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Roger Brown's First & 10: Keene set for big game vs. Exeter

AFTER surveying his team's schedule following a preseason practice, Keene coach John Luopa made it clear that he would be satisfied if his Blackbirds collected two victories in their first three games this season.

Keene is halfway there.

Keene opened its Division I season with a 34-0 triumph over Nashua North on Friday, but picking up that second victory in the next two weeks won't be easy. The Blackbirds will face Exeter on Saturday night (7) in Keene, and will play at Bishop Guertin of Nashua next weekend.

Saturday night's Exeter-Keene game is this weekend's only matchup that features two teams in the Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll. Exeter, which has won the last two Division I championships, is No. 1. Keene is No. 7. The Blue Hawks have won their last 16 games against Division I competition.

"It's a daunting task playing Exeter," Luopa said. "They're hands down the best team in the state — and the best program. When you've won the last two Division I championships I think it's fair to say that.

"Offensively you have to find a way to get it in the end zone. In years past we've moved the ball well from the 20 to the 20. Inside the 20 is where they really buckle down.

"It's the same Exeter team. They've just changed the names and numbers."

Exeter broke in a new backfield during its 48-6 victory over Dover last weekend. As usual, the Blue Hawks did most of their damage on the ground.

"The road gets tougher," Exeter coach Bill Ball said after the Dover contest. "Keene is a lot like us — physical. It'll be a physical game."

This may be the biggest Exeter team Luopa has ever coached against. Ball said the average weight of the players on Exeter's offensive line is between 250 and 260 pounds.

"I think we match up well with teams that run the spread because defensively we can run with the spread teams," Luopa said. "The big question entering this game is how will our defense hold up against a big, powerful team that runs the ball? "It will be interesting to see if we do have the horses to give them a game."

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THERE WILL BE an interesting Division I matchup tonight in Manchester, where an improved Merrimack team will try to improve its record to 2-0 by beating Manchester Memorial.

Merrimack was winless last season, but ended the program's 14-game losing streak last Friday by posting a 47-20 victory over Goffstown in Dante Laurendi's first game as Merrimack's head coach. Laurendi spent three seasons as Memorial's head coach (2005-08) before he joined Jason Robie's staff as an assistant at Nashua North.

Memorial, which opened its season by beating Salem 20-7, will also be attempting to raise its record to 2-0. The Crusaders haven't opened a season with back-to-back victories since 2010, when they beat Milford 38-17 and then handled Manchester West 34-6.Joe Battista, who resigned as Merrimack's head coach following the 2012 season, is now an assistant coach at Memorial.

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KENNETT has dedicated its season to Ian Meserve, an assistant coach with the program who died in May after battling cancer.
Grant Meserve, Ian's son, is a tri-captain on this year's team and spoke to the crowd during a ceremony that honored his father before Kennett's home game against Hollis/Brookline on Friday night. Meserve then scored Kennett's first touchdown of the season on a 38-yard pass from Will Pollard. Kennett posted a 16-14 victory.

Kennett has replaced the word "Eagles" on its helmets with a decal that says "Coach" this season.

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FALL MOUNTAIN of Langdon beat Newfound 40-8 Friday in its first varsity game since 2011. Fall Mountain played a junior varsity schedule last season because of a lack of players in the program.

Wingback Zach Damond scored twice for the Wildcats. Newfound's only touchdown came on an interception that was returned for a TD.

Fall Mountain will have a good chance to go 2-0 in Division III when it plays at Raymond (0-1) tonight.

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CAMPBELL of Litchfield, which had a bye last weekend, is the only NHIAA team that hasn't played its first game. Cambell will open its Division III schedule by playing at Stevens of Claremont tonight. It will be Greg Gush's first game as Campbell's head coach.

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PINKERTON ACADEMY of Derry will play the first night game on its home field when it faces Manchester Central tonight (7). Lights were installed in Derry following the 2012 season.

Goffstown is the only Division I team without lights on its home field.

Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at rbrown@unionleader.com. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.



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