WHO’S the most underrated high school football coach in New Hampshire? That’s a tough question to answer, but Paul Silva certainly deserves serious consideration.
When the Division III playoff pairings are announced each year, you do not want to draw a Silva-coached Stevens team because the Cardinals seem to crank things up a notch or two for the postseason. Campbell became Stevens’ latest upset victim when the sixth-seeded Cardinals beat the third-seeded Cougars (minus Keegan Mills) 20-8 in Saturday’s Division III quarterfinals.
A seventh-seeded Stevens team upset No. 2 Trinity in last year’s quarterfinals, and the Cardinals were the No. 6 seed when they beat third-seeded Somersworth in the 2017 quarterfinals.
Silva may have done his finest coaching job when he led Stevens to the Division III championship in 2016. The Cardinals beat three higher-seeded teams (Campbell, Monadnock and Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough) in the postseason that year, although they did get to play their quarterfinal-round game in Claremont.
Stevens lost to both Monadnock and I-L/M during the 2016 regular season. I-L/M throttled Stevens 57-12 in the first meeting, but Stevens earned a 46-20 victory in the Division III championship game at UNH when the teams met a second time.
Stevens had lost three in a row entering Saturday’s game against Campbell. There’s something to be said for a coach who squeezes the most out of his team when the playoffs arrive.
Two other items regarding last Saturday’s football playoffs:
— It’s going to take a team with a strong running game and a stingy defense to give unbeaten Londonderry (10-0) a game this season. The key to pulling off an upset will be dominating the time of possession and limiting the number of possessions Londonderry’s high-powered offense has.
One team that fits that description is Salem (8-2), the team Londonderry will face in Saturday’s semifinals. Exeter (9-1) is another team more than capable of killing the clock, and the Lancers may have to face the Blue Hawks in the Division I championship game. Exeter, which will face Merrimack (7-3) in Saturday’s other Division I semifinal, ran for 426 yards on 29 attempts — that’s 14.6 yards per carry — in a 42-27 victory over Nashua South in the quarterfinals.
— For all the talk about the South conference being much stronger than the North in Division II this season, North teams won two of the three matchups against the South in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Bow (10-0) and sixth-seeded Plymouth (8-2) are the North teams that advanced.
Five South teams qualified for the playoffs. The North sent three teams.
Max Gildon’s game-winning goal in UNH’s 3-1 triumph over second-ranked UMass on Sunday was his fourth goal of the season. He’s No. 2 in the country in terms of points by a defenseman (12) and has collected at least one point in seven of UNH’s eight games.
“It’s a great feeling getting a big win like that,” Gildon said. “Especially at home in front of the fans. We’re focused on making the (Whittemore Center) the toughest place to play in college hockey. I think we’re kind of on that right path. We want to be a team that can defend home ice and go on the road and made teams scared.”
The following are the five FCS football teams without a loss to another FCS opponent this season:
North Dakota State (10-0)
Central Connecticut (9-1)
Florida A&M (8-1)
Weber State (8-2)
The UNH football team is facing a must-win game at Albany on Saturday. The Wildcats will need to win their final two games to have a realistic chance at earning an at-large berth for the 24-team FCS tournament.
After Saturday’s road game, UNH (5-4, 4-2 CAA) will wrap up the regular season with a home game against rival Maine (5-5, 3-3) in what could be a win-and-get-in contest for both teams. The Black Bears, who will play Rhode Island on Saturday, have two losses against FBS opponents.
“For us, it’s the first round of the playoffs and we’re going to treat it that way,” UNH interim head coach Ricky Santos said.
If the Wildcats do make the 24-team field, there’s an excellent chance they will play their first-round game in Durham.
ICYMI: Matt Blake, who was hired as the New Yankees pitching coach last week, played baseball at Concord High School (pitcher and first base) from 1999 to 2003.
Former MLB pitcher David Cone was reportedly among the candidates the Yankees interviewed for the pitching coach position. Blake played at Holy Cross following his high school career.
Nashua North quarterback/defensive back Curtis Harris, Londonderry quarterback Jake McEachern and St. Paul’s School running back/linebacker Malcolm Bussey are among the players being considered for this year’s Gatorade Player of the Year Award.
This year’s winner will be announced Dec. 6.