New Hampshire Football Report

Division II: Bigger and better

Division II 
2016 Preview

North Conference: Bow, Gilford-Belmont, Hanover, John Stark, Kennett, Kingswood, Laconia, Lebanon, Merrimack Valley, Pembroke and Plymouth.

South Conference: ConVal, Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton, Hollis/Brookline, Manchester West, Milford, Pelham, Sanborn, Souhegan, St. Thomas, Trinity and Windham.

2015 Division III champion: St. Thomas. The Saints completed an unbeaten season (11-0) by beating Windham 10-6 in the Division II championship game.

Top storyline: Is John Stark good enough to win the title? The Generals have most of their key players back from a team that went 5-3 last season.

Players to Watch: John Stark quarterback/defensive back Drew McQuarrie,  Windham fullback/linebacker Victor Pizzotti and Lebanon running back/defensive back Ryan Milliken. McQuarrie has committed to Boston College, Pizzotti is one of the best two-way players in the state and Milliken rushed for 1,580 yards and scored 16 touchdowns last season.

Key games: St. Thomas at Windham (Oct. 1). St. Thomas beat Windham in last year’s Division II championship game, and Windham beat St. Thomas to win the championship the year before.

Noteworthy: Division II has a new look this season. Kearsarge and Monadnock, teams that made the Division II playoffs last season, have dropped to Division III. Bow and Gilford-Belmont have moved from Division III to Division II. In addition, Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton, a first-year varsity program, was placed in Division II. The league was also reduced from four conferences to two 11-team conferences. The top team from each conference and six wildcard teams will make the playoffs. Playoff teams will be determined by the NHIAA Football Point-Rating System. … Five Division II programs have a first-year head coach: Trinity (Rob Cathcart), Pembroke (Larry McElreavy), Kingswood of Wolfeboro (Justin Leonard), Gilford/Belmont (Josh Marzahl) and Pelham (Tom Babaian). In addition, former Hanover head coach Mike Ivanoski has returned to the program as Hanover’s defensive coordinator. He guided Hanover to three state titles during his time as head coach. … Windham returned 15 starters from last year’s team including Pizzotti, who rushed for 853 yards and 13 TDs on 112 carries as a junior. … Lebanon, another playoff team last season, also returned 15 starters. … The John Stark program has never reached the postseason. … St. Thomas graduated eight starters n each side of the ball.  … ConVal could be a surprise team in the division this season. The Cougars finished 2-6 a year ago, but wide receiver Liam Baldwin and quarterback Dan Spezzaferri are among the returnees. Baldwin has caught 114 passes for 1,407 yards and nine TDs in his career. Spezzaferri, a junior, completed 168 of 298 passes for 2,268 yards and 22 TDs in 2015 as a sophomore. … Plymouth, Laconia , Milford and Souhegan are among the other teams that should be in the Division II playoff hunt.

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