have 3 losses with 2 of them being fairly recent and their last 2 wins were against Concord and Memorial. Their last win against a playoff contender was a month ago. The Titans end their season with Merrimack and Exeter, which would make 4 straight games to end the year against teams they'll be heavily favored against. Coach Robie will try to keep them hungry for playoffs (which they should definitely make as long as they take care of business vs. Exeter).
Winnacunnet is definitely not playing their best football right now, and as a result they continue to move down the rankings with 2 straight losses. The good news is that they hope to have Mike Trainor, Bryce Paster and Bret Taylor are all expected to be back and healthy this week (Taylor played, but only had a couple carries last week in the loss to BG). Steve Cronan continues to play well and lead the team at QB, but he needs help. As BG Coach Tony Johnson put it after the game Friday night, "He's a one man show." Lineman Spencer Cutting has been playing some good football though, as has Ben Fee and Grant Hamel. The Warriors could still be a very dangerous team if they can get healthy and get back to the playing tough, in your face, never say die football that they're capable of.
Every week I've been talking about the big game between Trinity and Lebanon. And guess what folks, it's finally here! Both teams are unbeaten at 8-0 going into this game, which should be the Division IV game of the year. Both teams are tough, run the ball up the gut kind of teams. Should be a great game over at Gill. Who will win is to be determined. One thing is for certain, though. The winner of that game WILL be ranked in my top 10 next week.
Which Keene team will show up over the next couple weeks - the one that went undefeated for the first 6 weeks of the season and then beat up on Timberlane last week, or the one that got embarrassed by Dover just 9 days ago and lost 52-7? You definitely have 2 extremes there, no middle ground. Well, the Blackbirds end the season with games vs. BG and Winnacunnet. The next 2 weeks will tell us whether they're for real.
Boy, that loss to Keene last weekend is really going to hurt their playoff chances (not to mention drop them in the Power Rankings). How do you go from beating Winnacunnet by 2 TD's one week to losing to Keene by 3 scores the next? Well, that parity and unpredictability is what has made this 2010 football season so exciting. Timberlane is a tough, hard nosed team, led by the Lawrence twins and a good defense. They have a gimme this week vs. Spaulding and then a BIG game the following week vs. Dover.
One last point before I end this article. The NH Notebook Power Rankings is NOT the same thing are even affiliated in any way with the WGAM/Union Leader/WMUR Power Poll. Yes, I do cover games for WGAM, but I don't vote in that poll. At the same time, I did NOT create the NH Notebook Power Rankings to compete with or to take a shot at the Union Leader/WGAM/WMUR Power Poll. That would be crazy, because like I said, I cover games every Friday night for WGAM. The reason I created the NH Notebook Power Rankings was simply to give yet another point of view on how the top teams rank from week to week.