Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Summertime Snapshot: D-II Football
While Division I might have the three best teams in the NHIAA this year (Exeter, Pinkerton and Central), D-II is hands down a deeper division. There are seven very good teams in the division and five of them have a realistic shot at a title. Here’s a quick look at those seven teams.
Bishop Guertin – BG has won four straight D-II titles and they’ve taken home the trophy in seven of the last eight years. Simply put, they’re a dynasty. And you have to give credit to head coach Travis Cote, because he was able to keep the streak alive in 2011 despite the fact that it was his first year at the helm and also he had a lot of kids transfer out of the program when previous head coach Tony Johnson stepped down.
Coach Cote has a tough road ahead if he hopes to make it five championships in a row. Not only are there a number of other strong teams in the division looking to take his squad down, but many of last year’s starters have graduated – oh yeah, and two more kids have transferred out of the program. Bottom line, this just might be the year someone else wins this division for a change.
The two outgoing transfers are Tommy Vailas (headed to Governor’s Academy) and Lucas Lansing. Both of them started last season for the Cardinals, and Vailas would have likely been the starting QB this season if he stuck around. The program also graduates many key players including Nolan Cornell, Zach Mailloux, Jimmy Carver, Paul Lipari, Nate Chartrand, Austin Saremi, Paul Spinney, Mark Hall, Bob Fahey, Ryan Belleville and Jay Krzyston.
So between the graduation losses and the two transfers, that is a lot of talent for this team to have to replace. Fortunately this is a program that doesn’t rebuild, they just reload. Look for the big play makers this season to be DB Nick Marino, RB CJ Boykin, FB/LB Blake Boudreau, FB/LB John Miller and WR/DB Kevin Kiczuk. These five were all big contributors last season and for BG to once again become champions they will have to be even better this year. They’ll also need other guys to step up in support of their five stars.
Dover – I like this team and I think they have a shot. One thing that you know for sure about them is that they will once again be VERY difficult to score points on. In 2010 and 2011 Dover was one of the top 10 teams and they had one of the top 5 defenses in the state. You can expect both of those to be true in 2012 as well.
Matt Dow, Eric Wilson and Eric Waddington are three of the best defensive players in the state. They’re all hard hitters and form a very nice nucleus to this team’s front seven. Then when you also have Kyle Seawards, Noah Boucher and Colin Shaughnessy in the secondary you can really start to see this being a dangerous defensive unit. Defensive coordinator Jim Dunn does a great job with the defense – good luck scoring on these guys.
Offensively look for the Green Wave to once again look to run the football and play the ball control / field position game. They opened the offense up at times last year with QB Tyler Zabkar looking down field for receiver Taylor Curry. Both of them have graduated though. The new QB would have probably been Mike LeBlanc (he was the backup last year and has a good arm), but the 6-foot-6 LeBlanc is transferring to the New Hampton School to play basketball.
So look for this team to reply on their defense and their running game more than ever. Shaughnessy and Sewards should get most of the carries, and senior William Slayton could also get some carries if he is able to come back from a serious injury he suffered last season.
Spaulding – Along with Exeter, Spaulding was THE best story in NH football in 2011. And with a lot of talent returning they should be just as good in 2012.
The Red Raiders had back-to-back winless seasons in 2009 and 2010 and were the doormat of D-II football. But that all changed last season when they went on a six game winning streak, made the playoffs and came within a field goal of beating Dover in the semi-finals. In his first season as head coach Dennis Fontaine turned around the culture of winning for this program and got the kids believing they could win.
Now they look to build on that, with the majority of their top players coming back.
Leading the way is stud lineman Tanner Daniels. He was an absolute beast as a sophomore and now look for him to be one of the most feared players in the state on both sides of the football. In addition to playing line they also have Daniels carry the rock occasionally as a power runner, and to spread the field and make plays outside the tackles you have the Scott brothers Tyrone and Trevon and QB Samuel Oullette. Oullette has a good arm, and last season often looked deep for his favorite receiver Nathan Zriny. Zriny has graduated but the Scott brothers have plenty of speed.
