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Now the local football focus is on the 2020 season

By Tom King - Staff Writer | Nov 30, 2019

Telegraph photo by TOM KING The season didn't end the way an injured Curtis Harris, left, and Nashua North teammate Max Ackerman wanted it to, but both will be back next fall to help make the Titans a likely contender again.

The future is now for one area football team.

At a practice just a little over a week ago, Nashua South had a special mini-game, “Futures vs. Seniors.”

“We run next year’s offense, what we think it could be,” Panthers coach Scott Knight said. “Or we try different spots, put maybe Jason Compoh at inside linebacker, fiddle around with some different things, you know?”

Now that the Turkey Eve Bowl has been ;played, the 2019 area high school football season has come to a close. For the first eight weeks, it was the Curtis Harris Show, but eight weeks does not a season make and Harris’ knee injury suffered late in Week Eight vs. Merrimack shelved Nashua North’s title hopes.

And Knight’s Panthers, like North, also went out in the quarterfinals, and now both look to bounce back from those disappointments and be strong again next year.

“I just wish we could have gone a little bit further,” Knight said.“You want what’s best for the kids.”

So now, as Londonderry (Division I), the area’s Hollis Brookline Cavaliers (Division II), and Trinity (Division III) all go into the off-season with championship hardware, the area teams look to re-stock or reload for next year, and a lot can happen between now and then.

DIVISION I

Who are some teams to watch next year?

“Obviously South, when you see what they’ve got coming back,” North coach Dante Laurendi said. “Merrimack again, with a really good sophomore quarterback (Kyle Crampton, who will then be a junior) coming back and some talent around him. Lot of sophomores and juniors.

“And you look at what BG did with all the injuries they had. Everybody’s going to be good. And we cross over with the South Conference (state champion Londonderry, Pinkerton, etc.) and I don’t think you have to say anything on how good they are. And back to ours Keene beats two competitive teams at the end of the year.”

Laurendi is right about South, as the Panthers have a lot of players back – including the Compoh brothers (Josth and Jason), plus linebacker Connor Rowsell, and two quarterbacks, Chris Keefe and Mike Rutstein, who will be on the field in one position or another.

“Rowsell will be one of our best ballplayers,” Knight said. “And Chris Keefe has just blossomed. And Mike Rutstein, he’s good too. Either way those two are going to play football for us. I don’t know who’s going to be where, but they’re both real good football players on both sides of the ball.”

Knight says up front on the lines the Panthers “will be very young next year but we’ll have some promising kids coming up. But we won’t have great numbers next year.”

North, meanwhile, will have Harris back, but for this season the Titans can’t help but wonder what would have happened had Harris not gotten hurt.

“I think in the playoffs there’s no gimmes,” Laurendi said. “You probably have to beat a team twice, you may have to beat two teams twice regardless where you play. There’s not guarantees that if you have your full roster you will win.

“But we do no we have a lot of guys coming back, hopefully. I think the guys returning are looking to building on what we did this year.

“A lot of people didn’t like how it ended with some of the injuries, not only to Curtis, but Xavier (junior back Provost) and Zach (junior center Maszczak) and Donovan (senior linebacker LaBate). That kind of took a little bit away from the celebration of going 9-0 in the regular seaon. But a lot of these that are coming back kind of what to build on that, and hopefully we can compete at a high level again.”

What do the Titans need to do to improve?

“I think we’ve got to be a little more versatile,” Laurendi said. “You know, in some areas. I think we have to build some depth.

“I think as I always tell our guys, the big thing for us is to try to continue to get better discipline-wise,whether it be on the field but also off the field, in the classroom, and do all those things that matter. A lot of times we’re put at disadvantages because of what happens off the field. So we want to get better in those areas and continue to get better and continue to build a strong team bond.”

The Titans has a young group up front on both sides of the ball, led by junior lineman Max Ackerman, and they were impressive and will likely be back even bigger and stronger next year.

“Whenever you have guys coming back with experience, wherever it is, it’s good,” Laurendi said. “Obviously there up front it’s such a key group on both sides of the ball. We had guys step up. Fortunately for us the last few years when we’ve lost some really good linemen we’ve been able to fill that void next year.Guys have had really good off-seasons or they’ve done some things to improve themselves, and we had some really nice surprises. That’s obviously a tribute to Coach (offensive coordinator Chad) Zibolis, and what he does with the guys up front, and also to those kids who take on the challenge.”

Laurendi noted the return of Crampton, but the Tomahawks will have a lot of holes to fill elsewhere with a strong group graduating. Jake Trahan, a junior back this year, will be one of the key returnees, as will offensive-defensive back Justin Fournier.

“We’re losing a lot with Jared (Dyer), as well as Devin (Wood) and James (Dowling) and Zach (Provost),” Tomahawks coach Kip Jackson said. “The list goes on and on. … This was a real good senior class from top to bottom, not just the type of kids they are on the field but the type of leaders they are.

“Down the road, I have to go back and regroup and figure out what we have coming back in the program. You have to try to reload like good programs do. It’s obviously a challenge. Football’s a lot easier when you have really good players; hopefully we can continue to develop some.”

