The NHIAA football season began with 57 teams competing for three state championships — one in each division. Twenty-four of those 57 teams qualified for the playoffs, which begin with Saturday's conference championship games.
The season will end in three weeks, and here are the teams that have the best chance to be celebrating when it does:
Concord (9-0) is the only unbeaten team in the division, and will be at home throughout the playoffs. Clearly the team to beat.
Other serious contenders: Nashua South (8-1), Keene (7-2) and Pinkerton Academy of Derry (7-2).
Each of these teams has one of the best players in the state: quarterback Trevor Knight (South), quarterback Alex Parenteau (Keene) and running back Manny Latimore (Pinkerton). It will be no surprise if any of the three win the title.
Darkhorse: Manchester Central (7-2).
No team has more momentum than Central, which has won seven in a row, including a must-win game against Bedford last Friday. There's also a 2,000-yard rusher in the Little Green backfield (Jesiah Wade). It'll be a tough path to the championship game, however, and starts with a game at Concord.
The Bobcats (8-1) have the pedigree, a head coach who knows how to win big games — Chuck Lenahan has guided Plymouth to 19 state titles — and home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Other serious contenders: Monadnock (9-0) and Portsmouth (8-1).
The Huskies enter the playoffs as the only unbeaten team in Division II, but didn't play any of the heavyweights during the regular season. Portsmouth has won eight in a row and has already beaten Plymouth in Plymouth. Monadnock (Division V) and Portsmouth (Division III) each won a state championship last season.
Darkhorse: Trinity-Windham winner.
The Pioneers (7-2) and Jaguars (8-1) will meet in Saturday's Division II South championship game. Each team has enough talent to make a deep playoff run, but not sure either will be able to handle Plymouth if they meet the Bobcats in the semifinals.
The Pythons (8-0) went unbeaten during the regular season even though they competed in Division III South, which is the SEC of that division. Looks like it's Pelham's year.
Other serious contenders: Bow (7-1) and Stevens (6-2).
Bow hasn't lost since opening the season with a seven-point setback against Pelham. The Falcons will get a second shot at the Pythons on Saturday. Stevens has a big-play threat in running back Donald Pellerin.
The Golden Eagles (6-2) quietly put together a six-win season under first-year coach Chris Marden, but went 1-2 against other teams in the playoff field.
Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.