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Merrimack Valley’s Ivan Niyomugabo takes off on a long run against John Stark in the opening game of 2013 season. The quarterback threw for four touchdowns and ran for another. (HARRY KOZLOWSKI/Union Leader Correspondent)

Roger Brown's First and 10: Ready for kickoff


The Kennett of Conway and Merrimack Valley of Penacook football teams will open the 2014 season with plenty in common.

Kennett and Merrimack Valley are among the most talented teams in Division II. Both programs made the playoffs a year ago, both have a first-year head coach and both possess a dual-threat quarterback.
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The teams will also be on the same field tonight (6:30), when the Eagles and Pride meet in Penacook. The contest looks like one of the best matchups on the NHIAA Week 1 menu.

Merrimack Valley’s Jim Coll and Kennett’s Vaughan Beckwith accepted their respective head coaching jobs on an interim basis, and each inherited a good situation.
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Kennett returned 19 starters — 10 on defense — from a team that lost to Plymouth Regional in last year’s Division II North championship game. The returnees include junior quarterback Will Powers, who has been Kennett’s starter behind center since his freshman season.
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“The expectations are high, and the kids know they’re high,” Beckwith said. “We have a lot of experience.

“When I took over the superintendent told me: ‘I expect you guys to be playing for a state championship.’ ”
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Beckwith, who played football at Plymouth State, served as Kennett’s defensive coordinator last season, and took over as the program’s head coach when Mike Holderman resigned to take a job in North Carolina in July.
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Coll has been with the Merrimack Valley program in some capacity since 2003. He was the team’s defensive coordinator last season, when Merrimack Valley reached the playoffs for the first time in the program’s history. Merrimack Valley lost to Portsmouth in the Division II East title game.
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Coll took over after former head coach Dave Jackson resigned last spring. Coll will be working with two of the top offensive players in the state in quarterback Ivan Niyomugabo and running back Tucker Burt. Niyomugabo has scholarship offers from St. Anselm College, Central Connecticut State and the University of New Hampshire. He said he will likely make his decision by Sept. 15.
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“I wouldn’t be surprised if those two each rush for more than 1,000 yards in an eight-game schedule,” Coll said. “This senior class has been together a long time and they’re used to winning. The expectations are still there and we’re not doing anything to dampen them. Confidence is a good thing.”

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NH High School Football Grid Chart
DIVISION I
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Alvirne 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Timberlane, 7 DNP
Bedford 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Pinkerton, 7 DNP
Bishop Guertin 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Winna., 7 Winna., 28-14 and 35-26
Concord 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Central, 7 Central, 35-21
Dover 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Exeter, 2 Exeter, 42-7
Exeter 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat. Dover, 2 Exeter, 42-7
Goffstown 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Merrimack, 7 DNP
Keene 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Nashua North, 7 DNP
Londonderry 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, West, 7 DNP
Man. Central 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Concord, 7 Central, 35-21
Man. Memorial 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Salem, 7 Memorial, 15-12
Man. West 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Londonderry, 7 DNP
Merrimack 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Goffstown, 7 DNP
Nashua North 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Keene, 7 DNP
Nashua South 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Spaulding South, 35-20
Pinkerton 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Bedford, 7 DNP
Salem 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Memorial, 7 Memorial, 15-12
Spaulding 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Nashua South South, 35-20
Timberlane 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Alvirne, 7 DNP
Winnacunnet 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at BG, 7 Winna, 28-14 and 35-26
DIVISION II
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
ConVal 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Lebanon, 7 DNP
Hanover 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Windham, 7 Windham, 34-6
Hollis/Brookline 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Kennett, 7 DNP
John Stark 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Merrimack Valley, 1:30 DNP
Kearsarge 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, St. Thomas, 7 DNP
Kennett 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Hollis/Brookline, 7 DNP
Kingswood 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Plymouth, 1:30 Plymouth, 37-14
Laconia 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Pembroke, 7 DNP
Lebanon 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at ConVal, 7 DNP
Merrimack Valley 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at John Stark, 1:30 DNP
Milford 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Sanborn, 1:30 DNP
Monadnock 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Souhegan, 6:30 DNP
Pembroke 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Laconia, 7 DNP
Plymouth 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Kingswood, 1:30 Plymouth, 37-14
Portsmouth 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Trinity, 7 DNP
Sanborn 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Milford, 1:30 DNP
Souhegan 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Monadnock, 6:30 DNP
St. Thomas 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Kearsarge, 7 DNP
Trinity 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Portsmouth, 7 DNP
Windham 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Hanover, 7 Windham, 34-6
DIVISION III
Team OA Div. PF PA This Week Last Yr.
Bishop Brady 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Raymond, 7 Brady, 60-12
Bow 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Pelham, 1:30 Bow, 27-18
Campbell 0-0 0-0 0 0 Bye  
Epping-Newmkt 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Farmington-Nute, 1:30 DNP
Fall Mountain 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Newfound, 7 DNP
Farm.-Nute 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat. at Epping/Newmkt, 1:30 DNP
Franklin 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Int.-Lakes-Moult., noon DNP
Gilford 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Newport, 1:30 Newport, 27-20
Int.-Lakes-Moult. 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Franklin, noon DNP
Mascoma 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Winnisquam, 1:30 Mascoma, 24-6
Newfound 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Fall Mountain, 7 DNP
Newport 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Gilford, 1:30 Newport, 27-20
Pelham 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., at Bow, 1:30 Bow, 27-18
Raymond 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Bishop Brady, 7 Brady, 60-12
Somersworth 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, at Stevens, 7 Somers., 27-0 and 27-10
Stevens 0-0 0-0 0 0 Friday, Somersworth, 7 Somers., 27-9 and 27-10
Winnisquam 0-0 0-0 0 0 Sat., Mascoma, 1:30 Mascoma, 24-6
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Five other compelling games that will be played this weekend:

Exeter at Central: This is the only game being played that features two teams in the Union Leader/WGIR/WMUR Preseason Power Poll. Exeter is No. 5 and Central is tied with Portsmouth at No. 10. Both teams qualified for the playoffs last season.
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Portsmouth at Spaulding: Portsmouth has reached the championship game in its division in each of the last six years, but this will be the Clippers first game since they rejoined Division I following the 2013 season. Both teams are in Division I East, which may be the most competitive conference in the state.
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Bishop Guertin at Londonderry: This will be the debut for Londonderry head coach Jimmy Lauzon, who coached at Manchester West and St. Anselm College before he took the Londonderry job. Each team has legitimate playoff hopes this season.

West at Trinity: Although this is a matchup between two Manchester schools, the Blue Knights and Pioneers are in different conferences. West, which competed in Division I last season, replaced Portsmouth in Division II East. Trinity is in Division II South.

Sanborn at St. Thomas: These are two programs on the rise. Sanborn of Kingston is looking to build on the program’s first playoff appearance last season. A loss to Merrimack Valley in the final game of the regular season prevented St. Thomas from making the playoffs a year ago, but the Saints return 18 starters and are among the favorites to win it all in Division II.
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The Division III season will begin next Friday. Division III teams will each play eight regular-season games, one fewer than teams in Division I. Division II teams will also play eight games during the regular season, but each team in that division has a bye week.
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Roger Brown covers high school football for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. Follow him on Twitter: @603sportsmedia.


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