Laconia football to face bigger schools next year

LACONIA — Although the Laconia High School Sachems will be representing the smallest school in Division II on the gridiron for the next two seasons, Coach Craig Kozens said, "We will get kids and we will compete."

The New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association has yet to finalize the schedules for 2016, but Division II, consisting of schools with enrollments between 590 and 945, will shrink from four conferences to two — North and South— with 11 schools, which remain to be determined in each. Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs with the conference champions as top seeds followed by the next best six teams from either conference as determined by a rating system.

Tentatively, Laconia is slated to play in the North Conference, along with Kennett, Plymouth, Kingswood, Gilford/Belmont, St. Thomas Aquinas, Lebanon, Hanover, Merrimack Valley, John Stark, and Hillsboro-Deering/Hopkinton.

While Gilford has competed in Division III, next season will be the first for the cooperative Gilford/Belmont program after playing at the junior varsity level for the past two years. Likewise, the Hillsboro-Deering Hopkinton cooperative program will make its debut in Division II.

Each team will play a nine-game schedule, likely including eight games against conference opponents and one against a team from the South Conference.

Kozens said that with teams from 22 schools — all larger and some much larger than Laconia — competing for a spot in the playoffs will be challenging. He said that last season the Sachems drew from a pool of less than 50 players and with injuries and illness fewer than 40 closed closed the season.

"I'm guessing they looked at our reputation and not our numbers," Kozens said, adding that he would prefer enrollment of 600 to qualify for Division II.

However, Kozens said that Laconia's game against Gilford/Belmont, tentatively scheduled to cap the season, will offer a rivalry between neighbors that is likely to attract a large crowd.

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Dogs, birds die in Moultonborough house fire caused by gas grill

MOULTONBOROUGH – A two-alarm fire that killed two dogs and five birds at a home on Route 25 Saturday night was caused by a malfunctioning gas grill according to Fire Chief David Bengston.
"It was started by a gas grill on the back porch. The couple were getting ready to cook and had problems with the grill and the fire extended to the house,'' said Bengston.
He said that the fire at 768 Whittier Highway was reported at 6:08 p.m. by the owners, Terrance Jatko and Shirley-Ellen Dale, who told the first responders at the scene that no one was inside the home but animals were still inside.
Firefighters were able to rescue three dogs who were downstairs but were unable to reach the five birds and two dogs on the second floor of the building because flames had spread rapidly.
Bengston said that firefighters were able to contain the fire but not before it burned through a portion of the roof. He said the building is uninhabitable but not a total loss and it will be up to the insurance company and the owners to decide what course to follow.
During the fire traffic was rerouted around Rte. 25, which was closed for about three hours.
American Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteers met with the couple displaced by the fire to ensure they had a safe place to sleep with food, clothing and other essentials.
Moultonborough firefighters were assisted by fire crews from West Ossipee, Ashland, Center Harbor, Holderness, Sandwich, Tamworth and Tuftonboro.
Weirs Engine 5 from Laconia covered Center Harbor while firefighters from that town were assisting Moultonborough at the scene.

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Three people hurt in city crosswalks

LACONIA — Police are investigating three incidents in which pedestrians were struck by motor vehicles while crossing city streets, two of whom were hit while in crosswalks.

On Sunday, a 21-year-old woman from Laconia was struck by a white passenger van driven by Robert Mahoney, 44, of South Main Street, in the the crosswalk at Union Avenue and Messer Street. According to police, she entered the crosswalk on a solid walk signal and was struck in the southbound lane of Union Avenue.

The woman was brought to Lakes Region General Hospital with no apparent serious injuries. Police report that neither speed nor alcohol appear to have contributed to the accident, but the investigation is continuing.

At 6:28 a.m. Monday, a pickup truck struck a baby carriage carrying an infant at the intersection of North Main Street and New Salem Street. Police reported that Jessica Caldon of Laconia was within the crosswalk when a Nissan pickup truck driven by Richard Langlois of Laconia hit the carriage and tipped it over, causing the three-month-old infant to fall onto the street. The infant was taken to Lakes region General Hospital for what police described as "minor injuries." A preliminary investigation found that speed and alcohol did not contribute to the accident.

Just hours later, at 10:27 a.m., a man in a wheelchair attempting to cross the entrance to the parking lot between the Belknap Mill and City Hall on Beacon Street East was struck by a trailer being towed by a truck driven by Stephen Vilela of Laconia. Capt. Matt Canfield said the man was taken to Lakes Region General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

Police urge motorists to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks and use caution when driving in congested areas. Police ask anyone who may witnessed any of these three incidents, or have information about them, to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Greater Laconia Crime Line at 524-1717.

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