Can BG do it again?
NHIAA DIVISION II PREVIEW
The League: Keene, Dover, Spaulding, Merrimack, Timberlane, Bedford, Manchester West, Winnacunnet, Bishop Guertin.
Defending Champion: Bishop Guertin beat Dover, 16-7, in the 2011 Division II championship game.
Top Story Line: Will it be BG again? The Cardinals have won the Division II championship in seven of the last eight years.
Player to Watch: Keene quarterback Lucas Luopa, a three-year starter, is one of the reasons many are picking the Blackbirds to challenge for this year's Division II title.
Game to Watch: Bedford at BG (Sept. 29). This is Bedford's first year in Division II. The result of this game should give us a good idea of where the Bulldogs fit.
Noteworthy: BG may not be the powerhouse it was years ago, but the Cardinals still look like the team to beat until someone can prove otherwise. RB/WR C.J. Boykin and RB Blake Boudreau are among the offensive threats. BG's biggest quuestion may be at quarterback, where Pat Bilodeau and Tom Hurley are competing for the starting job. ... Keene, which has experience at the skill positions, is a popular preseason pick to supplant BG at the top of the standings. After that playoff spots appear to be there for the taking. ... Expect a bounce-back year from Winnacunnt, which missed the playoffs last fall after reaching the Division II championship game in back-to-back seasons. Improvement is expected at Merrimack as well. The Tomahawks entered the 2011 season with very little varsity experence. ... Bedford is another team to keep an eye on. There are more than 100 players in the program, including quarterback James Caparell, who has been the starter since his sophomore season. The Bulldogs, who lost to Portsmouth in last year's Division III championship game, will be without 6-foot-7 offensive tackle Will McInerny, who suffered season-ending injuries to each knee during the preseason. ... Dover, which reached the Division II championship game last year, appears to have enough talent to make another playoff appearance ... Claude Gagnon has replaced Dennis Fontaine as Spaulding's head coach. Spaulding has had four head coaches in the last four years. ... Alvirne dropped from Division II to Division III in the offseason. ... Timberlane may begin the season without running back Josh David, who gained 1,403 all-purpose yards last season. ... West's strength may be at quarterback, where Zach Ziemba and Zach Theriault are battling for playing time.
Up next: Division I preview.
-- Roger Brown