Chris Allam of Darien fumbles the football away in the Ram defensive zone as another Blue Wave drive stalled. The visiting Rams of New Canaan won the Turkey Day battle handily. Photo: J. Gregory Raymond / © J. Gregory Raymond for Stamford Advocate Freelance
New Canaan wideout Kevin Macari eludes defenders for a punt return TD during gridiron action between Darien and New Canaan. New Canaan, led by Macari's two touchdowns, easily won the game. Photo: J. Gregory Raymond / © J. Gregory Raymond for Stamford Advocate Freelance.
The Thanksgiving Day Turkey Bowl between Darien and New Canaan had all the makings of a bloodbath, the salvo fired from a select few players on the Darien football team with their pregame bluewash at Dunning Stadium.
New Canaan’s blood boiled when its residents saw the midnight decorations at their school Wednesday morning. Heck, police were posted at a fall-league hockey game between the two schools. The football players were going to be out for blood on Thanksgiving Day. Darien’s players would have reacted in kind.
But Darien — more specifically, coach Rob Trifone – was going to have none of it. When first hearing of the news he vowed to forfeit the game unless the perpetrators came forward. Thankfully for everyone, it didn’t come to that. Administrators singled out those responsible effectively dealt suspensions.
But Trifone and his players didn’t stop there. His captains suggested and he agreed more had to be done to quell the anger and restore respect and civility to a fierce rivalry.
They offered to stand in front of thousands at Darien and publicly apologize over the PA.
It went off with a hitch (the microphone was acting up), so AD John Kellaher stepped in and read the the Darien football team’s statement. Darien and New Canaan captains hugged in the middle of the field, Trifone, who applauded the New Canaan senior introductions, hugged New Canaan’s coach Lou Marinelli went up and wished every one of the Rams well, and thankfully we all got back to football.
“What happened Tuesday night is not representative of what either program is about,” a conciliatory Trifone said afterward.
Without two key starters and several players on its side, the FCIAC champions — poetically, perhaps — got trounced 42-14 and limped off the field down two more starters, most notably DE and captain Charlie Kunze, who spent most of the day on crutches after a lower leg injury, and safety Will Weinstock, who missed the game entirely.
“The players that missed the game for disciplinary reasons had less of an impact than the injuries,” Trifone said. “Obviously it was a combination of both. If we played without those five and full strength, we would have been in the game. We played the game 80 percent strength. At thist junctire I don’t (know what kind of team he’ll have for the playoffs). I expect both of them to be back, but I’ll know more by the weekend.
New Canaan motivated more by playoffs at this point, rode the talents of Kevin Macari into the postseason. He caught a TD, threw a TD and ran a punt back for a TD.
“He’s a great player. A great high school player,” Marinelli said, before adding, “It’s a shame, it’s really a shame — and I mean this from the bottom of my heart — that they didn’t have those kids. It’s a little tarnished not having them full strength and I feel for Rob. I hope their kids and our kids learned a lesson from this that this doesn’t help anybody.
“As much as the rivalry… it’s is all that’s good about high school football, that the communities are proud of their programs.”
Regardless of what happens at this point, both sides dealt with the issue incredibly well up to and into Thanksgiving Day, displaying humility, grace and forgiveness on a day custom-made for it.
It turned out to be quite the Thanksgiving Day. Not a ton of upsets, but certainly plenty of surprises.
NAUGATUCK 38, ANSONIA 20 — Greyhounds hold Dobbs, Ansonia in check
SYNOPSIS – Even though many of us believed Naugatuck had a shot, this was probably the shocker of the afternoon. Not because of final score (although that was eye opening in and of itself), but because how Naugatuck’s line thoroughly handled Ansonia and, by extension, Montrell Dobbs. The only Ansonia senior was held to 94 yards rushing and, with that option gone, the Chargers took to the air … with disastrous results. Eliot Chudwick was sacked four times and the Greyhounds raced away with the game. Erich Broadrick threw three long touchdown passes and the Chargers could do nothing with three turnovers dropped into their lap.
