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Roger Brown's The State of Sports: Joe Raycraft is energized for another challenge

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 15. 2018 10:01PM

What would make a 71-year-old man return to the business of coaching a varsity football team?

It could be something as simple as the wife wanting you out of the house, but for former Manchester athletics director Joe Raycraft, the attraction was more of a professional challenge. Raycraft, who guided the Merrimack High School football program to its only state championship — a 27-13 victory over Londonderry in the 1987 Division II championship game — was hired last week as the head coach at Merrimack Valley in Penacook.

“It’s not going to be a 10- or 15-year stint, but hopefully we can get the program going in the right direction,” Raycraft said. “If I didn’t feel I had the energy to do it, I wouldn’t have applied.”

Raycraft, who lives in Penacook about a mile from Merrimack Valley, played baseball and basketball at Southern New Hampshire University and was inducted into the school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003. He has a lengthy NHIAA resume that includes time as the varsity football coach at Bishop Brady in Concord.

Raycraft has also coached varsity softball, varsity girls’ basketball and served as Merrimack’s athletics director. In addition, he has served as an assistant coach at many schools in a variety of sports, and is currently working as an assistant with the Merrimack Valley softball program.

Raycraft’s son, Bill, is the head football coach and athletics director at Windham High School. Raycraft has helped out the Windham staff in recent years, mostly scouting and working with QBs, and last year he was the head coach at Merrimack Valley Middle School.

Merrimack Valley hasn’t qualified for the playoffs since 2014.

“When I left Bishop Brady to go to Merrimack it was a challenge because they were just starting a program (at Merrimack),” Raycraft said. “I didn’t hesitate to apply for this job because it was a challenge.

“It’s a good football situation. There’s a great facility here, I have great assistants and there’s good support in the community.”

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THERE HASN’T been much criticism of the varsity baseball pitch-count rule, which the NHIAA put in place before last season. In fact, many coaches are in favor of adopting even stricter pitch-count rules at the varsity level.

Here’s what’s currently in place:

• If a pitcher throws 76 or more pitches in a day, three (3) calendar days of rest are required.

• If a pitcher throws 51-75 pitches in a day, two (2) calendar days of rest are required.

• If a pitcher throws 26-50 pitches in a day, one (1) calendar day of rest is required.

• If a pitcher throws 1-25 pitches in a day, no calendar day of rest is required before pitching again.

• No pitcher is allowed to throw more than 120 pitches per day.

“Overall I do think it’s a positive, but personally I think there’s still wrinkles to work out,” Merrimack coach Kyle Harvell said. “I may be in the minority, but I don’t think they went far enough in terms of saying there’s no difference in rest between 76 and 120 pitches. That’s a big number. That’s a big jump. I would like to see a step added where between 101 and 120 you need four days rest.”

Pinkerton coach Steve Campo: “I don’t think the pitch count really affected much, other than the short-term rest because you can still roll a kid 120 pitches and (after) three days bring him back for another 120. It doesn’t defeat the problem, which is kids throwing Monday-Friday-Wednesday-Monday-Friday-Wednesday and burning a kid’s arm out throwing 240 pitches in a five-day period.

“I firmly believe that we’re still a step away. I still think there needs to be a fourth and a fifth day of rest in there. Fortunately we have a lot of good coaches in Division I who understand that the kid’s arm is more important than winning a game.”

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MANCHESTER CENTRAL graduate Troy Pelletier is among the FCS players with a chance to be selected in this year’s NFL Draft — or at least end up in an NFL camp as a free agent. Pelletier, a 6-foot-2, 205-pound wide receiver, left Lehigh as the Patriot League leader in career receptions (328), career receiving yards (4,216) and career receiving touchdowns (37)

Pelletier, a Deerfield resident, attended the Temple Pro Day last month and performed in front of 15 NFL scouts that day.

This year’s draft will be held April 26-28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

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WHILE the spotlight is usually focused on shortstop Bo Bichette and third baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., the New Hampshire Fisher Cats have another interesting prospect in catcher Max Pentecost, who the Blue Jays selected with the 11th overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft.

Pentecost was named the Cape Cod League’s Most Valuable Player in 2013, when he played for the Bourne Braves, but he has had surgery on his throwing shoulder three times since turning pro. According to the Fisher Cats, Pentecost is the highest-drafted player to play for the team. lists him as the No. 29 prospect in the Toronto organization.

“The rehab and the patience that he’s put in has been amazing, so it’s really nice to see him back there and playing because he’s a big part of what we’re doing,” Fisher Cats manager John Schneider said. “When he’s right he can really throw, he can hit —- he can do a lot of things really well. He’s really athletic. I think when you look at what he’s done at the end of the year it’s gonna be pretty good.”

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FOURTEEN of the 18 NHIAA Division I softball teams suffered at least one loss during the first week of the season. Winnacunnet (3-0), Timberlane (3-0), Salem (2-0) and Alvirne (2-0) are the only unbeaten teams entering this week’s schedule.

Winnacunnet, which has allowed a total of four runs in its three victories, will play Salem on Friday, and Timberlane a week from today.

Both games will be in Hampton.

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A REMINDER that the Tim Tebow tour will make a stop in Manchester today, when Tebow and the Binghamton Rumble Ponies (New York Mets) are scheduled to begin a four-game series against the Fisher Cats.

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