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October 22. 2012 9:58PM

NHIAA football Power Poll: Shuffle continues, thanks to Div. II, III

Keene's shocking 36-14 Division II loss to Manchester West and Division III Souhegan of Amherst's surprising 35-28 decision against Division I Manchester Central over the weekend caused a ripple effect in the weekly New Hampshire Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Football Power Poll.

But those two results didn't change the opinion of the football pollsters who still rank Exeter and Pinkerton Academy of Derry as the top two teams in the Granite State.

Last week, the Blue Hawks and Astros were tied for the top spot.

This week Exeter (7-1), by virtue of five first-place votes, nudged Pinkerton (7-1) for the top spot by a 76-75 vote margin. Pinkerton gained the other three first-place votes.

The main story from this week's poll revolves around the playoff picture in Division II.

While Bedford (6-1) and Winnacunnet of Hampton (71) switched places from a week ago and currently anchor the third and fourth spots respectively in the poll, four-time state champion Bishop Guertin (5-2) of Nashua will become a bigger player over the final two weeks.

West's win over Keene opened a door that could effect the playoff seedings in Division II. Keene now doesn't control its fate to host at least one home playoff game.

Now, Bedford and Winnacunnet are in the driver's seats.

But Bishop Guertin has the opportunity to surface into one of the top two spots as it closes it season hosting Keene Saturday and traveling to Hampton to face the Warriors next week.

“Many people in the media wrote them off, but I didn't,” said Keene coach John Luopa of Bishop Guertin. “BG is still the defending state champs. They're getting healthy at the right time and they're very dangerous. It goes without saying they know how to win championships.”

Just how much damage Keene sustained in its loss to West remains to be seen.

Luopa didn't dismiss the fact that since 1972 when the NHIAA instituted a playoff format, only a handful of third- and fourth-seeded teams have ever won state titles. But he insists no one should count his team out following his team's loss to West.

“If that was our wake-up call, we can take two directions,” said Luopa. “We can hit the snooze button on the alarm clock and remain in bed. Or we can get right back up and go to work. I'm picking the latter option. Taking nothing away from West, we turned the ball over four times and had over 75 yards in penalties. That's not a good formula to win against any team.”

As a consolation prize, West (4-4) now controls its fate to seal a Queen City Thanksgiving Day berth against either Trinity or Central.

No matter if Central took Division III Souhegan lightly or not, it was not a good loss for Ryan Ray's crew, especially since their next game is against Pinkerton in Derry this week.

The poll reflected that: Central (5-3) tumbled from sixth to 10th place. Nashua South (5-3) is sixth, followed by Souhegan (7-1), Keene and Plymouth (8-0), where head coach Chuck Lenahan gained his 342nd win, tying him with Rod Wotton for most career coaching victories in the New England region.

He is expected to move past Wotton Saturday when his Bobcats face John Stark of Weare in the “Land of Lenahan.”

jhabib@unionleader.com


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