So Naugatuck wins the NVL Championship, beating Ansonia for the first time since 2001 and reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2001. They earned the No. 3 seed and get (drumroll…) New Canaan in, perhaps, the most intriguing of the four quarterfinals. FCIAC’s best playing the NVL’s best on their turf. Earlier in the season, when it was clear the Greyhounds would be good, Naugy fans wanted a rematch with Notre Dame-WH, but this is the next best thing. As for Ansonia, they dropped to No. 3 and get reeling Hyde (losers of 3 straight) in a home quarterfinal. The winner gets the Montville-Cromwell winner.
SHELTON 38, DERBY/O’BRIEN TECH 14: Shelton smothers Derby in 100th meeting
SYNOPSIS — So much for Derby having a shot to win this game. Shelton’s backup (and future QB) Frank Camerino came off the bench in place of injured starter Jonathan Groth (fractured ankle) and Ryan DeAngelis came back from an ACL injury suffered in the spring, to lead the Gaels to a thorough beating of their Valley rivals in the 100th (or so) meeting. They both ran for over 150 yards and DeAngelis — who got a nice senior memory, after all — scored a pair of touchdowns in the second quarter to break a 14-14 deadlock.
Derby/O’Brien Tech (which will disband this year, O’Brien Tech is starting fund raising to create their own team.), quickly went to upset special to blue plate special. Sparkplug QB Ray Kreiger went down with a concussion and with him basically went Derby’s hopes. It was 28-14 at halftime, 21-14 after three.
Shelton finishes 6-4, their season defined by losses to Wilbur Cross, Notre Dame, Cheshire and an excruciating 14-7 loss to Xavier. Derby finishes 5-5, one game short of its first winning season in 14 years. A majority of its players return, including Krieger and Jake Tomczak. We’ll be watching them in the NVL.
By the way, what’s with this talk about discontinuing the series? …Because Derby’s in the NVL? Is the NVL about to switch up its scheduling? I heard this a few times this week. Insight please.
CENTRAL 29, HARDING 25 — DeSouza, Hilltoppers rally past Harding
SYNOPSIS – An absolutely stunning final score, given Central’s pedigree and Harding’s struggles these last few seasons. It’s even more stunning when you see that Harding actually had a 12-point lead at halftime behind some great play by junior TaQuan Broadway (155 yards receiving) and QB Julius McCord (263 yards passing) Central couldn’t stop them so, down 19-7 at halfime, the Hilltoppers shifted back to their ground game with John E. Johansen MVP award winner Lucas DeSouza running for 127 and David Anderson adding 90 and a couple of TDs to put Central ahead and then ahead for good.
Still, Harding actually had a 25-22 lead on Broadway’s 1-yard run. But Davin Campbell capped it with a 6-yard score with seven minutes left.
It was Central’s 12th straight victory, they finish 6-4. But — wow — was Harding up to the challenge. Awesome job. Hopefully this isn’t the last we hear from them.
“We had 30 kids on the sidelines and those are the ones that wanted to play. They had to make the grades as well as come to practice every day and that’s the program we’re building here,” second-year coach James Morris said. “My hats off to all my kids. I love them.”
STAPLES 27, GREENWICH 8 — Staples tops Greenwich, qualifies for state playoffs
SYNOPSIS – Staples was both an immovable force and an unstoppable object in this game, scoring on three of its first five possessions and over 200 yards of offense to put the hard-luck Cardinals out of their 2010 misery. Greenwich finishes 5-5 for the first time since… since… well, before even Mike Ornato’s time as coach.
The Cardinals, seeing themselves clearly overmatched, pulled early and often from their bag of tricks (an opening onside kick, using lineman Anthony Schepis as a fullback on a trick run), but little worked against Tyler Jacobs, Pat Murray, freshman Jack Massie and Co. Injuries completely took Greenwich out of the equation in Week 1. But There’s hope for the future in Greenwich, even though the once-mighty Cardinals haven’t made the state playoffs in three years now.
