Thursday, September 20, 2012

Week 4 Football Preview

This weekend we definitely have a big slate of games on tap. It's a big weekend in the upper divisions, with 8 of the top 10 teams in the state (according to my latest Power Poll ballot) will be playing against each other. You have Exeter vs. Winnacunnet, Concord vs. South, Dover vs. BG and Bedford vs. Keene.

It's also a big weekend in the lower divisions, with possible playoff preview games in Division IV (St. Thomas vs. Windham), D-V (Somersworth vs. Monadnock) and D-VI (Campbell vs. Bishop Brady).

Yes, I would say that's a pretty big slate of games! Here's a preview of each of them.

Games we're covering this weekend...

Exeter @ Winnacunnet on Friday night
This is the biggest game of the weekend. Not only do you have possibly THE biggest football rivalry in the state, but you have 2 of the top 5 teams in the state going at it. Needless to say, this is the game I will be covering on Friday night.

Both of these teams are 3-0 and playing some great football. This might be a cross-division game that doesn't count in the standings, but you can bet that both squads are going to game plan and go at it like it's a state title game. This is a HUGE rivalry, and bragging rights are at stake anytime Exeter and Winnacunnet play against each other, whether it's in football or field hockey.

I've covered Exeter each of the first 3 weeks of the season, so if you've been following the site you know all about them. Their 3 wins have all come against teams ranked in the top 10 in the state on my ballot (Dover, Pinkerton and Central). They crushed Dover and Central and beat #2 ranked Pinkerton on the road. Tyler Grant has had a monster start to the season and is the early favorite for Mr. Football (no, it's not too early to start talking about that). Grant has been on a tear, on both sides of the football. Last week vs. Central he had 4 TD's on offense and 2 INT's on defense, in one half of football! Jameson Whitely, Ross Danner, Galen Antolino, Ethan Joyce, Brian Henry, James Vogt, Sam Klemarczyk and Jacob Boria have all been playing great football as well.

Exeter has been led by their defense and running game, and so has Winnacunnet. Ben Franzoso has had a great start to his senior season running the ball after being injured most of last season. He runs behind a very good offensive line led by Christian Dyer and Jordan Cutting and the defensive line is just as good as the o-line, with Dyer, Cutting and Renaldo Gordon clogging up the middle to stop the run as well as putting pressure on the opponent's QB. And Colin Witt and Clint Felch are both very fast, physical DB's who can shut down the passing game and also creep up to the line of scrimmage and help out on the run. If Exeter stacks the box to stop Winnacunnet's running game, look for QB Ing Hao Veasna to throw the ball over the top to receivers Ben Gareau and Alec Boucher.

Exeter is the #1 team in NH hands down, but Winnacunnet is a consensus top 5 team as well (some even have them as high as #3) and I could definitely see them giving the Blue Hawks a good game, especially if they can hold on to the football.

Campbell @ Bishop Brady on Friday night
Our correspondent DC will be at Bishop Brady for the second straight week. Last Friday night the Giants beat a good Mascoma team 36-21 and now they have a Campbell team that is the favorite to win the D-VI title coming to town. Both Campbell and Brady spent the past couple of years in Division V, and are definite title contenders in this, the last season of D-VI.

Campbell is 3-0 on the season while Brady is 2-1 with the only loss being a 36-35 defeat to a very good Newfound team. In this game you have a match up of 2 dynamic running backs who can really make plays and put up a ton of yards and points on the board with Jesiah Wade of campbell and Bishop Brady's Matt Tetu. Evan Hall also went over 100 yards rushing in last week's win over Mascoma, so Campbell can't just key on Tetu.

This Wade kid for Campbell though is just really, really good. Last week vs. Raymond he had 3 touchdowns - in the 1st quarter alone. He also had an 85 yard TD that was called back due to a penalty. QB Christian McKenna, WR Max Gouveia and LB Christian Kamacho also made big plays in the 55-7 win over Raymond.

Strap yourself in, this should be a fun one in D-VI. Two teams who are playing some very good football right now. Campbell is the favorite, but Brady is definitely gunning for them!

