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Marc Thaler's First and 10: No room for error in Division I

September 08. 2011 11:07PM

Throughout the preseason, head coaches in high school football's upper divisions made a familiar pitch that their leagues were deep with playoff-caliber clubs.

If that's truly the case, six teams in particular better open league play with a win. Four of them compete in the state's heavyweight division.

'This year's Division I season is still in its infancy. Nobody knows who's got what. But you can't lose games early because you don't know who's going to be there in the end,' said Manchester Central head coach Ryan Ray, whose Little Green tonight draw Salem in a 7 o'clock slugfest at Gill Stadium.

While Central (1-0) and Salem (1-0) dance, the Division III championship finalists for three years running reunite. Three-time defending king Souhegan of Amherst (1-0) hosts Portsmouth (0-1) in a clash between teams that could, quite possibly, hang with the heavyweights for more than one game.

The main event is Saturday at 1 p.m. Top-ranked Pinkerton of Derry (1-0) hosts Nashua South (1-0) in a Division I duel at Memorial Field.

It's the first time since the Union Leader/WGAM/WMUR Power Poll's inception that a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup has materialized in consecutive weeks.

Video: Marc Thaler's Week 2 high school preview:

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Points to ponder:

-- Central has dynamic receiver Junior Brown. Can quarterback Riley Cote keep Salem's defense honest by connecting with his wideout?

--Salem is more than just Jerickson Fedrick. Backfield mates Abner Rodriguez and Mike Downing provided balance in the run game a week ago. Can they duplicate the effort?

--Portsmouth is a threat to score whenever Billy Lane touches the football. Lane scored all four Clippers TDs a week ago. How will his follow-up performance play out?

--Souhegan boasts an effective screen game, particularly when Chris Chininis is turning short pass completions into big gains. Will the Sabers use this strategy?

--Nashua South is making defense a point of emphasis. Can John Bieren and a rotating cast of fellow defensive linemen contain bulldozer Kevin Davies?

--Pinkerton is a serious threat on special teams. Manny Latimore last year burned the Purple Panthers for a momentum-changing 99-yard kickoff return-TD. Will South prefer kicking to Latimore, Emmitt Smith or Ryan Coombs this time around?

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Power Poll Logo
Here are the results, with ballots cast by voters from the staffs of the New Hampshire Union Leader, WGAM Radio and WMUR TV (first-place vote in parentheses):
TeamLast wkPts
1. Pinkerton, 1-0 (7) 170
2. Nashua South, 1-0 458
3. Exeter, 1-0544
4. Central, 1-0342
5. Salem, 1-0636
6. Nashua North , 1-0731
7. Souhegan, 1-0NR28
8. Bp. Guertin, 0-1224
9. Portsmouth, 0-1NR 11
10. Keene, 0-11010
Others receiving votes: Trinity 8; Timberlane 7; Laconia 5; Winnacunnet 5; Milford 3; Hollis/Brookline 2; Concord 1.

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COMING OFF a lopsided Week 1 win, Trinity of Manchester (1-0 Div. IV) hosts Hanover (0-1) Saturday at Gill Stadium. The Marauders were manhandled last week by Laconia, 55-33.

Then again, the score is a bit deceiving.

'We were down, 14-0, to Laconia in the first five minutes and we stayed with them as close as 33-27 with a quarter to go,' Hanover head coach Mike Ivanoski said. 'We scored all 33 points against their No. 1 defense and that's a positive we take with us into our next game.'

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THE STATE'S youngest head coach, Manchester West's Jim Lauzon, turns 23 today. Division II West (1-0) tonight visits Division I Manchester Memorial (0-1).

West last played a city rival on Lauzon's birthday in 2005. Lauzon was a junior quarterback for the Blue Knights, 20-0 winners over Central. It was West's first win against Central since 1993.

'I might actually reach back and talk about that game,' Lauzon said. 'We were going up against a team we hadn't beaten in a while, just like this. I'll be looking for some inspiration.'

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PRESEASON PICK Stevens of Claremont (0-1 Div. V) was dealt a serious blow in Week 1. Junior Logan Batchelder, the starting QB since his freshman year, broke his leg late in the fourth quarter.

Stevens head coach Paul Silva said via e-mail that Batchelder's season-ending injury was 'a freak accident.' It occurred on a hit at the end of a 22-yard run.

Enter back-up Billy Brooks, who transitions from catching passes to throwing them.

Silva's message to the Cardinals: 'I said, 'We need to stay together as a team and salvage our season for him, and for each other. We can go down (one of two) paths. Let's make it the right one.''

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ELEVEN TEAMS have new head coaches this season. Justin Hufft (Goffstown), Lauzon, Eric Cumba (St. Thomas Aquinas of Dover) and Zach Matthews (Kearsarge of North Sutton) won last week.

