Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NH Notebook Football Power Rankings - Week 8

I just couldn't keep the list at just 10 teams this week. Why's that? Well you have your clear cut top 5 teams, but after that there's a lot of parity with teams 6 through 13. Want proof? Well the current #12 ranked team (Manchester Central) actually beat #6 ranked Portsmouth. And #13 Timberlane actually beat #7 ranked Bedford.

So what gives? Well here's the deal. Not only were both of those games in week 1 of the season (a LONG time ago, and when ranking I put more stock in a team's more recent games), but they were also inter-division games (they might not admit it, but the coaches and players do NOT approach these games the same as they do for division games). So at this point in the season I don't really put much weight in those week 1 inter-division games when ranking the teams. However those games (and others like Memorial BARELY beating Central and Bedford squeaking by a shorthanded Hollis team) only further prove the point that teams ranked in the 6 through 13 range are all very close. That's why this week I've ranked 13 teams rather than just 10.

Without any further ado, here are the NHIAA's current top 13 teams, according to yours truly.

1) Pinkerton - All season long everyone has been talking about Pinkerton and how good they are. Most people thought they would go undefeated and that the only team that will give them much of a game would be Brockton. Well, on Saturday afternoon Brockton (who came into the game with just a 2-3 record) not only gave the Astros a game, but they beat them 21-14. Does that mean Pinkerton is no longer the best team in the state? Absolutely NOT. The other 4 teams in the top 4 are Exeter, South, BG and Salem, and Pinkerton CRUSHED all 4 of those teams. The only thing it shows is that the teams in Massachusetts (generally speaking) are better than the teams in New Hampshire. And that shouldn't come as much of a shock, since MA is such a bigger state that there's more depth in talent. If anything, the loss was a good thing for the Astros, as it will prevent them from being complacent.

2) Exeter - Exeter, South and BG are all VERY close and can all make an argument for the #2 spot. All 3 of them lost to Pinkerton. But BG also lost another game (42-0 loss to a VERY good Catholic Memorial) and plus WR/DB Brody Smith (possibly the team's best player) is still out with an injury. Also, BG doesn't face the same level of competition week in and week out as Exeter and South do. So BG is a solid #4 team and the #2 spot comes down to Exeter or South. Tough choice here, as both teams have just 1 loss (both got blown out by Pinkerton). Exeter's best win though (last week 32-6 over Salem) is better than South's best win (a 44-41 shootout vs. Lowell, MA). Like I said earlier it's tough to put too much stock in those inter-division or inter-state games though. South does also have 2 other wins over ranked teams (beating Dover 37-20 and Memorial 31-6). Tough call here, and we won't know for sure which team is better until they play each other next weekend, but Exeter gets the nod for now because I really liked the way they played last Friday night vs. a good Salem team. It is too bad though that we won't be able to see BG play either Exeter or South. Exeter/BG used to be a big rivalry when they were both in D-II, and this year both teams are very good and evenly matched, it would be a great game. Then BG vs. South would be a fun game to see maybe on Thanksgiving with the 2 Nashua schools going at it (yes, I know that BG has kids from many towns and not just Nashua).

3) Nashua South - See Exeter.

4) Bishop Guertin - See Exeter.

5) Salem - Salem is right where they should be. They are a notch below the top 4 teams, and a notch above the teams in the 'cluster of parity' that is teams 6 through 13. I mention above that Exeter, South and BG are all VERY close. Well, on Friday night Salem got crushed by Exeter 32-6 - so we know they're a notch below those 3 teams. At the same time though, Salem has won by 2 scores or more over Central, Memorial and Timberlane (all 3 of those teams are in that 6 through 13 cluster). Like I said, Salem is ranked right where they should be. Other than Pinkerton, they were the easiest team to rank this week.

