Today is a soggy celebration of NH high school football
Today is a celebration of New Hampshire high school football, albeit a soggy one.
Six teams embark to the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium with dreams of becoming state champions.
It’s hard to argue no one belongs. Nothing brings out more controversy than the setup for high school football, but are there really any major issues worth discussing in New Hampshire?
The goal is to get the best teams playing for a championship, and you’d have to admit that’s what we’re getting today, beginning at 11 a.m. with No. 1 Lebanon taking on No. 2 Trinity in Division III, then of course fascinating local story Hollis Brookline (No. 5 seed) taking on No. 6 Plymouth at 2:30 for the Division II title, and then at 6 p.m. North-South cluster top seed Londonderry taking on East-West No. 2 seed Exeter for the coveted Division I crown.
The surprise of course are the two teams in the Division II final, but they’re both red hot. Second seed Milford fell to Alvirne, which fell to Plymouth – and the Bobcats knocked off third seed Pelham on the road in the quarters. The Cavs of course shocked top seed, previously unbeaten Bow in stunning blowout fashion, on the road, 49-21, and also knocked off No. 4 Kennett on the road as well.
But here’s the thing – the last time either of these teams lost was back on Oct. 5. HB lost to Pelham 20-15 that day. The Bobcats haven’t lost since falling 14-8 to Kennett way back on Sept. 27. No one’s scored more than 13 points vs. Plymouth since, and HB hasn’t scored less than 40 in five of six. Something’s got to give.
Point is, those are the two best, or hottest, in Division II.
Division I? It’s a tough one for Nashua North, which went 9-0 before losing to Merrimack in the quarterfinals and the Titans have to wonder had Curtis Harris not gotten hurt would they be in today’s final against Londonderry. The Lancers have been basically untouchable all season.
And how about Trinity? If you remember, it was just a couple of years ago when the Pioneers had to cancel their varsity season, and play a JV schedule, due to low numbers. They did the right thing, put themselves in a compeitive division, and presto, a title game.
Point is, right now, the two best teams are playing in the finals in all three divisions.
In Division IV, the top seed Winnisquam topped No. 3 Fall Mountain in the finals in Laconia last Saturday night. Some feel that four divisions is too many for the state, but in the age of schools having to co-op even for football, what harm has it done. Four in the eight team league were above .500, four were below. Winnisquam has won the two titles in the two years of the division, but things change.
But speaking of change, do we really need it? Right now the biggest controversy seems to be in Division I having conference champions automatically get that quarterfinal home game as a cluster’s top two seeds.
“I like it,” Laurendi said. “I think there’s always things that can change. I think they’re doing the best they can with it, I think it’s better than it started out.
“I think they made the appropriate change, taking the four best teams (overall) from each side. Some people will argue just because you’re the conference champ doesn’t mean you should host a home game (if you’re not one of the two best records).
“I think that’s semantics. As long as you get the four best teams in there from each side, then I think it’s fair.”
Nashua South coach Scott Knight brings up an interesting point. When it comes to the Division I playoffs, Knight would love to see it worked out where teams would cross over to play a team from another conference not on its schedule. In other words, outside the cluster.
“The only thing I wish they did was I wish they crossed us over,” Knight said. “You could avoid playing a team two times. Maybe us and Exeter, they were the championship game. You would never know that. Or maybe Londonderry and Salem (who met in the semis), they were the two best teams.
“Why not cross over and play a team you haven’t played? I just think that would spice it up even more.”
Interesting and intriguing. We can’t say we’d be opposed. Knight likes the conference champ getting to host a quarterfinal, but just thinks you could mix things up.
“That’s fine, have North play (someone), have Londonderry play Merrimack, you could still do it (with home field), just cross over,” he said. “Now I really think you’re guaranteed to have your top two teams. Those guys (in the other cluster) have all squared off. We’ve all squared off, you know what I mean? We’ll see what happens.”
Division II mixes things up in its seedings, but there’s just two conferences so it’s easy to do.
Fun to talk about. Next year, it will be tougher for the locals in the West Conference if everything stays as is as the South Conference – Pinkerton, Londonderry, Salem, etc. – next for the crossover.
“I don’t think you have to say anything how good they are,” Laurendi said. “It’s a year to year thing.”
This year, a crisis was averted when the UNH men’s soccer team didn’t get a first round bye and second round home field at Wildcat Stadium, otherwise it’s likely today’s tripleheader may not be taking place, at least as scheduled. That could have been a royal mess.
Next year UNH football is on the road, at UMaine on Saturday, Nov. 21, so it’s likely we can all return to a Saturday championship day.
But this year, it’s a Sunday Fun day for high school football at Wildcat Stadium. The champions will have earned it.
Tom King may be reached at 594-1251,firstname.lastname@example.org, or@Telegraph _TomK.