The seven still searching for win No. 1: Travis Cote (Bishop Guertin of Nashua), Dennis Fontaine (Spaulding of Rochester), Jason Gagnon (Raymond), Brian Gridley (Pembroke), Dave Jackson (Merrimack Valley of Penacook), Silva and Chip Skelley (Kingswood of Wolfeboro).

Marc Thaler covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. Read his 'New Hampshire GameDay' blog and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

The New Hampshire Union Leader Grid Chart


TeamO'allDiv.PFPAThis weekLast year
Pinkerton1-00-0160Nashua South, Sat., 1 p.m.23-14
Nashua South1-0 0-03720At Pinkerton, Sat., 1 p.m.14-23
Nashua North1-00-0147Londonderry, Friday, 7 p.m. 27-7
Man. Central1-00-03028Salem, Friday, 7 p.m.19-45
Exeter1-00-0370Concord, Friday, 7 p.m.21-42
Salem1-00-02013At Central, Friday, 7 p.m.45-19
Londonderry0-10-0613At Nashua North, Friday, 7 p.m.7-27
Concord0-10-03133At Exeter, Friday, 7 p.m.42-21
Man. Memorial0-10-01927West, Friday, 7 p.m.34-6


TeamO'allDiv.PFPAThis weekLast year
Man. West1-00-03231At Memorial, Friday, 7 p.m.6-34
Alvirne1-00-04814At Keene, Friday, 7 p.m.18-42
Timberlane1-00-04227At Bp. Guertin, Saturday, 7 p.m.6-21
Winnacunnet0-10-0714Spaulding, Friday, 7 p.m.63-8
Dover0-10-02037At Merrimack, Friday, 7 p.m.28-31
Keene0-10-01320Alvirne, Friday, 7 p.m.42-18
Merrimack0-10-02627Dover, Friday, 7 p.m.31-28
Spaulding0-10-0037At Winnacunnet, Friday, 7 p.m.8-63
Bishop Guertin0-10-0016Timberlane, Saturday, 7 p.m.21-6


TeamO'allDiv.PFPAThis weekLast year
Souhegan1-00-03331Portsmouth, Friday, 7 p.m.23-14
Milford1-00-0136At Pembroke, Sat., 1:30 p.m.40-22
Goffstown1-00-02726Bedford, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.14-20
Pelham0-00-000ConVal, Friday, 7 p.m.0-45
Portsmouth0-10-02830At Souhegan, Friday, 7 p.m.14-23
ConVal0-10-03132At Pelham, Friday, 7 p.m.45-0
Bedford0-10-02742At Goffstown, Sat., 1:30 p.m.20-14
Pembroke0-10-01448Milford, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.22-40


TeamO'allDiv.PFPAThis weekLast year
Trinity1-01-04114Hanover, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.24-14
Plymouth1-01-02014At Kingswood, Friday, 7 p.m.50-7
Kennett1-01-0200John Stark, Friday, 7 p.m.41-0
Laconia1-01-05533Merrimack Valley, Friday, 7 p.m.35-20
John Stark1-01-02928At Kennett, Friday, 7 p.m.0-41
Hanover0-10-13355At Trinity, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.14-24
Lebanon0-10-1020At Monadnock, Friday, 6:30 p.m.13-6
Merrimack Valley0-10-11441At Laconia, Friday, 7 p.m.20-35
Monadnock0-10-11420Lebanon, Friday, 6:30 p.m.6-13
Kingswood0-10-12829Plymouth, Friday, 7 p.m.7-50


TeamO'allDiv.PFPAThis weekLast year
St. Thomas1-01-04820At Windham, Sat., 1:30 p.m. 33-12
Bow1-01-0197At Stevens, Friday, 7 p.m.13-24
Kearsarge1-01-03128At Somersworth, Friday, 7 p.m.28-7
Fall Mountain1-01-01912At Campbell, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.6-13
Windham1-01-04127St. Thomas, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.12-33
Stevens0-10-12831Bow, Friday, 7 p.m.24-13
Somersworth0-10-1719Kearsarge, Friday, 7 p.m.7-28
Campbell0-10-12048Fall Mtn., Saturday, 1:30 p.m.13-6
Bishop Brady0-10-11219Sanborn, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.14-21
Sanborn0-10-12741At Bishop Brady, Sat,, 1:30 p.m.21-14


TeamO'allDiv.PFPAThis weekLast year
IL-Moult.1-01-0350Newfound, Saturday, noon0-21
Epp.-New.1-01-02214At Farm., Saturday, 1:30 p.m.42-0
Mascoma1-01-0410At Gilford, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.0-41
Gilford1-01-04824Mascoma, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.41-0
Newport1-01-0340At Franklin, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.30-18
Franklin0-10-11422Newport, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.18-30
Winnisquam0-10-1034Raymond, Saturday, 1:30 p.m.71-12
Newfound0-10-12448At IL-Moult., Saturday, noon21-0
Raymond0-10-1041At Winnisquam, Sat., 1:30 p.m.12-71
Farmington0-10-1035Epp.-Newmarket, Sat., 1:30 p.m.0-42