High school football preview: Concord looks to take next step, beat some of D-I’s best in 2023

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBELand DAN ATTORRI

Monitor staff

Published: 08-31-2023 3:36 PM

Progressing from three wins in his first season to five NHIAA wins and his program’s first playoff appearance since 2014 last year, Concord High School football head coach Jim Corkum has overseen a strong upward trajectory since taking over the program. In 2023, he says, it’s time for his team to take that next step: Being able to beat some of the top teams in Division I.

Last season, when the Crimson Tide finished 5-4 against New Hampshire opponents, the five wins came against teams with a combined record of 7-36, while the four losses came against teams with a combined record of 29-5 in the regular season. In other words, Concord took care of business against the lesser competition but struggled to break through against those at the top.

That’s not to say Corkum expects his group to win all of its games against the best opponents, but a big win or two would go a long way in continuing to propel the program in the right direction.

“When I look at last year, it was a year of us learning how to win,” Corkum said. “I think we had some good success and some things to build on. The thing that we’re really starting to talk to our kids about is it’s one thing winning games and beating teams. The logical next step for us is now we have to start beating good teams. … We gotta start beating some of these better teams and asserting ourselves as one of the good teams in the division.”

The good news for Concord was that all four losses came by 10 points or fewer, so the Tide were right there in every game.

Getting over that hump in 2023 will require contributions from several areas, including the quarterback position, where Corkum has yet to name a starter. Competition between senior Levi Madison and junior Colby Nyhan could go right up until the Tide’s Friday night season opener against Londonderry, he said.

“No matter what, we’ll be happy with either player that’s at quarterback,” Corkum said. “And if one’s not playing quarterback, I know they’re going to be able to help us somewhere else because they’re just good football players and tough kids.”

Whoever winds up winning the job will have senior running back Eli Bahuma to heavily rely on. The core of the Tide’s offense last year, Bahuma looks to follow up his junior campaign – where he rushed for over 1,500 yards and 22 touchdowns – with a similarly strong senior year. But it’ll take more than Bahuma for Concord to reach its goals.

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Corkum highlighted junior receiver Brett Tuttle and sophomore Trevor Craigue, as well as seniors Jackson Borkush and Oscar Humelsine Perez, as players he expects to take some of the pressure off of Bahuma when opponents inevitably key in on the star running back.

“Anytime you find other threats that teams have to respect, and they have to develop their defense around where they can’t just load up the box because we have somebody that can get speed to the outside, I think that just makes us much more balanced as an offense,” Corkum said. “As great as Eli is, he can’t be carrying the ball every single play, so we need to be able to rely on some other guys to make plays for us when we need it.”

With the season kicking off against a talented Londonderry team on Friday night, Corkum will need everybody ready to go if the Tide want to get off on the right foot this season.

“We’re playing some really, really good teams this year, so there are no off weeks,” he said. “We gotta make sure that we are loaded and ready to go every single week.”

BOW

Division: II East.

Coach: Paul Cohen (23rd year).

Last year: 9-2, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Adam Auclair, jr., TE/OLB; Josiah Funches, sr., RB/ILB; Jackson Hall, jr., G/DE; Hunter Hutchinson, so., OT/DT; Gavin McCabe, sr., RB/DB; Ryan McCabe, sr., TE/DE; Sean Nicholls, sr., OT/DT; Jared Dolder, sr., RB/DB/K

Top newcomers: Eli Ayers, so., TE/DE; Chase Flagg, so., RB/ILB; Miles Miller, so., RB/DB; Caleb Schumacher, so., RB/OLB

Outlook: The Falcons graduated 15 seniors, nine of them All-State selections, from last year’s final four squad.

“We will be a younger version of Bow football teams of the past,” Cohen said. “Having said that, I was pleased by our scrimmage performances against Concord and Kearsarge. Bow football will be ready for the challenges that await weekly on the gridiron this autumn.”

With last year’s starting quarterback and top three rushers gone, captains Gavin McCabe and Funches will see a greater share of the carries, and fellow captain Ryan McCabe will see a higher percentage of targets. Nicholls, Bow’s fourth captain, will anchor the line on both sides of the ball. Junior quarterback Brady Lover will be under center.

Teams to beat: “I think D-II will be wide open this year,” Cohen said. “Any of the playoff teams of last year could repeat, and there also could the proverbial dark horses that emerge as the season progresses.”

 

GILFORD-BELMONT

Division: II East.

Coach: Josh Marzahl (eighth year).

Last year: 10-1, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Hutch Haskins, sr., RB/LB; Logan Grant, sr., WR/DB; Neal Downs, sr., OL/DL; Gavin Clark, sr., OL/DL; Sam Young, sr., OL/DL

Top newcomers: Anakin Underhill, jr., QB; Noah Harder, jr., RB; Zakk Ober, sr., CB; Keith Cameron, sr., WR/S; Mason Sleeper, jr., WR/DB; Gino Montalto, so., WR/DB; Timmy Macaione, so., OL/DL

Outlook: The Golden Eagles graduated a big senior class. They also lost Division II Player of the Year Isaiah Reese to Phillips Exeter Academy and arguably D-II’s best defensive player, Michael Macaione, to Worcester Academy.

