NHIAA Div. I Football Preview: Will Tide roll to another crown?
Concord's Leo Sudieh bounces off Pinkerton's TJ Urbanik during the Queen City Football Jamboree held at Gill Stadium in Manchester on Friday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
Division I Football ScoopWhat's new: Portsmouth, which lost to Plymouth Regional in last year's Division II championship game, has moved up to Division I. Portsmouth replaced Manchester West, which dropped from Division I to Division II, and will compete in Division I East. Timberlane of Plaistow moved from Division I East to Division I North, and Goffstown moved from Division I South to Division I North. In addition, the Division I championship game will be played at UNH's Cowell Stadium on Nov. 22 (6 p.m.). All three NHIAA title games will be played at UNH that day.
East: Dover, Exeter, Portsmouth, Spaulding and Winnacunnet.
North: Bedford, Concord, Goffstown, Manchester Central and Manchester Memorial.
South: Londonderry, Merrimack, Pinkerton, Salem and Timberlane.
West: Alvirne, Bishop Guertin, Keene, Nashua North and Nashua South.
Players to watch: Joe Auger Jr./RB (Portsmouth), Dennis Bishop Sr./RB (Londonderry). Kyle Cantalupo Jr./PK (Pinkerton), Mark Cicchini Sr./RB (Exeter), Jesse Claus Sr./DB (Nashua South), Andrew Decarteret Sr./LB (Nashua South), Quintin Desjardins Sr./OL/DE (Portsmouth), Eric Fairweather Sr./DB (Londonderry), Tyler Furey Jr./RB (Timberlane), Casey Gervais Jr./QB (Goffstown), Eric Glassman Sr./DE (Bedford), Nate Guillermo Sr./WR (Central), Jason Hansen Sr./LB/RB (Pinkerton), Dave Harvey Sr./OL/DE (Exeter), Daquan Henclewood Sr./RB (Memorial), Chris Henry Sr./G/DE (Exeter), Austin Homsey Sr./TE/LB (Salem), Jackson Housman Sr./RB (Bishop Guertin); Jason Hughes Jr./QB/P (Timberlane), Demitri Jackson Sr./RB (Nashua North), Evan Jones Sr./C (Portsmouth), Tim Lane Sr./RB (Keene), Matt Lavallee Sr./OL (Nashua North), Robbie Law Sr./QB (Concord), Wyatt Labombard Sr./DT (Concord), Christian Marquis Sr./WR (Goffstown), Justin Mattis-Clark Sr./OL/DL (Portsmouth), Sean Nartif Jr./OL/DE (Salem), Josh Perry Sr./RB (Nashua South), Kelvin Rivera Sr./RB (Bishop Guertin), Drew Sanborn Sr./P (Bishop Guertin), Kris Skinner Sr./DL (Concord), Andrew Stevens Sr./WR (Alvirne), Hayden Sturdevant Jr./OL/DL (Pinkerton), Leo Sudieh Jr./RB (Concord), Jacob Szulc Sr./WR (Concord), Paul Teixeira Sr./WR (Goffstown), Mikel Toar Sr./FB/LB (Portsmouth), T.J. Urbanik Jr./RB (Pinkerton), Mike Vailas Sr./WR (Bedford), Isaac Velez Sr./Slot/CB (Memorial), Neil Vorster Sr./OL (Exeter).
Change at the top: Two Division I teams will enter the 2014 season with a first-year head coach: Alvirne (Tim Walsh) and Londonderry (Jimmy Lauzon).
Circle this date: Pinkerton will travel to Stellos Stadium to face Nashua South on Sept. 12 in a Week 2 matchup between two of the top teams in the state. The outcome of this contest will undoubtedly cause some movement at or near the top of the Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll.
Trending: Pinkerton has reached the Division I championship game in each of the past four seasons. The Astros are 1-3 in those four contests.
Quarterback Robbie Law, running back Leo Sudieh, receiver Jacob Szulc and two-way linemen Kris Skinner and Wyatt LaBombard are among the top players from a year ago who are still on the Crimson Tide roster.
Concord was a unanimous No. 1 selection in the Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll.
“Our young players have stepped up,” Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly said. “We’re going to be OK. Jack (Hanaway) is back at quarterback, our receivers are back, our line is bigger than ever. Defensively we should be in good shape. We return two of our three linebackers, and they’re both our captains, and three veterans return in the secondary.”
“I think the division is going to be good,” Merrimack coach Dante Laurendi said. “It’s a physical division up and down. In Division I, if you can just survive the punches, anybody can knock off anybody. I don’t think it’s a top-heavy division. You have to fight all the way through.”