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Area football preview: Concord makes defensive changes for 2018



Monitor staff
Friday, August 31, 2018

After giving up 38.8 points per game during last year’s 2-7 campaign, Concord football coach Eric Brown decided it was time for a defensive change. So Brown, who has focused primarily on the Crimson Tide’s offense during his nine years as the team’s head coach, will be in charge of both the defense and the offense this season.

“We’ve been in a 3-4 for the last few years and now we’re switching to a 4-4, which is what I used to do many years ago when I was a defensive coordinator,” Brown said. “The kids have adjusted well to it so far. It’s better suited to stopping the run, and that’s what we need. We need to be a better run-defending team.”

The new-look defense will feature a lot of new faces. Concord returns just four starters on that side of the ball – senior outside linebacker Adrian Kennedy, senior defensive lineman Cam Thompson, senior middle linebacker Seth Malachi and junior defensive end Max Van Fleet.

Junior Kumwimba Twite will be at the defensive end spot opposite Van Fleet, who was an outside linebacker in the Tide’s 3-4 scheme. Brown will use a four-man rotation, anchored by Thompson, at the two defensive tackle spots. Junior Cortland Miller and sophomore Ronan McGonigle will rotate at the inside linebacker spot next to Malachi while senior Isaac Gladey and sophomore Kevin McDonough will rotate at the outside linebacker spot opposite Kennedy.

A pair of sophomores, Guy Kabate and Trevor Smith, will start on the corners and senior Zach Miles will play the lone safety spot in the new scheme. Sophomore Nate Vandersea is expected to see plenty of time at safety as Miles’s backup.

Vandersea – who was on the Concord Babe Ruth All-Star team that just went to the 13-15 World Series along with Smith, McGonigle and McDonough – figures to see plenty of time at safety because Miles figures to be spending plenty of energy as the Tide’s quarterback. A three-year starter who was a Division I North Honorable Mention last year and has committed to playing college baseball at St. Joseph’s in Maine, Miles has looked good in the preseason.

“Zach has a great handle on the offense and what we’re trying to do,” Brown said. “He’s a very good athlete and he’s looked great running the ball, and we’re going to need that from him.”

Miles will have an outstanding back next to him in Gladey, a First Team D-I North pick last year who has speed and toughness in his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame. Malachi, a 5-10, 215-pound bruiser, gives the Tide another great option on the ground.

The 6-4, 215-pound Kennedy will give Miles a big target when it’s time to throw the ball. Juniors Hamza Abdulrahman and Gage Piwowarczyk will join Kennedy at wide receiver while McGonigle, Vandersea and Kabate will all see time as slot receivers.

The biggest question marks on offense are along the line, where Concord will be starting two sophomores, Paul Buckles and Jarrett Lamoureux, a situation Brown called, “almost unheard of, but they’re handling it well.” Thompson (5-10, 250) returns to one guard spot and Nate Halleck (5-7, 225), who started at guard opposite Thompson last year, has moved to center. Senior Nick French (6-0, 220) will be the left tackle.

Brown expects plenty of competition from the other D-I North teams. Manchester Central has one of the top quarterbacks in the state, Goffstown returns the majority of its linemen from last year’s semifinal team and Bedford, “is always tough.” The one North unknown is Manchester Memorial, which underwent a coaching change after last year’s 0-9 season. The Tide will also play the D-I West teams, starting with Friday’s season opener against Nashua South, scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. at Memorial Field.

“We’re right in the mix,” Brown said. “Offensively we should be pretty good and give teams some problems. The secret to our success will be if we can stop people.”

BOW

Division: II

Coach: Paul Cohen (18th year)

Last year: 8-3, lost in championship game

Returning starters: Matt Nicholls, sr., capt., RB/DE; Jack Wixson, sr., capt., DB/RB; Seamus O’Reilly, sr., capt., OL/LB; Andrew Berube, jr., OL/DL; Chris Wheeler, jr., OL; Ben Boisvert, sr., OL; Sebastian Beaulieu, jr., DB; Thomas Rolla, jr., DB

Top newcomers: “There are no ‘top newcomers,’ per se, but rather many players who were backups last year in some capacity and have worked well to improve their play and should contribute this autumn,” Cohen said.

