Welcome back, my friends. Hope the Turkey went down well.
Welcome back to high school football. Welcome to the second season.
It’s Year 2 of the CIAC’s gloriously expanded playoff field (I’m a fan). Four divisions. Four champonships at stake. Eight teams enter, four teams leave and leap head-first into an uber short week before the state semifinals. It’s a tough stretch to get to the championship. But once you’re there, it’s a well-deserved week before the state championship games at Rentschler Field.
In the four-division, 32-team field features two returning state champions (Xavier and Masuk), three returning finalists (Ansonia, New London and New Canaan), and nine other repeat qualifiers (Staples, Glastonbury, Hall, Conard, Hand, North Haven, Berlin, Valley Regional/Old Lyme and Cromwell).
That means there are 18 new teams in this year’s field. In Newtown, Norwalk and Ridgefield in Class LL. Windsor, Notre Dame-WH, Coventry/Windham Tech in Class L; Bethel, Ellington/Somers, Ledyard, Cheney Tech, Wolcott, Waterford in Class M; Holy Cross, Northwest Catholic, North Branford, Capital Prep/Classical Magnet, Haddam-Killingworth; Rocky Hill in Class S.
Wolcott, Ellington/Somers, Cheney Tech and Capital Prep/Classical are all making their first playoff appearances.
As always, we’ll be keeping an eye on how the leagues fare: So here’s your league-by-league breakdown:
- CCC (7): Conard, Hall, Glastonbury, Windsor, Berlin, Rocky Hill, Northwest Catholic.
- Pequot (6): Ellington/Somers, Coventry/Windham Tech, North Branford, Haddam-Killingworth, Cromwell, Valley Regional/Old Lyme. (Four of these teams are in Class S; none play each other in the 1st round).
- FCIAC (4): Staples, Ridgefield, Norwalk, New Canaan. (Staples and Ridgefield play each other).
- SCC (4): Xavier, Hand, Notre Dame-WH, North Haven.
- SWC (3): Newtown, Masuk, Bethel.
- ECC (3): New London, Ledyard, Waterford (Ledyard and Waterford play each other).
- NVL (3): Ansonia, Wolcott, Holy Cross
- CSC (2): Capital Prep/Classical; Cheney Tech
The Connecticut Post/Stamford Advocate/Danbury News-Times SWCT region features nine state playoff teams: Staples, Ridgefield, Norwalk, Newtown in Class LL; New Canaan, Masuk, Notre Dame-WH in Class L; Ansonia and Bethel in Class M. No one in Class S.
Here’s the playoff schedule:
- Quarterfinals: Tuesday Nov. 29 – 6:30 p.m. at sites of the higher seed (except Rocky Hill-Valley Regional, which is at 5:30 p.m.
- Semifinals: Saturday, Dec 3 at the following sites
- Middletown HS (2 p.m.)
- Cheshire HS (2 p.m.)
- Bunnell HS (2 p.m.)
- Sheehan HS (2 p.m.)
- East Haven HS (2 p.m.)
- Falcon Field, Meriden (2 p.m.)
- Municipal Stadium, Waterbury (2 p.m.)
- West Haven HS (two games at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.)
- Championships: Friday, Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 10 at Rentschler Field (One game on Friday evening at 6:30 / Three games on Saturday at 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.)
We’ll start with Class LL and L because all but two of our regional teams reside here.
No. 8 Glastonbury at No. 1 Xavier
WHERE — Palmer Field, Middletown
RECORDS — Glastonbury 8-2 (CCC Division I East champion), Xavier 10-0 (SCC Division I West champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Glastonbury 5-3; Xavier 5-3
LAST APPEARANCE – Glastonbury: 2010 (1-1, lost to Xavier 24-13 in LL quarterfinals); Xavier: 2010 (3-0 Class LL champions, defeated Trumbull 24-7).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Glastonbury: Sr. WR/DB Bobby Solecki, Sr. WR/DB Nick Welsh; Soph. QB Josh Hill; Sr. OL/DL Thomas Bakre (6-0, 215). Xavier: Sr. RB Mike Mastroianni (1,136 yards, 8 TD rushing); Sr. QB/DB Pat D’Amato; Sr. OL/DL Sean Marinan; Sr. OL/DL Austin Wezenski; Sr. WR/DB Ryan Jacobucci (5 INT); Sr. TE/LB Ryan Murphy; Sr. LB Jovan Santos.
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Glastonbury has scored 22 rushing TDs, just 5 passing despite running in a spread offense. The defense has posted four shutouts, and has allowed just 77 points this season, third best in the state. …It averages just 25 points per game, lowest in Class L playoffs. …Coach Scott Daniels took over for Peter Peiffer this year. …Xavier, the reigning No. 1 team in the state, is on a state-best 23-game win streak (tied with Masuk). Hasn’t lost since the 2009 Class LL semifinals (to Staples 31-27). …Xavier has allowed 76 points, second-best in the state. It has posted three shut outs. …Xavier has scored 423 points, sixth-best total in state. …QB D’Amato is committed to Stony Brook; Santos is committed to UMass.
