We press on with the final two classes of the CIAC state quarterfinal draw.
In Class M, which has strengthened considerably in recent weeks, we have a defending state champ vs. a young but talented SCC Division II power.
We have a pair of playoff babies in Plainville and Gilbert/Northwestern, who have played in a grand total of one playoff game in their histories. Plainville might be the feel-good story of the tournament. Having gone 1-19 in its two previous seasons, they’re in the playoffs with a new coach. They go into the tournament, however, without their starting QB.
On the other side of the draw, we have Brookfield, an SWC power just two years removed from a state title taking on Lyman Hall, SCC school making its second playoff trip, but still hobbled somewhat by the absence of three key players. Finally, we have a CCC upstart in Platt vs. an ECC power in New London that is only three years removed from its title.
Class S looks weaker than previously thought a few weeks ago, with many of the teams backing into the tournament draw. Hyde takes a three-game losing streak into its game with Ansonia, the state’s all-time leader in playoff appearances. The Chargers looked dominant throughout before getting bumped off by Naugatuck on Thanksgiving.
We have Sacred Heart, the state’s only 6-4 team to make the field, but on that’s led by the best passing duo in the state. The Hearts, making their first playoff appearance in 22 years takes on one of the surprise teams of the tournament, Valley Regional/Old Lyme — dominant at 10-0 and having the best season in school history.
We have both of last year’s Class SS finalists, Montville and St. Joseph in the draw. Montville, playing as well as anyone in the state, takes on Cromwell. St. Joseph, out of the FCIAC, hobbles into its state quarterfinal to take on Jack DeBiase and Woodland.
Again, read the synopsis, make your pick and add your comments on who you think will advance to Saturday’s semifinals.
No. 8 Hillhouse at No. 1 Berlin
WHERE — Sage Park, Berlin
RECORDS — Hillhouse 7-3 (SCC Division II West runners-up); Berlin 10-0 (CCC Division III champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Hillhouse 6-2; Berlin: 3-12
LAST APPEARANCE – Hillhouse: 2008 (lost to Darien in Class MM semifinals 35-32); Berlin: 2009 (defeated Bethel 46-6 in Class M championship).
PLAYERS TO WATCH –Hillhouse: Fresh. RB Harold Cooper (1,000+ yards rushing); Sr. RB/LB Taurese Washington; Sr. WR/DB/K Steven Dejournett; Sr. OL/DL Tyvon Williams (6-0, 365); Soph. QB Je’Vaughn Moore. Berlin: Sr. RB/LB Max DeLorenzo (1,174 yards rushing, 18 TD); Sr. LB Mason Powers (6-2, 210); Sr. OL/DL Joe Dellaquila (6-3, 220)
KEY STATS – All-state back Max DeLorenzo is committed to UConn. …Berlin averages 40 points (5th best in the state) and allows just over 11 per game. It’s closest victory was 12-6 over Bloomfield. The Redcoats have won 12-straight dating to last year’s playoffs. …Hillhouse is playing in its second state playoff under coach Tom Dyer. Hillhouse has won 2 state titles and is 5-2 in the state playoffs since 2002. …The Academics have won three straight since a 9-6 loss to No. 1 Xavier.
THE PICK – Berlin 35-14
No. 5 Plainville at No. 4 Gilbert/Northwestern
WHERE – Robert H. Frost Complex, Torrington High School
RECORDS – Plainville 8-2 (CCC Division IV co-champions), Gilbert/Northwestern 8-2 (Pequot Uncas runner-up).
PLAYOFF RECORD – Plainville 0-1; Gilbert/Northwestern 0-0
LAST APPEARANCE — Plainville: 1997 (lost to Platt 18-11 in 1997 Class M semifinals). Gilbert/Northwestern: First appearance.
PLAYERS TO WATCH –Plainville: Sr. OL/DE Kevin Spence (6-0, 200); Jr. RB Adam Foster; Jr. FB/DE Chris Kuzia; Sr. FB/LB/QB Ross Zettergren; Sr. OL/DL Leon Stefanski; Gilbert/Northwestern: Jr. OL/LB J.P. Dulac (8 sacks); Jr. RB Devon Molway (1,210 yards rushing, 10 TD); Sr. WR/DB Drew McCarthy (5 INT).
THINGS TO KNOW – Neither team has ever won a playoff game. …Plainville coach Chris Ferrell is in his first year. Plainville was 0-10 and gave up 397 yards last season. This season, Plainville has allowed just 121. …Plainville won seven straight at midseason, including its first home win in three years, before a Thanksgiving loss to Northwest Catholic. …Plainville lost QB Tony Lopizzo for the season with a knee injury suffered in that game. …Gilbert has rushed for 2,082 yards and 23 TDs this season and has registered 33 sacks, second-best recorded in the state behind Masuk. The Yellowjackets have also made 13 interceptions.