Nashua South @ Concord on Saturday afternoon
Simply put, this game is big because the winner will likely get the 4th and final playoff spot in Division I. Yes, I know it's still early in the season. But Exeter and Pinkerton are hands down the top 2 teams in the division, with Central looking like the #3 team. Nashua North is the only other team I could see maybe getting in to the playoffs, but I think Concord and South are both a little better.

This game definitely means more for Concord. They have struggled mightily in D-I for the past several years. This is the first year in a while where they were considered playoff contenders, whereas South is a playoff contender EVERY year. Concord is also playing this game at home so you can bet they'll be looking to get a ton of fans there to help the team out in such a big game.

The two play makers you really have to watch out for in this game are South QB Trevor night and Concord RB Tolbert Nemo. Knight is a dual threat at QB as both a runner and a passer, and has had a very good start to his junior season. Nemo is an explosive back who is as fast as any player in the state. Exeter's Tyler Grant said last season that Nemo is an even better back than he is.

Other players to watch out for are Steven Choate and Patrick Goff for South, and Seimou Smith for Concord. On paper these appear to be 2 evenly matched teams. We'll find out on Saturday where they really stand!

Dover @ Bishop Guertin on Saturday night
For the past couple of weeks I have had both of these teams ranked higher on my Power Poll ballot than most of the other voters so I am really looking forward to covering this one. Both Dover and BG are better on defense than they are on offense, so I definitely expect this to be a low-scoring, knock-down battle.

Last week both teams had big wins, with Dover beating up on their rival Spaulding and BG cruising to a win over Merrimack. Both BG and Dover had BIG rushing performances, as Colin Shaughnessy had 3 rushing TD's for Dover and Nick Marino scored 5 TD's for Guertin.

Look for both Shaughnessy and Marino to play big roles in this game as well. Look for Kyle Sewards to also carry the rock for Dover, as well as Anthony Reale and Michael Deveraux for BG. Neither team is afraid to throw it around a little bit either, as Dover QB Derek Stegman and BG's Tommy Hurley are both first year starters but are getting better every week.

But of course the strength of both teams is on the defensive side of the ball. And neither squad is particularly big up front. But what they both do have is a bunch of tough kids who fly around the field, hitting people and making plays. BG's defense is led by Kevin Kiczuk, Marino, Blake Boudreau and John Miller. Dover is led by Eric Wilson, Matt Dow, Eric Waddington and Seawards.

On paper these are 2 pretty even teams. BG has a little more speed, and depth though and that could be the difference. It will definitely be a great battle. Dover has really played Guertin tough over the last couple years, and I don't expect this year to be any different!

Somersworth @ Monadnock on Saturday night
DC will be in the house for this one, and should be a very good game. Before the season I said that Somersworth, Kearsarge, Stevens and Monadnock were head and shoulders above the rest of Division V and after 3 weeks that definitely looks like it's the case!

Somersworth is 3-0, and Monadnock is 2-1, with the Huskies' only loss being a very close defeat to Stevens. Somersworth beat Kearsarge 23-14 last weekend, and both the Somersworth/Kearsarge and the Stevens/Monadnock game were close, hard fought battles. This one should be the same thing. Somersworth has more skill guys, but they also have a long bus ride to make to Monadnock. The Huskies always have good size up front and are a very physical team and this season is no different.

Somersworth has 2 players who are both Player of the Year candidates in D-V, in QB/DB Drew Francoeur and RB/LB Josh Ream. The Hilltoppers look to spread the field and let these 2 guys make plays. Francoeur can hurt you with his arm or with his legs, and he is also a big play threat returning punts. Ream is a bruising back that likes to run over people and is also a hard-hitting linebacker on defense.

Monadnock meanwhile is a very different type of team, as they just try to beat teams up in the trenches and grind out first downs by pounding the ball up the middle, controlling the clock and wearing teams down. Dylan Lane, Drew Bolewski, and Isaiah Prince all run the ball effectively.

Defensively look for Ream, Darren Glore and Tyler Kretschmar to make plays for Somersworth, and DJ Lotito for Monadnock. The Huskies have good size up front with Brandon Wilfore and Nick Patterson.

