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October 04. 2012 11:34PM

First & 10, Marc Thaler: South treating tonight like playoff game

NASHUA SOUTH head coach Scott Knight isn't sugarcoating what's at stake for his high school football team in Week 6.

A Division I postseason berth may be on the line.

“To us, this is a playoff game,” he said of tonight's business trip to Gill Stadium in Manchester for a 7 o'clock clash with Central. “There's pressure. Bring it on.”

No. 8-ranked South (3-2 overall, 2-1 Div. I) must play with a must-win mentality at No. 5 Central (4-1, 3-1 Div. I) for multiple reasons. The Gate City squad can ill afford to be .500 in league play when Friday's score goes final.

Such a scenario means South lost head-to-head tiebreakers against the tournament-contending Concord Crimson Tide and Little Green. Furthermore, the Purple Panthers have yet to play No. 2 Exeter (4-1, 3-0 Div. I) and No. 3 Pinkerton Academy of Derry (4-1, 3-1 Div. I).

“This is a huge game for us because of the Concord loss — obviously,” said Knight, referring to South's unexpected 20-3 Week 4 setback.

Furthermore, South's offense has been wildly inconsistent. The Purple Panthers are averaging 36 points in victory, 7.5 points in defeat.

Knight said “correctable mistakes” handcuffed his offense during stretches in September. The injury bug bit hard, too.

Two-way lineman Bobby Manganello (concussion) is perhaps the most notable sidelined standout. He is awaiting clearance to pop pads in 2012.

Junior quarterback Trevor Knight, the coach's son, faces increased pressure to produce. It comes with being the offense's No. 1 threat.

“All eyes were not on him (in 2011). He was a role player,” the elder Knight said of his son/signal-caller. “ Now it's changed a little bit. When we run our zone-read, there's always someone waiting for him. It's respect. It's good. But it's not as easy as it was.”

The road ahead won't be easy for South, either. And it starts with Central.

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RETIRED PHYSICIAN and Dover school board member Paul Butler made news this week with his motion to cut football from the high school's athletics programs. He cited the dangers posed to developing brains that absorb hits in the contact sport.

“I took (Butler's comments) to mean that coaching players on improved techniques so they would not hit with the head, he more or less intimated, was not going to do any good. And I take exception to that,” longtime Pinkerton head football and boys' lacrosse coach Brian O'Reilly said. “That's not someone involved in coaching. That's someone who makes a blanket statement.”

O'Reilly has been a contact-sport coach since the 1970s. He recalled a time when coaches, parents and players alike unknowingly overlooked concussion symptoms — or knowingly ignored them.

“Nowadays, we bend over backwards,” he said. “The slightest thing is treated with the utmost urgency.”

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TOP PRIORITY for Manchester West (3-2, 2-2 Div. II) on Saturday is slowing James Caparell. Only top-ranked Winnacunnet of Hampton has kept the quarterback for No. 4 Bedford (4-1, 3-1 Div. II) in check.

“He's the full package. He can run around. He can throw it,” West head coach Jim Lauzon said. “But we have some good athletes, too.”

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VIA TEXT, Keene head coach John Luopa said his son, quarterback Lucas Luopa, will be a “game time decision.”

The QB for No. 6 Keene (4-1, 2-1 Div. II) played only the first half last week. He was sidelined after sustaining a hit to the head.

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SCHOOL OFFICIALS for Gilford and Belmont will engage in “preliminary discussions later this month” to possibly form a gridiron partnership, Belmont athletics director Rick Acquilano said via email.

Gilford, fighting a decline in participation, competes in Division VI. Belmont does not have numbers to field its own team.

The schools shared success last March in Division III boys' hockey. B-G skated to the state semifinals.

“This is slightly different than hockey as Gilford already has a football team,” Acquilano wrote, “and similar in that we are investigating if both schools can help one another.”

Marc Thaler covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader & Sunday News. He co-hosts the “N.H. High School Football Show” Saturday 7-9 a.m. on Manchester's WGIR-AM 610 and the Seacoast's WQSO-FM 96.7. Send e-mails to mthaler@unionleader.com and follow him on Twitter: @marc_thaler.

