A 2-0 START may not be anything to get excited about at some schools, but it’s kind of a big deal at Pembroke Academy.
When the Spartans opened this season with victories over John Stark (42-20) and Bishop Brady (49-7), it marked the first time Pembroke has been 2-0 since it became an NHIAA program in 2000. The Spartans started 0-2 in 15 of those 20 years.
“I’ve been 0-2 and I’ve been 2-0, and one makes it a lot easier to get your message across to the kids,” Pembroke coach Will Moher said. “I think it’s a mindset of competition. For a long time at PA it was not about any notion of winning. These kids have not had anybody in their corner telling them they can win. Losing by 40 was the norm, and even the kids in the school were asking, ‘Why do you play football here?’
“I think losing begets losing and winning begets winning. They’re both contagious. The fact that we’re 2-0 is just reinforcement that hard work pays off. A focused approach pays off. It’s not much, but this is the coolest thing these kids have ever experienced in football right now. Now it’s reminding them that if we keep going, it gets even cooler.”
Pembroke will attempt to collect a third straight win when it faces Merrimack Valley at home Saturday. The Pride (1-1) beat Bishop Brady 35-6, but lost to Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton, 28-7.
Moher, 31, played at Manchester West and the University of New Hampshire. He was an assistant coach at Londonderry and Manchester Central before he was hired as Pembroke’s head coach in 2018.
Why was Moher interested in the Pembroke job?
“There’s a lot of talent at this school,” he said. “We have athletes here (not playing football). And to be candid, it was an opportunity for me to take another step in my football life — going from an assistant coach to a head coach.”
Jack Schaefer, a safety/running back/slot receiver, and quarterback Ryan Casey are among the players Pembroke is relying on heavily this season. Moher said Casey is playing with an elbow injury that will require Tommy John surgery.
“Success to me is playing at our full potential,” Moher said. “I think if we compete every week, the record will take care of itself. I want to keep that as our mantra: Play hard, play our best football and let the chips fall where they may.”
Call it a COVID-related delay of game. Although most teams have already played two games, Windham won’t play its opener until Saturday at Pinkerton Academy, the No. 4 team in this week’s Union Leader Power Poll.
The Jaguars missed a significant amount of practice time when sports at the school were suspended after 16 Windham High School students reportedly tested positive for COVID-19. Once practice resumed, Windham had to comply with the NHIAA’s 14-day acclimatization period before it could play a game.
“We’re ready to roll,” Windham coach Jack Byrne said. “That’s a long time to wait when you’re watching other teams play, but at the same time we were backed up on installation (of the offense) because we weren’t able to practice.”
Windham held an intra-squad scrimmage — Byrne called it a Blue/Gold Game — last Saturday. It was similar to a college spring game with officials and other things in place to approximate a game environment.
“We have guys enjoying what they’re doing,” Byrne said. “I think you can see it the most in practice. After a long day of school, practice isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. It’s a grind. From seniors down to freshmen you can see how much they appreciate football.”
Tonight’s Division I game between Bedford (1-1) and Londonderry (2-0) is this weekend’s only matchup between teams that are both in the Power Poll. No. 7 Bedford is coming off a 35-14 victory over Manchester Central. The Bulldogs opened the season with a 26-21 loss to No. 3 Goffstown (2-0). No. 2 Londonderry has beaten No. 4 Pinkerton (23-14) and No. 6 Salem (16-0). The Lancers have won 14 games in a row.
Memorial is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2010, when the Crusaders opened the season with wins over Milford and Manchester West. Memorial is at home against Manchester West tonight. … Pelham, which dropped from Division II to Division III following the 2019 season, hasn’t allowed a point in its two games, victories over Sanborn (42-0) and Campbell (40-0). The Pythons held eight of their 10 opponents to 15 points or fewer last year, when they were a Division II playoff team. … Nashua North quarterback/defensive back Curtis Harris-Lopez picked up an offer from Dartmouth College this week. Harris-Lopez also has offers from UNH, Sacred Heart, Central Connecticut, Merrimack, Fordham and Holy Cross. … Farmington-Nute, a Division IV program, has cancelled the rest of its season due to lack of players.