August 31, 2015
East: Dover, Exeter, Spaulding, Portsmouth and Winnacunnet.
North: Bedford, Concord, Goffstown, Manchester Central and Manchester Memorial.
South: Londonderry, Merrimack, Pinkerton, Salem and Timberlane.
West: Alvirne, Bishop Guertin, Keene, Nashua North and Nashua South.
Defending Champion: Pinkerton. The Astros capped an undefeated season by beating Bedford 37-0 in the Division I championship game.
Playoff format: The top team from each conference will qualify for the playoffs based on won/loss record. Two other playoff teams will be selected from the South/East conferences, and two will be selected from North/West conferences. The non-conference will be selected based on won/loss record. As many as three teams from one conference can advance to the postseason.
Top Story Line: Can anybody beat Pinkerton? The Astros will enter the season with the state's longest winning streak (12 games) and will be trying to reach the Division I championship game for the sixth consecutive year.
Player to Watch: Pinkerton halfback T.J. Urbanik has been limited by a knee injury during the preseason. He rushed for 1,408 yards and scored 21 touchdowns last season.
Game to Watch: Pinkerton at Exeter (Oct. 30). It'll be the final game of the regular season for both teams, and the playoff picture will undoubtedly be shaped by the game's outcome.
Noteworthy: Pinkerton, which has reached the Division I championship game in each of the past five years, will again have a bulls-eye on its back, but there are plenty of quality teams in the division. Goffstown, Concord, Salem, Bedford and Exeter are among the other teams that could contend for the title. ... Goffstown returns two three-year starters on offense in quarterback Casey Gervais and running back Connor Bourqe. Tim Comeau, the team's best lineman last season, has moved from tackle to tight end. ... Concord has one of the most explosive backs in the division in senior Leo Sudieh. ... Exeter returns quarterback Kyle Ball and tight end Hunter Long. The Blue Hawks also have a strong two-way lineman in D.J O'Donnell. ... Salem's returning cast includes two-way tackle Sean Nartiff, fullback Johnny Bartose (112-685, 5 TDs) and running back Charles Sibanda (145-880, 14 TDs). ... Bedford will build around center/defensive tackle Bobby Heald, one of five seniors on the offensive line. ... Pinkerton halftback Nick Coombs suffered a knee injury in the Queen City Jamboree, but said the injury was a sprain that won't keep him from missing the regular-season opener. ... Bishop Guertin (Jeff Moore), Merrimack (Kip Jackson), Nashua North (Dante Laurendi) and Bedford (Derek Stank) all have first-year head coaches. Laurendi was Merrimack's head coach last season. ... Exeter is the last team to win back-to-back Division I championships (2011-12). ... Pinkerton has reached the Division I championship game 16 times since the program moved up from Division II in 1985. The Astros are 11-5 in those title games.
-- Roger Brown
August 30, 2015
East: Kingswood, Merrimack Valley, Pembroke, St. Thomas and West.
North: Hanover, Kearsarge, Kennett, Laconia, Lebanon and Plymouth.
South: Milford, Pelham, Souhegan, Trinity and Windham.
West: ConVal, Hollis/Brookline, John Stark, Monadnock and Sanborn.
Defending Champion: Windham beat St. Thomas 38-28 in the Division II championship game.
Playoff format: The top team from each conference will qualify for the playoffs. Four wildcard teams will complete the eight-team playoff field. The wildcard teams will be selected based on each team's point rating, regardless of conference. The teams will be seeded No. 1 through No. 8 for the Division II quarterfinals (one bracket).
Top Story Line: Can anyone slow down the St. Thomas offense? The Saints return eight offensive starters from a team that scored at least 48 points in seven of its nine victories last season.
Player to Watch: St. Thomas quarterback Stephen Hedberg set the state's single-season record for touchdown passes (35) last year as a junior.
Game to Watch: Something significant should be at stake when St. Thomas travels to Manchester to face Trinity on Oct. 30. St. Thomas may need a win to secure No. 1 seed (and an unbeaten season?). Trinity may need a win to lock up a playoff berth (and a possible home playoff game?).