THE PICK – Gilbert/Northwestern 28, Plainville 7
No. 6 Lyman Hall at No. 3 Brookfield
WHERE – Brookfield High School Stadium Field
RECORDS – Lyman Hall 7-3 (SCC Division II West runners-up), Brookfield 8-2 (SWC third-place)
PLAYOFF RECORD – Lyman Hall 1-0; Brookfield 7-4
LAST APPEARANCE — Lyman Hall: 1985 (defeated Middletown 28-18 in Class M championship); Brookfield: 2008 (defeated Ledyard 16-14 in Class M championship).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Lyman Hall: Jr. RB Joe Desandre (1,114 yards, 13 TD rushing); Sr. RB/DB Zac Falconeri (1,1138 yards, 18 TD); Sr. QB/CB Kyle Upton; Sr. RB/LB Billy Graeb Brookfield: Sr. WR/DB Brian Kelly (19 catches, 542 yards, 10 TD; 300 yards rushing 4 TD; 9 INT, 3 defensive TDs); Soph. RB/LB Leaon Gordon (1,161 yards, 14 TD rushing); Soph. QB Boeing Brown (1,057 yards 15 TD); Sr. TE/LB Shea McGorty (6 sacks); Sr. OL/DL Dion Koumoutseus (6-3, 300); Sr. DB/WR Nick Paez.
THINGS TO KNOW – Brookfield is making its fifth state playoff appearance under coach Rich Angarano. …Brookfield’s Brown took over as the starter after a week 1 loss to Newtown. …Brookfield is recorded as the No. 10 rushing offense in the state with 2,570 yards …Brookfield has won seven straight since a 49-7 loss to Masuk, scoring more than 40 points in four of those games. ..Gordon has run for over 200 yards in his last two games. …Desandre and Falconeri are only the second pair in school history to rush for over 1,000 yards in the same season. …Lyman hall won six straight games at midseason, including a 28-20 victory over fellow Class M playoff team Hillhouse. …Three Lyman Hall players were suspended 10 days for violation of school policy the day before Thanksgiving.
THE PICK – Brookfield 28-14
No. 7 Platt at No. 2 New London
WHERE – Canamella Field, New London
RECORDS – New London 8-2 (ECC Large Division runners-up); Platt 8-2 (CCC Division III third-place).
PLAYOFF RECORD – New London 7-6; Platt 1-3
LAST APPEARANCE — New London: 2009 (lost to Bethel 42-6 in Class M semifinals); Platt: 2004 (lost to Branford 54-14 in Class MM semifinal).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Platt: Sr. RB/LB Henry Jackson (623 yards, 8 TDs rushing); Jr. QB/CB John Marks (1,625 yards, 13 TD passing); Kahari Davis; Sr. OL/DL Anthony Sanders; New London: Sr. QB Josh Clements (1,400 yards, 20 TDs); Jr. RB/LB Kyle McKinnon (900 yards rushing, 13 TD); Sr. FB/LB Stefan Dance; Sr. WR/DB Garrick McQueen; Sr. LB Carlos Lozada.
THINGS TO KNOW – Platt is ranked No. 20 in passing offense. …Platt’s only losses were to Division III rivals Bristol Eastern (28-20) and Berlin (45-14). …New London averages 32 points per game, and just 11 points per game. …The Whalers won eight straight during the season, its only losses were to Montville in the season opener and NFA on Thanksgiving.
THE PICK – New London 49-6
No. 8 Sacred Heart at No. 1 Valley Regional/Old Lyme
WHERE – Valley Regional High School, Deep River
RECORDS – Sacred Heart 6-4; Valley Regional/Old Lyme 10-0 (Pequot Sassaucus champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD – Sacred Heart 1-2; Valley Regional/Old Lyme 0-0.
LAST APPEARANCE — Sacred Heart: 1991 (lost to Stonington in Class SS championship); Valley Regional/Old Lyme: First appearance.
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Sacred Heart: Soph. WR/DB David Coggins (78 catches, 1,417 yards, 9 TDs; Sr. QB Rohan Ifill (2,607 yards, 24 TD, 14 INT); Valley: Jr. QB Jimmy Fairfield-Sonn (2,262 yards total offense, 24 TD passing, 26 TD rushing); Sr. DE/TE Mitchell King (6-6, 232); Sr. OL/DE Cavan Flynn.
THINGS TO KNOW– Sacred Heart’s Coggins and Ifill form the top passing-catching combo in the state. Both are No. 1 in their respective categories. …Ifill is No. 1 in the state in total offense. …Coggins, considered one of the top sophomore talents in the country, is back from a 1-game suspension for fighting during a Week 9 win over Woodland. …Fairfield-Sonn, a converted wide receiver, is No. 9 in total offense. …King has offers from Tulae and Temple, and receiving interest from several other Division I schools. …Valley Regional has allowed just 55 points this season, lowest total in the state, and is ranked No. 10 in total offense. …Sacred Heart has allowed 28 points per game while scoring 31 points per game.
THE PICK – Sacred Heart 36, Valley Regional/Old Lyme 34
No. 5 Woodland at No. 4 St. Joseph
WHERE – Taft Field at Fairfield Ludlowe
RECORDS – Woodland 7-3, St. Joseph 7-3
PLAYOFF RECORD – Woodland 4-1; St. Joseph 10-2
LAST APPEARANCE — Woodland: 2007 (lost to Seymour 46-28 in Class SS semifinal); St. Joseph: 2009 (defeated Montville 14-3 in Class SS championship).
