GILFORD — ''We don't have much size overall but if we can stay healthy we've got a very athletic team which will be able to beat people with our speed,'' says Gilford High School football head coach Chris Marden.
Only 24 and in his first year as a head coach, Marden has been an assistant coach the last two seasons for the Golden Eagles, and says the team has over 20 players returning from last year's 1-8 squad which gives the team a veteran presence he expects will pay dividends as the season progresses.
The offense will be lead by senior quarterback Jack Athanas, who will be joined in the backfield by tailback Max Troiano and fullback David MacDonald while Kyle Gaudet will be the prime target for Athanas, along with Braedon Lacroix and Beck Stecher.
Up front in the offensive line will be guards Drake Parker and Seth Rowley, center Austin Blais and tackles Shane Podmore and Zach Poisson.
Marden says that there are a lot of two way players on the team and that Parker and Rowley will be the interior linemen with Podmore and Ben Waite at the end positions. Linebackers will include Gaudet and Thomas Saeger on the outside and MacDonald and Poisson on the inside. Stecher and Troiano will be the cornerbacks with Carter Mercer at safety.
Marden, a 2007 graduate of Laconia High School, was an All-State selection as an offensive lineman in 2006 and played at Norwich University where he was three-year starter and twice an all-conference offensive lineman.
He has also played professionally for the West Texas Roughnecks but gave up his dream of playing professionally after he was cut by the Orlando Predators.
Marden, who says he's now considering a career as a police officer, is looking to bring the football program back to the winning ways of just a few years ago when the Eagles went 9-2 and played in the Division VI championship game in 2010.
He's get a full coaching staff with former Souhegan and Kingswood head coach Scott Laliberte serving as defensive coordinator and Shawn Garrett, head JV coach and Jacob Kleckner, assistant JV coach.
''We were down to 19 players at the end of last year but we had over 30 turn out this year. We're down to about 26 now with some injuries but we're looking to build the program back up so that we can remain competitive with other teams in our division.''
A realignment of the divisions of New Hampshire high school football has cut the number of divisions from six to three and will see Gilford competing in the 19-team Division III.
The new three-division system has basically fused the old Divisions I and II into the new D-I, Divisions III and IV into the new D-II, and Divisions V and VI into the new D-III.
There are four conferences in each division, with the following lineup in Division III, which has 19 teams:
South: Bow, Campbell, Pelham and Somersworth.
Lakes: Franklin, Gilford, Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough, Newfound and Winnisquam.
West: Bishop Brady, Epping-Newmarket, Farmington-Nute and Raymond.
East: Fall Mountain, Mascoma, Newport and Stevens.
Eight teams will qualify for the playoffs with the top new teams in each conference meeting in the first playoff round. The four remaining teams will then be seeded using a point system and will meet in the semifinals, with the No. 4 seed playing at the No. 1 seed, and the No. 3 seed playing at the No 2 seed.
The Golden Eagles open their season on Saturday at Newport and will face some familiar foes in the Lakes conference, including Franklin, which posted 9-2 mark last year and was Division IV state champion, a rebuilding Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough squad which was 1-7 last year, as well Winnisquam which was 5-4 last year and Newfound which was 6-4 last year.
Sep. 7: at Newport, 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 14: Winnisquam 1:30 p.m.
Sept. 21: at Inter-Lakes/Moultonborough 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 28: Bow 1;30 p.m.
Oct. 5 Farmington 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 12 at Newfound 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 19 Raymond, 1:30 p.m.
Oct. 26 at Franklin 1:30 p.m.