Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Summertime Snapshot Series: D-IV Football

We continue our Summertime Snapshot Series by looking at Division IV. This division has a new look to it, as it has 2 new teams and 2 other teams who leave the division. St. Thomas and Windham (the 2 teams who met in last year's D-V title game) both move up to D-IV.

But here's the part that doesn't make sense. Merrimack Valley went 0-8 in D-IV last year and Monadnock went 6-3 and made the playoffs. However MV is being moved up to D-III, while Monadnock gets to move down to D-V - shouldn't it be the other way around?

So who's the favorite this year in D-IV? Trinity is. They went undefeated last year, beating Plymouth by 2 touchdowns in the title game and they have a lot of talent coming back from that team. The Pioneers are the team to beat, no question about it. But this will be a very deep, competitive division, top to bottom.

Trinity's the Team to Beat
Yes, they lose their head coach (Gary Leonard who stepped down) and 2 best players (Andrew Lauderdale and Josh Hughes) but they are still the favorites. Look for Ryan Carrier, Carmen Giampetruzzi, Tristan Theroux, Zach Poole, Jonathan Graveline, Romeo Masuku, Colin Bouchard and Austin Chambers to all have big years.

Carrier is a preseason D-IV Player of the Year candidate. He's a force on both sides of the football. On offense he runs over people and if someone else is running the ball then he is a great lead blocker. And on defense he's a fierce, hard hitting linebacker.

Giampetruzzi does it all for this team, playing quarterback on offense, defensive back on defense and also doing the kicking duties on special teams. Graveline and Bouchard are a tough duo on the offensive line, and Theroux, Poole, Masuku and Chambers are all fast, hard-hitting players on defense who can also make plays on offense.

Trinity's top challengers...

Laconia is always a title contender in D-IV and this year will be no different. They return Player of the Year Candidate David Mahoney and a strong supporting cast as well.

Mahoney is the guy who really makes this team go. He is a dominant player at both RB and LB. Mahoney has a great combination of size, strength and speed. He just might be the best back in the state, let alone in the division. The question is whether he will be as effective running the ball now that his two best lineman from last year (Raige Hollis and Billy Mahoney) have now graduated.

Mahoney's supporting cast includes returning starters Graham Nyhan, Jackson Weeks, Tayler Mears and Drew Morin. The Sachems also get Alex Clairmont and Steven Kemos back from injury.

They will miss Hollis, Billy Mahoney and Ronnie Steele. But coach Kozens does a great job with this team and they have enough talent coming back to give Trinity a run for their money. Laconia has to play St. Thomas and Trinity in back-to-back weeks in September so we will likely know very early how this division is stacking up.

St. Thomas
Trinity is not the only team in this division that had an undefeated championship season in 2011, as STA ran the table in D-V and beat Windham by 3 touchdowns in the title game. We will never know how last year's Saints team would have done in D-IV, but based on what I saw St. Thomas and Trinity were both among the top 10-15 teams in the state and it would have been a really good game if they played each other.

'Cumba's Crew' (as I have nicknamed the Saints) graduated a number of valuable players from last year's team but they have enough talent coming back to also be a contender. It was Eric Cumba's first year at the helm after taking over for legendary head coach Rod Wotton, and the team did not miss a beat with their new coach. Cumba ran a spread offense, they went no huddle shotgun most of the time and gave opposing defenses fits with their overall team speed and ability to mix the run and pass.

The Saints return Player of the Year Candidate Ryan Monette, who had a record setting junior season offensively in 2011. He did it all - running the ball, catching screen passes, going down field as a receiver, returning kicks and punts and also delivering bone-jarring hits from his DB position.

John Cifrino returns to anchor the line, and Jake Geppert adds depth to the backfield. Peter Yarosewick was one of the more underrated players on last year's team, as he was a very effective lead blocker for both Monette and David Rogers. Yarosewick was also a tough LB on defense. Cifrino, Monette, Geppert and Yarosewick will all be needed to step up even more in 2012 since STA will likely be more of a running team. That is, unless their new QB is as effective as throwing the ball as last year's signal caller Scott Munroe.

The big question will be who plays QB for them, and will the new QB be as effective as Scott Munroe was last year. Munroe really had a big year last season throwing the football, and it really opened things up for the running game because defenses always had to respect the pass. If the new QB is at least close to as good as Munroe was last year these guys will have a serious shot at knocking off Trinity.

Defensively STA graduates a lot of talent, including guys like Sam Quirk, Jared Dickie, David Grunbeck, Andrew Kahr, Joe Polychronis and Rogers. They'll miss Tom Cifrino and Andrew Fallon on the line. But these guys also had 19 juniors on the roster last year, so you know that there are other guys ready to step in and fill these holes. Look for Jake Geppert, Ryan Geppert and Jesse Ware to all take on bigger roles this season.

