New Hampshire Football Report

Semifinal Previews: Division I


Winnacunnet vs. Exeter

When and where: Saturday (1 p.m.) at Winnacunnet High School.
Team records: Top-seeded Winnacunnet is 10-0. Third-seeded Exeter is 7-2.
Regular-season result: Winnacunnet won 14-7 in Exeter.
Noteworthy: These programs form perhaps the best football rivalry in the state. … This will be the 93rd time the Warriors and Blue Hawks have met on the field. Exeter leads the series 60-30-2. It will also be the sixth playoff game between the programs, but that includes last year’s Division I quarterfinal, which was canceled because of COVID issues within the Exeter program. Winnacunnet advanced via a forfeit. The teams split the four other playoff meetings, which took place in 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2009. Two of the postseason meetings came in the Division II championship game. Winnacunnet won the title with a 10-9 victory over Exeter in 2000, and the Blue Hawks defeated the Warriors 24-6 in 2003. … Exeter, the No. 4 team in the Union Leader Power Poll, advanced by by beating second-seeded Bedford, 35-28, in double overtime. Exeter quarterback Evan Pafford tossed two touchdown passes in overtime of that win. The Blue Hawks received three TDs from halfback Nate Leighton (two rushing, one receiving). … Winnacunnet, the No. 1 team in the Power Poll, moved on with a 20-14 trimph over fourth-seeded Goffstown. Winnacunnet overcame a 7-0 deficit in that game, and received TD runs from quarterback Kyle Tilley (1 yard), running back Tucker McCann (11 yards) and running back Frank Brown (22 yards).  … Winnacunnet turned the ball over five time during its regular season victory over Exeter, but won with a dominant defensive performance. The Warriors have limited six of their opponents to seven points or less. … Exeter has a 3-0 record since it inserted Pafford as its starting quarterback, and has scored at least 35 points in each of its seven victories. … Winnacunnet hasn’t been to to the Division I championship game since it beat Pinkerton for the title in 2017. Exeter lost to Londonderry in the 2019 Division I title game. 

Londonderry vs. Salem

When and where: Saturday (1 p.m.) in Londonderry.
Team records: Top-seeded Londonderry is 9-1. Third-seeded Salem is 7-2.
Regular-season result: Salem won 35-21 in Salem.
Noteworthy: This is the fourth time the Lancers and the Blue Devils have met in the playoffs in the last five years. … Salem handed Londonderry its only loss. The Lancers committed five turnovers in that game, all interceptions. Salem halfback/safety Tommy Ahlers scored three touchdowns and intercepted two passes in the victory. He returned one of the interceptions for a TD and finished the game with 123 yards on 12 carries. … Matthew Perron scored two rushing touchdowns for the Lancers (9 and 6 yards). Londonderry also scored on Jake Schena’s 5-yard run. … The Blue Devils got off to a 1-2 start, but have won six in a row since then. … Londonderry, the No. 2 team in the Power Poll, beat rival Pinkerton Academy 25-13 in the quartefinals. The Lancers received two TD catches from Andew Kullman (61 and 66 yards) in the win, plus a 9-yard TD run from quarterback Drew Heenan. … Salem, the No. 3 team in the Power Poll, reached the semifinals with a 61-31 victory over Bishop Guertin in the quarterfinals. Halfback Aidan McDonald rushed for 334 yards and six touchdowns on 17 carries. McDonald’s six rushing TDs set a school record. One of his touchdowns came on a 99-yard run, which is also a school record. BG beat Salem 17-14 during the regular season. … The winner of this game will meet either Exeter or Winnacunnet for the Division I championship … Salem has scored at least 34 points in seven of its eight victories. The Blue Devils have scored 54 points or more three times. … A victory would put Londonderry in the Division I championship game for the second time in three years. The Lancers won the title by beating Exeter 21-10 in 2019. … Salem’s last championship came in 2009, when it beat Nashua North in the Division I title game.

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