As for Staples, now headed to Glastonbury for its quarterfinal game (and the Xavier-West Haven winner awaiting in the semifinals), looked good coming off its 15-13 loss to Trumbull. Massie, a baby at 14-years old, had an interception but otherwise ran the Staples’ O effectively, with John Heil and Murray also scoring and Jacobs running plays out of the wildcat. Still, this is a team that rides defense to win ball games. It’ll be intriguing to see just how far this team can go in Class LL.
FORAN 56, LAW 21 — Schumitz returns, leads Lions past Lawmen
SYNOPSIS – In week 1, I watched Foran QB Tucker Schumitz put on a show in a 28-27 OT victory over Branford and thought, man, this kid is headed for all-area. But in Week 3, Schumitz’s stellar-senior season was cut short when he broke his collarbone early in a Saturday loss to Hillhouse. Though the Lions admirably won three more games, they just weren’t the same.
But there were whispers that me might return. On Monday, the three-sport star was cleared and made the (now wise) decision to play in the Battle of Milford. Boy, is Foran glad he did. Schumitz gave us all a glimpse of what might have been, accounting for 5 TDs in a 56-21 victory. Foran (5-5) may or may not have had a real shot to reach the postseason in a crowded Class M field. We’ll never know, but it was great to see Schumitz return (like many area players this year) from a “season-ending” injury.
As for Law, it had the offense but no defense this season. They finish 3-7 and we look ahead to what they bring back next year.
WEST HAVEN 32, FAIRFIELD PREP 13 — Philips brothers lead West Haven rout of Prep
SYNOPSIS — West Haven needed to win to have any shot at the Class LL playoffs. Even with a 32-13 victory, produced and directed by senior Kevin Philips and kid brother Ervin (combined 280 yards rushing), and Cheshire’s thorough victory over Southington, their postseason fate still didn’t look rosy.
Funny story about this. The story filed by Post veteran Lou Pintek said West Haven was out, and even quoted coach Ed McCarthy (who knows the points better than anyone else) saying so. But as the games continued to filter in, it looked like the Westies would get a shot. Then New Milford upset New Fairfield, effectively keeping Newtown at 1100 points and we had ourselves a three-way tie, with West Haven’s tiebreakers points easily putting the Westies in at No. 8.
So now West Haven, as expected by McCarthy in Week 9, gets another shot at No. 1 Xavier (which needed a few big plays just to knock off Middletown 27-14). The Westies had a 28-27 lead in the third quarter in that game, and a sure pick-6 that tipped off the hands of a defensive back and into the waiting arms of Graham Stewart. Final score Xavier 42-28. What will the Westies bring this time?
Fairfield Prep, meanwhile, finishes a respectable 3-7 under first-year coach Tom Shea. They were 0-10 for the first time in school history this time a year ago. Now it seems like they’re on the mend.
BROOKFIELD 48, BETHEL 26 — Brookfield rolls past Bethel, into state playoffs
SYNOPSIS — Brookfield (for all intents) needed a win to get in. Bethel needed everything to go right. And it looked that way throughout a wild first half, with Bethel back Brian Birdsell ripping through their defense for 127 yards and three touchdowns in the game’s first 14 minutes.
No worries. No problem with soon-to-be all-state utility man Brian Kelly on the case. Kelly finished with five catches, 134 yards, three receiving touchdowns, a 16-yard touchdown run, a 54-yard kickoff return, seven tackles and an interception. Oh, and thrown in Leaon Gordon’s 200-yard rushing afternoon and the Bobcats punched their playoff ticket with a 48-26 victory. Yow.
Bethel, a year removed from a Class M state playoff berth was game this season. It had an upset victory over Newtown under its belt. But it just couldn’t get another. Brookfield, meanwhile, advances to Class M playoffs (otherwise known as the Berlin invitational), just two years removed from winning it all in 2008. They get Joe Desandre, Zac Falconeri and Lyman Hall in the quarterfinals. Lyman Hall will be down several players stemming from a 10-day suspension.
