Division II: Hollis-Brookline (4) @ Windham (1) - 1:30 pm
All other games will begin at 1 pm on Saturday. In each division there's 1 game that is a tossup and 1 game where the home team is a heavy favorite. Pinkerton, Windham and Bow are all heavy favorites to win and advance to the state finals on November 22 at UNH. Meanwhile the games that should be all-out battles are Exeter @ Bedford in D-I, St. Thomas @ Kennett in D-II and Gilford @ Newport (both are 8-1).
The injury to Mike Vailas will play a large role in the Exeter vs. Bedford game. Vailas is a threat to score a TD anytime he has the ball on offense, whether running or throwing. He's one of the state's top defensive backs and return men on special teams. Luckily for the Bulldogs they are a very deep team. Look for QB Tyler Cibotti, RB/DB Colin Cashin, FB Sean Tierney and DB Austin D'Anjou to be some of the guys who look to help fill the void left by Vailas' injury. Vailas hopes to be ready to play lacrosse for Bedford this spring (he has committed to Bryant University for LAX). They'll be playing an Exeter team that is hitting on all cylinders right now. Outside of Pinkerton and Bedford, the Blue Hawks are playing better than anyone in the state right now. Since their loss to Goffstown back in week 3 they have gone 6-1 with the only loss being a narrow defeat to Bedford. The Bedford game was the first start for sophomore Kyle Ball at QB and since then the Exeter offense has been even more explosive.
"Ball at QB gives them an added dimension and makes them tougher to defend" Portsmouth head coach Brian Pafford mentioned following his squad's 35-6 loss to Exeter last weekend.
St. Thomas vs. Kennett is the only one of Saturday's semi-final match ups where the 2 teams did not meet during the regular season. Kennett is 9-0 and STA is 8-1. St. Thomas' only loss was a 35-28 last minute defeat to a 4-4 Laconia team. That, plus Kennett playing at home makes the Eagles the favorite - but not by much.
Newport won the first meeting over Gilford 27-20. That was in week 3. The two teams have a combined record of 12-0 since that game. Newport/Gilford is a tossup. This Lakes Region showdown is going to be one of those small town games where everybody from both towns will be there and everybody knows everybody. It should make for a fun atmosphere. The first meeting between Bow and Campbell was a 35-7 win for Bow way back in week 1. That was the closest game Bow has had all year. They are 9-0, while Campbell is 7-2.
Keep checking the NH Notebook for updated recruiting rankings for the Class of 2015. Rankings for the Class of 2016 will be posted over the off-season.
For the record, I am in favor of keeping the 3 division format for NHIAA football. But they need to either have 2 conferences rather than 4 or a points rating system to ensure that the division's top 8 teams are the 8 teams who actually make the playoffs.
With only the semi-finals and title game left in each division, it still appears as though Mike Vailas, Eric Fairweather, T.J. Urbanik and Connor DiCesare are the favorites for NH Mr. Football.
You can bet BG, Hollis-Brookline and Campbell are sick of hearing people say they don't have a chance this weekend. Look for 1 of them to surprise those people and give their opponent a scare. Which one will it be? We'll find out on Saturday.
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