NHIAA football power poll: Exeter on top, but what will Saturday bring?
The top two teams in this week's Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll will butt heads Saturday, when top-ranked Exeter (10-1) will meet second-ranked Pinkerton Academy (10-1) in the Division I championship game at Exeter's Eustis Field.
The Blue Hawks advanced by beating Manchester Central, 42-21, in Saturday's semifinals. Pinkerton received five touchdowns from running back Manny Latimore in its 42-3 triumph over Nashua South in the other Division I semifinal in Derry.
"I have a tendency to go with the hot hand," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said following Saturday's victory. "This is the game people have been waiting for."
Exeter beat Pinkerton, 24-20, in Derry during the regular season. Exeter also upset Pinkerton, 23-13 in last year's Division I championship game.
"Obviously Latimore is explosive and we have to watch out for him, but I think the key will be to take things a play at a time - a drive at a time," Exeter running back/linebacker Jamie Vogt said. "We can't get too down if something bad happens, or get too up if we score a long touchdown or something like that. It's going to come down to the wire and who makes the plays at the end."
The Exeter-Pinkerton winner will be the logical choice to finish the year at the top of the Power Poll, but Winnacunnet would likely argue otherwise. The Warriors (10-1) are ranked third, and will meet fourth-ranked Bedford (9-1) in Saturday's Division II championship game. Exeter and Winnacunnet could each finish with an 11-1 record, and Winnacunnet handed Exeter its only loss this season.
Plymouth (11-0) climbed to sixth after defeating Trinity, 7-0, in Saturday's Division IV championship game. The Bobcats completed their season as the only unbeaten team in the state.
BG (5-5) is ranked 10th, even though the Cardinals did not beat a team with a winning record this year. BG's season ended following a 35-26 loss to Winnacunnet on Saturday.
Souhegan (9-2) and Manchester Central (6-4) dropped out of the poll. Following Saturday's 54-53 overtime loss to Goffstown in the Division III semifinals, Souhegan coach Mike Beliveau told his team he planned to step down after coaching Souhegan in its Thanksgiving Day game against Merrimack.
"I have a habit of drawing trick plays on the whiteboard and then letting my assistants talk me out of running them," Beliveau said. "I told Joe (Merrimack coach Joe Battista) that's not going to happen next week. He should expect at least 10 trick plays. It's my last game."
Portsmouth (8-2) and Goffstown (6-5) - teams that will meet in Saturday's Division III championship game - each moved into the poll.
Like Goffstown, Portsmouth posted a road victory in the semifinals. The Clippers won 7-0 at Milford.
Portsmouth beat Goffstown, 56-22, during the regular season.
"Not sure how we're going to handle their defense, but we will show up," Goffstown coach Justin Hufft said.