Saturday, August 25, 2012

Queen City Jamboree - 2012 Recap

Every year the Queen City Jamboree kicks off the NH high school football season, and you have more good teams playing in the same stadium on the same day than any other day during the year. As Manchester Central head coach Ryan Ray put it, it's a "dress rehearsal" for the season, and serves as a bridge from other preseason scrimmages with running time and coaches on the field to more realistic game action that you see during the regular season. Here are the final scores from last night's games over at Gill Stadium in Manchester (note that each game was one half of football).

Souhegan 35 Manchester West 15
Trinity 0 Manchester Memorial 0
Pinkerton 42 Timberlane 6
Manchester Central 35 Goffstown 28
Bishop Guertin 14 Salem 6

Now, here's my opinion on each of the games.

Best Team there was Pinkerton
On both sides of the football, no other team looked tougher than Pinkerton. They graduated a lot of talent from last year's D-I runner-up team, but they clearly have plenty of talent coming back.

Leading the way was Manny Latimore, the St. Onge twins Chris and Matt, Matt Madden and Sean Conroy. Latimore is possibly the most explosive tailback in the state and he's only a junior. He is a threat to go for six anytime he touches the football. Latimore had one run of 45 yards on the Astros' first drive which set up a 2 yard TD run by Matt St. Onge, and then later he ran for a 30 yard TD. He has tremendous speed, shifty moves to avoid tacklers and a strong frame. Latimore is also now being utilized on the defensive side of the ball as a corner back.

Chris St. Onge is now joining Latimore in the back field as a RB after spending the past 2 seasons as Pinkerton's starting QB. He gives the team another player back there with good speed and toughness who can run the ball either up the middle or break it outside the tackles. Chris St. Onge showed that big play ability on a 45 yard punt return for a TD that was called back early in the 1st quarter.

Taking over for St. Onge at QB is Conroy, who started in the secondary last season as a junior. He still

"Sean has always been a quarterback" explained Pinkerton head coach Brian O'Reilly. "And Chris is more of a running back. But we have just had so much depth at that position with Kevin Davies, Emmitt Smith and Manny that he is just now getting a chance to get back there and carry the ball. That opened up the QB position for Sean."

Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, Matt Madden and Matt St. Onge dominated, making tackle after tackle for minimal or no gain. And Brett Stuart made a pair of interceptions, including one where he ran it back for a touchdown.

"The strength of our team is at the linebacker position with Matt Madden and Matt St. Onge" said Coach O'Reilly.

Also playing well for Pinkerton was linemen Chris McDade and Jake Bernaiche, and also running for TD's late in the game were Jake Burton and Nick Mazzola. Mike Thomson was also effective on both sides of the ball for the Astros.

To be fair to Timberlane, the Owls had some key players they were holding out of the game with injuries, including star play maker Josh David and QB Erik Nelson. Junior RB Marcus Villafane stepped up in the absence of David, making some good runs and with blazing speed. And defensively senior Ryan McCarthy showed why he is one of the top DB's in the state with some tough coverage and a nice interception late in the game.

The 2 Best QB's in the State Matched Up in Central/Goffstown Game
Manchester Central's Riley Cote and Connor Benjamin from Goffstown put on a quite a show during the Central vs. Goffstown scrimmage. They both turned in outstanding performances and showed why they are the 2 best quarterbacks in the NHIAA in 2012.

They are very different QB's, as Benjamin did most of his damage by running the ball and Cote primarily did his through the air. But both are exceptionally talented players, no question about it.

Goffstown went up 14-0 early on. On the game's first play from scrimmage Benjamin faked a hand off and then ran 80 yards for the score. On that play he looked like a man among boys - he was bigger, stronger and faster than anyone else on the field and there was nothing the Central defense could do to stop him. Then he started competing some short and intermediate passes to his receivers, including a 17 yard TD pass to put the Grizzlies up 14-0. He then exploded from another big run, this one for 49 yards, where he showed great speed, vision and strength and Central needed 5 guys to finally bring him down. Senior tailback Peter Shea then ran in a 9 yard TD and it was 21-7 Goffstown.

