Queen City Jamboree: With McFarland at QB, Memorial opts for option

Aug. 26—MANCHESTER — If you watched Manchester Memorial take on Goffstown in Friday night's Queen City Jamboree, you may be wondering if Memorial head coach Rob Sturgis spent his offseason watching reruns of Army-Navy games or offensive highlights from some of Tom Osborne's Nebraska teams.

Why? Because Memorial has scrapped the spread offense in favor of an option attack this season.

Sturgis said the change in offense was made, in part, to take advantage of quarterback Connor McFarland's athleticism.

"They came to me and told me they were running triple option," McFarland said. "I was like, 'Cool. I'm so ready for it.' Running, getting into the open field and making people miss is one of my favorite things to do in football. I'm definitely in favor of it because we can get more of our playmakers involved.

"It just takes a lot of hard work and we still have more to work on to improve and see where we can get. It's coming along, for sure. I see more improvement every day."

As with any new offense, there will be growing pains. The Memorial offense wasn't as sharp as Sturgis hoped it would be during its 6-0 loss to Goffstown. Ball security was Memorial's biggest issue. The game's only touchdown came on Gavin Philbrook's 23-yard run.

Sturgis said he's committed to running the triple option long term.

"We want to try to develop an identity," he said. "The last few years we haven't really had an identity and we've always been a team that moves it between the 20s, but as soon as we get in the red zone we stall out. We wanted to really develop an identity as far as being a physical football team.

"When you have an athlete like Connor, you can also take advantage of his ability to get to the edge and run around people, so it was just a good fit and a good time to go to it, especially with a really young offensive line (two freshmen start). The hardest part is getting movement up front, because once you don't get movement, the play stalls.

"It was a very easy decision for us. This is what we'll run as long as me and Jordan (offensive coordinator Jordan D'Onofrio) are here."

Two new coaches

Two of the 10 teams that participated in the jamboree have first-year head coaches. Matt Lee is in his first season at Alvirne, and Anthony Nalen has replaced John Trisciani at Bishop Guertin.

BG displayed an effective passing attack during its 21-13 victory over Salem. Alvirne dropped a 25-7 decision to Bedford, which will likely be ranked No. 1 in the state when the Union Leader Power Poll is released this week.

Lee spent 11 seasons as an assistant coach at Greater Lowell Tech in Tyngsborough, Mass., before he took over at Alvirne earlier this year. The Broncos ended a 23-game losing streak when they finished last season with a victory over Goffstown.

Lee said his biggest challenge is changing the culture at Alvirne.

"If we're ever going to be any good, we have to believe we can win games," he said. "That's part of the reason we took Bedford. Those guys are supposed to be the best team in the state and we wanted to see how far away we are.

"I'd rather take on a program where there's some challenge, rather than get the keys handed to you from somebody who has a successful program going already."

Lee said this year's Alvirne team has five starters who didn't play football last year. Quarterback Charlie Crawford is back after missing most of last year with an injury.

Nalen took over a BG team that lost to Pinkerton in last year's Division I quarterfinals, but had to replace all five starters on the offensive line.

"I thought they did pretty good (Friday night), but certainly there's a lot of work to do in that department," Nalen said. "We have four really good receivers so we're hoping we'll be able to stretch the ball from sideline to sideline and put some tension on the defense to see if they can cover all four at the same time."

State runners-up clash

Friday night's first matchup featured Souhegan and Trinity, teams that finished as the runner-up in their respective divisions last year.

Pelham beat Souhegan 35-6 in last year's Division II championship game, and Campbell topped Trinity 16-14 to win the Division III title.

Souhegan has one of the state's top quarterbacks in Romy Jain, who tossed two TD passes in Souhegan's 14-6 victory Friday. Trinity received a TD pass from quarterback Jack Service.

"We have pretty much everybody back from last year," Trinity coach Rob Cathcart said. "We didn't lose much. Souhegan's a talented team, they're a Division II team and we wanted to see how we'd do against those guys. I thought we played reasonable against them.

"We made some plays, but they were playing quicker than we were. Our guys were playing at a little slower pace and that was costing us."

Culture 'shift' at Pembroke

Perhaps the most encouraging performance Friday was turned in by Division II Pembroke Academy, which fell to Division I Manchester Central, 14-12.

Pembroke returns senior quarterback Joe Fitzgerald, one of the key pieces on the Pembroke basketball team that lost to Pelham in last year's Division II championship game. Trayvon Cannon, a second team all-division selection last season, will be his top target.

"We have 30 kids and 19 are freshmen or sophomores," Pembroke coach Will Moher said. "We had a lot of seniors who were not as bought in as we needed them to be, and kind of fell by the wayside. We have a real good group, they're just young."

The Spartans are coming off a 2-7 season.

"The culture is shifting here, but it's a big shift and it's turning slow," Moher said.