Preview capsule outlook of today’s high school tournament action
High school tournaments today
Division I semifinals
No. 4 Exeter (7-3) at No. 1 Concord (10-0), 1 p.m.
Head to head: The teams did not meet during the regular season.
Previous tournament games: Exeter topped Spaulding, 24-14. Concord rolled over Manchester Central, 53-14.
Notes: Concord will be making its first final four appearance since 2004, while Exeter, the two-time defending Division I champion, is back for a third straight year since moving up to D-I in 2010. So while the Tide is the favorite in the rankings, the Blue Hawks aren’t about to abdicate their throne. Exeter comes in on a three-game winning streak, including last week’s D-I East Conference title game win over Spaulding. The Blue Hawks rely on a ground-and-pound offense run out of the T. Jay Inzenga is their featured back, running for 1,236 yards on 172 carries with 11 touchdowns. Ryan Kelly and Chris Kelley (who scored all three TDs last week) round out the full-house backfield with quarterback Joey Jones. Exeter doesn’t throw much – Concord’s Rob Law has completed more passes in a single game than the Blue Hawks have all season (18) – but when they do, they’re usually effective.
“They’re just typical T running backs; they’re tough, they run hard and run to the hole. That’s the secret to their success,” Concord Coach Eric Brown said. “They’ve got a good, aggressive line in front of them. If you let them, they’ll move you. We have to meet force with force up front and hopefully contain them.
“This Exeter team is the Concord team of the late ’80s and early ’90s under Jack Gati. They run, run, run, lull teams to sleep, then, bang, hit them with a pass.”
Exeter also sports a stout defense that has had the Tide’s number the last three years, including a shutout in a driving rainstorm last year. But it hasn’t faced this year’s Tide offense, one that has scored more points than any team in Concord history, averaging 44.5 points per game, nor one with as many weapons. Walters Ndi provides power and speed, rushing for 1,045 yards on 115 carries with 14 TDs; Leo Sudieh has speed and shiftiness, 671 yards on 61 carries and 10 TDs; and Marc Gaudet is a threat to run or catch the ball, with 19 TDs (15 rushing, three receiving, one fumble return). Through the air, Law has completed 69 percent of his passes for 1,297 yards and 14 TDs.
Defensively, Concord has yielded more than two touchdowns in a game just twice all season, and the starting defense has allowed just 13 TDs in 10 games. And with Brown having coached with Gati when he instituted the T at both Trinity and Concord, he should have a good handle on how to defense it.
“We need to prevent their long, time-consuming drives. And if they do have a long drive, not to press on offense, just do our thing,” Brown said. “We’re here for a reason.”
Division I semifinals
No. 4 Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough (5-4) at No. 1 Bow (8-1), 1 p.m.
Head to head: Bow blanked Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, 33-0, a month ago.
Previous tournament games: Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough upended Gilford, 27-14. Bow knocked off Pelham, 18-6.
Notes: When the teams met earlier this season, Bow was coming off a bye week and was plenty prepared for Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough on both sides of the ball. Kyle Barrington had a pair of short touchdown runs and Dwight Alford, Matt Ehrenberg and Casey Iasillo all ran it to the end zone as the Falcons used a potent ground attack to put up plenty of points. Defensively, Bow kept Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough – which has scored at least two touchdowns in every other game this season – out of the end zone for one of its three shutouts this season.
With the new divisional alignment, last weekend’s matchup between Bow and Pelham pitted the top two teams in the division in the quarterfinals, with Bow handing the Pythons their first loss of the season to gain the top seed and home field advantage, making today’s final four the first time the Falcons have hosted a playoff game in the school’s history. They’re looking to make the most of it by trying to gain their first title game appearance since 2004, when they won the Division V title. Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough won the D-VI title two years ago, then plummeted to a one-win season last year before turning it around this season.
Both teams rely on strong running games. The Lakers’ Devante Carter rushed for 123 yards on 19 carries in the quarterfinal win, while Nick Hurd had 61 yards on 11 carries. Nick Brothers scored two touchdowns, one on an interception return, and the Lakers took advantage of six Gilford turnovers. Bow’s defense has shown it can shut down the run, however, holding Pelham to just 55 yards on 32 carries a week ago.
Bow is powered on the ground by Ehrenberg, the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher with 1,338 yards this season, including 226 of the team’s 285 last week. But the Falcons will throw, as well, if the opportunity arises, with quarterback Derek Polish spying targets Travis Reynolds and Kyle Strickland downfield.