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Woodland: Sr. QB/DB Jack DeBiase (6 INT; 1,384 yards, 13 TD rushing; 819 yards passing); Jr. OL/DL Zack Plourde; Jr. DL Jeff Holder; Sr. TE/LB Zach Happy; Sr. RB/DB Jake Pinhoe; St. Joseph: Sr. FB/LB Tyler Matakevich; Sr. QB Joe Della Vecchia (2,395 yards, 27 TD passing, 522 yards rushing, 4 TD); Sr. WR/DB Quinn Irwin; Sr. RB/DB Joe Burns; Sr. WR/DB Pat Mulligan (12 TD); Sr. RB/LB L.J. Hunt (724 yards rushing); Sr. LB Sean Chinova.
THINGS TO KNOW – Woodland is No. 7 in the state in rushing offense, with 2,669 yards per game. …DeBiase converted from tailback to quarterback this season and is No. 11 in total offense. …St. Joseph is no. 7 in total offense, but allows 25 points per game. …Della Vecchia is questionable with an ankle injury suffered in the Thanksgiving finale vs. Trumbull, as are two linemen. …Matakevich, an all-state pick as a junior, missed the first five games of the season with a broken foot. St. Joseph is 4-1 with him in the lineup. …St. Joseph’s losses were to Wilton, Darien and Trumbull. …Woodland’s losses were to Ansonia, Wolcott and Sacred Heart. …Both teams claim a victory over Class L combatants New Canaan (St. Joseph) and Naugatuck (Woodland). …St. Joseph is 3-0 over NVL teams in the last two years, including a 57-7 victory over Holy Cross in last year’s semifinals.
THE PICK – St. Joseph 34-20
No. 6 Hyde at No. 3 Ansonia
WHERE — Jarvis Stadium at Nolan Field, Ansonia
RECORDS – Hyde 7-3 (Pequot Sassaucus fourth-place), Ansonia 9-1 (NVL runners-up)
PLAYOFF RECORD – Hyde 8-3; Ansonia 24-13
LAST APPEARANCE — Hyde: 2009 (defeated Northwesth Catholic 21-0 in Class S championship); Ansonia: 2009 (lost to Northwest Catholic 24-0 in Class S semifinal).
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Hyde: Jr. OL/DL Robert Fairweather (9 sacks); Sr. OL/LB Marquis Lee; Jr. QB/S James Baker-Howard; Soph. RB Gary Ormond; Jr. RB/LB Devan Dolphin. Ansonia: Sr. RB Montrell Dobbs (2,397 yards, 26 TD rushing); Jr. QB Eliot Chudwick (21 TD passing); Fresh. RB/DB Arkeel Newsome (661 yards, 10 TDs rushing); Jr. TE/DE Sean Rowley; Jr. LB Tyler Wood; Soph. WR/DE Andrew Matos.
THINGS TO KNOW – Hyde, the defending class champion, started the season 7-0, but enters the playoffs on a three-game losing streak. …it scored just 20 points combined in the three losses. …Overall, Hyde has scored just 164 points (16.4 average), worst of any playoff team. …Ansonia won nine straight before losing the season final to Naugatuck. …Dobbs is the state’s leading rusher, leading scorer (21 ppg), and the team’s only senior. …He has rushed for over 300 yards four times, and over 200 yards seven times. …Ansonia is No. 2 in rushing offense (behind Montville) and No. 5 in total offense. …It allows 22.0 points per game.
THE PICK – Ansonia 40-6
No. 7 Cromwell at No. 2 Montville
WHERE – Montville High School Turf Field
RECORDS – Cromwell 7-3, Montville 9-1
PLAYOFF RECORD — Cromwell 4-4; Montville 2-5
LAST APPEARANCE — Cromwell: 2008 (defeated Ansonia 14-12 in Class S championship); Montville: 2009 (lost to St. Joseph 14-3 in Class SS championship).
PLAYERS TO WATCH –Cromwell: Jr. QB Anthony Morales; Jr. WR/DB Brett Director; Sr. WR/DB Lorenzo Hart; Montville: Sr. RB/LB Tyler Girard-Floyd (1,575 yards, 22 TD rushing); Sr. RB/DB Skyler McNair (548 yards, 7 TD rushing); QB/DB Troy Nunes (879 yards, 11 TD passing); Sr. TE/LB Cody Bigelow; Sr. RB/DE Elijah Brown; Jr. LB Ken Strecker.
THINGS TO KNOW – Montville has the No. 1-ranked recorded rushing offense in the state (3,149 yards, 41 TDs) and the No. 3 scoring offense in the state behind Masuk and New Canaan. …The Indians’ only loss was 24-14 to Fitch in Week 3. …Cromwell coach Lou Bronk is in his first season. He took over for Sal Morello, who started the program 10 years ago and won a state championship before taking over at Middletown this summer. …Cromwell opened the season 0-2, but has won seven of eight games. …It’s only other loss was 29-28 to Haddam-Killingworth in OT two weeks ago.
THE PICK – Montville 42-13