Oh yeah, and who could forget Hayden Middleton, who is possibly the team's best player? After one game last year Coach Cumba even said Middleton was the team's MVP - not bad for a sophomore! Outside of Logan Laurent from Exeter, Middleton is hands down the best kicker and punter in the state. The kid is automatic on field goals and extra points, and always pins the opponent deep in their own end on his kickoffs and punts. Special teams is a very underrated part of the game, and that is where STA has an advantage over all other teams in D-IV, when you have Middleton kicking the ball and Monette returning kicks those are 2 very dangerous weapons on special teams.

Plymouth is a perennial power in D-IV, and after they had that long winning streak they are now looking for their first division title since 2009. They have some big time players they need to replace, with Taylor Newberry, Cole Brooker, Nick Reisert, Nick Blake and Will Horan all graduating. The Bobcats graduated a total of 18 seniors, so this might actually be a little bit of a down year for them.

But I wouldn't count on it, as they return senior RB Brandon Goodale and junior LB John Thomas - that's 2 of the best players in the division right there. Goodale has good vision and tremendous breakaway speed. Newberry got more of the carries for the past couple years, but now it's Goodale's time to shine. Look for him to have a big year. Thomas was one of the top linebackers in the division last year as only a sophomore. He has a nose for the football and loves to hit people.

Other returning players to watch out for on Plymouth are Kyle Reisert and Ryan Farina. I think Laconia and St. Thomas have the best chance to knock off Trinity, but Plymouth should also be right in the mix. They have a strong core of returning players and they have one of the best coaches in the state in Chuck Lenahan.

There is a lot of excitement around the Windham football program. Last season was only their 2nd as a varsity program, but they had a whopping 65 kids on the roster. That is typically the size of a roster for a D-II team, let alone a D-IV or D-V squad. And here's the part that is even scarier for the rest of D-IV - of those 65 kids only 7 of them were seniors. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that no other team in D-IV has 58 returning players!

The Jaguars had a huge win in the D-V semi-finals in 2011 over Kearsarge and they're looking to continue that momentum. Look for the trio of QB Joe Lorenz, TE/DE Danny Cannone and RB/LB Kevin Cooney to lead the way and all have BIG senior seasons for Windham. Yes, they are the younger brothers of Matt Cannone and Mike Lorenz, who were teammates on Salem High's D-I state title team in 2009 when Cannone found Lorenz for the game winning TD pass. Now it's Lorenz passing the ball to Cannone, pretty cool huh?

Lorenz is one of the top QB's in the division, along with Cavallaro and Giampetruzzi. Cooney is a tough, hard nosed runner and Artem Aristov is a force at DE. With Cannone and Arsitov at the two DE spots, the Jaguars will wreak havoc on opposing teams looking to pass or gain the outside edge with the run.

This is a program on the rise, and head coach Bill Raycraft has done a great job so far and has the kids believing they can win. They will battle hard for a playoff spot.

Other teams to watch out for...

Don't be surprised if these guys make the playoffs. They return the majority of their talent from a team that went 5-5 last season. The key returning guy is tailback Nick Massa, who is another preseason candidate for Player of the Year. Massa has flown under the radar, but for the past 2 seasons he has been as productive as any back in NH and he has done so with little supporting cast and to little fanfare.

Look for Massa to have a big senior season running the football, and for the many other returning starters to step up as well. Conor McDonald returns at LB to lead the defense.

Everyone knows that Hanover can put points on the board, the question is if they can stop people from scoring. Over the past few years they have been blessed with some great talent at QB, first with Sam Carney and now with Shawn Cavalarro. Between these two guys the Marauders could end up having the best QB in D-IV for 6 straight seasons. Then you also have receivers like Dan Gorman (just graduated and walking on at Dartmouth) and Cyrus Rothwell-Ferraris (now a senior for Hanover).

So this team likes to spread the field and let their star QB's make plays, whether it be throwing the ball down field or running with it. This year Hanover not only has Cavallaro and Rothwell-Ferraris, but they also have all-state RB Carl Keating returning as well. They will be able to put up points with anyone. Cavallaro is a very talented player with a great arm. He also has good speed and a strong frame so he's tough for defenders to bring down.

The question is how will these guys do defensively? if they can improve on that side of the football they could possibly make a run at a playoff spot.

This Division is Loaded With Talent at RB
Between Mahoney, Carrier, Massa, Monette, Goodale and Dylan Drew from Lebanon there is some serious talent at tailback in D-IV. There is more depth at the RB position in D-IV than in any other division this year. All 5 of those guys could make a case for being the division's best player. Then you also Cooney from Windham and Hanover's Keating. This is going to be a fun division to watch!

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