Outlook: The Falcons won the D-III title in 2013, moved up to D-II in 2016 and, despite being one of the smallest schools in the division, reached two straight D-II finals. Bow will need to fill a lot of holes (including at quarterback, where senior Corey Gott is taking over for the graduated Matt Harkins), but Cohen and his coaching staff have proven they know how to develop players and win games.

“We graduated a lot last year, but we do return many players with a wealth of experience. Our numbers are down this year, as with many teams statewide,” Cohen said. “That having been said, we will come prepared to play each week, and represent Bow High School as well as possible. As always, the ability to keep as many starters as possible healthy well into the season is of paramount importance, but just as crucial is the ability for backup players to perform at a high level.”

Teams to beat: “Plymouth, John Stark, Hanover,” Cohen said. “But, of course, each season is different and no one can say with utter certainty which teams will emerge to move on to the postseason.”

GILFORD/BELMONT

Division: II

Coach: Josh Marzahl

Last year: 1-7, did not make playoffs

JOHN STARK

Division: II

Coach: Kevin McGinty (1st year)

Last year: 6-3, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: Aaron Bergeron, WR/DE; Bo Lyons, RB/CB; Jacob Cole, RB/FS; Jacob Ridenour, RB/LB; Logan Beliveau, RB/LB; Noah Bellemore, OL/DL

Top newcomers: Nikos Biskaduros, WR/CB; Nathan Tower, QB/DE; Thomas Johnston, RB/LB; Javonte Ellison, TE/DE

Outlook: Skill position depth looks to be a strength for the Generals with Cole, a Second Team D-II North pick last year, and Lyons forming a nice 1-2 running punch and Bergeron providing a physical receiving threat. There’s a lot of work to do on the offensive line, where four of the five starters graduated, and the Generals will also have to replace quarterback Parker McQuarrie, a First Team D-II North pick last year who is now at St. Paul’s and has received scholarship offers from major college programs like Michigan and Pittsburgh. The defense looks solid up the middle with Bellemore, who McGinty called, “one of the best defensive tackles in the state,” and linebackers Beliveau and Ridenour.

“Success in 2018 will depend on our ability to piece together an offensive line that can protect our young quarterback,” McGinty said.

Teams to beat: Bow, Plymouth, Hanover

MERRIMACK VALLEY

Division: II

Coach: Joe Raycraft (1st year)

Last year: 2-6, did not make playoffs

Returning starters: Konnor Abbot, sr.; Max Lacy, sr.; Rick Hazeltine, sr.; Chase Keyser, jr.; Trenton Waters, jr.; Dylan Lessard, jr.; Christian Borknick, sr.

Outlook: “We have strength in numbers. Players have been working hard and getting better each day,” Raycraft said. “We’re looking for senior leadership to bring along the young players. We have a ways to go to turn the program around, but the coaching staff has been doing a great job.”

Teams to beat: Raycraft expects a “very competitive division.”

PEMBROKE

Division: II

Coach: Will Moher (1st year)

Last year: 0-8, did not make playoffs

Returning starters: Ben Lewis, sr., RB/FS; Brandon Jawidzik, sr., WR/OLB; Mason Illies, sr., OG/DT; Jack Schaeffer, so., WR/CB; Matt Dahood, so., OT/DE; Cody Godin, sr., WR/CB

Top newcomers: Ryan Casey, so., QB; Kyle Roukey, sr., WR/RB/SS

Outlook: The Spartans have gone 2-25 during the last three seasons and they’re on their third head coach in the last four years, but Moher is maintaining a positive approach.

“We are young, but eager to improve and make a name for ourselves,” Moher said. “Our motto for this year is ‘Earn Respect,’ and that’s exactly what we are out to do. We have a great set of skill players but need the line to come of age faster than some of them may want.”

