There were two football games in Division II last weekend that changed the landscape heading into this week’s games.
Manchester West’s 28-17 win over Keene and Alvirne’s 28-27 win over Timberlane means that, going into this week, there are six teams in the division that have at least one win. Three of those teams – Keene, West and Winnacunnet – are 1-1, while there are three 1-2 teams – Alvirne, Timberlane and Merrimack.
Merrimack and Timberlane will meet Friday night at 7 p.m. in Merrimack, with the winner taking a step toward a possible playoff spot.
“It’s kind of a log jam and anything can happen,” Merrimack coach Joe Battista said. “Every week is going to be a big game for everybody. Everybody is still in the race. This week, to this point, it’s the biggest game of the season.”
Both teams are coming off losses, as Merrimack fell to Bishop Guertin 37-6 last Saturday. That game was 9-6 in the third quarter before the Cardinals’ offense exploded in the final quarter-and-a-half, as the Tomahawks’ depth caused to them to succumb to the humidity.
“It was a hot, muggy night,” Battista said. “Our energy was getting sapped. I think right now, we’re pretty healthy.”
That includes seniors Jackson King and Chaz Myers, who gave everyone at Stellos Stadium a scare Saturday when the two collided on a play in the third quarter. Myers was able to get off the field on his own, but King was down for a few moments and was helped to the sideline. Both eventually returned, but in limited roles. According to Battista, the pair, along with several other ’Hawks, were cramping up.
All those players should be back to play a Timberlane team that is battling some injuries of its own. The Owls were without their starting quarterback, Xxxx Xxxx, against Alvirne and Battista wasn’t sure if Timberlane would have him back.
“They were missing a couple of players,” Battista said. “The quarterback was out, both starting tackles were out, and I saw a couple of linebacker types who were out. I don’t know if the quarterback is going to be back or not.
“That’s a very proud program. We’ll have our hands full.”
Timberlane’s offense once again features a talented running back in Josh David, who spent most of the first three quarters playing under center last week. After falling behind 28-7, the Owls moved David back into the backfield and rallied to within one in the fourth quarter before a game-winning field goal fell short.
“It’s amazing how they always find that back,” Battista said. “Every year, they lose one and another one steps right in. (David) is the key. If we can’t stop him, we won’t win the game. I know they’ll be running him a ton.”
While the Merrimack coaching staff is aware of the importance of Friday’s game, Battista isn’t sure all of his players understand. He’s done his best this week to make sure they do.
“I’m going to put it out there,” he said. “I’m going to let them know who wasn’t in the lineup for Timberlane last week. I think they’re very much aware of the division being wide open and I think they’re aware of us being in every football game this year. I’m going to let them know that it’s another one that will come down to the end with a team that always gives us trouble.”