Roger Brown's First and 10: High school football practice begins
A new high school football season was born Wednesday, when teams across the state were allowed to hold their first practice in preparation for the 2013 season.
What's changed since last year? Only the entire NHIAA landscape.
Gone is the six-division format that had been in place since 2008. NHIAA football will feature three divisions this year, with four conferences in each division. It looks like this:
East: Exeter, Winnacunnet, Dover, Spaulding and Timberlane.
West: Keene, Nashua North, Nashua South, Bishop Guertin and Alvirne.
North: Concord, Manchester West, Manchester Central, Manchester Memorial and Bedford.
South: Pinkerton, Salem, Londonderry, Goffstown and Merrimack.
North: Kennett, Hanover, Plymouth, Laconia and Lebanon.South: Milford, John Stark, Windham, Souhegan and Trinity.
West: Monadnock, Con-Val, Hollis-Brookline, Sanborn and Kearsarge.
Central: Portsmouth, Pembroke, Merrimack Valley, Kingswood and St. Thomas.
South: Pelham, Campbell, Bow and Somersworth.
Lakes: Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Gilford, Winnisquam, Franklin and Newfound.
West: Raymond, Epping-Newmarket, Bishop Brady and Farmington/Nute.
East: Mascoma, Newport, Fall Mountain and Stevens.
"I like the alignment, but I'm not happy that we've gone down from 10 (regular season) games to nine," Memorial coach Peter Colcord said. "I also like the fact that we're going to play two of the other three Manchester high schools.
"I've talked to a number of coaches and more like it than don't like it."
Eight teams will make the playoffs in each division (two from each conference), so the number of playoff teams (24) is the same as it was last year, when four teams qualified from each of the six divisions. The top two teams from each conference will meet in the quarterfinals. Teams will be reseeded for the semifinals based on the football point-rating system. Playoff games will be played at the home of the higher-seeded team.
"I like it," Nashua South coach Scott Knight said. "I'm not one of those guys who's afraid of change. The only thing I don't like is the two teams in one conference playing in the (quarterfinals). We have a 20-team league. I want to play different teams in the playoffs.
"Maybe they'll tweak it next year. We're heading in the right direction."
Manchester West's Vance Sullivan is among the new head coaches this season. Sullivan spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach at West under Jim Lauzon, who resigned to join the staff at St. Anselm College.
Other first-year head coaches this season: Mark Phillips (Alvirne), Dante Laurendi (Merrimack), Rob Pike (Salem), Jeff Hunt (Spaulding), Rich Bergskaug (Hollis-Brookline), Brian Pafford (Portsmouth), Mike Lochman (Souhegan), Greg Gush (Campbell), Jeff Kaplan (Franklin) and Chris Marden (Gilford).
The 10-team Queen City Jamboree, the largest preseason event in the state, will be held at Manchester's Gill Stadium on Aug. 30. Each game will feature two 12-minute quarters.
Souhegan vs. Salem, 3:30 p.m.
Merrimack vs. Trinity, 4:30 p.m.
West vs. Memorial, 5:30 p.m.
Goffstown vs. Concord, 6;30 p.m.
Bishop Guertin vs. Central, 7:30 p.m.
Timberlane vs. Pinkerton, 8:30 p.m.
Fall Mountain of Langdon has rejoined the varsity ranks this year after playing a junior varsity schedule last season. Fall Mountain decided to play at the JV level after its petition to drop from Division V to Division VI last season was denied.
The Fall Mountain program, which has been dealing with declining participation, went 2-7 in 2011 and 1-8 in 2010.
The tradition of Saturday afternoon football is over at Pinkerton Academy in Derry. Pinkerton has added lights around its football field and, with one exception, will play its home games on Friday nights this season. Pinkerton's game against Londonderry will be played on a Saturday night (Sept. 28).
Pinkerton's first home game is scheduled for Sept. 13 against Central.
"The lights are up and running, so we'll be all set to go for our first home game on the 13th of September," Pinkerton athletic director Tim Powers said.
Last year Pinkerton was the only Division I school without lights.
Because of Rosh Hashana and the prevalence of infectious mosquitoes in September, Exeter's first two games have been moved from Friday night to Saturday afternoon. Exeter will open at home against Dover, and then travel to Keene in Week 2.
Exeter's third and fourth games — home against Winnacunnet and at Bishop Guertin — will also be played on Saturday.
Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.