Senior back is the heart of a powerful offense.
LONDONDERRY — Londonderry High School running back Jeff Wiedenfeld takes the handoff, plants his right foot, makes a cut and hits the hole. Wiedenfeld does this wearing No. 60 on his practice jersey, which is appropriate since he runs with the physicality of a lineman.
“I wouldn’t say I’m the fastest on the field and I don’t think I play that way,” Wiedenfeld said. “I like to hit someone. I think I’m good at breaking tackles, and getting a push after contact. That’s my style.”
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Wiedenfeld is the centerpiece of a Londonderry offense that has lots of bells and whistles. The Lancers (11-0) will enter today’s Division I championship game against Exeter (10-1) averaging 46.4 points per game. Wiedenfeld has run for a team-high 914 yards and 15 touchdowns on 135 carries this season, an average of 6.8 yards per attempt. He also has six receptions for 106 yards and a TD.
His production doesn’t end there, however. Wiedenfeld is also averaging 39.3 yards on seven kick returns. He’s returned two kicks for scores.
“Wiedenfeld is a great back,” Exeter coach Bill Ball said. “He’s a great athlete. Watched his brothers play. Great family of athletes over there.
“Our greatest concern going into this game is Exeter. We know what we have to do. We just have to go do it. If you miss, they have the guys who can make you pay quickly.”
Wiedenfeld’s physical style on defense will also be required Sunday, since Exeter’s Straight-T offense relies on muscle. Muscle and deception. Although he played cornerback last season, Wiedenfeld moved to outside linebacker this year and is third on the team in tackles.
Wiedenfeld, who also plans to play basketball and lacrosse, is in his third year as Londonderry’s featured running back. His best season in terms of rushing yards was his sophomore year. Still, he said he’ll gladly trade some touches for the wins the Lancers have accumulated during his junior and senior seasons.
“He probably could have run for 2,000 if we just featured him,” Londonderry coach Jimmy Lauzon said. “We can work and try to make another great quarterback and we can work with receivers and stuff, but the way he runs? There’s no teaching that. He’s hard nosed, his legs don’t stop.”
Londonderry was the No. 1 seed in its bracket last year before it was upset by Pinkerton Academy in the Division I quarterfinals. The Lancers are the only unbeaten team in the state still playing this year, although Winnisquam capped a 9-0 season by winning the Division IV championship last weekend.
“Am I getting the ball as much? No,” he said. “But when I do get the ball I don’t think teams expect it as much because we have so many other threats around the field. When we get the ball to (receivers) Cole (Keegan) and to (Alex) Tsetsilas it opens up everything.
“I got the ball more as a sophomore than I did in any of the other years, but I wasn’t worried about not getting the ball (as much) my junior and senior years. I was more worried about winning.”
The Exeter-Londonderry game is scheduled to start at 6 p.m and will be the third of three championship games played at the University of New Hampshire today. The Division III game between Lebanon (10-1) and Trinity (10-1) will kick off at 11 a.m., and the Division II game between Plymouth (9-2) and Hollis/Brookline will start at 2:30 p.m.
The Lancers haven’t won a Division I championship since 1998, when it beat Manchester Central 33-7. That was Londonderry’s third straight trip to the Division I championship game.
The Lancers most recent trip to the Division I championship game was 2001. They absorbed a 28-7 loss to Central that day.
“If we don’t get outside ourselves and play the game we can play ... I think that will be a big factor,” Wiedenfeld said. “None of us has ever played in a state championship game. What do we know of the pressure and stuff like that? We don’t, but I don’t think anyone on the team is worried about that. I think we’re ready to go.”