Friday, November 9, 2012

Notes Leading Up to Super Saturday

The weekend where you have the semi-final games in Divisions I, II and III, plus the championship games in Divisions IV, V and VI is known around NH as 'Super Saturday'. That would of course be this weekend. You have 9 huge games that will be played this Saturday, all across the state.

It is a shame that the NHIAA has to schedule them so that fans will only be able to see 1 of these 9 great games. Why not pool some of the games to the same field? Why not have 3 of the games Friday night, 3 of them Saturday afternoon and the other 3 on Saturday night? There are many things that could be done so that people could see more than just 1 of these 9 games.

Here is what else I have written in my NH Notebook leading up to Super Saturday.

A quick storyline to watch this weekend in each division...

Division I
Is there any doubt that it will be Exeter and Pinkerton meeting for the title next weekend for the second season in a row? Neither Nashua South nor Manchester Central has been able to put up much of a fight against either of them this season. South is clearly the team that has a better shot at pulling off an upset on Saturday, but the Purple Panthers will need to play a near-perfect game in order to do it. As for Central, they will likely be more competitive in the Turkey Bowl when they take on city-rival Trinity.

Division II
Bishop Guertin is going for their fifth title in a row. But in the regular season they lost by 2 touchdowns to each of the other 3 playoff teams in D-III. Ironically, none of those 3 teams (Winnacunnet, Bedford, Keene) made the D-II playoffs last year. Bedford was in the D-III title game, while Keene and Winnacunnet both missed the playoffs in 2011.

Division III
There have bee some pretty good games in D-III this season. Souhegan beat Portsmouth in a good one back in week 2, 18-13. Goffstown got a last minute score to beat Milford in the mud a few weeks ago 30-28. And last weekend at Saint Anselm College, Souhegan beat Goffstown in a shootout 32-27. The Sabers and Grizzlies face each other in back-to-back weeks, as Goffstown tries to end Souhegan's undefeated season in the division when they square off in the semis. This game features the 2 leading candidates for D-III Player of the Year - Souhegan's Tyler Ford and Goffstown's Connor Benjamin.

Division IV
Trinity graduated 2 kids who are now on Division I college football rosters (Andrew Lauderdale and Josh Hughes) plus another kid playing D-II (Mike Leonard), they have a new head coach (Steve Burns), yet they're still in the final. Plymouth also graduated most of their starters off last year's team (Newberry, Brooker, Reisert, Horan, etc.) yet here they are sitting pretty as the only unbeaten team in the entire state. And how about the other 2 playoff teams in D-IV? Both Windham and St. Thomas should hold their heads up high. Both moved up a division this year from D-V. Windham nearly knocked off Trinity in the semis, while STA not only had to move up a division but they also had to replace nearly all of their starters from last year's team.

Division V
A tossup game in the final between Monadnock and Somersworth. Both teams run the ball and have good size up front. Should be a good old, smash mouth, battle in the trenches type of game. Monadnock just played that type of game in the semis, and beat Kearsarge 14-6. And while they beat Somersworth in the regular season, this time they have to go on the road.

Division VI
Been a wild season in the always unpredictable D-VI. Ironically there were 6 teams who were all basically tied for first place. The 2 backs who had the biggest years and made the most headlines, Jesiah Wade from Campbell and Newfound's Tyler Makivi (both only juniors) will both be at home for the title game. But that's why football is played 11 vs. 11, you need depth to win, not just 1 star. Franklin is typically a D-VI power, but Mascoma has been down for the last few years. If the Royals win it would be a great story.

This weekend's pick em' games are...
Keene @ Bedford in D-II semis
Portsmouth @ Milford in D-III semis
Monadnock @ Somersworth in D-V final
Franklin @ Mascoma in D-VI final

Of the 9 games being played this Saturday, these are the 4 that have the best chance at going down to the wire. No matter who wins these 4 games there will be no upset!

The 2 best games of the season so far are...
Exeter @ Pinkerton in week 2, and Exeter @ Winnacunnet in week 4. These 2 games were classics, no question about it. Both of these games had a tremendous atmosphere around the stadium. They were both close, hard fought, competitive games that went down to the wire with Exeter defeating Pinkerton 24-20 and then falling to Winnacunnet 27-24. Of all the NHIAA football games this season these were the 2 that were played at the highest level. Both teams brought a ton of intensity to the field as well. You also had 2 outstanding individual performances by running backs, with Exeter senior Tyler Grant rushing for 197 yards and 2 TDs in the win over Pinkerton, and Winnacunnet senior Ben Franzoso ran for 217 yards and 3 TDs in the win over Exeter.

If I had to pick another game of the year it would be Trinity's 20-13 thriller last weekend over Windham in the D-IV semi-finals. Just a well played, hard fought battle with a trip to the title game on the line. Trinity had more size up front and they had more speed on the outside. But Windham battled them took and nail the whole way, and nearly pulled out the win. But Trinity QB Carmen Giampetruzzi threw the game-winning TD pass, and then Romeo Masuku made a big run late to seal the win.

Another D-IV game that you're going to hear a lot of people say was the game of the year was St. Thomas beating Hanover with a last second field goal by Hayden Middleton to go to the playoffs. But unfortunately I wasn't at that game so I can't pick it.

Mr. Football Watch
Mr. Football, a.k.a. the statewide Most Valuable Player Award. Here are your top candidates as of right now.

The Big 3...
Tyler Grant, RB/DB/KR, Exeter - the best player on the #1 ranked team in the state. He's an all-state caliber player on both offense and defense, plus he also plays special teams. Not only the Blue Hawk's best player but also the leader and heart and soul of the team according to Coach Bill Ball.

James Caparell, QB, Bedford - has to be considered the best quarterback in the state right now. Best player on a consensus top 4 team in the state. Has put up big numbers both passing and rushing. Led team to last minute wins over Keene, Dover and Spaulding, plus had big game vs. BG.

Ben Franzoso, RB, Winnacunnet - rushed for over 200 yards vs. both Exeter and Bishop Guertin - in the 1st half! Not only are those staggering numbers but they came against 2 of the top defenses in the state. Has over 1,000 rushing yards on the season, despite the fact that he missed 3 and a half games with a groin injury.

Other Top Candidates...
Tyler Ford, QB/DB/P/KR, Souhegan - the MVP on a team that has won 9 games in a row and went undefeated in their division. This kid does it all. He plays QB (even though he's a natural WR) ad at QB he is a threat to throw or pass. He is a shut down cover corner on 'D', returns kicks and is also the best punter in the state.

Manny Latimore, RB/DB/KR, Pinkerton - another kid who never sees the bench, since he does offense, defense and special teams. Defense is the part of his game where he has improved the most this year as a tough, hard-hitting DB. Meanwhile on offense and in return game he's always a threat to go for 6.

Lucas Luopa, QB/DB, Keene - best player on consensus top 5 team in the state. Has put up some big time numbers both rushing and passing. Had some clutch TD passes i big wins over BG and Winnacunnet. Has battled through injuries all year long and still plays on defense in addition to QB.

Also in the Conversation
Jesiah Wade, RB/DB/KR, Campbell
Connor Benjamin, QB/DB/KR, Goffstown
Trevor Knight, QB, Nashua South
Riley Cote, QB, Manchester Central
Brandon Goodale, RB/DB/KR, Plymouth

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