Cote though had the last laugh, as he threw 3 touchdown passes, ran for another and his team came out on top. His favorite receiver was fellow senior Troy Pelletier and they have great chemistry together on the field. Pelletier has good size at 6-foot-3 and great speed to get open as well. Cote fired passes all over the field, to Pelletier and also connected with Nick Gratzenas on a 28 yard TD pass.

Cote showed excellent pocket presence, he sees the whole field and make good decisions with the ball and has a great arm.

On Central's first drive he threw an absolute bomb down field 45 yards, hitting Pelletier right in the hands and right in stride. Pelletier hauled in the pass and 2 players later junior running back David Weekly scampered into the end zone from 20 yards out. Both Central and Goffstown have explosive offenses who will put up a ton of points his season.

Weekly showed breakaway speed and some shifty moves in the open field. Hector Velez was also effective running the ball, and on one big run by Velez you have to give credit to Cormac Doherty for making a great block to open up the middle of the field.

BG and Salem in Rebuilding Mode?
Bishop Guertin and Salem met in the final game of the evening, and neither team appears as strong as they have been compared to recent years. The opening of Windham High is really starting to catch up with Salem, as many of the kids who would be starting right now for the Blue Devils are instead playing at Windham. Plus over the last couple years they have graduated players like Jerickson Fedrick, Max Jacques, Matt Cannone, Andrew Ivas, Joe Dipalma, Mike Lorenz and Abner Rodriguez. That's a lot of holes to fill, and in the past many of those holes would be filled by Windham kids.

BG meanwhile has also graduated a ton of talent over the past couple years, and they have also been hit hard by transfers. Tommy Vailas would have been their starting QB this year, but he transferred to the Governor's Academy instead.

BG played this game without explosive running back CJ Boykin, who was out with a shoulder injury. According to second-year head coach Travis Cote it is uncertain when Boykin will return to action. Two other starters were injured during the scrimmage vs. Salem, in FB/LB John Miller and QB Patrick Bilodeau.

Bilodeau was replaced at QB by Tommy Hurley, who connected with senior Kevin Kiczuk on a 45 yard pass play. On the next play however BG fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Salem lineman Alex Magoon.

Kiczuk was definitely one of the top players for Guertin in this game, as he later scored on a 14 yard TD run which sealed the win for BG with 43.5 seconds left to play.

Give Salem credit though, as they didn't give up quite yet. On the ensuing kickoff junior Jason Martinez went 90 yards for the TD to make it 14-6 BG.

The Cardinals got on the board on their first possession as Bilodeau hit Blake Bpoudreau with a 14 yard TD pass. Boudreau was also very effective on the defensive side of the football. Senior Nick Marino also stood out for BG, as he ran the ball hard on offense and was all over the field hitting people on defense.

Salem is rebuilding, as they have a ton of new faces in the lineup and a new head coach in Adam Gagne, who replaces longtime coach Jack Gati. Gagne has his kids playing hard though, and in a down year for D-I after the top 3 teams the Blue Devils could actually end up contending for the 4th playoff spot, although watch out for Concord as they could also surprise some people.

Also playing well for Salem was Rasheed Adigun, who leaped high up to make a great interception. Ryan Nichols was at QB most of the time for Salem, and he did a solid job directing the offense and mixing the run with the pass in the Blue Devil's new spread offense. One of his favorite receiving targets was junior Jake Poore, who ran hard and has good speed.

For BG Michael Deveraux made a big INT late to stop a Salem drive.

"Overall I was very disappointed with how we played" said Coach Cote. "We made a lot of mistakes on both sides of the ball that need to be corrected."

BG also had to replace nearly all of their lineman. They are still one of the favorites in D-II but if there is a year that someone else wins the title in D-II for a change this is it. Dover, Spaulding, Keene and Winnacunnet could all take Guertin down. I would put Bedford in that group too, but losing the lineman Will Mcinerny really hurts them, and you also really cannot underestimate the difference in competition between D-II to D-III. It's a whole different ballgame. It will be a fun year in this deep, wide open division.

