The NHIAA hasn’t released the official pairings for next week’s football playoff games — they’ll likely come out today — but unless we’re overlooking something, here’s what the matchups will look like:
DIVISION I East/West
No. 4 Merrimack (6-3) at No. 1 Nashua North (9-0)
No. 3 Nashua South (6-3) at No. 2 Exeter (8-1)
Comment: The key question on this side of the Division I bracket is the health of Nashua North quarterback/defensive back Curtis Harris, who sustained a knee injury two weeks ago during a 31-19 victory over Merrimack and didn’t play in Friday night’s 7-0 victory over Portsmouth/Oyster River. Harris, who received a scholarship offer from the University of New Hampshire on Saturday, is scheduled to have his knee examined further today.
No. 4 Pinkerton Academy (6-3) at No. 1 Londonderry (9-0)
No. 3 Salem (7-2) at No. 2 Goffstown (7-2)
Comment: Two interesting games here. In what was an upset in the minds of many, Goffstown knocked off Salem, 29-28, two weeks ago, and we all know about the magic pixie dust Pinkerton sprinkles on the field when the Astros play Londonderry. The Astros had beaten the Lancers in 22 straight games until Londonderry earned a 42-24 victory earlier this season. That was Londonderry’s first victory over Pinkerton since 2001. It’s worth noting that the Astros were also the No. 4 seed when they upset No. 1 Londonderry in last year’s playoffs.
No. 8 Souhegan (5-4) at No. 1 Bow (9-0)
No. 7 Alvirne (6-3) at No. 2 Milford (8-1)
No. 6 Plymouth (7-2) at No. 3 Pelham (7-2)
No. 5 Hollis/Brookline (7-2) at No. 4 Kennett (7-2)
Comment: How deep is this division? You could make a strong case that Hollis/Brookline, the No. 5 seed, is the favorite entering the postseason. It will come as no surprise here if any of the lower-seeded teams advance to the Division II semifinals. Heck, eighth-seeded Souhegan had a two-point lead against top-seeded Bow in the fourth quarter when the teams met Saturday. This, as they say, is anybody’s game.
No. 8 Laconia (4-5) at No. 1 Lebanon (8-1)
No. 7 Newport (4-5) at No. 2 Trinity (8-1)
No. 6 Stevens (5-4) at No. 3 Campbell (8-1)
No. 5 Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton (6-3) at No. 4 Monadnock (6-3)
Comment: Division III doesn’t have the depth of Division II, but things will get really interesting once we reach the semifinals. No. 1 Lebanon, No. 2 Trinity and No. 3 Campbell each went 1-1 against each other during the regular season, so there’s no overwhelming favorite here.
No. 4 Bishop Brady (4-3) at No. 1 Winnisquam (7-0)
No. 3 Fall Mountain (5-2) at No. 2 Raymond (5-2)
Comment: Winnisquam owns the state’s longest winning streak (16 games) and is clearly the team to beat in Division IV. Keep an eye on Fall Mountain, however. Since starting the season 0-2, the Wildcats have won five in a row and outscored their opponents 176-14 during that span.
The Hail Mary pass that handed Dartmouth a 9-6 triumph over Harvard sets up a battle between Ivy League unbeatens Saturday, when Dartmouth (7-0, 4-0 Ivy) meets Princeton (7-0, 4-0) at Yankee Stadium (3:30 p.m.).
Dartmouth ranks No. 1 among FCS teams in scoring defense (10.1) and No. 14 in scoring offense (37.1). Princeton is No. 3 in scoring defense (13.7) and No. 7 in scoring offense (38.6).
The Tigers have won their last 17 games.
‘Cats in good position
The path for UNH to qualify for the FCS playoffs appears to be a clear one. The Wildcats (5-3, 4-1 Colonial Athletic Association) will almost certainly be in the 24-team field if they win at least two of their three remaining games.
UNH will play at James Madison (8-1) and at Albany (5-4) before it wraps up the season with a home game against Maine (4-5). It’s difficult — very difficult — to picture the NCAA leaving a CAA team with six conference wins out of the FCS postseason.