And, finally, we bring you the Elite 8 power rankings for Southwest Connecticut, where, frankly the best football is played year-in, year-out.
I had a real, real, real tough time sifting through my memory, basing what I’ve seen, heard and what I know about our fair region’s top teams, and then matching that up against Friday’s wild proceedings to produce this week’s rankings.
There was, however, no doubt as to my No. 1. New Canaan dissected St. Joseph efficiently and — dare I say — ruthlessly on a rainy afternoon at Dunning Stadium (video highlights, especially for you non-Cablevision subscribers, will be upcoming tomorrow. Sorry I haven’t had much of a chance. Hopefully the Central-Greenwich highlight reel whet the appetite some).
Before we get to the rest of the list, just a quick word on those of you who don’t know: The Elite 8 rankings are strictly southwest Connecticut, which is to say the Connecticut Post’s coverage area for football. This means all of the SWC, all of the FCIAC, the lower-NVL (Ansonia, Derby, Seymour, Woodland), the southwest CSC teams (Platt Tech, Bullard Havens, Abbott Tech), and the Western SCC: Fairfield Prep, Shelton, Amity, Milford schools, West Haven, Notre Dame-WH, New Haven schools and Hamden. The Green Dragons and Wilbur Cross are as far east as we go. So no Cheshire, no Wallingford, no Shoreline and no Xavier.
I’d like to include the entire SCC, but we cover 50 schools already, which is already pushing coverage on a Friday night.
Anyway, here’s the quick rundown of the Elite 8 heading into Week 7.
1. New Canaan – Finally got to see the Rams play, and a big game at that. Turner Baty throws an excellent ball and his receivers — especially Cody Newton, who is fly paper every time the Rams are in a tough spot — are fantastic. The lines are tough, the defense is strong. This is a confident group, which understands the best is yet to come. Not too many flaws here… if any at all. They’re No. 1, partially by default given the teams ahead of them going down. Staples and Pomperaug were options, but this was an easy decision.
2. Pomperaug – Probably the surprise of the list, especially since they vault over Staples. I’ve seen Pomperaug twice. Both times they dismantled their SWC opponent. In week 1 they blitzed Stratford and in Week 3 they hammered Bethel–a team that has subsequently handled almost everyone else on its schedule. Pomperaug has one the the best defenses I’ve seen and some of the best collection of players I’ve seen. They’d give anyone in this list a battle, and then some.
3. Staples – Perhaps I’d like them more with Brandon Pacilio still under center. But this is remains a very strong team without him. We’ll learn more about Staples in the next few weeks as new QB Keith Gelman cuts his varsity teeth at QB. Staples’ defense, one of the best I’ve seen this year, should give him ample time to grow.
4. Notre Dame-WH – I dabbled in ranking this wrecking crew higher. They have some of the SCC’s best playmakers and, frankly, frittered away that Week 2 game against Xavier. Since then, they’ve been on a big-time roll. Their blitz of Wilbur Cross last week was, perhaps, the most impressive performance of the week. This is a team that’s only motivated itself after falling to Xavier. I like the Green Knights more and more each week.
5. Hamden – My former No. 1 Green Dragons… what to say? That game was theirs for the taking last week, but Xavier seems to have exposed some cracks in their armor. The offense really hasn’t exploded the way we thought. Jordan Teague‘s ankle injury hasn’t helped (then again he still ran for over 100 yards against Xavier) and the passing game can be suspect at times. The defense, however, is outstanding. It did everything it could in last week’s game. It can’t play any better. The SCC Division I is a brutal, unforgiving league. I’ll take Hamden’s 5-1 resume over most.
No. 6 Greenwich – The Cardinals have been impressive in all but a game. Last week’s performance against Central was one of their worst I’ve seen in a long time: Misthrown balls, critical turnovers and a sudden inability to stop the run. Yet, after all that, the Cardinals still were in a position to win — or at least tie — the game. Central just played better. There are some flaws to fix, but I’m going to give the Cardinals a pass for now. Central was their third straight road game and, perhaps, were preoccupied over what Central couldn’t do against Trumbull (a team it handled rather easily) to think about what Central could do to them. Greenwich losses are rare, they may not be as good as New Canaan at this point, but they’re still pretty darn good.
No. 7 Masuk – I thought Masuk would have a much easier time with Stratford and, for awhile, they did until Stratford tied up what was once a 21-0 game. Remember, this is still a very young bunch and it’s going to make some errors. But when push came to shove, Masuk showed it knows how to respond to a challenge. The run game has probably been the team’s most impressive weapon thus far (Colin Markus is going to be a good player for a long time). Masuk may have run more, especially if Anthony Giaimo‘s injury keeps him out for an extended period. The defense has been prone to giving up real estate, but their second-half performance vs. Stratford was a step in the right direction.
No. 8 Central — Where to rank the suddenly resurgent Hilltoppers. They clearly deserve to get in here because they clearly showed they stack up with anyone. There were some moments against Greenwich that made you scratch your head over how the Hilltoppers could have lost to Trumbull so decisively. Maybe they really need to feature Christon Gill more as a runner than a passer and get him into an open field? That 9-play, third-quarter drive on the ground that gave Central the lead against Greenwich was a thing of beauty. You just don’t see teams push Greenwich around like that. The defense can be very good. Still, the Trumbull loss is still fresh in our heads. We’d like to see Central go toe-to-toe with New Canaan before they can make a real dent in the rankings.
So, there you go… one man’s thoughts on where our regional teams stand heading into Week 7. Again, tough call on how to rank them. As we’ve seen, nothing is certain. We can guarantee this: there will more shakeups in the weeks ahead.