Here are this week's statewide football team rankings, as voted on by the members of ESPN NH's Friday Nights and Nashua Telegraph sports dept.
Here is this week's poll:
Rank Previous Team (1st) Record Quarterfinal Opponent
1 1 Concord (8) 9-0 vs #5 Central
2 4 South 8-1 vs #3 Keene
3 3 Pinkerton 7-2 vs Londonderry
3 5 Keene 7-2 @ #2 South
5 8 Central 7-2 @ #1 Concord
6 6 Spaulding 6-3 vs Exeter
7 2 Bedford 7-2 ---
8 7 Portsmouth 8-1 vs Merrimack Valley
9 9 Plymouth 8-1 vs Kennett
10 NR Monadnock 9-0 vs Sanborn
Others Receiving Votes: Exeter (4), BG (1)
Here's what my ballot looked like:
2. Nashua South
5. Manchester Central
Here's why I voted that way...
1. Concord - there's simply no way you can justify another team being in the #1 spot right now. No other team in D-I went unbeaten. Until they lose they're the top team, they've earned it. What a great story too. It's their first playoff appearance on over 5 years, and their first undefeated regular season since 1982. South, Keene, Central and Pinkerton are all capable of knocking them off, but Concord is the top dog - they're the team to beat. Especially now that they have Leo Sudieh back in the lineup.
2. Nashua South - South has earned the #2 spot. Even though they lost to Keene a couple weeks ago that was South's only loss on the season. Keene on the other hand has lost 2 games, not only that but both of them came against teams who end the regular season outside the top 10 (BG and Exeter).
3. Pinkerton - a solid pick for the #3 spot. Pinkerton went 7-2 on the season in D-I (as did Keene, Central and Bedford). However one of Pinkerton's losses was to #1 ranked Concord. Central also had one of their 1 losses come to Concord, but the LIttle Green lost to Concord 35-6 whereas Pinkerton took Concord to overtime. Plus Pinkerton beat Central head-to-head in week 2 37-20. Not only that, but the Astros' other loss was a 14-12 nail-biter loss to Bedford. That was way back in week 1, Pinkerton was starting a different QB back then (Jack Hanaway hadn't taken over yet) and Manny Latimore was bothered by cramps for much of the 2nd half of that game.
4. Keene - Tough call for the #4 spot here between Keene and Central. Both teams are on a roll right now - Central has won 7 in a row (including big win over Bedford last week), while Keene has won 6 in a row (including big win over South 2 weeks ago). However on the down side (and the reason why I can't justify putting either team in the top 3 right now) is that Keene's 2 losses were close but came against teams that end the season outside the top 10 (BG and Exeter). Meanwhile Central's 2 losses were against very good teams (Concord and Pinkerton) but were not close (lost 35-6 to Concord and 37-20 to Pinkerton). It's almost a tossup here. What made me give Keene the nod for the #4 spot? They have 2 wins against teams who end the season in the top 10 (also beat Spaulding in addition to South) while Central has just 1. Plus the 2 wins Keene has over top 10 teams came by a combined 54 points (beat South 42-28 and beat Spaulding 40-0 whereas Central only beat Bedford by 4 (20-16).
5. Manchester Central - see Keene for why Keene is #4 and Central is #5. As for why Central is #5 and Bedford is #6 it's much more simple. Both teams went 7-2 but Central won the head-to-head meeting. The Little Green have won 7 in a row while Bedford has lost 2 of their last 3.
6. Bedford - a heartbreaking loss last Friday night to Central, which eliminated the Bulldogs from the playoffs. It doesn't change how good this team was all season long. They're a top 6 team in the state without question, and the only reason they're out of the playoffs is because of the way the divisions happened to be aligned and the flawed playoff system the NHIAA has in place. Keep your heads up Bedford, it's not your fault.
7. Portsmouth - I have them in the #7 spot since they have the same record as Plymouth but they beat Plymouth, and because their only loss (week 1 vs. Trinity) came with Donovan Phanor, Nathan McFarland and Pat Glynn all injured for at least half if not all of the game. However this ranking comes with an asterisk because Jake Becker has been a big part of this team's success all year but was suspended for the past couple of weeks (vs. Pembroke and Hanover) and it is unknown if or when he will return.
8. Plymouth - take away that Portsmouth game, and this team has been crushing it in D-II. The Bobcats have a whopping 4 wins over D-II playoff teams (Trinity, Windham, Merrimack Valley and Kennett) and none of those games were even close. Plymouth won them by a combined score of 154-27...yikes!
9. Spaulding - the Red Raiders get the nod over Exeter, because both teams went 6-3 but Spaulding beat the Blue Hawks 17-7 during the season.
10. Monadnock - thought about putting Exeter, BG or Windham here, but Monadnock deserves it. Yes, they have played a weaker schedule than the 3 teams I just mentioned, but Monadnock is still the only undefeated team in D-II which has to count for something. Plus the Huskies went on the road and crushed a tough Milford team 56-14, the same Milford team that Windham had to comeback in the 4th quarter and barely beat 27-23.