HILLSBORO-DEERING/HOPKINTON

Division: III

Coach: Jay Wood (3rd year)

Last year: 1-7, did not make playoffs in D-II

Returning starters: Caleb Yianakopolos, sr., QB/S/P; Thayer maughan, sr., OL/DL; Kevin McCaffrey, sr., OL/DL; Reed Tanuvasa, sr., WR/DB; Jordan Berrocales, jr., RB/LB; Colby Quiet, jr., FB/DL/K; Charles Veitch, jr., TE/DL; Jack Horne, jr., WR/DB; Max Costello, so., QB/WR/LB; Michael Oberheim, so., OL/LB; Vincent Waddell, so., OL/LB; Jonathan McMahon, so., OL/LB

Top newcomers: Dylan Barrett, so., FB/LB; Evan Jacobsen, jr., OL/DL; Aidan Hudak-Hall, so., OL/DL; Alex Brown, so., OL/DL; Cole Johnson, sr., OL/DL; Joe Sawitsky, sr., WB/DB; Tyler Allen, jr., WB/LB; Jack Morrall, fr., RB/DB; Quinn Whitehead, fr., TE/DB; Dan Rinden, jr., OL/DL; Nick Higginbotham, jr., WR/DB; Dan Marshall, sr., OL/DL

Outlook: The Red Hawks bring back a lot of experience and talent, led by Second Team D-II South picks Yianakopolos and Maughan. And it feels like they’re finally playing in the right division after moving down from D-II.

“We have size, speed, and talent throughout all four classes and our work ethic has been very good throughout preseason,” Wood said. “Accountability is needed across the board and will be key in our mission to compete and be successful in D-III.”

KEARSARGE/
MOUNT ROYAL

Division: III

Coach: Zach Matthews (7th year)

Last year: 4-5, lost in quarterfinals

Returning starters: Brodie Mulligan, jr., WR/DE; Gavyn Magistro, jr., RB/LB; Jak Jallah, sr., QB/DB; Noah Cooper, sr., WR/DB; Brodie Messer, sr., RB/LB; Zach Goin, sr., OL/DL; Kyle Hernon, sr., OL/DE; Nolan Haley, so., OL/DL

Top newcomers: Aiden Markoff, so., WR/DB; Brendan Akpan, sr., WR/DB; Jake Galluzzo, so., RB/LB; Nathan Harris, jr., WR/LB; Brandon Ross-Thompson, jr., OL/DL; Andrew Normandin, jr., WR/DB

Outlook: Matthews has some key pieces to work with on the offensive side of the ball this season, especially with the return of upperclassmen Mulligan, Magistro, Jallah, Cooper and Messer. But with only eight returning starters, Kearsarge will be counting on a lot of new players to step into roles and help the Cougars build off last year’s tournament appearance. “I really like the athleticism and strength of this group,” Matthews said. “They have worked very hard during the summer and the preseason to get ready for the challenging schedule ahead.”

Teams to beat: Monadnock

BISHOP BRADY

Division: IV

Coach: Jermaine McKenzie (1st year)

Last year: 4-4, did not make playoffs in D-III

Returning starters: Patrick Brust, jr., QB

Top newcomers: A.J. Partington, fr.; Kyle Price, fr.; Matt Wiley, fr.

Outlook: McKenzie may be new to Brady, but he’s not new to high school football, having coached at multiple Massachusetts schools like Cambridge Rindge and Latin, Cathedral High School, Matignon High School and Boston Latin. McKenzie is also the co-founder of the City Youth Sports Training and Education Movement in Boston. He’ll use that background to get the most out of Brady’s 20-man roster. Brust may be the only returning starter, but he will still provide a solid foundation from the quarterback spot. And there are other players on the roster with varsity experience, like seniors Alex Andrews and Scott Franklin and juniors Jack Compton and Ismael Rivera.

“We are in a division with well-coached teams,” McKenzie said. “Our goal is to get better each day and to compete on game days.”

FRANKLIN

Division: IV

Coach: Jeff Davis (2nd year)

Last year: 2-6, did not make playoffs in D-III

WINNISQUAM

Division: IV

Coach: Pat Riberdy (11th year)

Last year: 1-7, did not make playoffs

Returning starters: Evan Judkins, sr.; Gunnar Horman, jr.; Kobe Briand, sr.; Cameron Roberts, sr.; Anthony Montalto, sr.; Angelo Glover, sr.; Xoren Powell, sr.; Caden Remillard, sr.; Philip Nichols, so.; Garret Mango, so.; Brandon Marceau, so.

Top newcomers: Mason Fellows, so.; Chandler Partello, so.; Brycen Wiles, sr.

Outlook: The Bears have a young team (24 freshmen and sophomores on the 35-man roster), but there is still a decent amount of experience among those young players. Winnisquam will look to be balanced on offense, aggressive on defense and expects to make the playoffs in the new D-IV.

Teams to beat: Franklin, Newfound, Bishop Brady