Merrimack will have six senior linemen graduate, but on the roster there is the potential of at least 13 linemen returning, so the off-season and weight room work will be a key.

And what of Guertin? The Cardinals, who like South and Merrimack finished 6-3 despite losing as many as three quarterbacks to injury, used the silver lining from that to develop another QB in Dylan Santosuosso. With the expected return of Josh Larson – who proved himself as a good runner – gives the Cards potential options.

Other than that, Guertin’s team this year was basically senior-based. The Cards, will lose a lot of talent up front, and after not running the ball all that well for two seasons, they saved their best pounding attack for their final game against Dover. They’ll need to develop that base up front again.

“Six wins is pretty big here right now,” Trisciani said. “That’s from two wins last year and one the year before. … We’ll just regroup and see what we can come up with for next year.”

DIVISION II

The Cavaliers likely don’t even want to think about next season, basking in the glow of their title that was less than a week ago. But they lose two superb playmakers in the Wimmer brothers (Sander and Quinten, as well as about eight other seniors. Split end safety Blake Bergerson will be a key returnee, and there are a dozen other juniors eligible to return so that could be huge.

One of the teams with the most senior losses will be Alvirne – as many as 25 are set to graduate in June. But quarterback Kyle Gora will be returning for his senior season, and it’s no coincidence the Broncos have enjoyed the best success in their history the last few years with him taking snaps from center. He was one of a junior class of just 10 this year, so next year’s Broncos will be much younger.

It was such a solid year in Division II locally, with all four teams making the playoffs, including Milford (South Conference regular season champs at 8-1) and Souhegan (5-4; both the Sabers and Spartans exited in the quarterfinals).

Will that be the case next year? The Spartans take a big graduation hit, losing as many as 22, including one of their mainstays, QB Gavin Urda. And they had only seven juniors on varsity,

Souhegan loses as many as 14, but had a strong junior class (17) in terms of numbers and talent, led by QB Austin Jain, who has had connections with fellow juniors Jake Civiello and Luke Manning. The Sabers could be a team to watch next year, possibly the strongest of the local Division II group.

DIVISION III

Campbell loses its best player over the last three years, Keegan Mills, to graduation. But, he was one of only eight seniors (other keys were Carter Vedrani and Conor Sweeney) on this year’s Cougars, so head coach Glenn Costello will try to build another nucleus out of the potential of nine juniors from this year’s team returning, including running back Hunter Caron.

The Cougars have been a constant in this league the last three years, went 8-2 this season, and certainly should be a factor again next year. Remember, Trinity of Manchester did not play a varsity schedule a couple of years ago, regrouped and are now Division III champions with the benefit of 14 seniors who were sophomores playing a JV schedule.

So anything is possible.

The future is now for one area football team.

At a practice just a little over a week ago, Nashua South had a special mini-game, “Futures vs. Seniors.”

“We run next year’s offense, what we think it could be,” Panthers coach Scott Knight said. “Or we try different spots, put maybe Jason Compoh at inside linebacker, fiddle around with some different things, you know?”

Now that the Turkey Eve Bowl has been ;played, the 2019 area high school football season has come to a close. For the first eight weeks, it was the Curtis Harris Show, but eight weeks does not a season make and Harris’ knee injury suffered late in Week Eight vs. Merrimack shelved Nashua North’s title hopes.

And Knight’s Panthers, like North, also went out in the quarterfinals, and now both look to bounce back from those disappointments and be strong again next year.

“I just wish we could have gone a little bit further,” Knight said.“You want what’s best for the kids.”

So now, as Londonderry (Division I), the area’s Hollis Brookline Cavaliers (Division II), and Trinity (Division III) all go into the off-season with championship hardware, the area teams look to re-stock or reload for next year, and a lot can happen between now and then.

DIVISION I

Who are some teams to watch next year?

“Obviously South, when you see what they’ve got coming back,” North coach Dante Laurendi said. “Merrimack again, with a really good sophomore quarterback (Kyle Crampton, who will then be a junior) coming back and some talent around him. Lot of sophomores and juniors.

“And you look at what BG did with all the injuries they had. Everybody’s going to be good. And we cross over with the South Conference (state champion Londonderry, Pinkerton, etc.) and I don’t think you have to say anything on how good they are. And back to ours Keene beats two competitive teams at the end of the year.”

Laurendi is right about South, as the Panthers have a lot of players back – including the Compoh brothers (Josth and Jason), plus linebacker Connor Rowsell, and two quarterbacks, Chris Keefe and Mike Rutstein, who will be on the field in one position or another.

“Rowsell will be one of our best ballplayers,” Knight said. “And Chris Keefe has just blossomed. And Mike Rutstein, he’s good too. Either way those two are going to play football for us. I don’t know who’s going to be where, but they’re both real good football players on both sides of the ball.”

Knight says up front on the lines the Panthers “will be very young next year but we’ll have some promising kids coming up. But we won’t have great numbers next year.”

North, meanwhile, will have Harris back, but for this season the Titans can’t help but wonder what would have happened had Harris not gotten hurt.

