1. Can anyone beat Masuk?
1a. Um… Could you please embellish?
Do we need to? What else is there to say?
You’ve read and seen this a millions times before.
He leads the state’s best offense, which features strong running back Colin Markus, receivers Tom Milano and Brandon Cusamano and Erik Tucker on the offensive line.
Sure, the fire and brimstone defense of 2010 loses a little oomph without Tim Allen and there’s nobody who can replace Jon Testani (of course) or Joe Diaz on special teams, but the D still has studs like Shawn Flynn, Matt Duignan, Andrew Sebben.
And nobody on their schedule even comes close to their pitch (few teams statewide can).
Masuk’s 2011 opponents were a combined 39-61 last year, with half of those wins coming from just two teams, Pomperaug and Newtown (16-4).
Unless something catastrophic happens, the stars are aligned for another record-breaking season.
1b. Can they even remotely duplicate last year’s success?
But, boy, the bar is set pretty darn high, isn’t it?
At least they’re the one’s setting it. [Related: Masuk football still has something to prove]
As discussed, it’s going to take an extraordinary effort for someone on their schedule to take them out.
Based on what we know here in August, the only place we can see that happening are: at the SWC championship game (maybe vs. Brookfield or Bunnell?), vs. Newtown on Thanksgiving, or in the Class L playoffs, where New Canaan or Darien or Bunnell or Hand or New London (wouldn’t that be a trip?), or some other as yet unseen powerhouse awaits them.
The only thing this group can do to possibly surpass last year’s dominant, 13-0, state championship season is nab that No. 1 ranking.
[Warning: Premature No. 1 talk]
Unfortunately, even if Masuk goes 14-0 (including a separate SWC championship game) and wins the Class L title, the mythical trophy is out of their hands, just like it was last season.
Xavier will likely retain the No. 1 ranking to start the 2011 season. Why not? They’re going to be an awesome team this year, favorites to repeat. It also helps that they’re the reigning No. 1 and (some) poll voters typically transfer last year’s votes to this year’s poll to start the season.
And, if Xavier weathers its especially tough SCC schedule and go 13-0 again, bet the house and the kids’ college money that they’re staying No. 1. (Another unwritten rule for many poll voters is they’ll never switch a No. 1 vote if their top team doesn’t lose).
Anyway, somebody would have to knock Xavier off and Masuk would likely have to be the only unbeaten team standing before they can get fitted for tuxedos. It’s a stretch, but not out of the realm of possibility.
But talk to us around December. This is 2011, not 2010. Lots can happen. Perceptions always change drastically as we progress.
2. Yeah, yeah. Enough about Masuk. Is Brookfield ready for prime time without Brian Kelly?
Kelly was an outstanding football player, tremendous in a pinch and the piston that drove the Brookfield bus all the way to the Class M semifinals, on both offense and defense. He’ll be missed.
But we think the Bobcats will be right back in the hunt again. Fast emerging quarterback Boeing Brown is now a junior with big game experience. He’s getting big college looks. Brookfield’s go-to guy is, of course, senior Leaon Gordon, a bulldozer and one of the league’s top returning offensive players. Brookfield has more than a good share of returning starters like Joey Acquanita and Tyler Heckmann.
They’re going to be good. Not Masuk-good, but a top contender.
Brookfield will be tested early, often and late with dates against Pomperaug, Bunnell, Newtown and Bethel. It’s probably the toughest schedule in the league after Newtown’s.
3. What’s left at Pomperaug? Anything?
What? Who gave you the impression they were gutted?
Yeah, it sounded like gloom and doom when the Maxen twins graduated, longtime coach Chuck Drury and defensive coordinator John Pereira joined young Mike Drury’s staff at Southington, and then QB Kellen Croce took off for the Gunnery.
[thunder] [dramatic chord]
No worries, kids. The end isn’t nigh. Pomperaug’s cupboard is stocked with talent for new coach Dave Roach, whose identity as a teacher, alumni and nine-year assistant coach at the school should make for a pretty seamless transition in Southbury. [Related: Jess and Dave Roach share the field at Pomperaug]
There are promising candidates at quarterback led by senior Garrett DeLotto, a 6-foot-2 converted receiver. It may take time to sort out that spot and the rest of the offense. Thankfully, outstanding receiver and kicker Matt Paola is back after almost an entire season spent on the sidelines, as is top-returning receiver Brett Gaughan. Andrew Reel leads what could be a pretty strong linebacker corps and defense.
So, no, Pomperaug’s not going anywhere in the long term. Their schedule is a monster, however, with contenders Brookfield, Bunnell, Bethel, Newtown and Masuk on the docket.
Good luck with that.
4. What about the Stratford schools???
Always a pressing question on this space (hence the liberal use question marks).
With their quarterback, highly-rated junior Bryan Castelot, receivers, Josh Diaz and Jared Vasquez, defensive backs David Camille and Jawad Chisholm returning, we can confidently say we believe Bunnell will be a solid contender alongside Brookfield, Newtown and maybe even Pomperaug for a playoff spot. Bunnell went 7-3 as a young club last season and was maybe one or two mistakes away from going 8-2 and sneaking into the playoffs.
The schedule’s pretty tough (Pomperaug, Brookfield and Bethel in a row at midseason), but there’s little doubt they’ll be up to the challenge.
As for Stratford, the climb continues. Losing playmaker Marc Desruisseaux hurts. WR/DE Asia Bolling is a standout, along with seniors Brian Zapata, Jailen Johnson, and Donald Graham. There’s talent bubbling within the underclassmen. Are they capable of a surprise or two? Absolutely. The Red Devils’ best days may be in future seasons.
5. Will we ever hear from Immaculate or Notre Dame-Fairfield again?
Is this really a pressing question? Well, it’s been so long we have to ask. Both programs (particularly Immaculate) have hit rock bottom over the last five or six seasons. Maybe it’s because of economic issues (who can pony up cash to send their kid to Catholic school in this climate?), or maybe it’s something else.
Regardless, the two schools have gone with pretty exotic hires to put their foundering programs back on the winning path.
Notre Dame, of course, went with journeyman coach and MLB alum Rico Brogna. The Lancers have some talent, especially junior bruiser Nigel Beckford. But there’s still a ways to go for ND to build a winner and Brogna knows it. (If Brogna sticks around for longer than a season, that would help).
We have no idea what to expect from Immaculate‘s Bryan Pinabell, the expat New Englander who learned his football in Florida and coaching in Georgia. Maybe that’ll help. Or maybe coaching this far north will be too much of a culture shock. Either way, if we do hear from Immaculate it probably won’t be this season. They were 0-10 a year ago and are starting from scratch.
Other questions we’ll be asking:
Is everybody healed now at Newtown? Can they get over the hump? …Will Bethel get back in the hunt, or is the honeymoon over for coach Jason Gill and Bethel? …Oxford‘s been knocking on the door for two seasons. Can they produce the schools first winning season or (gasp!) even contend? …Where does Barlow, New Fairfield, New Milford and Weston fit in?
NEXT: THE SCC