Six things we’ve learned through the first third of the NHIAA football regular season:
1. Exeter and Nashua North are the teams to beat in the East/West half of Division I.
Division I will send one team from the East-West bracket and one team from the North-South bracket to the championship game. After three weeks, Exeter (3-0) is the only unbeaten team in the East, and North (3-0) is the only unbeaten team in the West. (Although Londonderry and Bedford are the only unbeaten teams in the North/South bracket, it’s a little early to dismiss Salem, and possibly Pinkerton.)
Exeter fans suffered through their team’s 4-5 season a year ago — the team’s first losing season since 2010, Exeter’s first year in Division I — but the Blue Hawks look more like a typical Exeter team this season, with one exception: Exeter can throw the football. Mix a power running game with the ability to stretch teams vertically and you have an offense that can make opposing defenses miserable.
If you haven’t seen North quarterback/defensive back Curtis Harris play you should take the time to do so, but in victories over Winnacunnet, Spaulding and Dover the Titans have shown that they are something more than a one-man team. Although North hasn’t played what you would call the meat of its schedule yet, the Titans have taken care of business the way a good team should: They’ve outscored their three opponents, 112-14.
Lucky us. Exeter and North will meet in Nashua on Friday night.
2. Londonderry is equipped to beat Pinkerton this season.
As you may know, the Lancers have always had a hard time beating the Astros. This rivalry has been so one-sided that Pinkerton is a nasty word in Lancer Land.
You don’t have to go back any further than last season to get some idea of the frustration Pinkerton has caused Londonderry and its fan base over the years. The Lancers went 8-2 last year and both losses came against the Astros in Londonderry — once in the regular season and once in the Division I quarterfinals.
Note: Londonderry folks may want to skip this part of the column.
Pinkerton has won 22 games in a row against Londonderry and leads the series 32-6 overall. Pinkerton’s 22-game winning streak includes five playoff victories. Londonderry’s last victory over the Astros came in 2001.
Londonderry coach Jimmy Lauzon has a crew that is capable of beating Pinkerton this season, assuming the Lancers (3-0) can get past the mental hurdle that Pinkerton (2-1) provides. The Lancers are the No. 1 team in the Union Leader Power Poll and they are a deserving No. 1. If there’s a favorite to win the Division I championship, Londonderry is it.
Lucky us. Londonderry and Pinkerton will meet in Derry on Friday night.
3. Colby Quiet has a chance to break the state record for touchdowns in a season.
Former Souhegan running back Sean Jellison established the record when he scored 41 TDs in his junior season (2004) and that record still stands. It’s worth noting that Jellison, who went on to play at the University of New Hampshire, also holds the NHIAA record for career touchdowns (103) and career rushing yards (5,890).
It’s a bit premature for serious talk about Quiet, a senior running back at Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton, breaking the record, but he’s sure off to a strong start. Quiet has scored 16 touchdowns in three games; 11 rushing, four receiving and one on a kickoff return. The Redhawks (3-0) will play six more regular-season games and it seems likely they’ll add at least one playoff game to that schedule. It’s a situation worth monitoring.
4. Division III has at least three teams capable of winning in Durham.
At least that’s how it looks right now. When the season began some thought it would be Campbell and everybody else. The Cougars may still be the most talented team in the division, but you have to include Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton (3-0) and Lebanon (3-0) in the conversation when you’re talking about Division III title contenders.
5. It’s been a bad season for streaks.
Memorial’s 36-game losing streak ended in Week 1; Plymouth’s 27-game winning streak ended in Week 1; and Monadnock’s 15-game winning streak ended with a 47-28 loss to Lebanon on Friday night. Bedford now owns the state’s longest winning streak (15 games).
6. The biggest regular-season game in Division IV will take place Friday night in Raymond.
Yes, you read that right: in Raymond. The Rams are off to a 3-0 start and have been the surprise team in Division IV. On Friday night they’ll meet up with Winnisquam (3-0), a program that won last year’s Division IV title. The Raymond/Winnisquam winner will be the only unbeaten team remaining in the division and will almost certainly be the No. 1 seed for the Division IV playoffs.
Lucky us. Another good matchup on Friday night.