“I think in the playoffs there’s no gimmes,” Laurendi said. “You probably have to beat a team twice, you may have to beat two teams twice regardless where you play. There’s not guarantees that if you have your full roster you will win.

“But we do no we have a lot of guys coming back, hopefully. I think the guys returning are looking to building on what we did this year.

“A lot of people didn’t like how it ended with some of the injuries, not only to Curtis, but Xavier (junior back Provost) and Zach (junior center Maszczak) and Donovan (senior linebacker LaBate). That kind of took a little bit away from the celebration of going 9-0 in the regular seaon. But a lot of these that are coming back kind of what to build on that, and hopefully we can compete at a high level again.”

What do the Titans need to do to improve?

“I think we’ve got to be a little more versatile,” Laurendi said. “You know, in some areas. I think we have to build some depth.

“I think as I always tell our guys, the big thing for us is to try to continue to get better discipline-wise,whether it be on the field but also off the field, in the classroom, and do all those things that matter. A lot of times we’re put at disadvantages because of what happens off the field. So we want to get better in those areas and continue to get better and continue to build a strong team bond.”

The Titans has a young group up front on both sides of the ball, led by junior lineman Max Ackerman, and they were impressive and will likely be back even bigger and stronger next year.

“Whenever you have guys coming back with experience, wherever it is, it’s good,” Laurendi said. “Obviously there up front it’s such a key group on both sides of the ball. We had guys step up. Fortunately for us the last few years when we’ve lost some really good linemen we’ve been able to fill that void next year.Guys have had really good off-seasons or they’ve done some things to improve themselves, and we had some really nice surprises. That’s obviously a tribute to Coach (offensive coordinator Chad) Zibolis, and what he does with the guys up front, and also to those kids who take on the challenge.”

Laurendi noted the return of Crampton, but the Tomahawks will have a lot of holes to fill elsewhere with a strong group graduating. Jake Trahan, a junior back this year, will be one of the key returnees, as will offensive-defensive back Justin Fournier.

“We’re losing a lot with Jared (Dyer), as well as Devin (Wood) and James (Dowling) and Zach (Provost),” Tomahawks coach Kip Jackson said. “The list goes on and on. … This was a real good senior class from top to bottom, not just the type of kids they are on the field but the type of leaders they are.

“Down the road, I have to go back and regroup and figure out what we have coming back in the program. You have to try to reload like good programs do. It’s obviously a challenge. Football’s a lot easier when you have really good players; hopefully we can continue to develop some.”

Merrimack will have six senior linemen graduate, but on the roster there is the potential of at least 13 linemen returning, so the off-season and weight room work will be a key.

And what of Guertin? The Cardinals, who like South and Merrimack finished 6-3 despite losing as many as three quarterbacks to injury, used the silver lining from that to develop another QB in Dylan Santosuosso. With the expected return of Josh Larson – who proved himself as a good runner – gives the Cards potential options.

Other than that, Guertin’s team this year was basically senior-based. The Cards, will lose a lot of talent up front, and after not running the ball all that well for two seasons, they saved their best pounding attack for their final game against Dover. They’ll need to develop that base up front again.

“Six wins is pretty big here right now,” Trisciani said. “That’s from two wins last year and one the year before. … We’ll just regroup and see what we can come up with for next year.”

DIVISION II

The Cavaliers likely don’t even want to think about next season, basking in the glow of their title that was less than a week ago. But they lose two superb playmakers in the Wimmer brothers (Sander and Quinten, as well as about eight other seniors. Split end safety Blake Bergerson will be a key returnee, and there are a dozen other juniors eligible to return so that could be huge.

One of the teams with the most senior losses will be Alvirne – as many as 25 are set to graduate in June. But quarterback Kyle Gora will be returning for his senior season, and it’s no coincidence the Broncos have enjoyed the best success in their history the last few years with him taking snaps from center. He was one of a junior class of just 10 this year, so next year’s Broncos will be much younger.

It was such a solid year in Division II locally, with all four teams making the playoffs, including Milford (South Conference regular season champs at 8-1) and Souhegan (5-4; both the Sabers and Spartans exited in the quarterfinals).

Will that be the case next year? The Spartans take a big graduation hit, losing as many as 22, including one of their mainstays, QB Gavin Urda. And they had only seven juniors on varsity,

Souhegan loses as many as 14, but had a strong junior class (17) in terms of numbers and talent, led by QB Austin Jain, who has had connections with fellow juniors Jake Civiello and Luke Manning. The Sabers could be a team to watch next year, possibly the strongest of the local Division II group.

DIVISION III

Campbell loses its best player over the last three years, Keegan Mills, to graduation. But, he was one of only eight seniors (other keys were Carter Vedrani and Conor Sweeney) on this year’s Cougars, so head coach Glenn Costello will try to build another nucleus out of the potential of nine juniors from this year’s team returning, including running back Hunter Caron.

The Cougars have been a constant in this league the last three years, went 8-2 this season, and certainly should be a factor again next year. Remember, Trinity of Manchester did not play a varsity schedule a couple of years ago, regrouped and are now Division III champions with the benefit of 14 seniors who were sophomores playing a JV schedule.

So anything is possible.

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