Concord, Bedford collide
Roger Brown's First and 10: Best on display as No. 1 to host No. 2
THEY HAVE the best resumes in the state, and they will face each other tonight.
Concord is 6-0, has outscored its opponents 275-81 this season and is No. 1 in the Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Power Poll.
Bedford is 6-0, has outscored its opponents 219-26 and is No. 2 in the poll. The Bulldogs haven't allowed a point in four of their six games.
Tonight's meeting will take place in Concord, and the winner will have sole possession of first place in Division I North. It will be the 11th time the top two teams in the Power Poll have met, and the top-ranked team has a 6-4 record in those games.
"They're No. 1 for a reason," Bedford coach Kurt Hines said. "They're good across the board. They're big, athletic and they play physical football. We'll have to play one of our best games yet."
No. 4 Pinkerton Academy (4-2) is the only team that has given the Bulldogs and Crimson Tide trouble. Bedford opened its season with a 14-12 triumph over Pinkerton, and Concord escaped with a 21-14 overtime victory against Pinkerton last Friday.
"Hopefully the explosiveness in our offense comes back," Concord coach Eric Brown said. "We didn't have many big plays against Pinkerton.
"Bedford is very athletic. They have a very fast defense that swarms to the ball."
Concord leads the state in scoring, and Bedford has surrendered the fewest points in the state. Both coaches said the key matchup tonight will be Bedford's offense against Concord's defense.
"I think we're pretty confident in our defense," Hines said. "The question in this game is, 'Can our offense put up more points than they do? Can we give (quarterback) Dan Colella enough time to throw to our receivers?'" Concord looked vulnerable against the pass in its 69-41 victory over Manchester Memorial.
"I'm pretty confident in our offensive ability," Brown said. "Can we play better pass defense than we've shown in the past? Hopefully you'll see a different Concord defensive backfield than what we showed against Memorial."
Tonight's outcome could determine home-field advantage if these teams meet in the Division I North championship game, although a Concord victory would open the door a little more for Manchester Central. Central (4-2) will conclude its regular-season schedule at home against Bedford and that game could determine a playoff berth. Concord beat Central 35-6 in Week 1.
"We want to do everything we can to secure home-field advantage," Hines said. "No doubt this is our biggest test yet."
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OUTSIDE of Division I, this weekend's biggest game is Saturday's Division II clash between No. 6 Plymouth (6-0) and No. 10 Portsmouth (5-1) in Plymouth.
Plymouth, last year's Division IV champion, has won 17 games in a row and is one of two unbeaten teams in Division II (Monadnock is the other). Portsmouth, last year's Division III champion, has strung together five consecutive victories since opening the season with a loss to Trinity of Manchester.
This will be the fourth meeting between the programs. The Bobcats are 3-0 against the Clippers, which includes a 35-20 victory in the 2006 Division III title game.
The game will offer a contrast in offensive styles. Plymouth will run its traditional wing-T, and Portsmouth favors a fast-paced, no-huddle passing game. The outcome will likely be determined by how well Portsmouth handles Plymouth's running game.
"It's that simple," Portsmouth coach Brian Pafford said. "Their running backs aren't terribly fast, but they put their head down and are tough to tackle.
"They run a lot of guys in and out on their defensive line, and they won't be able to do that (because of Portsmouth's hurry-up attack). If we can stop their offense — get a couple of stops a half — we have a great chance. If not, we're in trouble."
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COUNT Keene coach John Luopa among those who is fine with three divisions for NHIAA football, but believes the playoff format needs to be tweaked.
Keene (4-2) could finish with a 7-2 record and not make the playoffs, since it's in Division I West with Nashua South (6-0) and Bishop Guertin of Nashua (5-1). Two teams from each conference qualify for postseason play, and it looks like at least one team with four losses will be among the eight Division I playoff teams.
It's possible that Spaulding of Rochester (3-3) will make the playoffs with four losses even though it lost to Keene 41-0. Keene has also beaten Winnacunnet of Hampton (3-3), which is battling with Exeter (5-2) and Spaulding for the two playoff spots in Division I East.
"They (the NHIAA football committee) obviously didn't take all the scenarios into consideration that could take place," Luopa said. "I'm fine with three divisions. As long as the best teams get in the playoffs I'm fine with any scenario. If we do lose out it's going to be a bitter pill to swallow."
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GILFORD (4-2) can secure first place in Division III North if its beats Raymond (0-5) at home Saturday. … Plymouth and Monadnock have each clinched the No. 1 seed in their conference. … On paper, Saturday's game between Bishop Brady of Concord and Bow looks like this weekend's top Division III matchup. Bishop Brady (3-2) is at the top of the Division III North standings, and Bow (4-1) is in second place in Division III South. … Tonight's Division I contest between Bishop Guertin and Nashua South will be the first game between the programs since 2003, when the Panthers beat the Cardinals 16-6 on Thanksgiving. The game could also determine home-field advantage if Nashua South and BG are the two playoff qualifiers from Division I West.