Noteworthy: Although St. Thomas seems to be the trendy pick to win this year's Division II title, the Saints will have to rebuild a defense that lost seven starters. ... Kennett's Will Pollard has been Kennett's starting quarterback since midway through is freshman season. Pollard passed for 1,201 yards and ran for 913 more last season. ... Milford C/NG Kody Palladino may be the best player in the division. ... Lebanon's Ryan Milliken and Trinity's Saikou Bah are among the best running backs in Division II. ... Former Pelham running back Brad Kamal has transferred to Alvirne. Kamal would have been Pelham's leading returning rusher. ... Windham wingback Matt Shea ran for 345 yards and eight touchdowns on 37 carries last season. He also caught 12 passes for 264 yards and four TDs. ... Hanover's Sam Cavallaro, Pembroke's Rob Cathcart and John Stark's Rod McQuarrie are the new head coaches in the division. ... Former Haverhill (Mass.) head coach Bob Pike is now an assistant on the Sanborn staff. His son Rob is Salem's head coach.
-- Roger Brown
August 29, 2015
North: Fall Mountain, Franklin, Gilford, Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Mascoma, Newfound, Newport and Stevens.
South: Bishop Brady, Bow, Campbell, Epping-Newmarket, Farmington-Nute, Raymond, Somersworth and Winnisquam.
Defending Champion: Campbell defeated Newport 20-6 in the Division III championship game.
Playoff format: The top four teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs. Teams will be selected and seeded for the postseason using the football point-rating system. Teams will cross over and and play an opponent from the other conference in the quarterfinals.
Top Story Line: Will two teams from the South play for this year's title? The South has been the stronger of the two conferences for the first two years of the NHIAA's three-division setup.
Player to Watch: Winnisquam running back Christian Serrano rushed for 1,122 yards and scored 17 touchdowns last season as a junior.
Game to Watch: Campbell will play at Newport on Sept. 12. That game will feature two of the top teams in the division and the two schools that met in last year's Division III title game.
Noteworthy: There's no clear-cut favorite in this division. Bow, Campbell and Newport appear to be the teams to beat, but several coaches mentioned Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough and Winnisquam as teams that could be much-improved this season. ... Campbell has 17 seniors on its roster, eight of whom are playing varsity football for the first time. ... Newport has an experienced backfield with fullback C.J. Lawrence and tailback Noah Wade. ... Epping-Newmarket is another team to watch. The Blue Devils have 16 seniors and were the only Division III team that competed in the Under Armour 7-on-7 tournament at Exeter High School this summer. Slot receiver/defensive back Alex Souvannaseng and running back/linebacker Alex Toribio are among Epping/Newmarket's seniors. Both made the Division II All-State team last year. ... Stevens has only four seniors on its 30-player roster. There are also only four freshmen. The Cardinals return seven offensive starters, however, including junior Richard Bell, who led the team in rushing last season. ... Winnisquam, which is seeking its first playoff berth since 2009, will rely heavily on Serrano, who may be the top big-play threat in the division. ... Mascoma returns nine starters on each side of the ball from a team that lost to Newport in last year's quarterfinals. ... Farmington-Nute will play all of its games away from home. The Tigers will play two "home games" at Kingswood High School. ... There are two first-year head coaches in Division III this season: Andrew Szendre (Farmington-Nute) and Brad Archer (Newfound). Szendre was Newfound's head coach last season. Tony Catalano replaced Szendre at Newfound, but resigned earlier this week. Archer was formerly the head coach at Gilford.
-- Roger Brown
|QUEEN CITY JAMBOREE|
|Timberlane 21||Manchester Central 7|
|Trinity 14||Manchester Memorial 0|
|Concord 17||Pinkerton Academy 14|
|Goffstown 14||Salem 9|
|Souhegan 35||Manchester West 0|
|Bedford 31||Londonderry 8|