DIVISION I
OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Exeter 4-1 3-0 167 54 At Salem, Friday, 7 32-6
Man. Central 4-1 3-1 122 93 Nashua South, Friday, 7 40-35
Pinkerton 4-1 3-1 157 41 Memorial, Sat., 2 41-0
Nashua South 3-2 2-1 123 115 At Central, Friday., 7 35-40
Concord 3-2 2-2 117 79 Londonderry, Friday, 7 12-6
Londonderry 2-3 1-2 94 115 At Concord, Friday, 7 6-12
Nashua North 2-3 1-3 94 109 Milford, Friday, 7 DNP
Memorial 2-3 1-3 109 156 At Pinkerton, Sat., 2 0-41
Salem 0-5 0-3 90 188 Exeter, Friday, 7 6-32

DIVISION II
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Winnacunnet 5-0 3-0 159 67 Spaulding, Friday, 7 42-0
Bedford 4-1 3-1 148 64 West, Friday, 7 DNP
Bishop Guertin 3-2 3-1 104 54 Cath. Memorial, Sat, 7 0-42
Keene 4-1 2-1 154 71 Dover, Friday, 7 7-21
West 3-2 2-2 123 146 At Bedford, Friday, 7 DNP
Dover 1-4 1-2 81 145 At Keene, Friday, 7 21-7
Timberlane 2-3 1-2 96 152 Merrimack, Fri, 6:30 24-0
Spaulding 1-4 1-3 85 100 At Winnacunnet, Fri, 7 0-42
Merrimack 0-5 0-4 31 161 At Timberlane, Friday, 6:30 0-24

DIVISION III
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Souhegan 4-1 4-0 131 94 At Pembroke, Fri, 7 46-13
Milford 4-1 4-0 138 67 At Nashua North, Friday, 7 DNP
Goffstown 2-3 2-1 150 155 M. Valley, Sat, 1:30 DNP
Portsmouth 3-1 2-1 127 62 Hollis/Brook., Fri, 7 7-14
Pembroke 2-2 2-2 84 65 Souhegan, Fri, 7 13-46
Alvirne 1-4 1-2 77 162 ConVal, Fri., 7 DNP
Holl./Brook. 1-4 1-2 77 133 At Portsmouth, Fri., 7 14-7
ConVal 1-4 0-4 68 156 At Alvirne, Fri, 7 DNP
M. Valley 0-5 0-4 47 195 At Goffstown, Sat. 1:30 DNP

DIVISION IV
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Plymouth 5-0 5-0 192 79 At Laconia, Fri., 7 35-14
Windham 4-1 4-1 210 76 John Stark, Sat, 2:30 DNP
St. Thomas 4-1 4-1 175 88 Lebanon, Sat, 2 DNP
Trinity 4-1 4-1 232 72 At Kennett, Fri, 7 45-14
Kennett 3-2 3-2 58 66 Trinity, Fri., 7 14-45
Hanover 2-3 2-3 81 86 Kingswood, Fri., 7 42-0
Lebanon 1-4 1-4 62 147 At St. Thomas, Sat, 2 DNP
John Stark 1-4 1-4 66 161 At Windham, Sat., 2:30 DNP
Laconia 1-4 1-4 49 182 Plymouth, Fri, 7 14-35
Kingswood 0-5 0-5 20 188 At Hanover, Fri, 7 0-42

DIVISION V
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Stevens 4-0 4-0 57 42 At Somersworth, Fri, 7 18-20
Monadnock 4-1 4-1 145 49 Idle
Somersworth 4-1 4-1 149 42 Stevens, Fri., 7 20-18
Kearsarge 4-1 4-1 169 64 Pelham, Fri, 7 DNP
Sanborn 2-3 2-3 53 91 At IL./Moult., Sat., Noon DNP
Epp./New. 1-3 1-3 27 103 Bow, Sat., 1:30 DNP
Pelham 1-3 1-3 38 108 At Kearsarge, Fri., 7 DNP
Bow 1-4 0-4 62 158 At Epp./New., Sat., 1:30 DNP
IL/Moult. 0-4 0-4 40 116 Sanborn, Sat., Noon DNP

DIVISION VI
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Newfound 5-0 5-0 172 104 Newport, Sat, 3 20-30
Campbell 4-1 4-1 194 75 At Winnisquam, Sat., 1:30 DNP
Winnisquam 4-1 4-1 129 68 Campbell, Sat., 1:30 DNP
Franklin 4-1 4-1 115 61 Raymond, Sat., 1:30 39-0
Mascoma 3-2 3-2 147 96 At Farm/Nute, Sat, 1:30 22-14
Bishop Brady 2-3 2-3 165 150 At Gilford, Sat, 1:30 DNP
Newport 2-3 2-3 81 143 At Newfound, Sat, 3 30-20
Farm./Nute 1-4 1-4 67 78 Mascoma, Sat., 1:30 14-22
Gilford 0-5 0-5 64 188 Brady, Sat., 1:30 DNP
Raymond 0-5 0-5 47 218 At Franklin, Sat., 1:30


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