New Hampshire Football Report

The State of Football: Week 9

This weekend’s menu includes Friday night’s Division I game between Goffstown and Merrimack. Each team is 7-1. Merrimack is the No. 2 team in the Power Poll, one spot ahead of Goffstown.

It’s a terrific matchup, right? Not really.

The game carries no playoff implications whatsoever. Regardless of which team wins, Goffstown will open the playoffs at Merrimack next weekend because Merrimack has clinched first place in Division I South. Goffstown will finish in second place, behind Bedford, in Division I North.

That means Goffstown could finish the regular season with an 8-1 record and have to travel to Merrimack even though Goffstown would have beaten Merrimack, Goffstown would have a better record than Merrimack (7-2) and Goffstown and would have played the same regular-season schedule as Merrimack. In no world is this right.

Since the teams will play again next weekend we don’t even know if the Tomahawks and Grizzlies will go all out to win Friday night. Why would they? There’s nothing to gain, and clearly neither wants to show anything that would give their opponent an advantage in the playoff game.

This game is among the reasons continuing with four conferences in Division I is a bad idea. The four-conference setup should be scrapped in favor of two 10-team conferences. (You can read more about this in Friday’s New Hampshire Union Leader.)

If two 10-team conferences were in place and the top four from each conference advanced to the postseason, Goffstown and Merrimack would be playing for the No. 2 seed and home-field advantage tonight. Instead, we are short-changing each team a meaningful regular-season game.

Since instituted in 2013, the four-conference setup has caused all kinds of problems:

2013: A 4-5 Londonderry team made the playoffs over a 7-2 Bedford team.

2014: Bishop Guertin and Alvirne each made the playoffs with a 4-5 record, even though each lost to a 7-2 Salem team that did not qualify.

2015: Even though it had an 8-1 regular-season record, Bedford had to travel to Nashua to face a 6-3 BG team in the Division I quarterfinals. Bedford beat BG during the regular season, but BG was awarded the home game because it won Division I West.

If the teams in one conference played a tougher schedule than the teams from another conference you could justify giving each conference champion an automatic playoff berth — and maybe even at least one home game — but that’s not the case. Every team from Division I North will play every team from Division I South this season, and the same is true for Division I East and West.

The far better option this year would have been to merge Division I North and South into one 10-team conference, and to do the same with Division I East and West. Send the top four teams in each conference (based on record) to the postseason, and give the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in each conference home-field advantage for the quarterfinals.

This can literally be done in less time than it takes to turn on your cell phone. Poof! Two conferences instead of four. Schedules remain the same.

If you like the current rotating system where teams from one conference play teams from a different conference each year, then keep the four-conference setup in place solely for scheduling purposes. The conferences could be East/West and North/South one year, North/West and South/East the next, and North/East and South/West the year after that. Then start the rotation over again.

Furthermore, a team shouldn’t be given an automatic playoff berth when it might not have one of the four best records in its bracket (East/West or North/South). Nor should a team have a home game when it doesn’t have the best or second-best record among the four playoff teams in its bracket. Not when every team is playing the same schedule.

Moving from four conferences to two would be an improvement that comes with no drawbacks. Whether you’re a Democrat, Republican or Libertarian, on that I think we can all agree.

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

Merrimack 35, Goffstown 27

NHIAA football fans are getting cheated here. 

Londonderry 20, Timberlane 14

The Lancers finish strong.

Pinkerton 35, Memorial 7

You won’t have the Astros to kick around next season.

Portsmouth 34, Spaulding 13

The Clippers were 4-1 and alone in first place when things took a turn for the worse and never turned back.

Keene 26, Winnacunnet 20

Here’s hoping Keene coach John Luopa wants to return to the sideline next season and is able to do so.

Exeter 35, Alvirne 7

Next up for the Blue Hawks? A meeting with Nashua North, Dover or Nashua South in the quarterfinals. 

Bedford 28, Salem 14

Bedford completes an unbeaten regular season.

Nashua North 26, Bishop Guertin 21

If North and Dover both win this weekend Dover will open the playoffs at North even though the teams would have the same record and Dover won the regular-season meeting. Dover has battled through enough adversity this season already.

Central 28, Concord 13

Central is the best of the non-playoff teams in Division I North/South.

Nashua South 28, Dover 26

These teams may be playing their best football of the season, and this is basically a playoff game for each of them.

John Stark at Hanover

The Generals hand the Marauders their first loss. John Stark, 21-14.

Kennett 28, Kingswood 6

The Eagles avoid a five-game losing streak.

Pelham 14, West 6

When the fourth quarter arrives these teams may still find themselves in a fight.

St. Thomas 42, Trinity 6

The Saints are a team you’ll want to avoid next weekend.

Hollis/Brookline 26, Souhegan 14

Even with a win the Cavaliers will likely need some help.

Merrimack Valley 32, Pembroke 6

Merrimack finishes with three victories in its final four games.

Plymouth 20, Milford 14

The winner here will play at least one more game.

Windham 35, ConVal 12

The Cougars will likely need an upset victory to extend their season.

Bow 20, Lebanon 14

There are a lot of Division II coaches rooting for Bow. At least they should be.

Sanborn 28, Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton 13

Each of Sanborn’s five losses came against teams with at least six wins.

Laconia 34, Gilford-Belmont 14

Probably safe to say these two teams aren’t going out for pizza after the game.

Monadnock 28, Stevens 14

The Huskies will enter the playoffs as the only unbeaten team in Division III.

Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough 35, Kearsarge 12

Justin Norris may surpass the 2,000-yard mark in this game, but Kearsarge’s season ends here.

Mascoma 26, Fall Mountain 12

Fall Mountain will need its best offensive effort of the season to give itself a chance.

Newport 28, Newfound 6

Newport better hope Kearsarge doesn’t upset Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough. Newport,.

Bishop Brady 35, Somersworth 20

A six-game winning streak produces a lot of confidence and momentum.

Campbell 35, Franklin 12

Because a team’s point rating determines everything in Division III, Campbell will likely be a No. 2 seed in Division III South and be on the road when it opens the playoffs against the No. 3 seed from the North.

Winnisquam 26, Epping-Newmarket 12

If only Winnisquam were anything near healthy …

Raymond 18, Farmington-Nute 6

The New Hampshire Football Report power ratings say Rams by 12.


Last week: 24-5.
Record to date: 193-41.

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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