FAIRFIELD WARDE 21, FAIRFIELD LUDLOWE 16
SYNOPSIS — Craig Lowery scored a touchdown and set up others by Alex Delaney and David Wolff as the Mustangs outlasted Nate Ryan and Fairfield Ludlowe by five points to finish a respectable season with a 5-5 record under second-year coach Duncan Della Volpe. Warde lost to three playoff teams this season, New Canaan, Darien and St. Joseph, and will probably have to find a way to get through these teams if they want to truly contend in future seasons.
As for Ludlowe, it was a trying 1-9 season. They lost to (improved) Harding and avoided a winless season by beating Westhill. They lost a lot of players from year ago, so this wasn’t totally unexpected. They have a slightly harder mountain to climb to reclaim the kind of record they had a year ago (6-4).
NORWALK 8, McMAHON 7 — Bears send Tucci out a winner
SYNOPSIS – A year ago, we couldn’t stop talking about how Norwalk lost this game, on a failed strategy to eschew a fourth-down punt which led to a last-second McMahon victory. Embattled coach Pete Tucci took the blame. Though Norwalk looked promising after defeating Greenwich 19-7 in week 1, they only one two more games heading into the Thanksgiving rematch with a markedly improved McMahon squad.
This time, Norwalk emerged victorious, playing off its emotions over Tucci’s last game as coach. They got a second-quarter touchdown and 2-point conversion from Anthony Ferraro and then relied on their defense to do the rest in an eventual 8-7 victory that sent the 13-year coach out with a happy memory after a 59-72 stint. Athletic director Wayne Mones has said he would like to have a replacement in by Christmas.
McMahon ends a resurgent season under coach A.J. Albano 6-4, including victories over Ridgefield and Central. They lose a few stars, but should have a promising outlook in 2011.
NOTRE DAME-WH 47, HAMDEN 0 — Green Knights easily take out Hamden in 60th Green Bowl
SYNOPSIS – Notre Dame began the season No. 1, lost to Xavier late, then lost to West Haven late. That alone would have had Sean Goldrich and the Green Knights back in the state playoffs to defend their title (they’d probably be at Masuk Tuesday). But the North Haven game… the North Haven game. ND had chances to take a commanding lead, didn’t, let North Haven back into the game and then a Goldrich pick and subsequent touchdown basically sealed their fate. Still, 7-3 this year and an 11-1 state championship season last year is plenty to be proud about, the breaks just didn’t go ND’s way this season. There will be some rebuilding next season, however.
Speaking of which, it looks like there’s going to be a lot of that going on at Hamden. The Green Dragons were never competitive (they scored a mere 29 points this season, including the Green Bowl shut out), just one season after going 7-3. It looks like a long way back for Hamden.
NEW MILFORD 21, NEW FAIRFIELD 14 — New Milford rallies to win Candlewood Cup
SYNOPSIS – Newtown was one bonus game away from qualifying for the Class LL state playoffs over West Haven. This game was their culprit: New Milford’s victory over New Fairfield.
New Milford jumped out to an early 13-0 lead, let it slip in the third quarter and then reasserted themselves in the fourth. Conor Burns took a short pass from Karl Bradshaw for a 56-yard touchdown and then New Milford defense did the rest, forcing three of their four turnovers in New Fairfield’s final drives of the game. Judging by their comments after the game, this victory made the rest of the Green Wave’s 2-9 season just dissolve into the air.
New Fairfield (3-7) had some early injuries but did a decent job under new coach Anthony Fata after losing quite a few players from their 6-4 season a year ago. The Rebels had Pomperaug worried a week ago. Almost had Bunnell beat. Perhaps next year.
Notre Dame-Fairfield 34, Immaculate 28 — Zumbo, Lancers hold off Mustang rally
SYNOPSIS – It has been a trying season for Kevin Harrigan and the rest of the players at Notre Dame. They lost transfer quarterback Nick Chacho to an ACL injury before the season kicked off. With a limited roster, hey had trouble scoring or stopping most teams. But here’s some good news, they got back to running the ball and used that formula to pound winless Immaculate in the Superintendents Cup, a victory ND coach Joe Beler dedicated to his father, Joe Sr., who died earlier this year.
