Well folks, it's been a great season but now there's only one week left. Congratulations to Plymouth (Division IV), Monadnock (Division V) and Franklin (Division VI) for winning state championships this past Saturday.
This Saturday you have 3 more title games with Pinkerton @ Exeter in D-I, Bedford @ Winnacunnet in D-II (both are week 2 rematches) and Goffstown @ Portsmouth in D-III. The only surprise team in that group is Goffstown. The Grizzlies are a great story. They only went 5-5 during the regular season, but somehow pulled off the upset by beating #1 seed Souhegan. The Sabers had won 9 games in a row and were undefeated in the division, but Goffstown beat them in an overtime thriller 54-53.
All 3 of these championship games are being played on the seacoast. I already talked about this last week but I'll expand on it now - why can't we pool these games together so people can see all 3 of them? You play them all at Exeter High, with kickoff times at 1:00, 4:00 and 7:00. The kids get to play in front of bigger crowds (on a bigger stage), fans get to see all 3 of the games instead of just 1, and with bigger crowds at each game the NHIAA is making more $ on admissions and concessions. Is this really that hard to figure out?
Ok, so WGAM and the Telegraph actually did not release their Football Poll this week. If they did, here's what my ballot would have looked like:
9. Bishop Guertin
Just missing the cut: Nashua South, Trinity, Manchester Central and Milford
Here's why I have the teams ranked that way...
1. Winnacunnet...ok, so in case you're wondering why Winnacunnet is back in the #1 spot here's your explanation. They beat Exeter and they beat Bedford. So at this time it makes no sense for them to not be the #1 team. Yes, the Warriors did lose to Keene. But Winnacunnet head coach Ron Auffant was suspended for that game. Not only that, but they didn't find out he was suspended until right before the bus left for Keene. Plus Winnacunnet star running back Ben Franzoso had an injured groin that game and as a result he only carried the ball 8 times (for just 32 yards). There is exactly zero undefeated teams in D-I, II or III. But the Warriors are unbeaten when Coach Auffant is on the sidelines and they're unbeaten when Franzoso is healthy. Just look at what Franzoso has done the past 2 weeks now that he is healthy and back in the lineup. He ran all over BG 2 weeks ago with 223 yards - in the 1st half alone! Then last week against the Cardinals he ran for a season-high 242 yards. The D-II title game this Saturday between Winnacunnet and Bedford should be an outstanding football game. And even though Bedford is unbeaten since their week 2 loss to Winnacunnet (the Bulldogs have won 8 in a row), the fact is they lost to the Warriors on their home field and now the title game will be played at Winnacunnet. The Warriors basically won that week 2 showdown by 2 TDs (13-0), but Bedford scored a last second TD after the outcome of the game had already been decided (to make the final 13-6). Not only that, but Winnacunnet now has starting linebacker Nyles Connor healthy and playing well, and Connor did not play back in the week 2 match up. So to summarize - the D-II title game will be a great game that could go either way, but Winnacunnet has to be considered the favorite going in, and they also should be the #1 team in NH going into this weekend's games.
2. Exeter...easy choice here for the #2 spot. Exeter is unbeaten in Division I play, and there only loss all year came to #1 ranked Winnacunnet. They lost that game in a nail-biter The Blue Hawks beat Pinkerton (and everyone else they played) so the #2 spot is where they belong.
3. Pinkerton...their only loss all year was to #2 ranked Exeter. Not only have they won all of their games, but most of those games have been blowouts. They absolutely crushed Nashua South last weekend in the D-I semi-finals, and also beat Massachusetts powerhouse Brockton.
4. Bedford...like it says above, Bedford has just 1 loss on the season (to Winnacunnet in week 2) and the Bulldogs have won 8 in a row since then. Each of these top 4 teams are playing TERRIFIC football right now, and each of them is capable of beating the others.
5. Keene...you have to feel for the Blackbirds. They had an absolutely heartbreaking loss on Saturday to Bedford in the D-II semi-finals. They should hold their heads high though - Keene played their hearts out and left it all out on the field. They came just 1 play away from winning it. And although it won't make the loss any easier to accept, there's no question that Keene is still a top 5 team in NH.
6. Plymouth...easy pick here for the #6 spot. Plymouth deserves a lot of credit, they really had a great team this year. Look at the other teams ranked in the top 6. Plymouth doesn't have anything close to the enrollment that those other schools do. They have a D-I caliber team with D-IV enrollment. Another great coaching job by Chuck Lenahan. Trinity put up a great fight in the championship game but Plymouth still pulled it out. The Bobcats were the ONLY undefeated team in the state this season.
7. Souhegan...even though they lost to Goffstown in the D-III semi-finals on Saturday I still can't justify ranking the Sabers any lower than this. You can't just base a team's ranking on one game. Yes Souhegan lost to Goffstown on Saturday, but Goffstown has lost FIVE games this year. The Grizzlies lost by 4 TDs to Portsmouth, they lost to a 2-win Manchester Memorial team and they lost to a 3 win Hollis-Brookline team. Souhegan on the other hand went undefeated in D-III play during the regular season, and they won 9 games in a row prior to their loss to Goffstown on Saturday. Plus they only lost that game by 1 point in overtime. That's why they are ranked ahead of Goffstown. They're ranked ahead of Portsmouth because their record is better than Portsmouth and plus Souhegan also won the head-to-head match up between the 2 teams.
8. Portsmouth...this one is pretty simple. Portsmouth is ranked behind Souhegan because Souhegan has a better record and the Sabers won the head-to-head meeting between the 2 teams. By the same token, the Clippers are ranked ahead of Goffstown because they crushed the Grizzlies during the regular season and also because Portsmouth won the regular season match up between the 2 teams.
9. Bishop Guertin...BG gave Winnacunnet a much tougher battle this past Saturday than they did the week before. The Cardinals were clearly not as good this season as they have been over the past few years when they won 4 straight D-II titles. But they are still a top 10 team in the state. Yes, they lost by 2 scores to each of the other 3 playoff teams in D-III. But Nashua South also lost by 2 scores to Exeter, and they got absolutely smoked by Pinkerton on Saturday in the D-I semis (BG actually gained more yardage than Pinkerton when they played each other). South also lost to 2 un-ranked teams in Concord and Lowell (MA). Simply put, there's no way I can justify ranking South ahead of BG.
10. Goffstown...Tough call for the last spot on my ballot. It's either Goffstown or Nashua South. Both teams have 2 bad losses, with Goffstown losing by 3 TDs to Hollis and by 5 TDs to Portsmouth and South losing by Concord and Lowell. So what do they have for quality wins? South's best win was a last second win over Manchester Central. Goffstown's best win was last Saturday's thriller over Souhegan. Well guess what, Souhegan (th #7 ranked team) beat Central (un-ranked) so clearly Goffstown's best win is more impressive than South's. Not only that, but Goffstown also beat Milford, who is better than any other team South beat. Hence, the Grizzlies are definitely deserving of the #10 spot this week.