Goffstown Wasn't the Only D-III Team to Impress
Souhegan also looked very good, and they are once again contenders for the D-III title, along with Goffstown and Portsmouth. D-III is NOT a deep division, but it is a wide open race between those 3 teams.

The standout guys for Souhegan in their win over West were lineman Jake Kennedy (an absolute beast in the trenches) and Tyler Ford, who played QB, WR, DB, K, and P all in one half of football!

Kennedy is the best player in NH high school football this season. He has scholarship offers from both UNH and UMass. He's 6-foot-4, 280 lbs., he has a strong frame and is very agile for a kid his size. Kennedy is a blocking machine on offense and a run-stuffing machine on defense.

Ford meanwhile is the Sabers' starting QB and is a dual threat as both a runner or a passer. On their first drive he broke through the middle and sprinted 69 yards for a TD, breaking a number of tackles on the way. He then kicked the extra point himself and it was 7-0 Souhegan.

Ford then started throwing the ball around, hitting receivers Josh Eichel and Brandon Len and Denny Desserault with pinpoint passes and big gains. Len also had a terrific interception on defense, and Drew Prescott made some tough runs out of the back field as well as Dimitri Elias and Jacques Elias.

Leading the Souhegan defense was Kennedy, Alex Hansis and James Ewing. And also playing well on the line was senior Luke Perkins. The Sabers looked good, but they would have been even better if standout sophomore Seth Learned was in the lineup. Learned, who started last year as a freshman was out with a minor ankle injury.

Backup QB Cam Calato came in and showed some great arm strength, connected on some deep passes later in the game. When he was in they had Ford split out as a WR and go down field for passes. It will be interesting to see if they utilize that package during the regular season or stick with Ford under center. WR is Ford's natural position, as he is very fast and athletic.

After seeing both Souhegan and Goffstown play last night I can't help but wonder what would happen if they played each other. It will definitely be a great game and any game involving those 2 teams and Portsmouth will be an all out battle!

Meanwhile for West, Zach Theriault and Zack Zimba made some solid plays late in the game.

Why Didn't Anyone Score Any Points in the Trinity vs. Memorial Game?
It was a combination of good defense and bad offense. Memorial graduated QB Codey Dalton and Steve Dwight, who were by far their 2 best players for the past couple of years. Trinity graduated RB's Josh Hughes and Adam Chambers, plus TE Andrew Lauderdale. That is a lot of offensive firepower to have to replace. Both teams are working in a lot of new faces on offense, and they are still working the kinks out.

The defenses did look very good on both sides. Romeo Masuku made a very athletic interception for the Pioneers, and also leading the defense was Ryan Carrier. Meanwhile, Austin Chambers and Zach Poole flew around making plays on both sides of the ball.

Austin Chambers also had a nice punt return, where he got all the way down to the Memorial 30 yard line. But the drive stalled and Trinity was forced to punt.

For Memorial their defense was led by Deion Ball, Alan Kossick and Chris Burke. They really got after Trinity QB Carmen Giampetruzzi, sacking him twice on one drive late in the game after Trinity got inside the Memorial 30.

Once Trinity works the kinks out on offense they will definitely be one of the favorites in Division IV. Poole showed a good burst of speed when running the ball, and Carrier is the power runner up the middle. The holes just weren't there for them like they were last season when the Pioneers went undefeated en rote to the D-IV title. Trinity actually beat Portsmouth in a scrimmage the other night, so they should be fine. Look for first-year head coach Steve Burns to get his team rolling in no time.

One Last Thought
It was just about 11 pm when the final game ended last night. That's too late. I know it's a Friday night, there's no school yet and all of the teams playing in the QCJ are local so they don't have a long drive home. But c'mon now, nobody wants to be at a high school football game that late. They should either start the event sooner, or have shorter games.

With that being said, the QCJ is a great event. It's a lot of fun being able to see 10 teams play on the same field on the same day, especially since many of those teams are programs that are consistent winners.

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