Ready or not, here’s football
The end of summer officially began on Wednesday.
If you’re morning commute takes you up or down Route 3 in Nashua, you’ll know for sure when you pass Nashua High School South, where somewhere around a hundred hopefuls will be dressed to some degree in purple.
High school football season is here in the form of double sessions and practices without pads, and the start of regular-season games isn’t far behind.
Here are a few questions to get you ready as the kids get back to work.
WHO WILL GET IN?
This question could be posed another way , like, how will the changes made to the postseason affect teams from Greater Nashua?
Under the old format, where in Division I and Division II only two teams from each conference made the playoffs, it would be impossible for all the teams in the area to advance.
Now, three teams could move on from D-I West (home to North, South, Alvirne and Bishop Guertin), and potentially four could come from D-II South (which includes Milford and Souhegan).
Last year, five of the nine made the postseason – Alvirne, BG, Milford, Hollis Brookline and Campbell – but under the new format, two of those teams (Alvirne and HB) would not. And in the first year of the realignment, only one team (South) was in the playoffs.
Unless Keene bounces back from a last-place finish, one of the four teams in the West will reach the D-I playoffs as a conference champ. The others will have to finish with a better record than teams from the North, the other team in the "schedule cluster," in order to advance.
In D-II, four teams will earn a berth by finishing first in their respective conference, but even if none of Milford, Souhegan or HB (which is in the West) does that, all three could get in if their football rating puts them among the top eight teams.
Campbell, the defending Division III champ, should be considered a favorite to return to the postseason.
WHO IS BACK?
A total of two dozen players who were named Telegraph Football All- Stars in 2014 are back this season, including six first-team selections.
That also includes two quarterbacks – Alvirne’s Dan Brown and Milford’s Max Urda – while two other players who saw time at quarterback, Bishop Guertin’s Jordan Hiscoe and Merrimack’s Tyler DeNeill, are also returning, although DeNeill will likely see more time at other spots in the backfield.
Some of the top returning linemen from the area include Milford’s Kody Palladino, Alvirne’s Bennett Parkinson, Bishop Guertin’s Kyle McLarney, Campbell’s Harrison Vedrani and North’s Mike Muchmore, while Bishop Guertin’s Chase Hughes, Souhegan’s Brendan Cray, South’s Colin Morrow and North’s Max Fay should be some skill-position players who stand out. Another key returning player should be Jackson Housman of Bishop Guertin, who was poised for a big season as a junior before an injury cut his season short.
WHO ARE YOU?
The coaching carrousel that started spinning after the 2012 season hasn’t come to a complete stop, so please, watch your step.
Since that offseason, there have been 10 coaching changes in Greater Nashua, with three schools – Alvirne, Merrimack and Hollis Brookline – on their third coach in the last four years.
This year, the changes include two familiar faces. Dante Laurendi takes over at Nashua North for Jason Robie, the only head coach in Titans history and for whom Laudendi coached under before taking the Merrimack head coaching job before the 2013 season.
That change led to Kip Jackson, a longtime South assistant, moving up the turnpike to become the Tomahawks head coach.
And at Bishop Guertin, Jeff Moore, a former head coach at Dracut (Mass.) and assistant at Framingham State University, takes over the Cardinals program.
Only two local programs have the same coach this season as for that 2012 season – Scott Knight at South and Keith Jones at Milford.
WHAT GAMES TO WATCH?
Aside from the local rivalries, there will be a lot of key games between area teams and those competing for playoff spots around the state.
For the first time, South (Sept. 11), North (Sept. 4) and Alvirne (Oct. 23) will play against Bedford, while South (Oct. 2), North (Sept. 18) and Bishop Guertin (Oct. 24) take on Goffstown for the first time as well. The Nashua schools will also renew their rivalries with two of Manchester’s public schools – Central and Memorial – after not playing each other since 2012.
Alvirne and Bishop Guertin meet Oct. 2 in a rematch of last year’s West Conference championship game, while North and South will play on Sept. 25. The Cardinals then play two of their final three games against their Gate City rival, facing North on Oct. 16 and South on Oct. 30.
In D-II, the local teams get their head-to-head matchups out of the way early, as Milford takes on HB on Sept. 11 and Souhegan on Sept. 18. HB and Souhegan then play the following week, on Sept. 25.
And in rematches of conference championships, Milford heads to Windham on Oct. 24, while HB hosts Sanborn on Sept. 19.
Campbell will face the three teams it beat on the way to last year’s title right off the bat, with Bow (Sept. 5) and Somersworth (Sept. 19) at home and Newport (Sept. 12) on the road.