New Hampshire Football Report

The State of Football: Week 5

football logo“Styles make fights” is a phrase that used to get thrown around a lot back when boxing was relevant, and the same can hold true when teams go toe to toe on the football field.

There will be an interesting stylistic matchup, at least offensively, Friday night, when Salem travels to Merrimack.

The Tomahawks, who may have more top-end talent at the skill positions than any team in the state, love to throw the football, and have scored at least 55 points in each of their last three games. Merrimack has put 186 points on the scoreboard in the last 13 quarters.

Merrimack quarterback Justin Grassini was among the national leaders last weekend, when he passed for 484 yards and seven touchdowns in a victory over Concord. Joe Eichman and Justin Weiser each had six receptions in that game.

Salem runs the built-for-November Wing-T, and can limit Merrimack’s offensive possessions by controlling the football.

“They appear to be a very good team,” Merrimack coach Kip Jackson said. “Very good defense. They tackle well, move well. That one year they ran the spread (offense) just didn’t look right. Coach [Rob] Pike has taken them back to their roots with the Wing-T.

“We want to go fast. Get people behind and make them do something they don’t want to do. They want to possess the ball and keep it away from our offense. We haven’t faced a team that’s going to run this much. Our ability to stop the run will be the key to our success. Their ability to stop our passing game will be the key to their success.”

Although Salem may prefer to work the clock, don’t think the Blue Devils can’t strike quick when they’re on offense. They have the personnel to do so. Running back Josh Sibanda  has run for a team-high 660 yards and nine touchdowns. He’s complemented in the backfield by James Leblond (439 yards and six TDs) and Adam Maroun (148 yards and three TDs).

Defensively, the Blue Devils are led by linebacker Jon St. Hillaire (team-high 20 tackles, one sack, two forced fumbles); safety James Leblond (12 tackles, four interceptions, one fumble recovery); and defensive end Ben Emerson (17 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble).

“Defensively we’ve been playing really well at all three levels,” Pike said. “I look at (Merrimack) on tape and they play with great energy, great passion. They put six great skill kids on the field all the time, so they have threats everywhere.

“They don’t have a weakness. We have to execute in every facet. We have to play our best game.”

These also happen to be two of the best teams in the state. Merrimack (3-1) trails only Bedford — the team that handed the Tomahawks their only loss — in the Power Poll. Salem (4-0) is the No. 4 in the poll.

The winner will have sole possession of first place in Division I South.

At any rate, with the utmost confidence … this week’s selections:

Exeter 35, Portsmouth 20

The Blue Hawks remain unbeaten.

Spaulding 34, Alvirne 29

The Red Raiders can collect their first victory provided they show significant improvement on defense.

Bedford 28, Pinkerton 14

A loss would be a big blow to Pinkerton’s playoff chances.  

Londonderry 21, Concord 14

The Lancers are 0-4, but could easily be 2-2.

Timberlane 26, Concord 21

Timberlane’s three losses came against Bedford (4-0), Goffstown (3-1) and Salem (4-0).

Merrimack 28, Salem 21

Merrimack’s offense is great, but this game will be decided by how well the Tomahawks play defense.

Nashua South 21, Keene 19

The winner remains in the mix for a playoff spot.

Bishop Guertin 27, Dover 21

The winner of this game will be playing in November.

Winnacunnet 21, Nashua North 20

Winnacunnet will have to run the table, and this may be the toughest game remaining on its schedule.

Goffstown 39, Memorial 14

Goffstown starts a new winning streak.

Bow 28, Kingswood 6

The Falcons have been anything but overmatched in their first season in Division II.

Kennett 22, Lebanon 20

Lebanon has been stuck in reverse since its 2-0 start.

ConVal 40, Trinity 14

The Cougars continue to overwhelm teams with offense.

Milford 20, Souhegan 14

Milford has been fine against every team not named Windham.

Sanborn 26, Pelham 6

Good to see Pelham end its 15-game losing streak last weekend, but the Pythons will have a hard time making it two in a row.

Hanover 35, Gilford/Belmont 6

Picking against Hanover certainly hasn’t helped this season’s win/loss record.

John Stark 34, Laconia 14

The John Stark program has won eight in a row, which is the longest winning streak in the state.

Plymouth 36, Merrimack Valley 6

It looks like a three-team race between Plymouth, John Stark and Hanover for the top seed in Division II North.

Hollis/Brookline 34, Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton 20

The Cavaliers have the look of a playoff team.

Manchester West 19, Pembroke 14

West players finally get to celebrate.

Windham 36, St. Thomas 14

This would have been a tall task for the Saints even if they had starting quarterback Shawn Dekorne, who remains out with a shoulder injury.

Newport 39, Fall Mountain 14

Newport puts an end to its two-game losing streak.

Monadnock 22, Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough 14

It’s worth repeating that Monadnock hasn’t allowed a point this season.

Stevens 36, Kearsarge 35

The over/under on Justin Norris touchdowns in this game is three.

Epping/Newmarket 20, Farmington/Nute 14

One game. Two teams. Four schools.

Franklin 28, Somersworth 26

Huge game with regard to the playoff picture in Division III South.

Newfound 20, Mascoma 12

Ray Kershaw’s current team faces Ray Kershaw’s former team.

Campbell 26, Bishop Brady 20

This will be victory No. 4 for one of these teams. Five wins will be enough to lock up a playoff spot.

Winnisquam 36, Raymond 7

The Rams have failed to score in double digits in each of their three losses.


Last week: 25-4
Record to date: 102-24

The State of Football, a commentary on New Hampshire high school football, appears each Thursday throughout the season. Follow Roger Brown on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

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