Voters in the Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll had upsets and other impressive season-opening performances to contemplate in selecting the top 10 teams for the poll’s 2013 debut.
The poll — a partnership of New Hampshire’s statewide newspaper, largest radio network and only television network affiliate — will be announced this morning by WGIR’s Kelly Brown during his 7:30 a.m. sports report on “The Morning Buzz” show.
Among the results the voters had to consider were a pair of Friday victories by Division I newcomers: Bedford’s 14-12 triumph over perennial title contender Pinkerton Academy of Derry and Keene’s 34-0 thrashing of Nashua North.
Other notable opening weekend developments included:
• Carmen Giampetruzzi throwing four touchdown passes in Trinity of Manchester’s 58-37 rout of host Portsmouth, a presumptive co-favorite for the Division II championship.
• Winnacunnet of Hampton hanging on to edge fellow longtime Division II power-turned-Division I-newcomer Bishop Guertin of Nashua as BG’s last-second field goal attempt fell short.
• Concord running out to a 35-0 lead over Manchester Central before the Little Green got on the board in a Division I game featured as part of Gill Stadium’s Centennial Celebration.
• Nashua South winning against Division I newcomer Spaulding of Rochester but losing University of New Hampshire-bound quarterback/defensive back Trevor Knight to a hand injury in the second half.
• Ivan Niyamugabo, in a breakout performance, throwing for three touchdowns and running for a fourth, as Merrimack Valley of Concord beat John Stark of Weare in the newly realigned Division III.
Here’s a look at two of those games:
Concord 35, Central 6
Seimou Smith caught a Robert Law touchdown pass and set up two other Concord TDs with interceptions as the Crimson Tide routed host Manchester Central in a Division I game featured as part of the Gill Stadium Centennial Weekend celebration.
Senior running back Walters Ndi got the Tide off to a fast start with a 45-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, and Concord never looked back.
After Law and Smith connected for the Tide’s second TD, Marc Gaudet (20 yards), John Jellue (14) and Leo Sudieh (62) ran for touchdowns as Concord extended the lead to 35-0.
Central avoided the shutout when junior Jaqueal Holmes scored with 7:50 remaining on a 9-yard run. Kicker Keegan LaBerge, who scored a goal for the Central soccer team in a 2-0 win over Alvirne of Hudson at Gill Friday night, had his point-after kick blocked.
Merrimack Valley 48, John Stark 26
It didn’t take long for Merrimack Valley’s Tucker Burt and Niyamugabo to spoil the season-opener for host John Stark of Weare.
In his first game back with the team from the Concord village of Penacook, after a year at New Hampton School, Burt needed just seven carries to amass 172 yards, a good chunk of them on a 38-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage. Junior quarterback Niyamugabo did much of the work from there, throwing for four touchdowns and running for another as the Pride routed the Generals in a Division II game Saturday afternoon.
Cole Martin caught three of Niyamugabo’s TD passes, including one on MV’s second play from scrimmage. John Stark responded to that TD with one of its own, Adam King returning the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for the score, but the Generals missed the extra point, and Merrimack Valley came right back with another Niyamugabo-to-Martin strike to make it 21-6. And it was still only the first quarter.
Niyamugabo (12 completions in 18 attempts for 214 yards with 1 interception through the air, 5 carries for 74 yards on the ground) added another touchdown pass and scored on a 30-yard TD run in the final minute of the first half, then left the game early in the third quarter after throwing scoring pass No. 4.
“He’s fantastic. He’s as good as it gets,” Merrimack Valley coach Dave Jackson said of his QB. “There aren’t many kids who can do what he does.”
Generals head coach Jim O’Rourke concurred.
“He’s a great athlete,” O’Rourke said. “He has a real presence. He’s a lot of fun to watch if you aren’t playing against him.”
It was a promising start for the Pride, who won only one game last year.
“We knew we had to come in and play well” said Niyamugabo. “We put a lot of work into the off season. We grew as a team.”