Thursday, November 18, 2010

NH Notebook Football Power Rankings - Week 12

With just 1 week left in the season, here's how the rankings look. Congrats to Lebanon, Kearsarge and Newport for winning the titles in Division IV, V and VI.

#1 for the 6th Week in a Row

1) Pinkerton
Another good win for the Astros on Saturday vs. Salem. I said before that Luke Somers is their most valuable player (which I still stand behind). But you have to be impressed by the fact that Pinkerton has played as well as they have considering all of the underclassmen they have contributing. They have 2 freshmen who are valuable contributors in Manny Latimore and Matt Madden. They have a sophomore quarterback (Chris St. Onge) and in addition to Latimore 2 of the other backs who get lots of carries are only juniors (Kevin Davies and Emmitt Smith). Ryan Coombs, Andrew Curran, Jesse Trottier, Brett Liporto (pictured above) and Alex Pacocho are only juniors as well (all 5 are really emerging as big time players). Most of these guys are first year starters, so you have to be impressed with what this Pinkerton team has done. The only loss to a NH team all year was to Nashua North. But that game was so long ago it feels like last season. And like I've mentioned a number of times, it was the one game where Somers didn't play. They are clearly the favorites to win the D-I title, but North will give them all they can handle.

The Next 3 Teams All Have a Shot at the Year-End #1 Spot

2) Winnacunnet
Winnacunnet gets the slight nod over BG for the #2 spot because well, they're healthier. The Warriors continue to show that they're a different time with RB/LB Mike Trainor in the lineup. They still have not lost a game this year when he plays. Even though WR/KR is out (broken leg), this team has plenty of other talented players who are healthy. You have Trainor playing well, you have Mr. Football candidate in QB Steve Cronan (who was huge in the semi-final win over Dover) and others playing well right now include Marc Lariviere, Matt Sullivan, Ben Fee and Spencer Cutting. Winnacunnet pulled out a comeback overtime win vs. previously #2 ranked Dover on Saturday to advance to the D-II title game against BG.

3) Bishop Guertin
The injury bug just keeps biting the Cardinals. You can add senior captain and two-way standout Kyle Remillard to the the list of wounded Guertin players. Remillard, who was "the heart and soul of our team over the last few games" according to head coach Tony Johnson, will join Mike Kelly, Pete Fucci, Joe McCarthy, CJ Boykin and others on the list of BG players who will be watching from the sidelines when Guertin takes the field Saturday in the D-II title game vs. Winnacunnet. The good news for BG is that FB/LB Alex Eaton is expected to return to the lineup this weekend after missing the last few games.

4) Nashua North
What a difference getting Andre Williams back in the lineup made for the Titans. The senior rushed for 280 yards and 5 TD's in a 49-35 semi-final victory over South. QB Brandon Karkhanis is also playing well for North too. But the issue with this team remains the defense. If they can make enough plays defensively North definitely has a shot at beating Pinkerton in the championship game.

The Next 5 Are All Very Good, Evenly Matched Teams

5) Dover
Dover's 7 game winning streak came to an end Saturday in a heartbreaking 30-27 loss to Winnacunnet. This team still had a VERY good season. After not making the playoffs for the last few years the Green Wave. Going into the season nobody had them in the top 10, let alone being #2 in the entire state going into the playoffs. They beat BG for the biggest win the program's recent history, they beat a good Keene team 52-7, they beat Timberlane and they also beat D-I Londonderry. Not too shabby at all. Not many teams have the resiliency to lose their first 3 games in a row and then keep their heads up enough to win 7 straight. They lost in the playoffs in a game they could have easily won, but Winnacunnet is a good team and Dover lost in a very close, hard fought game. This was Dover's year too. Most of their top players were seniors including Kyle Wilson, Nick Corbett, Donnie Morse, Ian Seawards, Corey MacKoul, Mike Laurion and Kenaan Al-Darraji.

6) Manchester Central
Tough luck for Central. They miss out on the playoffs while Salem and South make the playoffs and then both end up losing their 5th game of the season this past weekend.

