High School Football: No secret why tide has turned in Mack Plaque rivalry

·6 min read

Sep. 22—IT'S RIVALRY WEEK in Division I, and the following is among the questions that will be answered tonight: Can Pinkerton Academy end its recent stretch of futility against Londonderry?

The Astros (3-0) and Lancers (2-1) will meet in Londonderry as part of Mack Plaque weekend, the annual fall athletic competition between the two schools. Pinkerton's 22-game winning streak against Londonderry ended in 2019. Since then, Londonderry has won five games in a row, including a 25-13 victory in last year's Division I quarterfinals.

What changed to give Londonderry the upper hand?

"There's been a common theme the last few years with them against everybody: They have superior athletes," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. "They're fast and big.

"It isn't like we're not doing what we used to do and maybe we should go back to running the same offense and defense we used to run all those years we beat them 22 straight times. Oh wait, we do."

Londonderry, last year's Division I champion, is 2-0 against NHIAA competition this season. The team's loss was a 40-20 setback against Bishop Hendricken of Warwick, Rhode Island. The Lancers opened the season by beating Concord 34-24, and defeated Windham 30-14 last Friday.

"It was such a long (losing) streak people began to think we were jinxed," Londonderry coach Jimmy Lauzon said. "It was a mental barrier. Finally we can treat (Pinkerton) just like any other opponent, except for the fact that they have a coach who's been around for 40-something years and usually has an answer for everything you throw at him."

The Astros nipped Windham, 28-27, in their opener and have been dominant against a pair of winless teams since then. Pinkerton beat Goffstown 59-6 in Week 2 and knocked off Alvirne 42-6 last Friday.

Pinkerton has two four-year starters at running back in seniors Cole Yennaco and Jacob Albert. Junior quarterback Tim Hersom tossed three TD passes against Alvirne.

"My backfield is as good as any I've had in recent years," O'Reilly said. "All those kids back there have the ability to score from any point on the field. Our passing game is something that we've been working on and is getting to the point where I'm feeling very comfortable with it."

Londonderry will be without two-way lineman Ty Miles, who tore his ACL in last week's victory over Windham. Lauzon said Miles, a 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior, will miss the remainder of the season.

"I think he's one of the best two-way players in the state," Lauzon said. "Without him, we lose what I thought was the strength of our team and that's the interior of our O line and D line. We'll need some kids to step up and I think we have some who are capable of doing so, but it's hard to replace his size and ability."

O'Reilly said his team faces an equally tough challenge on each side of the ball.

"I think they've been pretty balanced the last several years," O'Reilly said. "They play just as good on defense as they do on offense, and their special teams are as good as anybody's. There's no one thing you can focus on and that's what makes them good.

"They're doing the same things they did last year. They haven't reinvented the wheel. They have the same offense with some different characters, mostly the same, and the same defense. They fly around and do what they do. They are the defending state champions."

Pinkerton has a 35-13-0 edge in the all-time series.

Tonight's other rivalry matchups

Nashua North (3-0) at Nashua South (0-3)

South leads this series 22-13-0, which includes a 12-4 advantage in Thanksgiving games. North won the only time the teams met in the playoffs. North was 3-0 and South 0-3 entering last year's game, and the Panthers prevailed 43-42 when they recovered a fumble in the end zone on a two-point-conversion attempt with no time remaining.

Exeter (3-0) at Winnacunnet (0-3)

The Warriors and Blue Hawks first met in 1924. Exeter leads the series 60-31-2, but Winnacunnet won both meetings last season.

Dover (3-0) at Spaulding (3-0)

This is the oldest public school rivalry in the state. The teams first played in 1906, and Dover leads the series 70-47-8.

Goffstown (0-3) at Bedford (2-1)

The Grizzlies have won the last three meetings with the Bulldogs and lead the overall series 9-7-0.

Reese's piecesSometimes the best things happen by accident, and that appears to be the case with the Gilford/Belmont quarterback situation.

Jalen Reese was supposed to step into the starting QB role last season, but he missed the year with a broken foot. Isaiah Reese, his younger brother, moved from wide receiver and started at QB instead. Isaiah, a junior, remained the team's QB this season, and Jalen, a 6-foot-6 senior, has replaced Isaiah as a receiver.

Things have turned out OK.

Isaiah, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior, tossed three touchdown passes to his brother in last weekend's 52-33 victory over previously unbeaten Bow. It was part of a huge day for Isaiah, who also ran for 254 yards and five TDs. His rushing total came on 11 carries.

The victory over Bow improved Gilford/Belmont's record to 3-0. The Golden Eagles, who will play Pembroke Academy at home Saturday, are the only unbeaten team in Division II East.

"As soon as he breaks the pocket, he's not just looking to run, he's looking to score," Gilford/Belmont coach Josh Marzahl said. "He doesn't want to go down or go out of bounds."

Through three games, Isaiah has run for 506 yards and 10 touchdowns on 34 rushing attempts. He has also completed 14 of 31 passes for 387 yards and five TDs.

"He was always a wide receiver or running back growing up," Marzahl said. "He throws a good deep ball. Still learning to throw on the run a little bit."

Isaiah has made significant contributions in other areas as well. He starts at free safety and is the team's third-leading tackler, and also returns kicks. He returned two punts for touchdowns in a 36-0 victory over Sanborn.

"He scored both times he's been punted to this season," Marzahl said. "Now teams kick it out of bounds. He comes downhill as a safety. He's great in the classroom as well."

Division III unbeatens clash

There are three undefeated teams in Division III and two of them will meet Saturday night when Trinity (3-0) plays at Monadnock (3-0).

Trinity has outscored its opponents 157-8, and Monadnock has outscored the three teams it has played, 82-20.

Campbell (3-0) is the other unbeaten Division III team.

Recaps, please

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rbrown@unionleader.com