First & 10
Roger Brown's First & 10: Decisions, decisions for Exeter Coach Ball
EXETER coach Bill Ball made two decisions during Saturday's 35-34 victory over Winnacunnet of Hampton that you don't see very often.
Ball elected to quick kick from his own end zone on a third-down play in the first quarter, and kept his offense on the field for a fourth-and-one play from the Exeter 28-yard line with just over two minutes to play in the first half.
The quick kick couldn't have turned out worse. Winnacunnet defensive end Devin Long blocked the kick and then fell on the ball in the end zone for a TD that helped Winnacunnet tie the game.
Ball's gamble on fourth down paid a huge dividend, however. Halfback Ryan Kelly found enough room over right tackle to pick up the first down, and on the next play fullback Jay Inzenga scored on a 71-yard run. Matt Oppici's kick made it a 14-14 contest with 2:13 remaining in the first half.
Winnacunnet quarterback Ing Hao Veasna passed for 363 yards in the game, but Winnacunnet fell short on a missed point-after kick in overtime.
"If we have it, they don't," Ball said, when asked about the decision not to punt on fourth down. "And if we have it, he's not throwing it. Have to keep the real good quarterbacks off the field. That's always our game plan. Limit their snaps."
The victory allowed Exeter (3-0) to remain No. 1 in the latest Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll. Winnacunnet (2-1) stayed at No. 6 despite the loss.
"I really wanted to see how tough we are physically because we knew we have skilled people," Winnacunnet coach Ron Aufffant said. "We have athletes, that's obvious. We battled against one of the most physical teams — if not the most physical team — in the state. I think we answered that call."
The top six teams in the poll remained mostly unchanged from last week. Concord (3-0) and Bedford (3-0), tied for second last week, now are separated by a point, with Concord (54 points, one behind Exeter) second and Bedford (53) third. Nashua South (3-0) is fourth and Pinkerton Academy (2-1) of Derry is fifth.
The poll also includes No. 7 Trinity of Manchester (3-0), No. 8 Bishop Guertin of Nashua (2-1) and No. 9 Plymouth (3-0). There's a three-way tie between Londonderry (2-1), Portsmouth (2-1) and Spaulding of Rochester for the 10th spot.
The poll includes seven teams from Division I, and three from Division II (Trinity, Plymouth and Portsmouth).
BG, Portsmouth and Spaulding are in the top 10 for the first time this season. Keene (1-2), which was seventh in last week's poll, dropped out of the top 10 following a 14-12 loss to BG.
NO TEAM turned in a more dominating performance last weekend than Concord, which breezed to a 55-0 victory over previously unbeaten Merrimack.
Concord scored 42 points in the first half, and held a Merrimack team that put up 100 points in its first two games — the most of any team in the state — to 105 yards of net offense.
THERE ARE several attractive games on this weekend's schedule, but none with more appeal than the Saturday Division II matchup between Plymouth and Trinity at Gill Stadium (4:30 p.m.). Each team will enter the game with a 3-0 record.
Trinity and Plymouth met in the last two Division IV championship games. Trinity prevailed 30-14 in 2011, and Plymouth won last year's meeting, 7-0.
UNION LEADER/WGIR/WMUR FOOTBALL POWER POLL
Sept. 23, 2013
The top 10 high school football teams in New Hampshire, as voted by the staffs of the New Hampshire Union Leader, WGIR AM and FM, and WMUR-TV after Week 3 of the 2013 NHIAA season, with first-place votes/points in parentheses:
1. Exeter, 3-0 (3/55)
2. Concord, 3-0 (1/54)
3. Bedford, 3-0 (2/53)
4. Nashua South, 3-0 (41)
5. Pinkerton, 2-1 (34)
6. Winnacunnet, 2-1 (30)
7. Trinity, 3-0 (24)
8. Bishop Guertin, 2-1 (15)
9. Plymouth, 3-0 (12)
10 (tie). Londonderry, 2-1 (4)
10 (tie). Portsmouth, 3-0 (4)
10 (tie). Spaulding, 2-1 (4)
Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia