Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Week 5 WGAM / Telegraph Power Poll - My Ballot Revealed!

So last week I wrote about all of the BIG games involving teams I had ranked in the top 10 on my Power Poll ballot. On Friday night Winnacunnet took down #1 ranked Exeter 27-24, Bedford made the long bus ride to Keene and beat the Blackbirds in a thriller 25-24. Then on Saturday Concord proved that they belong in the top 10, and South showed that they don't belong in the top 10, as Concord defeated Nashua South 20-3. And on Saturday night Bishop Guertin proved that they are a top 4 team with an impressive 27-7 win over a good Dover team.

So what effect did those games have on the Power Poll? Well, keep reading! In this week's column you will find the latest WGAM / Telegraph Power Poll, my ballot and why I voted that way. Not only that, but I will also answer some frequently asked questions regarding Power Polls - like why is there 2 of them in NH, and do they really mean anything? Yeah, you're going to want to read this...

WGAM The Game/Nashua Telegraph HS FB Poll for Week 5
1. Winnacunnet (7)
2. Exeter (1)
3. Pinkerton (1)
4. Bishop Guertin
5. Manchester Central
6. Bedford
7. Keene
8. Plymouth
9. Concord
10. Souhegan

(First place votes)

Other receiving votes: Windham (3), Goffstown (2), Nashua South (1), Dover (1)

Now, here's what my ballot looked like:
1. Winnacunnet
2. Exeter
3. Pinkerton
4. Bishop Guertin
5. Manchester Central
6. Bedford
7. Keene
8. Concord
9. Dover
10. Souhegan

Here's why I voted that way:
1) Winnacunnet - Exeter was the undisputed #1 team going into last week's games. Winnacunnet beat Exeter on Friday night 27-24. Oh yeah, and Winnacunnet is undefeated so far this season, whereas Pinkerton, Exeter, Central, Bedford, BG, Keene and Concord all have at least 1 loss. Is there any debate here that the Warriors are the #1 team? I didn't think so. Hard to believe this team didn't even make the playoffs last season. Give credit to them for a great turnaround. There's still a long ways to go, and there are a lot of tough teams in D-II who will now be gunning for them. But as of RIGHT NOW, they're the best team in NH.

2) Exeter - let's see here, they beat Pinkerton, they beat Central 49-0 and they beat Dover 41-7. They were the undisputed #1 team up until their close lose on the road to Winnacunnet which went down to the final minute. There's no question that Exeter is the #2 team in the state. The 2 best games of the year so far have been Exeter vs. Pinkerton and Exeter vs. Winnacunnet. Those are the 3 best teams RIGHT NOW. Exeter beat Pinkerton but lost to Winnacunnet. And those 3 teams are unbeaten in all of their other games. Hence, the rankings go 1. Winnacunnet 2. Exeter 3. Pinkerton. It's pretty simple. Anyone who votes different hasn't been paying attention. I hear there was actually one voter who put Pinkerton ahead of Exeter. Seriously? Umm, Exeter went on the ROAD just 2 weeks ago and BEAT Pinkerton. Oh yeah, and the Blue Hawks were playing that game without Logan Laurent and Colby Swane. Having those 2 guys in there makes a BIG difference. Don't believe me? Just ask Manchester Central. Swane ran all over them and Laurent put every kickoff in the end zone. And yeah, since that week 2 game Pinkerton is 2-0, while Exeter is 1-1. But hello, there's a little something called strength of schedule! Beating up on North and Salem is NOT as impressive as CRUSHING Central (who is MUCH better than North and Salem are) and having a close loss to Winnacunnet. I don't care if the Warriors are a D-II team. Anyone who's been paying attention knows that from top to bottom D-II is better than D-I is this season.

3) Pinkerton - pretty easy pick here for the #3 spot. I already explained above why the Astros don't belong any higher than #3. And there's no way BG can be ranked higher than Pinkerton, because of course the Astros beat the Cardinals 20-3 in week 1. Yes, I know that BG actually out-gained Pinkerton in that game, but the fact is Pinkerton BEAT them. They're the better team.

