Here is this week's statewide football poll, as voted on by the members of ESPN NH's Friday Nights and Nashua Telegraph sports dept. With Pinkerton's loss at Bedford last week we have a new #1 team.
Rank Team (1st) Record Last Wk
1. Exeter (7) 1-0 2
2. Bedford (1) 1-0 6
3. Concord 1-0 5
4. South 1-0 3
5. Pinkerton 0-1 1
6. Winnacunnet 1-0 4
Trinity 1-0 6
8. Plymouth 1-0 NR
9. Keene 1-0 NR
10. BG 0-1 10
Here's what my ballot looked like...
4. Nashua South
10. Bishop Guertin
Here's why I voted that way...
1) Bedford - I continue to be impressed by this program. They lost many key players to graduation (James Caparell, Brian Collins, Joe Thibeault, Dylan York, David Cannone, just to name a few) yet here they are atop the rankings. The kids in that program believe. It looks like I'm the only voter who voted for them in the #1 spot, with everyone else picking Exeter. It's a tough call, but Exeter lost my starters to graduation from last year. Plus Bedford had the most impressive win of week 1 by defeating preseason #1 ranked Pinkerton. New QB Dan Colella had a successful debut, and he has returning weapons like Mike and Nick Vailas, plus lineman Eric Glassman.
2) Exeter - They only have 3 returning starters from last year's D-I championship team, but the Blue Hawks don't rebuild - they reload. They stomped and un-ranked Dover team in week 1. Chris Kelly and Ryan Kelly now take on bigger roles, alongside lineman Collin Richardson and TE/DB Max Medley. The game of the week this weekend is Exeter @ Keene - we'll have a better idea about where both of those teams are at after that one.
3) Winnacunnet - Looks like I had these guys a little higher than the other voters. Yes, they lost some valuable players to graduation (especially Ben Franzoso, Christian Dyer and Jordan Cutting), but so did everyone. I was even tempted to rank the Warriors #1 this week, because even though they just barely beat BG on Saturday night, they did beat Bedford in a preseason scrimmage. It seems like when it comes to top quarterbacks in the state everyone is talking about Trevor Knight (Nashua South) and Carmen Giampetruzzi (Trinity), and deservedly so. But don't forget about Winnacunnet senior Ing Hao Veasna, this kid is in for a big year. Also don't bother trying to pass on these guys, as all of the starters in the secondary are back (Collin Witt, Clint Felch, Jon Flagg, Alec Boucher).
4) Nashua South - the Purple Panthers had a strong off-season, return arguably the best player in the state in QB Trevor Knight along with other key players. They took care of business in week 1 vs. Spaulding, but at a cost as Knight got injured and according to his Twitter account he will be out for the next 2 games. I would probably have South ranked higher, but they're not the same team without Knight.
5) Pinkerton - Even with the opening week loss to Bedford this is still one of the top teams in the state, no question about it. They still have the best running back (Manny Latimore), the best linebacker (Matt Madden) and arguably the best defensive lineman (Phil Harper) in the state. Look for that loss to get them re-focused and even more determined.
6) Concord - I have them slightly lower than the other voters. A top 5 ranking is uncharted territory for this program, so I would like to see a little more before putting them higher. I was impressed with their blowout win in week 1 over Central. Still, the other voters rewarded Concord more for the win, as they had Central ranked in the preseason but I did not. This is definitely a team on the rise though, for sure.
7) Trinity - Outside of Bedford's win over Pinkerton, the most impressive win of week 1 was Trinity's 58-37 thrashing of a tough Portsmouth team. The Pioneers' offense is the real deal, they're as good as any in the state, regardless of division. The only other team in D-II I can see giving them a tough game is Plymouth.
8) Keene - Just like Trinity, Keene is another team where I wouldn't be surprised if they move up the rankings as the season goes on. They graduated Lucas Luopa who was their starting QB for the past 3 years, but they have a ton of returning talent on defense and in the backfield. You have beasts like Jimmy Heaney, Hunter Wilkinson and Brett Parenteau on 'D', and their 3 top RB's are all back (Parenteau, Tom Galanes, Tim Lane). Some were surprised by their 34-0 opening night win over Nashua North, but not this guy.
9) Plymouth - In legendary head coach Chuck Lenehan's last season you can bet the Bobcats will bring their 'A' game every week. And with star players like John Thomas, Colin Sullivan, Kyle Reisert and Jared Kuehl they have the talent to once again go out on top.
10) Bishop Guertin - They definitely have the talent to be a top 10 team. And even though they are 0-1, they barely lost to the team I have ranked in the #3 spot. This will definitely be a team to watch as the season goes on.