“This will create an opportunity for some new players to step into larger roles,” Marzahl said. “We return some senior leadership in most position groups which has helped the process. The players have worked extremely hard to be ready for this season and expect to compete each week.”

The Eagles return All-State First Team receiver Grant (D-II’s top pass catcher with 511 yards in the regular season), First Team lineman Clark, Second Team lineman Downs and Second Team linebacker Haskins. Underhill, a wide receiver last year, takes over at QB, while Harder and Haskins will take over as the main rushers. Ober will play a larger role in this year’s defense as the starting cornerback.

Teams to beat: Souhegan, Pelham.

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II East.

Coach: Matt Shaw (first year).

Last year: 4-5, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Reese Clermont, jr., RB; Michael Heine, jr., TE/DE; Nolan Beck, sr., OL/DL; Ryan Monaghan, jr., OL/DL; Cam Cheverie, sr., WR/CB; Brayden Hussey, sr., QB/FS

Top newcomers: Travis Garcia, jr., OL/DL; Jed Duquette, jr., OL/DL

Outlook: After five seasons as an assistant with the Pride, Shaw takes over the head coaching role and is looking to build off of the foundation started by coach Joe Raycraft by taking the next step – making the playoffs. The Pride fell just short of qualifying for the tournament last year.

“With some returning players stepping into new roles, returning starters and additions to the coaching staff, we are looking forward to a great season,” Shaw said.

Among the additions to the coaching staff is the arrival of Brendan Johnson to the offensive coordinator role. Johnson was the head coach at his alma mater, Bishop Brady, last season and played quarterback for Shaw while he was in high school.

PEMBROKE

Division: II East.

Coach: Will Moher (sixth year).

Last year: 2-7, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Joe Fitzgerald, sr., QB; Luke Hanson, jr., RB/LB/DE; Nick Cushing, jr., OL/DL; Jake Menczywor, so., TE; Trevyn Cannon, jr., WR/FS

Outlook: The Spartans are a young team and will rely heavily on their experience at the skill positions.

HILLSBORO-DEERING/HOPKINTON

Division: II West.

Coach: Jay Wood (eighth year).

Last year: 2-7, did not make tournament.

Top returners: Thaddeus Maughan, sr., G/ILB; Mason Nichols, sr., RB/DE/K; Noah Carter, sr., QB

Top newcomers: Michael McCaffrey, sr., OL/DE; Cole Guay, sr., OL/DE; Joey Simpson, jr., TE/RB/OLB; Daniel Richard, so., RB/OLB; Dominic Delbarone, so., OL/DL; Leo Vassar, so., OL/NT; Micah Adams, fr., RB/CB; Andrew Abair, fr., RB/CB; Jack Anderson, fr., OL/ILB

Outlook: HDH returns six starters on both sides of the ball, including Maughan, a First Team All-State selection, and Nichols, a Second Team pick.

“The Redhawks are excited for the 2023 season with 34 hard-working student-athletes on a mission to improve from (last season),” Wood said. “We have many new players with a passion for the game who are eager to learn. Knowledge equals reps and hopefully everyone gets plenty of reps throughout the season.”

JOHN STARK

Division: II West.

Coach: Ray Kershaw (third year).

Last year: 4-5, did not make tournament.

Top returners: Alex Descoteau, jr., OL/DL; Joey Dykstra, jr., QB/LB; Tyler Fredette, sr., TE/DB; Weston Haaretz, jr., RB/DB; Stephen Johnston, sr., OL/LB; Tim Lacharite, jr., RB/DB; Rory Magoon, sr., OL/DL; Byron Parrish, sr., WR/DB; Perry Stratton, sr., WR/DB; Blake Sutkus, sr., QB/DB; Drew Tower, jr., RB/DB; Donnie White, sr., RB/LB; Deltyn Williams, sr., FB/LB

Top newcomers: Lukas Boulanger, sr., TE/DE; Ty Gajowski, jr., TE/DL; Keegan LePage, sr., TE/DL

Outlook: After going winless in 2020 and winning a single game in 2021, the Generals made huge gains last season, finishing just a victory or two out of the playoffs. John Stark’s strength was a strong offensive line and a committee of backs to move the ball, and many of those players are among the 17 returning starters to this year’s squad. The Generals lack depth at the other skill positions but still have the potential to increase its win total from last season.

“Looking forward to our third season and seeing the growth of team putting it all together,” Kershaw said.

Teams to beat: Pelham, Souhegan, Milford.

KEARSARGE

Division: III.

Coach: David Yazzie (second year).

