Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NH Notebook Football Power Rankings - Week 9

If you follow this site you know how much I loathe cliches. Using them is lazy, because instead of coming up with an original idea or phrase you're using something that's already been used by others thousands of times. One cliche that is used WAY too much (especially in sports) is 'if it ain't broke don't fix it.' Well as much as I hate that cliche, it actually applies perfectly to this week's Football Power Rankings.

There was simply no reason to change anything about them. The 13 teams I ranked last week are all still ranked, and in the same exact order. The only change I made was adding in a 14th team, Spaulding (pictured above). With the way they've played over the last 4 weeks they deserve it. The Red Raiders have outscored their D-II opponents 150-43. Yes, all 4 of those wins have come against losing teams, but still an impressive streak they're on nonetheless, especially when you consider this is a program that hasn't won a game in the division in 3 years.

Here are the NH Notebook Football Power Rankings for Week 9:

1) Pinkerton
2) Exeter
3) Nashua South
4) Bishop Guertin
5) Salem
6) Bedford
7) Hollis-Brookline
8) Portsmouth
9) Dover
10) Trinity
11) Manchester Memorial
12) Manchester Central
13) Timberlane
14) Spaulding

Like I said, I saw no reason to change things up from last week. Of the teams who were ranked in last week's top 11, 8 of them won, 1 of them had a bye week (Bedford). Portsmouth lost, but they don't deserve to move down at all since they went on the road and BARELY lost to the team that was ranked 1 spot ahead of them (Hollis-Brookline). Salem also lost, their 2nd loss in a row in fact. But those 2 losses were to #2 Exeter and #3 South, and their only other loss on the season was to #1 Pinkerton. The Blue Devils have shown that although they're a notch down from the top 4 teams they are a notch above the other teams since they beat #11 Memorial by 2 scores, they beat #12 Central by 3 scores and they beat #13 Timberlane by 5 scores. Meanwhile, even though they lost, Central doesn't deserve to move down because they actually gave #2 ranked Exeter a decent game. Meanwhile, Timberlane won to hold onto their #13 spot, and I already said why Spaulding deserves a ranking.

That being said, there's 3 BIG games on tap for this Friday night, which all not only have Power Rankings implications, but playoff implications as well.

Division I: #2 Exeter vs. #3 Nashua South
This is a big clash over at Stellos Stadium. These teams will play each other in the D-I semis in a couple weeks, and the winner of this game will get home field advantage, so there's plenty on the line here. It's the speed and spread offense of South vs. the size, discipline and straight-T offense of Exeter. Two VERY different teams, should be a fun one. In the last 2 weeks Exeter showed they can shut down the run (held Salem RB Jerickson Fedrick to just 2 yards rushing in the 2nd half) and the pass (held Central QB Riley Cote to under 100 yards passing and also intercepted him twice). They will have to defend both against South. The Purple Panthers meanwhile have shown that they can blow out the weaker teams and they can win in shootouts over other high scoring teams. But they haven't shown they can grind out a win in a game where both teams score in the 20's or lower. That's the kind of game Exeter is hoping for here. If South can make it a track meet, they win.

Division II: #13 Timberlane vs. #14 Spaulding
Another game matching teams up who are right next to each other in the rankings, that right there should tell you it will be a close one. Both teams will likely make the playoffs (neither did last season), but this is still a big game for playoff positioning. The winner will likely get the #3 seed and therefore have the luxury of avoiding a first round match up with Bishop Guertin. BG is undefeated in D-II so far, and they're the heavy favorite to win yet another title. Whoever wins this game gets to avoid BG in the first round and would instead face Dover. These are both physical teams who like to run the football and are evenly matched. I look for a couple of big plays to be the difference. Either an onside kick recovery, someone fumbles on the goal line, a pick-6, blocked punt, etc. There will be one or two BIG plays that will decide this one.

Division III: #6 Bedford vs. #8 Portsmouth
Ok, so 2 weeks ago it was Bedford BARELY beating Hollis-Brookline. Then last week it was Hollis BARELY beating Portsmouth. Now this week it's Bedford vs. Portsmouth. I think it's safe to say that not only will this be a good, hard fought game, but it will also be going down to the wire (can't ask for much more than that!). The one commonality in the big D-III games last weeks (besides them being so close) was that they were both low scoring games. And that tends to happen when teams who are used to piling up a high amount of points against weak defenses now face a team that is on their level. Look for the same thing this time around with Bedford and Portsmouth. Last week Hollis was able to shut down the Portsmouth passing game because they have 4 REALLY good DB's (Nate Ferenzhalmy, Collin Pellerin, Sean Connors and David Capanigro) who are all tough, physical and quick. And that's the only way to slow down the Clippers aerial attack, because they just have so many weapons (it wasn't his best game, but QB Billy Hartmann still completed passes to 5 different receivers). Even with Kyle Dicesare out for the year with an ankle injury, Portsmouth still has a lot of weapons (Billy Lane, Anthony Kurylak, Jack Mackey, Matt Feeney, Colin MacDonald, Dillon Crosby and Peter Hamblett). Hollis had enough good DB's to cover them all, I'm not so sure Bedford does. The Bulldogs have Mike Gardiner (not as physical as the Hollis DB's, but he's faster and more athletic), but they'll need other guys to step up. The strength of the Bedford defense is their front seven (with lineman like Will Mcinerny and linebackers like David Cannone). So it will be key for them to try and get some pressure on Hartmann and not give him time to throw. On the other side of the ball Bedford mixes the run and the pass well. QB James Caparell is having a big year and RB Jordan Garron is finally getting healthy after being slowed by an ankle injury for the first few weeks of the season. So even if Portsmouth is able to get their passing game going, and get some big plays running the ball from Lane, I'm thinking Bedford will be able to match them point for point. Like I said, this one is going down to the wire. Grab yourself some popcorn and enjoy.

There's another BIG game this weekend. It might not involve any power rankings teams, but it still has major playoff implications...

Division V: St. Thomas (8-0) vs. Kearsarge (7-1)
Boy, I can't wait for this game. Not only is STA just 8 minutes away from my place in downtown Portsmouth, but it's also a rematch of last year's D-V title game. It's also a rematch of last year's epic triple-overtime thriller at Kearsarge in the regular season. It's also a match up of the 2 best teams in D-V this season as well, with the winner getting the #1 seed and home field throughout the playoffs, while the loser will be the #2 seed. Both teams also have first year head coaches, with both of those coaches being young guys who replaced legends. STA's Eric Cumba is in his first year after replacing the legendary Rod Wotton (the area's most winning coach ever). And for Kearsarge their first year head coach Zach Matthews (another young guy) replaces Dennis Hoffman, who prior to this season was the only head coach Kearsarge football had ever had. On the field these are two different squads. The Cougars have a stable of 4 running backs (Oliver Gallo, Jacob Jones, Eric Hauck and Parker Hansen) and they try to run the ball up the middle, grind out drives and have a tough, hard hitting defense. STA on the other hand is a finesse team. They spread the field and try to use their speed and the fact that they simply have more athletes to their advantage. Hansen for Kearsarge and Ryan Monette for STA are not only 2 of the fastest players in D-V but in the entire state. This should certainly be a fun one in Dover. There are 3 time games on Friday night (still not exactly sure which one I'll be at), but on Saturday the STA vs. Kearsarge game stands alone as THE place to be.

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