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.
|NH High School Football Grid Chart|
|Team||OA||PF||PA||This Week||Last Yr.|
|Exeter||4-2||171||120||At Spaulding, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Spaulding||3-3||145||155||Exeter, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Winnacunnet||3-3||153||168||Timberlane, Friday, 7||7-0|
|Dover||2-4||135||216||Keene, Friday, 7||20-21|
|Timberlane||1-5||103||170||At Winnacunnet, Friday, 7||0-7|
|Bedford||6-0||219||26||At Concord, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Concord||6-0||275||81||Bedford, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Man. Central||4-2||179||147||Londonderry, Friday, 7||36-7|
|Man. Memorial||1-5||156||277||At Goffstown, Saturday, 1:30||33-32|
|Man. West||0-6||38||274||Pinkerton, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Pinkerton||4-2||186||92||At West, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Londonderry||3-3||151||159||At Central, Friday, 7||7-36|
|Merrimack||3-3||196||235||At Salem, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Goffstown||2-4||137||177||Memorial, Saturday, 1:30||32-33|
|Salem||1-5||94||163||Merrimack, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Nashua South||6-0||212||92||Bishop Guertin, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Bishop Guertin||5-1||158||109||At Nashua South, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Keene||4-2||148||53||At Dover, Friday, 7||21-20|
|Alvirne||1-5||120||191||Nashua North, Friday, 7||7-38|
|Nashua North||1-5||99||170||At Alvirne, Friday, 7||38-7|
|Team||OA||PF||PA||This Week||Last Yr.|
|Portsmouth||5-1||263||135||At Plymouth, Saturday, 1:30||DNP|
|St. Thomas||5-1||206||90||Kingswood, Saturday, 2:30||DNP|
|Merrimack Valley||5-1||176||94||Hanover, Friday, 6:30||DNP|
|Pembroke||2-4||162||186||Kennett, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Kingswood||1-5||124||188||At St. Thomas, Saturday, 2:30||DNP|
|Plymouth||6-0||253||61||Portsmouth, Saturday, 1:30||DNP|
|Kennett||3-3||102||156||At Pembroke, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Laconia||2-4||120||249||Lebanon, Friday, 7||36-20|
|Lebanon||2-4||99||156||At Laconia, Friday, 7||20-36|
|Hanover||1-5||74||138||At Merr. Valley, Friday, 6:30||DNP|
|Trinity||5-1||206||117||At John Stark, Saturday, 1:30||61-24|
|Windham||5-1||171||117||At Hollis/Brookline, Sat., 1||DNP|
|Milford||4-2||216||95||Monadnock, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Souhegan||1-5||130||174||At ConVal, Friday, 7||34-6|
|John Stark||1-5||53||220||Trinity, Saturday, 1:30||24-61|
|Monadnock||6-0||235||103||At Milford, Friday, 7||DNP|
|Sanborn||3-3||163||129||Kearsarge, Saturday, 7||13-42|
|Kearsarge||2-4||37||146||At Sanborn, Sat., 7||42-13|
|H/Brookline||1-5||97||126||Windham, Sat., 1||DNP|
|ConVal||0-6||14||221||Souhegan, Fri., 7||6-34|
|Team||OA||PF||PA||This Week||Last Yr.|
|Bishop Brady||3-2||163||124||At Bow, Friday, 7:30||DNP|
|Epping-Nwmrkt||2-3||80||100||Campbell, Saturday, 2||DNP|
|Farmington-Nute||0-5||33||164||Stevens, Sat., 1:30||DNP|
|Raymond||0-5||94||200||At Gilford, Sat., 1:30||14-45|
|Gilford||4-2||166||164||Raymond, Sat, 1:30||45-14|
|Newfound||2-3||142||143||At Newport, Saturday, 1:30||32-14|
|Pelham||5-0||154||27||Fall Mountain, Sat., 6||DNP|
|Bow||4-1||152||28||Bishop Brady., Friday., 7:30||DNP|
|Campbell||4-1||171||99||At Epping-Newmarket, Sat., 2 DNP|
|Somersworth||3-2||148||113||At Mascoma Valley, Sat., 1:30||DNP|
|Newport||4-1||186||96||Newfound, Sat. 1:30||14-32|
|Stevens||3-2||149||108||At Farmington, Sat., 1:30||DNP|
|Mascoma Valley||3-2||180||128||Somersworth, Saturday, 1:30||DNP|
|Fall Mountain||2-4||100||163||At Pelham. Saturday, 6||DNP|