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Central High School seniors back row, from left, Brad Ferry, Mark Lacount, Keegan Laberge, Tyler Kelley, Nick Makris, Jeme Aguilar, DeCory Francis, Marcus Joseph, Abe Madrafront row, from left, Terri Gilman, John Howard, Joe Vrastenses, Jack Couture, Jessiah Wade, Julio Rincon, Hector Velez and Javen Morse. (JOSH GIBNEY/UNION LEADER)

Friday Night Lights

Roger Brown's First and 10: Bedford jumps into the fire

WHEN you talk about NHIAA football programs that are on the rise, the conversation has to start with Bedford.

The Bulldogs first put a varsity team on the field in 2008, the first of four seasons the Bulldogs spent in Division III. Bedford finished 0-9 in 2008, 2-7 in 2009, 5-4 in 2010 and 8-3 in 2011. That 2011 season ended with a loss to Portsmouth in the Division III championship game.

Bedford moved to Division II last season, and finished 9-2 following a loss to Winnacunnet of Hampton in the Division II title game. Bedford will get its first taste of Division I competition tonight (7), when it opens the season at home against Pinkerton Academy of Derry.

"I always hoped we'd move to Division I," said Bedford coach Kurt Hines, who has been on the Bedford sideline since that first varsity season. "I think it helps keep the kids in Bedford interested in football. I'm excited about it.

"Obviously there will be some bumps and bruises, but I would prefer it this way."

Pinkerton, which has lost to Exeter in each of the last two Division I championship games, is expected to be one of the strongest teams in the state again this season. Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly has spent much of the preseason evaluating three quarterbacks who are battling for the starting job: Jake Froehlich, Conner Holland and Jack Hannaway. Froehlich, a transfer from the Tilton School, completed 95 of 169 passes for 1,492 yards for Tilton last season.

Choosing from three talented quarterbacks is a problem most coaches would love to have.

"But it is a problem," O'Reilly said. "It will be somebody or it will be a combination. It will probably be a combination of things."

Pinkerton has the state's most dangerous offensive weapon in senior running back Manny Latimore, who rushed for 1,504 yards last season.

The game will certainly serve as a measuring stick for Bedford.

"As much as we have to respect Manny, he's not the only athlete on the team," Hines said. "The first thing we have to do is not give up the big play.

"Our goal this year is to get back to the playoffs. I think we have the kids to do it. This game should give us a feel for where we stand in the division."

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SATURDAY NIGHT'S contest between Manchester Central and Concord in Manchester is another intriguing game on this weekend's Division I schedule. There will be a fireworks display following the game, which is part of the Gill Stadium Centennial Celebration.

Concord returned nine starters on each side of the ball from a team that went 6-4 last season. The Crimson Tide should be particularly strong at the skill positions.

"We're a veteran team, but it's hard to assess at this point," Concord coach Eric Brown said. "It'll be a big one against Central Saturday night. I'll know a lot more Sunday."

Central lost to Exeter in last year's Division I semifinals.

"We're working hard, but it's a work in progress," Central coach Ryan Ray said. "I couldn't even begin to guess where we fit in the mix. I'm just worried about putting guys on the field who are ready to compete."

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EXETER is seeking its third consecutive Division I championship, but will be breaking in an entirely new offensive backfield this season. Running back Tyler Grant, the Union Leader Player of the Year last season, is among those who graduated. Grant led the Blue Hawks in rushing (1,238 yards, 20 TDs) and receiving (217 yards, three TDs) last season.

Three other players who gained at least 500 yards last fall also graduated. Jay Inzenga, who ran for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries last season, is the team's leading returning rusher. Exeter will open its season against Dover on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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This week's Top 10

1. Pinkerton
2. Nashua South
3. Exeter
4. Concord
5. Winnacunnet
6. Portsmouth
7. Trinity
8. Plymouth
9. Bishop Guertin
10. Bedford

Comment: Concord is the only team in the top 10 that did not qualify for the playoffs last season. Seven of the 10 teams reached the championship game in their division last season.

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FALL MOUNTAIN of Langdon will play its first varsity game since 2011 tonight when it faces Newfound at home.

Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.

