Who will reach the top in high school football?

Staff photo by TOM KING Bishop Guertin's Thomas Ouellette breaks up a pass to teammate Toby Therrien during a recent Cardinals practice at Elliott Field. The Cards open their season at Stellos Stadium vs. Manchester Central on Saturday.

Last fall, it was three divisions, one local high school football champion.

And this year? New Hampshire now has four divisions (no locals in Division IV), and right now you’d have to say Campbell could have the same success in Division III that it had a year ago in beating Monadnock for the title in a match of unbeatens.

But there are a lot of questions in the other divisions, where locals will be hard-pressed to be contenders. Here’s a look at how things may shape up with teams outside the area:

DIVISION I

Winnacunnet is looked upon as a defending champion that has the talent back to repeat.

But a team many are eyeing a sleeping giant from past years – Manchester Central. The Little Green, who open up against Bishop Guertin on Saturday night at Stellos Stadium, have a top QB in Alex Hawkom, and a lot of size.

Yet many always look at Pinkerton as the team to beat. The Astros lost to the Warriors in the finals last year but have so much talent coming back, including familiar names Aiden Goujon (QB) and Gannon Fast (running back).

Pinkerton’s South Division will bracket with the East (conference winners and next two best overall records) while the local-filled West Conference (Nashua North, South, Bishop Guertin, Keene and now Merrimack) brackets with the Bedford-Goffstown dominated North Conference. That one also includes Central. It may be just the winner of the West making the playoffs again, with three from the North, but that’s a long way off.

THE PICK: Pinkerton over Central.

DIVISION II

While locals Souhegan, Milford, Alvirne and Hollis Brookline battle for playoff spots, the favorite is likely Plymouth – again.

The Bobcats, despite losing as many as 17 seniors, are looked upon as the top team because they still have some top athletes returning in the hopes of extending their 15-game winning streak.

Running back Owen Brickley and lineman Camden McDonald are two big keys for the Bobcats. Bow, which lost to Plymouth the last two years in the title game, should also be strong again, and the same for Hanover. In fact, some pick the Marauders to makethe finals. All three are in the North Conference, and the question is who can come out of the South, which added Alvirne after Windham moved up to Division I?

THE PICK: Hanover over Plymouth.

DIVISION III

As long as they have players like Keegan Mills, defending champion Campbell has to be considered a title contender. But remember, eight teams, all weak sisters of the last few years, left in a huff to create a new Divsion IV for competitive balance sake.

But added to Division III, coming down from II, were Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton (co-op), Laconia, Lebanon, and Trinity. Remember, Trinity cancelled its varsity season last year due to lack of numbers.

Keep an eye on Monadnock, which lost to Campbell in last year’s title game, but like the Cougars have a ton of starters back, including last year’s Division III Player of the Year, Chandler Matson. All he did was rush for 1,573 yards and 21 TDs. Yikes.

THE PICK: Campbell over Monadnock

DIVISION IV

This eight team division – Bishop Brady, Franklin, Fall Mountain, Farmington/Nute (co-op), Mascoma Valley, Raymond, Winnisquam and Newfound – won’t begin play until next weekend, and its season will end a week earlier than the other three divisions, with the finals on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Laconia High School.

Bishop Brady has had some decent teams in past years, and has a new head coach in Jermaine McKenzie. Fall Mountain reportedly has a ton of starters back on both sides of the ball.

THE PICK: Fall Mountain over Brady.