'Championship Saturday' has come and gone. All 3 championship games were played on the seacoast on Saturday, and all 3 seacoast teams won. Congratulations to Exeter (D-I), Winnacunnet (D-II) and Portsmouth (D-III) for winning division championships.
Since there was no upsets on Saturday, there was not very much movement with regards to the teams ranked in the top 10. In fact, the only change I made this week was Portsmouth moving up one spot from #8 to #7. Since there was so little movement this week, this column will be more brief.
So here are your top 10 teams in NH, followed by the reasoning behind my picks.
9. Bishop Guertin
Just missing the cut: Nashua South, Trinity, Manchester Central, Milford
Here's why I have them ranked that way:
1. Winnacunnet...they were my #1 team last week, and they beat Bedford 21-13 in the D-II title game. Yes, Exeter won the D-I title. But this season D-II was a better division than D-I from top to bottom. And Winnacunnet beat Exeter when the two teams met head-to-head. Not only that, but Winnacunnet was undefeated this season when head coach Ron Auffant was on the sidelines and when running back Ben Franzoso was healthy. The Warriors won the D-II title, and in their 2 non-league games they beat #2 Exeter and in the other one they crushed #8 Souhegan. They beat #4 Bedford twice and they beat #9 Bishop Guertin twice. You have to give a lot of credit to Coach Auffant, his staff and the kids on the team. These guys went from 3-7 in 2011 to 11-1 and a title in 2012. What a great story!
2. Exeter...a solid #2 team. They have the same record as Winnacunnet and they lost to Winnacunnet head-to-head. So you simply cannot justify ranking Exeter ahead of the Warriors. But at the same time the Blue Hawks are more than deserving of the #2 spot, as they defeated everyone else on their schedule including 2 wins over Pinkerton and their second consecutive D-I title. Another great year for Coach Ball, MVP Tyler Grant and the rest of the team.
3. Pinkerton...both Pinkerton and Bedford could make a case for the #3 spot. After all, they both had identical 10-2 records, both were runners-up in their respective divisions. The only games that Pinkerton lost were to Exeter, and the only games that Bedford lost were to Winnacunnet. So who's better? Both teams beat BG by roughly the same amount. But I give Pinkerton the slight edge due to their win over Mass powerhouse Brockton.
4. Bedford...so like I said above, Bedford gets barely edged out by Pinkerton for the #3 spot. The Bulldogs had a great season and deserve a lot of credit. They are a program on the rise, no question about it.
5. Keene...the Blackbirds were definitely a top 5 team. They had arguably the best offensive player in the state (QB Lucas Luopa) and arguably the best defensive player in the state (DL Jimmy Heaney). They beat Winnacunnet, and they barely lost to Bedford in the semi-finals.
6. Plymouth...They were the #6 team last week, and they didn't play this past weekend, so no reason to move them down. It was a great season for Coach Lenahan, Brandon Goodale and the rest of the Bobcats. Plymouth was the only unbeaten team in the entire state.
7. Portsmouth...the Clippers are without question a top 7 team, as a result of their 10-2 overall record and the fact that they won their second straight D-III title. The fact that they had so many injuries and still won the championship is a great story. Lineman Rick Holt has shown why he is a legit FCS prospect.
8. Souhegan...Souhegan drops one spot to #8 as a result of Portsmouth's blowout win over Goffstown in the final. It was still a very good season for the Sabers. You had Jake Kennedy dominating the trenches, Tyler Ford did it all for this team. And Brandon Len played football for the first time since 8th grade but still had an all-state season.
9. Bishop Guertin...they weren't as good as they had been in previous years, but they still were a top 10 team. Yes, they lost 5 games but you have to also remember that they were missing captain Pat Bilodeau and play maker CJ Boykin for much of the year. If they were in there all year they would have likely had a better record.
10. Goffstown...there are some teams that are just a bad match up for you, and that is the case for Goffstown when it comes to Portsmouth. The Grizzlies still had a solid season, and QB/DB Connor Benjamin had one of the more impressive seasons by an individual player in a long time.