Roger Brown's First & 10: Blue Hawks perched at the top of Power Poll
WHO'S No. 1? Exeter, that's who.
Exeter received all eight first-place votes and finished first in the final Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll, which was released Monday.
The Blue Hawks completed an 11-1 season by beating Pinkerton Academy, 31-21, in Saturday's Division I championship game. Pinkerton (10-2) entered that game ranked No. 2, behind Exeter.
"We worked hard all year and it paid off with a state championship," Exeter halfback/defensive back Tyler Grant said. "Then to be voted No. 1 in the poll - it's pretty amazing."
Exeter also beat Pinkerton in last year's Division I championship game, which was played in Derry. Saturday's contest was held at Exeter's Eustis Field.
"This one might have been sweeter because as seniors it was our last time playing on this field," Exeter linebacker/halfback Jamie Vogt said. "It's the ultimate feeling to go out on top, and it's obviously a big honor that people think we're the No. 1 team in the state and that we deserve to be on top of the Power Poll."
Ten of Exeter's 11 victories came by at least 10 points. The Blue Hawks scored more than 30 points in their final seven games, and outscored their opponents, 421-143.
The most impressive thing about this year's Exeter team may be how well it protected the football, however. The Blue Hawks had five turnovers (three fumbles) in 12 games.
"That truly is amazing," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said after Saturday's game. "Give them credit."
"That's our No. 1 goal here," added Exeter quarterback Ethan Joyce. "You can't score without the ball."
Winnacunnet, which beat Bedford 21-13 in Saturday's Division II championship game, finished No. 2 in the poll, even though it posted an 11-1 record and handed Exeter its only loss (24-21).
Winnacunnet's only setback came at Keene. The Warriors played without head coach Ron Auffant that night. Auffant was serving a one-game suspension for violating the NHIAA rule about commenting on game officials.
"We both won state championships and they did beat us, so I could see where they're coming from if they think they deserve to be No. 1," Vogt added. "I think they have an argument."
Bedford, which moved from Division III to Division II after the 2011 season, remained No. 4 despite Saturday's loss.
Portsmouth moved up from eighth to sixth after it beat Goffstown, 54-27, in the Division III championship game. It's the second consecutive year the Clippers have won the Division III title as the No. 4 seed.
Goffstown dropped from No. 9 to No. 10 following the loss.
Division IV champion Plymouth (12-0) finished No. 7. The Bobcats completed the year as the only unbeaten team in the state, and are the only team in the top 10 that doesn't compete in Division I, Division II or Division III.
Three teams in the poll will play on Thanksgiving: No. 6 Portsmouth will meet Dover in Portsmouth; No. 8 Nashua South will face Nashua North at Stellos Stadium; and No. 9 Souhegan will play at Merrimack.
Bishop Guertin was the only team that fell out of the poll. Souhegan replaced BG, even though neither team played last weekend. BG's season ended with a loss to Winnacunnet in the Division II semifinals, and Souhegan was eliminated following a loss to Goffstown in the Division III semifinals.