If Somersworth is able to make that long bus ride and still come away with a win they solidify their status as THE favorite in D-V. But you Monadnock is going to be gunning for them, and they know that if they win they make a statement that they are legit title contenders.

Other big games this weekend...

Bedford @ Keene on Friday night
So Keene sat their starters for the entire game last weekend in a meaningless game vs. Goffstown. So the Blackbirds have had essentially 2 weeks to prepare for Bedford. Not only that, but Keene is playing at home and the ride to Keene is always a tough one for opponents to make.

Still, this game could definitely go either way as Bedford has plenty of skill guys to match up with the Blackbirds. You have QB James Caparell, WR Brian Collins, RB Dylan York and speedsters Nick and Mike Vailas. Bedford also has a pair of tough, hard-hitting linebackers in David Cannone and Joe Thibeault. In the game vs. Winnacunnet I covered a couple weeks ago, I'm pretty sure Cannone had at least 15 tackles!

The match up at QB will be fun to watch with Caparell and Lucas Luopa for Keene. both of these guys are third year starers. Don't expect to see many mistakes by them. Caparell is a pocket passer with good arm strength. Collins is his favorite receiver and that tandem really tore it up last week vs. Timberlane.

Luopa also has his share of receiving targets, especially Matt DelVecchio, Alex Austin and Alex Parenteau. Parenteau is also a tough defender and fullback. Luopa is a dual threat, and is just as dangerous running the ball as he is throwing it. Keene returns the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball, and they are definite title contenders in D-II.

Bedford has a pair of blowout wins, over Timberlane and Milford. Their only loss was a 13-6 defeat to 3-0 Winnacunnet. In that game the size and speed of the Winnacunnet's o-line and d-line was the difference. So the play in the trenches will definitely be a fact in the Bedford/Keene game as well.

Beford had a tough test vs. Winnacunnet and a win over a good Timberlane team, but this is the first tough test of the season for Keene. The Blackbirds cruised to wins over Salem and Merrimack, and last week vs. Goffstown both teams sat their starters the whole time. So while Keene might be slight favorites in this game, Bedford has played a tougher schedule so far and Keene is actually the team that needs to prove they can beat a good team.

St. Thomas @ Windham on Friday night
One team (Windham) is looking to avenge their championship game loss from last season. One team (St. Thomas) is looking to prove that even though they lost most of their starters to either graduation or transfers and that they are still jut as good as the team that went undefeated last season. And both of these teams are looking to prove at they are legit title contenders in D-IV.

Windham has had a very impressive start to the season, winning all 3 of their games in blowouts over Laconia, Lebanon and Hanover. Joe Lorenz, Danny Cannone and Kevin Cooney give the Jaguars three seniors who are tough and all are big time play makers on both sides of the ball. In last week's win over Hanover, Lorenz threw 3 TD passes and also intercepted a pass on defense. Cooney also intercepted a pass on defense and made some tough runs on offense. Cannone recovered a fumble and ran it in for a TD and also caught a TD. Also watch out for sophomore play makers Kellin Bail and Joe Frake.

For St. Thomas the guy you really have to watch out for is Ryan Monette, the Player of the Year in D-V last season. Monette can take it to the house anytime he touches the ball. He's off to a strong start this season, and is also getting help from guys like Jake Geppert, Peter Yarosewick, Ryan Geppert and first year QB Joseph Karsonovich is also coming along nicely.

Windham is the slight favorite in this game. They have more experience, more starters are back from last year. The jaguars have a kid at QB who has been starting for 3 years, compared to a first year starter for the Saints.

But one spot where STA might have an advantage is special teams. Not only do you have Monette as a dangerous return man, but you also have the kicking game with junior Hayden Middleton. Middleton is one of the top kickers in the state. Last week vs. Laconia he was 5/5 on PAT's and also kicked field goals from 35 and 32 yards out. Windham meanwhile had 2 of their PAT's blocked last week by Hanover.

It should also be noted that this game will be part of the fight against cancer, as 'Black Out Cancer' t-shirts will be sold, and admission will be free to those who purchase the t-shirts. Proceeds will go to the American Cancer Society.

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