7) Nashua South
Inconsistency and avoiding injuries were both problems this year for the Purple Panthers. While they lost 5 games, they were also ranked #2 in the state at one point. Tough way for star QB Keith Farkas to go out. The 3 year starter had an excellent career, and is definitely a Mr. Football candidate, but he had a tough game vs. North on Saturday. Still, the problem with this team for the last 2 years has been the defense. Next year they'll be strong on offense once again, with Armond McRae and Derek Paaradis back, and phenom Trevor Knight taking over at QB. If they can turn the corner defensively watch out.

8) Salem
Two sides to the coin here. On one side I say that after witnessing the Pinkerton/Salem game on Saturday all of the Blue Devil players battled hard for all 4 quarters and should hang their heads high. And that we should salute Matt Cannone and Max Jacques for having 2 of the better careers in recent memory and being model citizens on and off the field. On the other side this team really did underachieve. Maybe the expectations were a little too high going into the season. But they should have been high considering they brought back so much of their talent from a team that won last year's D-I title losing just 1 game all year in the process. They were the preseason #1 team in NH by, well everybody. Then they lost 5 games and lost in the semi-finals. They're kids though, it happens. Let's not point the figure, let's just say it has been a VERY good year for NH high school football.

9) Souhegan
Do the Sabers belong in the #7 spots, ahead of a pair of 5 loss teams? Perhaps. But first off D-I is much stronger top to bottom than D-III. Second, I'd be more inclined to put Souhegan higher if they beat #4 seed Hollis by more than 2 scores in the D-III semis. At many times it was only a 1 score game as well. Meanwhile #2 seed Portsmouth throttled #3 seed Milford 51-3. And yes, In know Milford had both of their backs get hurt that game. But I was there, and even with Forte and Goudreau in there Portsmouth was dominating. Souhegan's a good team, but don't be surprised to see a Clipper upset this Saturday.

4 More Teams Who Are All VERY Deserving of the Recognition

10) Lebanon
They won the D-IV title on Saturday with a 24-14 win over Trinity. Lebanon is a very good football team with a lot of heart, and I'm glad I was able to see them play in person. Cody Patch and Alexander Morrill are definite Shrine Team candidates. The Raiders are a great story, going from a team that hasn't made the playoffs in over 10 years to a team with an undefeated season a a state championship. They should make a movie about it.

11) Portsmouth
I finally got a chance to see the run-and-gun Clippers play, and I was definitely impressed with what I saw in their convincing 51-3 win over Milford in the semis. Portsmouth had always been a fast team that likes to spread the field and throw the ball around. But now they also have more size on their lines and they hit MUCH harder on both sides of the football. They had 2 hits in the Milford game that were as hard as any hits I've seen all year. They got the speedy Bill Lane back in the lineup Saturday, and QB Quinn McCann was finding receivers Aidan O'Leary and Christian DiCesare for big gains. The hard hitters include sophomore lineman Rick Holt and Sam Marousek. Now they play Souhegan for the title for the 3rd straight year. Of the 3 years, this is Portsmouth's best shot at an upset.

12) Keene
If BG is #3 in NH, then Keene definitely deserves to be somewhere up there, after they gave Guertin a run for their money in the D-II semis on Saturday night. The Blackbirds never gave up, even when at times during the 2nd half when it looked like it was over they just kept fighting and making plays. In the end BG just made more plays, but they were clearly 2 evenly matched football teams. Another good season for an underrated Keene football program. Other than BG and Winnacunnet they have been the most consistent team in D-II over the last 5 years. They also have a lot of talent returning next year, so look for them to be a top 3 team in 2011.

13) Kearsarge
Another great story here. Kearsarge didn't even make the playoffs last year, but this season they go undefeated to win the D-V crown. And they do it in Coach Hoffman's final season at the helm after Hoffman started the program from scratch 15 years ago and is the only head coach Kearsarge has ever had. Doug Gregory continues to be one of the most underrated players in the state, and he had plenty of help from guys like Jake Mccabe, Jeremy Powers, Sam Morgan, Ben Gambino, Andrew St. Louis, Robert Ramirez and Jordan Barthol. The Cougars had size, speed and heart. And now they're champions.

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