6) Bedford - Ok, here's the deal with these next 3 teams. Bedford, Hollis and Portsmouth are all VERY close. Last Saturday's Bedford/Hollis game went down to the wire, and I expect the same thing to happen this Saturday in the Hollis/Portsmouth game and I expect the same thing the week after that in the Bedford/Portsmouth game. Now on Saturday Bedford did beat Hollis, and in the 4th quarter they did have a 2 touchdown lead. But keep in mind that senior lineman Robert Boivin (possibly the Cavalier's best player) left that game in the 1st quarter with a knee injury and didn't return. If he plays that whole game healthy there's no question it would have gone differently. The early word on Boivin's status is that's nothing that should be serious enough to keep him out of the lineup for long. Whether he plays on Saturday vs. Portsmouth is uncertain yet. But regardless, Bedford won that game and they are the healthy team. Yes, Bedford does have 2 losses on the season. HOWEVER, one of those games was an inter-division game and for the first few games of the season their star running back Jordan Garron was either out of the lineup with an injury or was playing hurt. Bedford is a red hot team though. Garron is getting healthier by the week, and ran for 90 yards against a very good Hollis defense. The Bulldogs beat Milford 49-6 (a 6 touchdown margin) just a couple weeks after Portsmouth beat that same Milford tam 35-21 (only a 3 touchdown margin). Meanwhile Hollis crushed Souhegan 35-0 (a 5 touchdown margin) where Portsmouth only beat Souhegan 22-15 (just a 1 touchdown margin). Portsmouth has no wins over ranked teams, although you have to be impressed by them beating Goffstown 49-7 on Friday night. Still, judging from those other scores you would have to put Bedford and Hollis SLIGHTLY ahead of Portsmouth, which is why the Clippers are ranked #8. Then you have to put Bedford ahead of Hollis, because they just beat them on Saturday. And like I said, even though Hollis played without Boiven most of that game, his status going forward is still somewhat up in the air. So that's why Bedford is #6 and Hollis is #7.

7) Hollis-Brookline - See Bedford.

8) Portsmouth - See Bedford.

9) Dover - Dover did give BG a pretty good game a couple weeks ago, before falling 21-6. They're 5-2 on the season with the only losses coming against #3 South and #4 BG. At the same time, they still have yet to beat a ranked team. Still, Dover does have a couple things they can hang their hat on. First off, even though they only beat Merrimack 27-21 in week 2, they beat Keene 21-7 last week, just a week after that same Keene team beat up on Merrimack 36-13. So either Dover has gotten a lot better since week 2 or Merrimack has gotten worse (probably a little of both). Also, Dover's 19-0 win over Spaulding a few weeks ago is looking real good right now considering the Red Raiders have won 3 in a row, including a 39-0 win last weekend over Merrimack. It's no secret that Dover's defense is the strength of their team - they have one of the top defenses in the state for the second year in a row. But their offense has also shown signs of life, like when they put 34 points up on Alvirne in a 34-0 win over the Broncos (the same Alvirne team that #13 ranked Timberlane lost to a couple weeks ago).

10) Trinity - It's about time Trinity makes the rankings. I was reluctant to include a Division IV team in here. But there's 4 other good teams in D-IV (Plymouth, Laconia, Monadnock and Kennett) and Trinity has now not only beaten all 4 of those teams but they're a perfect 7-0 on the season and destroyed Kennett 45-14. Also, they beat both Central and Memorial in preseason scrimmages. Yes, I know they're just scrimmages and they took place long ago, Trinity hasn't played any other ranked teams this year so that's all we have to go off (the fact that they haven't beaten any ranked teams in the regular season though IS the reason I can't justify ranking them any higher than this).

11) Manchester Memorial - Here's the case for Memorial. Beat Central, only lost to #5 Salem by 10, only lost to #2 Exeter by 2 scores and only lost by a touchdown to #7 Hollis. Plus they have 2 of the state's best players in Codey Dalton and Steve Dwight. All of those factors mean they are a team worthy of being ranked. However #11 is as high as I can put them, because they have a sub-.500 record of 3-4 and only beat Concord by 2. However I have to put them ahead of Central because Memorial just beat Central last weekend (albeit in a nail biter) and plus even though Central does have a better overall record than Memorial there's no question the Crusaders have played a tougher schedule thus far.

12) Manchester Central - See Memorial for explanation on why they're ranked above Central. Other reasons why Central isn't ranked higher - in their last 2 games they lost to Memorial and the week before that they BARELY beat a win-less Londonderry team. And yes, they crushed Souhegan 42-0 the week before that but again, I don't put as much stock in those inter-division games. Still, Central is a good team and I'm looking forward to seeing them play this Friday night vs. Exeter in order to get an even better read on them.

13) Timberlane - The Owls deserve a ranking, but I definitely can't justify putting them any higher than this. The case for Timberlane is that in 2 of their 3 losses they were playing without one of their best players. Running back Evan David missed the BG game, and QB Evan Bidgood missed the Alvirne game. With both of those guys in there the Owls are 4-1, with the one loss being an inter-division game vs. Salem (I mentioned how little stock I put in those games, yes?). I also can't justify putting them any higher than this for now because although David and Bidgood are both healthy, one of their starting offensive lineman is out for the year (according to head coach Kevin Fitzgerald). With all of that being said, we'll see what Timberlane is really made of over the next 3 weeks when they take on Keene, Spaulding and Dover.

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