Area football teams went 2-2 in the first week of the season, and look to continue building off the those results from last week. Here’s a look at their Week 2 matchups:
Monadnock (1-0) at Somersworth (0-1)
Game time: Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Summary: Last year, the Hilltoppers were but a first-round stepping stone for the Huskies on their way to a Division III state title. Monadnock beat Somersworth by identical 46-0 margins in both their regular season and postseason games.
But the Hilltoppers graduated very few seniors and the Huskies graduated 17, so this year’s matchup becomes a lot more interesting.
The new Monadnock squad made a statement with a season-opening 46-6 win over Inter-Lakes, while Somersworth suffered a tough 30-0 setback against last year’s runner-up, Campbell. Coach Ryan Avery and the Huskies know the Hilltoppers will likely bring a greater challenge than the Lakers, who went 1-8 last year as compared to Somersworth’s 4-6.
Key matchup: Monadnock front seven vs. Somersworth run offense
Led by bruising running back Christian Abkarian, the Hilltoppers running attack is the slightly bigger threat of a balanced offense quarterbacked by Brogan Bonsaint. It’ll be up to the Huskies’ linemen and linebackers to contain the rushing attack so Monadnock can continue to own the ground game.
Player(s) to watch: Linemen Joey Drew, Dylan Cashman, Victor Lotito, Wyatt Guyette
It’s cliché to say football games are won in the trenches, but there’s another reason to keep on eye on this group. Cashman exploded onto the scene last week with a team-high nine tackles and combined with Drew for a safety.
This group, which features two All-State players (Drew was second team last year, Lotito was an honorable mention), figures to play a big role on both sides of the ball, chasing down Abkarian and Bonsaint on defense and making holes for running backs Lincoln Blodgett and Justin Joslyn on offense.
Coach’s corner: “[Somersworth] reeled off like four wins at the end of the season to get into the playoffs, so they really turned that program around over there at the end of the season, so it’s going to be a challenge.” — Monadnock Coach Ryan Avery
Keene (0-1) vs.
Game time: Friday, 6:30 p.m., Alumni Field.
Summary: First-year coach Linwood Patnode and the Blackbirds will have their first chance to showcase this year’s team to the Keene faithful this week at Alumni Field, and ideally send a message about the new direction the program is heading. Meanwhile, the Blue Hawks are also trying to send a message, coming off a disappointing 4-5 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs for the first time in eight years.
The Birds are coming off a 28-14 loss at Dover, while Exeter started with a 29-6 win over another building program in Bishop Guertin.
Key matchup: Keene run offense vs. Exeter run offense
The Blackbirds scored both of their touchdowns last week on long bombs from quarterback Tucker Brown to receiver Clint Maleski, but the biggest thing Patnode is trying to add to the Keene offense is a power rushing attack, just like the one he helped build during his time at Monadnock.
The Blue Hawks are another team known for their run-heavy approach. Exeter plays out of the wing-T formation, and while the Birds operate out of the I formation, this could be, if nothing else, a good opportunity for Keene to see what an established run-first offense looks like.
Player(s) to watch: Running back Cole Masterson
Last week, the senior back failed to find the end zone in a tough offensive outing for the Birds, but Patnode has said he will be the main engine behind this team’s new rushing attack. Whether or not he takes a step forward this week could prove critical for Keene’s development.
ConVal (1-0) at Souhegan (1-0)
Game time: Friday, 7 p.m.
Summary: The Cougars are riding high after last week’s win over Kingswood, a 21-17 victory that snapped an eight-game losing streak from last season. But they’ll have it anything but easy against the Sabers.
Souhegan is coming off a 7-3 season last year where it went to the Division II semifinals, and the Sabers opened this season with a 34-25 win over another of last year’s semifinalists in St. Thomas Aquinas.
Key matchup: ConVal run offense vs. Souhegan pass offense
The Sabers boast a plentiful amount of talent at the quarterback position, having two different guys lead their spread offense over the course of each game. Austin Jain completed 10-of-17 passes for 168 yards and a touchdown in the first half last week, then Luke Manning came in for the second half and completed 4-of-8 for 62 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 82 yards and another score.
According to first-year Cougars Coach Robert Clauss, the best chance ConVal has to keep this game competitive is to dominate the time-of-possession battle with a strong running game out of their flexbone offense. That means quarterback Peter Weatherill and fullback Justin Burns (who each scored a rushing touchdown last week) will be looked to again to help power the offense.
Player(s) to watch: Quarterback/cornerback/kicker/punter Peter Weatherill, Lineman Gareth Armstrong
Weatherill will not only be looked at for helping to power the Cougars’ triple-option schemes, but also to keep them in control. It’ll be his job to ensure the team doesn’t suffer any miscues that could lead to costly turnovers.
Clauss also said he expects his big man Armstrong (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) to play a big role at right tackle, taking on Souhegan defensive end Michael Maroun.
Coach’s corner: “Going on the road and being able to compete with that kind of success that Souhegan has is going to be a measuring stick. We’re gonna see from this game where exactly we’re gonna fit in this division this year, whether or not we can be competitive. I can tell you, whether we win or lose, if we’re competitive, that’s a big deal.” — ConVal Coach Robert Clauss
Fall Mountain (0-1) at Winnisquam (1-0)
Game time: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Summary: Coming off a tough 31-7 loss to Raymond last week, the Wildcats march into the confines of the defending Division IV champions.
Fall Mountain played Winnisquam close last season, losing at home 20-12, but Wildcats Coach Orion Binney knows the Bears are a tough opponent, especially after the 56-24 smackdown they dealt Farmington last week.
Key matchup: Fall Mountain defense vs. Winnisquam quarterback Philip Nichols
Nichols is the driver of the Bears offense, and he is one to fear. A dual-threat quarterback who tallied 114 passing yards and 190 rushing yards in last year’s championship win, he was named a team co-captain and first team All-State as a sophomore.
The Wildcats will be trying to contain him without recently graduated cornerbacks Owen Marandino and Justin Garneau, who would ordinarily be covering Winnisquam’s top receivers in Gunnar Horman (another first team pick) and Garrett Mango.
Player(s) to watch: Tight end/defensive end Alex Flynn, Quarterback Luke Gay
Flynn scored Fall Mountain’s lone touchdown last week on a fumble recovery return. He’ll be looked to again on defense to try and help contain Nichols, while also being an important catalyst for the passing game on offense.
Leading that passing attack this week will be Gay, who takes over for Reggie DeCamp as the Wildcats aim for their first offensive score of the season.
Coach’s corner: “I think we’re kind of cautiously optimistic. [Winnisquam’s] gonna be a really good football team, they beat up on Farmington last week and scored almost 60 points. So, we’re gonna have to play our best football to even be in the game with them.” — Fall Mountain Coach Orion Binney
— This story has been edited to correct the spelling of Gareth Armstrong's name