Last year: 2-7, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Jason Dyment, sr., RB/LB; Colin Croto, sr., RB/DB; Parker Goin, sr., QB/DB; Jack Cicoria, jr., TE/DB; Cole Giberson, so., RB/LB; Kellen Sullivan, so., TE/DE; Micheal Overton, jr., RB/DB; Brodie Malynowski, jr., OL/DE; Ben Greenwood, sr., TE/DB

Top newcomers: Kaleb Naughton, so., RB/LB; Niko Little, so., OL/DL; Bryce Gove, jr., OL/LB; Griffin Dixon, jr., TE/DB; Justin St. Onge, so., RB/DB; Aiden Ruchman, fr., RB/DB; Wyatt Brothers, fr., OL/DL; Emerson Cheney, so., RB/LB; David Patten, so., OL/DL

Outlook: “This year we have a great group of players,” Yazzie said. “Everything will be based on how well we grasp the concepts of offense and defense. We have players who have put in a great offseason and are looking forward to seeing the competitive nature in positional play.”

Teams to beat: Trinity, Campbell, Monadnock.

BISHOP BRADY

Division: IV.

Coach: Robert Clauss (first year).

Last year: 4-4, reached semifinals.

Returning starters: Josh Gentchos, sr., RB/LB; Talon Perkins, jr., WR/DB; Todd Sheppard, sr., QB/DB; Jason Doyle, jr., OL/LB; Evan Dow, sr., OL/DL; John McKerley, jr., RB/DB; Luke Jackson, jr., OL/DL; Danny Morette, sr., OL/DL

Top newcomers: Raymond Weatherbe, fr., OL/DL

Outlook: Clauss comes to Brady after serving as head coach at ConVal,and assistant coach at Nashua South, Salem and Dracut, Mass. The Giants return several players from last year’s team that made a run to the semifinals, including Second Team quarterback Sheppard, Second Team running back Gentchos, Honorable Mention offensive lineman Jackson, First Team defensive back Perkins and Second Team defensive linemen Morette and Dow.

 “We have a very good core group of players,” Clauss said. “They have done a nice job in the weight room. It will come down to how fast the team can master a new offense and defensive scheme. They are a playoff team from last year, and I believe they are ready to take the next step. Expectations are high, now we have to put in the work.”

FRANKLIN

Division: IV.

Coach: Tim Snow (third year).

Last year: 1-6, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Jacob Adler, so.; Noah Alers-Alers, sr.; Gabe Alers-Alers, sr.; Tyler Bennett, so.; Cam Carleton, so.; Nathan Holmes, so.; Harrison Kaplan, jr.; Cam Labrecque, so.; Brady Linton, sr.; Ryan Mango, sr.; Zeke McCoy, sr.; Matt Nason, jr.; David Randlet, jr.; George Sarkis, so.; Chris Supry, sr.; Steven Supry, sr.

Top newcomers: Jordan Carter, fr.; Richard Collins, sr.; Allan Emery, jr.; Kourtney Kaplan, fr.; Arom Trumble, fr.

Outlook: The Golden Tornadoes had a breakthrough in 2022, winning their first game in two years after a winless campaign with just a single touchdown scored in 2021. The smallest public high school football program in the state, Franklin only has 21 players on its roster, but many of them have played with Snow for three seasons. Quarterback McCoy and lineman Chris Supry were both All-State Honorable Mention last year.

“It has been a learning experience for all of us, but Franklin football is ready to be back on the Division IV map,” Snow said. “We have a small roster, but the players we have are committed to doing all they can every day to make this program better.”

Teams to beat: Somersworth, Newport.

WINNISQUAM

Division: IV.

Coach: Dave Allar (second year).

Last year: 2-5, did not make tournament.

Returning starters: Alex Nichols, sr., QB/LB; CJ Biancardi, sr., FB/LB; Nik Puffinburger, jr., QB/LB; John Shea, jr., G/DE; Brady Colby, so., FB/OLB; Michael DeFosse, jr., G/DT; Patrick Kenny, sr., OT/DT; Ben Otis, jr., OT/DT; Ethan Poole, so., WR/DE; Avery Woods, so., WR

Top newcomers: Frankie McComiskey, sr., WR/S; Caleb Robdau, sr.; Zach St. Onge, sr., K; Luke Cote, jr., NT; Brendan Goodwin, jr., K; Ben Fair, so., S; Lucas Fournier, so., NT; Gage Keyser, so., OT; Kyle Voight, so., DT; Nate Florio, fr., OT; Matthew Hibbert, fr., OT; Colin Parenteau, fr., LB

Outlook: “We have the potential to move forward this year,” Allar said. “These boys have the drive to challenge themselves this season and are hungry to win. We have some real strength this season when it comes to our running backs, with some work that still needs to be polished with our passing plays.”

Despite the graduation of five seniors, the Bears return a key piece of their offense in Honorable Mention All-State quarterback Alex Nichols.

Teams to beat: Somersworth, Newpo  rt, Winnisquam.

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