New Hampshire Football Report

The State of Football: Week 11

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better matchup than Saturday’s North/South semifinal between Bedford (10-0) and Merrimack (9-1). It’s a game that has a state-championship quality.

Bedford is the only unbeaten team in Division I, and they Bulldogs are trying to go wire to wire in the Power Poll. Merrimack is No. 2 in the poll.

Then there’s the game within the game: Merrimack has the highest-scoring offense in Division I. The Tomahawks are averaging 44.0 points per game and have scored at least 39 points in seven of their 10 games. It’s an offense that has produced 46 touchdown passes this season, including a state-record 41 thrown by senior quarterback Justin Grassini.

Statistically, Bedford has the best defense in Division I. The Bulldogs have surrendered 14 points in their last four games (seven in each of its two contests against Salem), and 51 points in their last eight. Defensive linemen Jacob Gregson, linebacker Kyle Lagerquist and defensive back Shahrukh Hussain are among the standouts on that defense, which is allowing an average of 10.3 points per game.

“It’s a great matchup and I’m interested to see it  because they both have a lot of talent,” Salem coach Rob Pike said. “It’s going to be tough to stop that Merrimack offense, but if anybody can do it Bedford can.”

Bedford beat Merrmack 24-20 in Week 1. The team that wins the rematch will face either Exeter (9-1) or Nashua North (8-2) in next Saturday’s Division I championship game at the University of New Hampshire. Exeter and North will meet in Saturday’s Division I East/West semifinal.

“You have to make (Grassini) uncomfortable, and that’s something we didn’t do,” Goffstown coach Justin Hufft said. “They’ll have to get pressure with four.

“The Bedford defense was the one defense that held up against the Merrimack offense, but that was almost a full season ago.”

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

Merrimack 27, Bedford 24

While the spotlight is on the Merrimack offense and Bedford defense, this contest could be decided by the Bedford offense or the Merrimack defense. These teams are exceptional in those areas as well. If you’re in Bedford on Saturday don’t take your eyes off the field, because one play could be the difference in this one. 

Exeter 21, Nashua North 14

The North offense has to be full of confidence after scoring 131 points in its last two games, but the Titans were held to one TD when they faced Exeter during the regular season. Exeter found the end zone six times in its 42-6 victory. Victories by Merrimack and Exeter would guarantee it would be the year of the ‘Hawks.

Windham 28, Plymouth 14

This looks like a tall task for the banged-up Bobcats, but they have surprised us before.

Bow 21, Hanover 20

Not sure anybody expected either of these teams to get this far.

Monadnock 20, Stevens 14

The recipe for a Stevens victory? A bend-but-don’t-break defensive effort, and some big plays on offense.

Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough 29, Bishop Brady 21

No team has done more with less than the Green Giants (21-player roster), but their season ends here. The Lakers return to the Division III championship game.


Last week: 9-3.
Record to date: 227-48.

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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