New Hampshire Football Report

NHFR Preseason Top 10: No. 3


New Hampshire Football Report’s preseason ranking of the top 10 NHIAA teams in the state. One team will be revealed each day, leading up to No. 1.

No. 3

The Bulldogs were a play away from reaching the Division I championship game last season, and it will be no surprise if Bedford advances at least that far this year.  Five starters return on offense, and six are back on defense. Like Central, Bedford has a handful of the top players in the state. That group includes (OT/DT) Tim Galamaga,  (TE/H-Back/LB) Harrison LeGoullon, (RB/LB) Ryan Toscano and WR/DB Lucien Mumpini. Linebacker appears to be the team’s strength. The Bulldogs may not be as deep at running back as they were a year ago, but that just means more carries for Toscano, who will be the workhorse in the backfield. Quarterback Thomas Morgan got some seasoning last season because of an injury to Connor Robert, and that experience should pay off this fall. Bedford is clearly one of the best teams on the North/West half of the Division I bracket.

No. 4

Exeter is the most consistent team in Division I. The Blue Hawks have made the playoffs every year since the NHIAA went to a 20-team/four-conference format in Division I, and have reached the Division I state championship game in four of the last seven years. Problem is, the Blue Hawks haven’t won a state title since 2012 (31-21 over Pinkerton) and in Exeter that’s considered a drought. The Blue Hawks aren’t flashy, but they’re deep and usually have at least a handful of the top players in the state. This year’s group includes quarterback/linebacker Jack Gillis, running back/strong safety Adam Gray, center/defensive lineman Doug Lenihan, running back/defensive back Zach Tucker and two-way lineman Ryan Whitney. Exeter also has the advantage of typically having the largest roster in the state. The Blue Hawks may be the only NHIAA team that has a sophomore team in addition to its freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams.

No. 5
Manchester Central

On paper this looks like the best Central team since at least 2013, when the Little Green lost to eventual Division I champion Concord in the playoffs. It all starts with senior Alex Hawkom, who may be the most talented NHIAA quarterback in the state. Hawkom is one of seven offensive starters returning from a team that went 6-4 in 2017 and remained in the playoff hunt until it lost to Bedford on the regular season’s final weekend. The Little Green also returns six defensive starters from that team. Running/back linebacker Cooper Varano and wide receiver/defensive back Nick Olibrice are among the other returnees. In addition Isaiah Jubrey, a two-way lineman, is back at Central after spending last year at prep school. Central looks like a handful.

No. 6

If there’s a sleeper team in Division I this season, it may be Londonderry. The Lancers will be good. The question is: How good? Londonderry returns seven offensive starters and five defensive starters from a team that won six games and reached the Division I quarterfinals last year. The offensive starters include Jeff Wiedenfeld, who was one of the most underrated backs in the state a year ago; and lineman Pat Hagearty. Linebackers Jack Ogden and Cooper Bartlett are among the returners on defense. Evan Cormier will step in for Mike McAlister at quarterback, but Cormier is seasoned, having received significant playing time at the end of last season. The schedule will be difficult to navigate, since Division I South may be the deepest conference in Division I. Londonderry also has to play non-conference games against Winnacunnet, last year’s Division I champion, and Exeter.

No. 7

Don’t get too giddy about the fact that the Bobcats graduated 17 senior from last year’s Division II championship team. Plymouth will again be the team to beat in Division II, especially since Windham has moved to Division I. The Bobcats return seven starters — three on defense and four on offense. Expect running back/defensive back Owen Brickley to be one of the top playmakers in the state, but the key to this year’s Plymouth team is the offensive line, where four starters return: Camden MacDonald (C,G), Steven Shute (T), Patrick Malm (G) and Seth Sawyer (T).  Plymouth has won the last two Division II championships — and three of the last five — and enters this season with a 15-game winning streak that may not end in 2018.

No. 8

Many thought last year was Salem’s best opportunity to win a state title since Rob Pike took over as the program’s head coach. Pike, who is entering is sixth season, guided the Blue Devils to a 10-0 record before they were knocked off by Pinkerton in the Division I semifinals. Salem can no longer rely on running back Josh Sibanda, who provided a big-play threat each time he touched the ball last season, but the cupboard isn’t bare. Salem’s Jordan Labossiereand Jared White are two of the top linemen in the state, and the Blue Devils have experienced backs in Dom Paci and Josh Maroun. Three teams could make the playoffs from Division I South and it will be no surprise if Salem is one of them.

No. 9
Goffstown/Nashua North

OK, the NHFR Preseason Top 10 is actually a Top 11 this season, since there’s very little separating Goffstown and North. The similarities start at quarterback where both return last year’s starter: Charlie Keith (Goffstown) and Mike Loveless (North). Loveless and wide receiver Austin Ouellette will be one of the top deep-threat combinations in the state. The Titans also have a solid two-way player in running back/defensive back Brian Montminy, and one of the best younger players in Division I in sophomore defensive back Curtis Harris. … Goffstown’s biggest question will be on defense, where the Grizzlies must replace nine starters. There are eight starters back on offense, however. The team’s strength may be up front with linemen Evan Cuddy and Josh Wight.  … The Titans and Grizzlies look like two potential playoff teams.

No. 10

The biggest question surrounding the Jaguars is this: How will they handle to move from Division II to Division I? Windham won the Division II title in 2014, finished as the runner-up in 2015 and finished first in the South Conference in each of the last two seasons. … The Jaguars will compete in Division I South, which may be the deepest conference in the division. … Windham returns Cody Potter for his third season as the team’s starting quarterback. Potter guided the Jaguars to a 17-2 record over his first two seasons. Other key returnees include senior running back Tommy Emrick, senior fullback/linebacker Cody Stevens and junior offensive lineman/defensive end Bobby DiCicco. Emrick averaged 9.0 yards per carry and scored eight touchdowns as a junior. Stevens (50 tackles, including 10 TFL) and DiCicco (12 sacks) will be the leaders of the defense. … Windham will open the season against Winnacunnet, last year’s Division I champion.

Coming Friday: No. 2 and No. 1.

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