Josh Tapley, Seth Fogg and Kevin Medara are all returning starters in the secondary, and Michael Bellio gives Spaulding another hard hitter on defense who can also add depth to the backfield by running the football. And Kyle Hall returns as another lineman to form a solid 1-2 punch on the line with Daniels.
This is a team that is looking to build on the momentum from their dream season in 2011. BG is a little down compared to how good they’ve been in recent years and they have just as much if not more talent coming back than the Dover team they just barely lost to in the playoffs. This just might be Spaulding’s year.
Bedford – This is the year head coach Kurt Hines and this program have been waiting for. As this program has developed you could just tell how deep and talented his 2013 class was. Last year when they were juniors they made it to the D-III championship game in just the fourth year of the program. Now they’re seniors – the year they’ve been waiting for.
Bedford however is moving up a division from D-III to D-II. If they were still in D-III they would be the hands down favorite to win the title (especially with Chris Garrison leaving Goffstown for prep school). But there is definitely a big difference between D-II and D-III. They would have been the favorites in D-III. In D-II they still have a pretty good shot at making the playoffs but it won’t be easy with all of the other good teams in the division.
I mentioned how stacked the Bulldogs senior class is this year. This class would be even better, but one of their best players moved to Texas over Christmas break last year. Mike Gardiner who was a standout WR on offense, DB on defense and a very dangerous return man on defense will be sorely missed by this team with his move down south. If they still had Gardiner I would say Bedford would have a legit shot at winning D-II. Without him they still might win it but it will be a lot tougher because he was a very valuable player for them.
Still, the senior class for the Bulldogs is still loaded with depth and talent. You have QB James Caparell and his cannon for an arm, Will Mcinerny (a beast of a lineman), FB/LB David Cannone (the heart and soul of the team), Brian Collins (Caparell’s favorite receiver and also a hard hitting linebacker), speedy tailback Dylan York, plus a pair of lethal defenders in DE Joe Thibeault and LB Jack Terzian. If Gardiner was still there this would be hands down the most talented senior class in the state in 2012.
Bedford also has some strong juniors in WR/DB Nick Vailas, lineman Robert Lamy and RB/DB Aaron Palys.
Keene – They were expected to be a playoff team last year after they gave BG all they could handle in the playoffs in 2009 and plus they were returning play makers like Lucas Luopa, Jimmy Boulay and Alex Parenteau. But Boulay missed most of the season with an injury and Parenteau also missed some time due to injury. As a result they got off to a slow start and never were able to get back in the playoff picture.
Now it’s Luopa’s senior year and he is possibly the best QB in the division (he might even be the best QB in any division). The kid can flat out make plays, with his arm or his legs. Look for Luopa and Parenteau to both have big years. Parenteau will be running the football once again and is also a fierce player on defense. Other returning all-state players for the Blackbirds are WR Matt Delvecchio and DL Jimmy Heaney.
Winnacunnet – After making back-to-back championship game appearances in 2009 and 2010 it was a rebuilding year for Winnacunnet football in 2011. Due to graduation losses they had a ton of kids who were first-year starters last season and as a result they missed the playoffs.
The good news is this year they have a lot of starters coming back, including lineman Jordan Cutting, QB Hinghao Vesna and DB Jonathan Flagg. Cutting is a third year starter and should be one of the better lineman in D-II, Vesna looked had good pocket presence and threw darts all over the field vs. BG last year in a tough loss and Flagg is a speedy, hard hitting DB. Other key players to watch out for are LB Nyles Connor and OT Christian Dyer.
Timberlane – The Owls are always a tough, physical, hard nosed team. And the fact that they’re listed seventh here shows just how deep this division is, especially when you consider they return play maker Josh David, who was a standout on both sides of the football last year. Also back is fellow senior Ryan McCarthy, who is an exceptional DB as well as LB Cameron Gargano.
Unfortunately Timberlane does graduate most of their starters from last year’s playoff team, including Evan David, Evan Bidgood, Michael Lynch, Efrain Rolon, Anthony Gillis and Connor Sproul.