4) Bishop Guertin - I've got to say, I was impressed with what I saw from BG on Saturday night in a convincing 27-7 win over a good Dover team. They have a fast, hard hitting defense (led by Nick Marino, Blake Boudreau, Anthony Reale, Patrick Flathers and John Miller). And the offense is getting better each week. Tommy Hurley keeps getting better at QB, and Marino, Boudreau and Kevin Kiczuk are really emerging as big time play makers on offense. And Damion Cadoret is playing well on both sides of the ball. For reasons listed above BG is not a top 3 team. But based on what I have seen so far this season, outside of Winnacunnet, Exeter and Pinkerton there is no better team in NH than BG.

5) Manchester Central - well, despite the fact that Central won last week they drop 2 spots on my ballot from #3 to #5. This is partly because they only beat an un-ranked Nashua North team by 3 points (13-10). But their move down is less about anything they did wrong and more about the 2 teams who moved ahead of them (Winnacunnet and BG) playing some REALLY good football last weekend.

6) Bedford - these next couple are pretty easy to explain. I can't justify putting Bedford any higher than #6. They will get a chance to prove they belong higher this Saturday night when they take on BG. But at the same time there's definitely no way anyone should have the Bulldogs ranked any lower than the #6 spot. I mean, seriously. Who else would get this spot, Keene? Umm, yeah Bedford just beat them on Friday night.

7) Keene - obviously Bedford belongs ranked ahead of Keene, since they went on the road and beat them on Friday night. But c'mon now people, the score was 25-24, so obviously the 2 teams are VERY close, evenly matched teams. And the Bedford game was the Blackbirds only loss so far this season. So yeah, there's no way I'm putting them any lower than the #7 spot.

8) Concord - another pretty easy pick here. Here's what we know about Concord. They lost by a couple TD's to Central, so they should be at least 1 if not 2 or 3 spots below the Little Green. We also know they beat Memorial pretty easily, so they should be ranked ahead of not only Memorial but also ranked ahead of Goffstown (who Memorial beat week 1). We also know that they easily beat Nashua South this past Saturday afternoon 20-3. South was a team that EVERYONE had ranked for the past couple of weeks, so it was definitely an impressive win for the Crimson. After getting my first look at Concord on Saturday I was impressed with them overall. They're a good team, but they didn't wow me by any means. Also they had WAY too many penalties. No way I can rank them higher than this, but they are definitely deserving of the #8 spot.

9) Dover - once again I am the only voter (on either poll) to put Dover on my ballot. Here's why I still have them in there even after they lost to BG 27-7 on Saturday night. The Dover/BG game was definitely closer than the final score indicates. Dover had 2 possessions inside BG's 30 yard line (one was last drive of 1st half, the other was first drive of 2nd half) and came away with zero points both times. They had a turnover on downs and then a missed FG. If they scored on even jut 1 of those drives this is a MUCH different football game we're talking about. Dover would have been up 14-13 in the 3rd quarter and they would have had momentum on their side. Who knows how the rest of the game would have played out? But instead, Dover was deflated after coming up empty on both those drives, BG had the momentum and then scored to go up 20-7. Then they added 1 more TD late after the outcome of the game had already been decided. Dover actually had pretty good success throwing the ball against BG's defense. So yeah, the game was MUCH closer than the final score indicates. And if BG is the consensus #4 team in the state, and Dover beat a good Spaulding team 31-10, and their only other 2 losses are to Exeter and King Phillip High (#12 ranked team in Mass) so how can the Green Wave NOT be a top 10 team?