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High School Grid Chart
TeamO’allDiv.PFPAThis WeekLast Year
Alvirne0-00-000Friday, Timberlane, 7DNP
Bedford0-00-000Friday, Pinkerton, 7DNP
Bishop Guertin0-00-000Sat., Winna., 7Winna., 28-14, 35-26
Concord0-00-000Sat., at Central, 7Central, 35-21
Dover0-00-000Sat., at Exeter, 2Exeter, 42-7
Exeter0-00-000Sat. Dover, 2Exeter, 42-7
Goffstown0-00-000Friday, at Merrimack, 7DNP
Keene0-00-000Friday, at Nashua North, 7DNP
Londonderry0-00-000Friday, West, 7DNP
Man. Central0-00-000Sat., Concord, 7Central, 35-21
Man. Memorial0-00-000Friday, at Salem, 7Memorial, 15-12
Man. West0-00-000Friday, at Londonderry, 7DNP
Merrimack0-00-000Friday, Goffstown, 7DNP
Nashua North0-00-000Friday, Keene, 7DNP
Nashua South0-00-000Friday, at SpauldingSouth, 35-20
Pinkerton0-00-000Friday, at Bedford, 7DNP
Salem0-00-000Friday, Memorial, 7Memorial, 15-12
Spaulding0-00-000Friday, Nashua SouthSouth, 35-20
Timberlane0-00-000Friday, at Alvirne, 7DNP
Winnacunnet0-00-000Sat., at BG, 7Winna, 28-14, 35-26
TeamO’allDiv.PFPAThis WeekLast Year
ConVal0-00-000Friday, Lebanon, 7DNP
Hanover0-00-000Friday, Windham, 7Windham, 34-6
Hollis/Brook.0-00-000Friday, at Kennett, 7DNP
John Stark0-00-000Sat., Merrimack Valley, 1:30DNP
Kearsarge0-00-000Friday, St. Thomas, 7DNP
Kennett0-00-000Friday, Hollis/Brookline, 7DNP
Kingswood0-00-000Sat., at Plymouth, 1:30Plymouth, 37-14
Laconia0-00-000Friday, Pembroke, 7DNP
Lebanon0-00-000Friday, at ConVal, 7DNP
Merr. Valley0-00-000Sat., at John Stark, 1:30DNP
Milford0-00-000Sat., at Sanborn, 1:30DNP
Monadnock0-00-000Friday, Souhegan, 6:30DNP
Pembroke0-00-000Friday, at Laconia, 7DNP
Plymouth0-00-000Sat., Kingswood, 1:30Plymouth, 37-14
Portsmouth0-00-000Friday, Trinity, 7DNP
Sanborn0-00-000Sat., Milford, 1:30DNP
Souhegan0-00-000Friday, at Monadnock, 6:30DNP
St. Thomas0-00-000Friday, at Kearsarge, 7DNP
Trinity0-00-000Friday, at Portsmouth, 7DNP
Windham0-00-000Friday, at Hanover, 7Windham, 34-6
TeamO’allDiv.PFPAThis WeekLast Year
Bishop Brady0-00-000Friday, Raymond, 7Brady, 60-12
Bow0-00-000Sat., Pelham, 1:30Bow, 27-18
Epping-Nwmkt0-00-000Sat., Farmington-Nute, 1:30DNP
Fall Mountain0-00-000Friday, Newfound, 7DNP
Farm.-Nute0-00-000Sat. at Epping/Newmkt, 1:30DNP
Franklin0-00-000Sat., at Int.-Lakes-Moult., noonDNP
Gilford0-00-000Sat., at Newport, 1:30Newport, 27-20
Int.-Lakes-Moult.0-00-000Sat., Franklin, noonDNP
Mascoma0-00-000Sat., at Winnisquam, 1:30Mascoma, 24-6
Newfound0-00-000Friday, at Fall Mountain, 7DNP
Newport0-00-000Sat., Gilford, 1:30Newport, 27-20
Pelham0-00-000Sat., at Bow, 1:30Bow, 27-18
Raymond0-00-000Friday, at Bishop Brady, 7Brady, 60-12
Somersworth0-00-000Friday, at Stevens, 7Som., 27-0, 27-10
Stevens0-00-000Friday, Somersworth, 7Som., 27-9, 27-10
Winnisquam0-00-000Sat., Mascoma, 1:30Mascoma, 24-6

Eric Church
Saturday, 8 p.m.

Discover Wild NH Day
Saturday, 10 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Kathy Griffin
Saturday, 7 p.m.

Peter Wolf
Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Motor Booty Affair
Saturday, 8 p.m.

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