Roger Brown's First and 10: Portsmouth in another title contest
By ROGER BROWN New Hampshire Union Leader
Trinity defenders Will Shepperd(33) Austin Chambers(26) bring down Portsmouth's Mikel Toar during the first half of their NHIAA Div. II semifinal game hosted at Portsmouth High School Saturday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)
Div. I championship at a glance
DIVISION I Pinkerton (9-2) at Concord (11-0), 1 p.m.
Third-seeded Pinkerton Academy of Derry is in the Class L/Division I championship game for the ninth time in the last 10 years, and the 15th time overall. Pinkerton is 10-4 in those games, but lost the last two title contests to Exeter. … Top-seeded Concord is seeking its first state championship since 2000, when it beat Manchester Central 38-0 in the championship game. … Running back Manny Latimore is Pinkerton's marquee player on offense. Latimore has rushed for 1,496 yards and 16 touchdowns on 165 carries this season. He's complimented by fullback Matt Madden, who is also one of the top defensive players in the state. … It's pick your poison when you line up against the Concord offense. The Crimson Tide can strike through the air or on the ground. Quarterback Rob Law has completed 92 of 138 passes for 1,404 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Seimou Smith is the team's leading receiver with 32 receptions for 620 yards and seven TDs. Walters Ndi has carried the ball 121 times for a team-high 1,095 yards, and running back/slot receiver Marc Gaudet has scored 19 TDs (16 rushing, three receiving). … Concord won the regular-season meeting 21-14 in overtime, but Pinkerton led 14-6 with less than a minute to play in that contest. The Crimson Tide scored on a Law-to-Jacob Szulc 12-yard pass with 51 seconds to play, and added the two-point conversion to force overtime. Ndi scored the game-winning TD in OT, and finished with 160 yards on 26 carries. Latimore led Pinkerton with 173 yards on 22 carries. … Concord's starting defense has allowed 14 TDs in 11 games. ... Pinkerton sacked Law four times in the second half of the regular-season meeting.
Roger Brown's pick: Concord 14, Pinkerton 10
By now, you undoubtedly know that Chuck Lenahan will be walking the sideline as Plymouth Regional's football coach for the final time Saturday when the Bobcats face Portsmouth in the Division II championship game.
Lenahan has a 355-70-1 record in 43 seasons at Plymouth and his teams have won 19 state championships, so his final game is certainly a worthy storyline. The game also has an interesting subplot, however, since Portsmouth will likely be playing its final game as a Division II program.
Although not official, Portsmouth is expected to move up to Division I next season, with Manchester West dropping from Division I to Division II. According to Portsmouth coach Brian Pafford, Portsmouth appealed in an attempt to remain in Division II, but that appeal was denied.
"I haven't heard anything since then," Pafford said. "If I had to guess I'd say we're going up."
Portsmouth is playing in its sixth consecutive championship game. After three consecutive losses to Souhegan of Amherst in the Division III title game, Portsmouth beat Bedford for the Division III championship in 2011 and defeated Goffstown to win last year's Division III title.
Second-seeded Portsmouth (10-1) will be the road team Saturday even though it beat top-seeded Plymouth (10-1) during the regular season. Not a lot of teams have beaten Plymouth twice in one season. Even fewer have won twice in the same season at Plymouth.
"There's no rocket science in this one," Pafford said. "You can't go toe-to-toe with them. You have to spread them out and make things happen. If it's OK weather I think we can move the ball and put points up.
"Defensively you have to play tough up front. When we watched film on them before our first game we never saw them punt. If we can get one stop a quarter, that's pretty good.
"It's going to be an honor to coach against (Lenahan) in his last game."
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SATURDAY'S Division I championship game between Concord (11-0) and Pinkerton Academy of Derry (9-2) will match teams that each set the school record for points scored in a season this year (467), but from an offensive standpoint, the Astros and Crimson Tide couldn't be more different in how they do things.
Pinkerton runs a wing-T offense that has helped coach Brian O'Reilly post a 270-103 record in his 36 seasons as the program's head coach. Concord is among the NHIAA teams that run the spread, which has become popular at the high school and college levels in the last decade.
"That's a crowd-pleasing offense," O'Reilly said when asked about Concord. "That's not what we do. We run the ball."
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STEVENS of Claremont (8-2) will be looking for a big game from senior running back Donald Pellerin in Saturday's Division III championship game against Bow (9-1). Pellerin, who also plays varsity baseball and varsity basketball, will enter that contest with 1,377 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns.
"He's exceeded even what I thought he was going to do this season," Stevens coach Paul Silva said. "He's very quick, he's got good speed and he's the hardest-working kid I've ever been around."
Pellerin has scored at least one touchdown in every game this season except Bow's 28-14 victory over Stevens during the regular season.
Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.