10) Souhegan - this #10 spot was a tough choice. It was just just a process of elimination thing. I saw the Concord/South game on Saturday, and South simply did NOT look like a top 10 team. And they have yet to beat a ranked team. I thought about putting Nashua North in there, but they need to prove more first. Plymouth and Windham also need to to prove more. They just don't face the same kind of competition week to week as the teams in the upper divisions. I'll say this - the winner of this Saturday's Plymouth vs. Windham game will get a spot on my ballot next week. But not until next week. That leaves Souhegan, Goffstown or Portsmouth for the #10 spot on my ballot this week. Well Goffstown is out because they lost to Memorial week 1. Which means Souhegan gets the #10 spot, because they beat Portsmouth week 2. Hey, I'm still not sold on the Sabers. I think when it's all said and done the D-III champion could be Portsmouth, Goffstown or Souhegan - it's a 3 team race and they all have a pretty good shot. But RIGHT NOW, Souhegan is the division's best team.

Now, here are my answers to some frequently asked questions:

Why did I not vote for either Plymouth or Windham this week?
Like I said, they need to prove more being in D-IV. Based on Plymouth beating up on Trinity, and Windham crushing both St. Thomas and Hanover there is no question that right now the 2 best teams in D-IV are Plymouth and Windham. So by that logic, if Plymouth and Windham haven't played each other yet, that must mean they have played pretty weak schedules so far (at least in comparison to the schedule that teams like Concord, Dover and Souhegan play). I mean c'mon now, not only are these teams in Division IV, but they haven't even played the other top team yet, so how can anyone put them in the top 10? That's why I say, let's wait till next week. Let's see what happens with this Plymouth vs. Windham game on Saturday. Neither team has enough quality wins on their resume to be a top 10 team yet, but they will next week. Especially if that game ends up being a blowout, then the team that wins will DEFINITELY be in my top 10 next week. I don't think it will be a blowout though, I think it will be a very close, hard fought game. So yeah, whoever wins this Saturday's Windham/Plymouth game will more than likely be in my top 10 next week. Who will fall out of the top 10 next week? Well it depends on what happens this weekend, but it will probably be Souhegan, maybe Dover.

Why are there 2 different Power Polls for NH high school football?
Here's a question I have seen some people ask this season. Why (especially in a state as small as NH) are there 2 different Power Polls to determine the state's top football teams? There is the WGAM / Telegraph Power Poll, and the other one is done by the Union Leader / WGIR / WMUR. So why is there 2 of them?

The answer is pretty simple. There used to be just one Power Poll, and it was voted on by the staff members of WGAM, Union Leader and WMUR. Pete Tarrier was the long time host of Friday Night Lights on WGAM. Last year he left WGAM to take a job at Clear Channel (where he worked prior to WGAM) to sell radio ads for Rock 101, WGIR talk radio, etc. Here's the catch, though - WGIR didn't do any local high school sports coverage. So Pete no longer had his own high school sports radio show like he did on WGAM. So what did he do? He started his own show on WGIR. He brought in Marc Thaler from the Union Leader to be the show's co-host. And now that these 2 guys were working together, instead of it being the Union Leader / WGAM / WMUR Power Poll like it used to be, now it was the Union Leader / WGIR / WMUR Power Poll. When all of this went down prior to the beginning of the 2012 football season, now WGAM was left out in the cold. They had always been part of the Power Poll, but now Union Leader and WMUR were doing their poll with WGIR instead of them because of their new affiliation with Tarrier. WGAM wanted to continue having a Power Poll though, so they called up the Nashua Telegraph (NH's other BIG newspaper) and asked them to join forces on their Power Poll. The Telegraph obliged, and there you go.

Hope that helps clarify things for anyone out there who might have been curious as to why there are now 2 Power Polls for NH football.

Are the Power Polls meaningless?
In essence, yes. Home field advantage in the playoffs goes to the higher seed, not by the Power Poll. Playoff seeding is determined by won-loss records, not by the Power Poll. Tie-breakers are determined by head-to-head records, then records within the tie-breaker, then record vs. playoff teams - NOT by the Power Poll.

So if that is the case, why do we have them? Well, one reason is ratings. The media outlets that do these polls want to create a buzz, so more people are reading their paper, listening to their radio show, etc. The other reason we have them is because this stuff is fun to debate and it helps to raise interest in NH football!

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