Realignment a Mixed Bag for Stevens High

Valley News Correspondent
Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Claremont — While the realignment throughout New Hampshire athletics starting in 2018 will touch all the Stevens High teams, boys soccer may be affected most.

Every two years, changes are made as teams are moved around to accommodate enrollments and won-loss records.

Because Stevens boys soccer is coming off back-to-back successful seasons, the NHIAA soccer committee decided to elevate the Cardinals to Division II from Division III.

Ordinarily, this would not bother coach Jason Stone, but this change could not have happened at a worse time.

“As it is, we may have not enough players for a junior varsity program,” said Stone, whose appeal to stay in Division III was denied.

Stevens had just 26 players this past season, and 10 were seniors. Then there is one player who wants to play football next year and another who is talking about going to Kimball Union Academy.

Teams in Division III are able to use eighth graders on the high school teams, but that is not the case for Division II teams.

“This is bad timing,” Stone said. “If we are not able to have a junior varsity program what does that say to the soccer players at the middle school? Will they opt for another sport.”

On top of the numbers crunch, the Division II schedule, with the likes of Lebanon, Windham and the Seacoast teams, makes the task even more formidable.

Stone said he will do the best he can to increase the roster through the offseason programs. “But I don’t know,” he said.

Overall, Stevens is looking at many changes following the NHIAA classification committee meeting last month. Baseball, softball and boys and girls basketball will be moving up to Division II; girls soccer was at first moved to Division II, but a petition to stay in Division III was granted.

Field hockey also will stay in Division III, as will golf, volleyball and lacrosse.

Stevens football will stay in Division III, but the schedule will change, as several teams have moved to the newly created Division IV and two schools, Lebanon and Trinity, will be moving down a division. Other teams in Division III will include Kersarge, Hillsboro-Hopkinton, Epping-Newmarket, InterLakes-Moultonborough, Monadnock, Campbell, Somersworth and Newport.

Enrollment-wise, Somersworth and Newport could have played in Division IV, but both petitioned up.

The Division III football tournament will have new look, with just one 12-team cluster. Stevens Athletic Director Doug Beaupre said upcoming meetings with the football and scheduling will result in that determination. Beaupre anticipates that there will not be a bye week like this season, but he does not know how many regular-season games will be played, nor the tourney format. Beaupre believes teams can play as many as 10 regular season games.

If he had his druthers, Beaupre said he would prefer an eight-team tourney as opposed to other formats that would include byes.

“This is going to be a competitive division among more established programs,” Beaupre said. “Some schools were hurt playing in this division, now they will be playing more competitive games in Division IV.”

The Cardinal basketball, softball and baseball teams will be seeing some new teams on the schedule with the move to Division II and are looking at some extended road trips as schools such as Milford, Manchester West, Merrimack Valley, Pembroke, Kingswood, Souhegan, Bishop Brady, ConVal and John Stark could be on the schedule.

Baseball coach Paul Silva does not know how this will all wash out, but does not seem overly concerned.

“The competition is certainly going to be a step with the likes of Souhegan, but you can’t get worked up over it,” Silva said.

“There’s no perfect system. Somebody will hand me a schedule, and we’ll go play it.”