Immaculate, led by QB Greg Wax got within 6 points late, but the Mustangs couldn’t complete the comeback.
Frank Zumbo did most of the dirty work for ND this time. Sophomore Nigel Beckford is a man to watch next season. Here’s hoping Chacho returns for a resurgent 2011.
WILTON 38, TRINITY CATHOLIC 20 — Warriors pound Trinity Catholic
SYNOPSIS — Few teams had the regular season schedule Wilton had. The Warriors played six state playoffs teams, including four to start the season. They could only beat one, St. Joseph, and went 3-1 against everyone else. Them’s the breaks, but at least Wilton went out in style with a thorough win against a dangerous Trinity Catholic squad.
Ned Hemmerle ran for over 200 yards and Wilton’s defense had three picks, recovered a fumble and also stopped Trinity’s strong offense on fourth down to finish the year 4-6. Not bad.
Trinity, meanwhile, had the offensive horses but had troubles stopping teams on defense this year and finished 3-7. The good news on Thanksgiving was that head coach Peter Stokes returned to the sidelines (in a limited capacity) for the first time since suffering a heart attack last month.
NORTH HAVEN 40, AMITY 24
SYNOPSIS – Tyler Vallie, Kyle Kalanta and Amity fought the good fight, but playoff-ready North Haven took care of business rolling to a 27-3 halftime lead behind a three TDs from Brandon McLane. North Haven clinched the No. 7 in the state playoffs, and got a road game against former Hammonasset foe Hand at the Surf Club. I’m sure the Indians, who also lost to Hand in its last state playoff appearance in 2007, are hoping for lots of wind.
As for Amity, the first season under new coach Bert Mozealous ends 4-6, but not without a few surprises along the way. Not a bad season for Amity in an SCC Division I that Shelton and Xavier on their regular schedule.
PLATT TECH 34, ABBOTT TECH 28
SYNOPSIS – We didn’t get a ton of information on this game, but congrats to Platt Tech for winning their first game of the season. Sounded like a pretty good game, as was their game against Foran the week before.
Just a quick thing I noticed.
There has been an inordinate amount of horrible injuries around the state this season. More ACL tears, concussions and broken collarbones and broken legs than I care to count.
This is a violent sport and injuries happen, but it’s very clear at this point that 10 games is a lot for high school. And now we’re playing another three (and in, Trumbull and Darien’s case they could potentially play 14. There is such a thing as too many games. I think we’ve reached the threshold. Ten regular-season games is plenty, and the league title games are worthless. Let’s all remember this when we’re looking to expand to 11 games. Me included.
Now, a bit of Thanks.
Thanks to all the players, coaches and administrators from all over our region (and beyond) who made this another great high school football season.
Especially the players. You guys do all the hard work, make all the sacrifices. We just watch.
Regardless of how you finished your season, what triumphs you may have had, what disappointment or even tragedy you may have endured, thanks for all of your dedication and hard work in giving us this amazing season. Everyone on my side of the aisle is truly blessed to cover such outstanding young men. To the seniors who just completed their season, we wish you well in the coming years. Make us proud again.
To all of the other journalists and citizen reporters who gave their time and got involved to help bring this football season to all of those who couldn’t see it live and in person. There are too many to list here for now, and maybe I will at the real end of the season, but for now I am indebted to all of you.
And to everyone else who comes here for high school football news, we thank you most of all. We had nearly 16,000 people visiting this blog this Thanksgiving Eve and Day. We had 1,600 people tuned into the Live Blog Wednesday night and another 2,700 people tuned in on Thursday. Thanks for being interested and coming here to see what’s up around the region and the state. We’re thrilled you keep coming back and it makes us all work harder to give you the best coverage we can.
I’m taking a break for the next day. I’ll catch every one on the other side for the state semifinals.
Thanks and take care,