OUR PICK – Xavier 48-7
No. 5 Norwalk at No. 4 Conard
WHERE — Conard HS, West Hartford
RECORDS — Norwalk 8-1, Conard 9-1 (CCC Division I East co-champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Norwalk 0-1; Conard 0-4
LAST APPEARANCE – Norwalk: 1998 (0-1, lost to Southington 34-22 in Class LL semifinals); Conard: 2010 (0-1, lost to Trumbull 27-6 in Class LL quarterfinals).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Norwalk: Sr. QB/DB Delshawn Wilson (1,675 yards, 17 TD total offense; 6 INT); Sr. TE/DE Gil Arujo (6 sacks); Sr. WR/DB Derek Edwards (504 yards, 7 TD receiving); Sr. DE Kwazee Rice (9 sacks); Soph. Cory Barrett (6-1, 228); Sr. LB Patrick Whalen (6-0, 204) Conard: Sr. RB Ricky Cotton (1,239 yards, 13 TDs rushing); Sr. LB Dominick Spaulding (6-1, 220); Sr. DE Chris Reckmeyer (6-2, 235); Jr. QB Owen Snyder (6-2, 180).
YOU SHOULD KNOW – This is Norwalk’s first state playoff berth since 1998. It’s only loss was to New Canaan 28-14. …Norwalk leads the state in sacks with 38.5, led by Whalen and Rice. Defense also has 14 interceptions and allows 12.0 points per game. …With 243 points, Norwalk averages the second-least offensive points in Class LL playoffs (27 ppg). …Conard allows 9.1 points per game and scores an average of 32.5 per game. …Its only loss was to Hall 20-0 at the end of the regular season.
OUR PICK – Norwalk 24-14
No. 6 Newtown at No. 3 Hall
WHERE — Hall HS Stadium, West Hartford
RECORDS — Newtown 8-2 (SWC runners-up), Hall 9-1 (CCC Division I East co-champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Newtown 3-7; Hall 0-4
LAST APPEARANCE – Newtown: 2008 (0-1, lost to Glastonbury 42-28 in Class LL semifinals); Hall: 2010 (0-1, lost to NFA 30-14 in Class LL quarterfinals).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Newtown: Sr. RB/LB Lou Fenaroli (1,598 yards, 24 TDs rushing); Sr. OL/DE Tyler Hassett (8.5 sacks); Sr. OL/DL Mac Morlock (6-3, 265); Jr. WR/DB Dan Hebert (8 TD, 6 INT); Jr. WR Justin Devellis; Sr. WR/DL Mike Lord ; Hall: Sr. WR/ Ian Dugger (829 yards, 12 TD receiving; 9 tackles/gm; 4 INT); Sr. QB George Lund (1,332 yards, 16 TD passing); Sr. ILB/RB Jesse Maltz (311 yards rushing; 6.7 tackles per game, 5 sacks); Sr. RB/LB Christian Bohn (691 yards rushing).
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Newtown switched to Soph. QB Drew Tarantino after a 16-9 loss to Pomperaug in Week 4. …He’s thrown for over 1,000 yards, 10 TDs and 4 interceptions (3 vs Masuk). Newtown won five straight afterward, including a 54-48 OT win over Bunnell to clinch a state playoff berth. …Newtown’s other loss was 46-7 vs. Masuk on Thanksgiving eve. …Newtown has 17 interceptions, fifth-most in the state. …Fenaroli is the single-season rushing record holder at Newtown. …Hall’s only loss was 19-0 to New Britain, a game in which Hall committed six turnovers. …Hall has won six straight by an average score of 30-13, including a 20-0 victory over unbeaten Conard in Week 10. …Dugger is 10th in the state in receiving yards.
OUR PICK – Newtown 34-21
No. 7 Ridgefield at No. 2 Staples
WHERE — Tom Fujitani Field, Wilton
RECORDS — Ridgefield 8-2; Staples 9-0 (FCIAC Champions)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Ridgefield: 3-1; Staples 9-7
LAST APPEARANCE – Ridgefield: 2005 (0-1, lost to Masuk 18-16 in Class L semifinals); Staples: 2010 (0-1, lost to Glastonbury 7-6 in Class LL quarterfinals).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Ridgefield: Jr. RB/KR Sam Gravitte (753 yards, 12 TDs rushing); Jr. QB Connor Rowe (1,807 yards, 16 TD, 11 INT passing); Sr. RB/LB John Turner (671 yards, 7 TD rushing); Sr. LB Adrian Jones; Sr. OL/DE Mike Tarantino; Sr. OL/DE Matt Flanagan (5 TD, 4 sacks) Staples: Sr. RB/DB Nick Kelly (14 TD); Jr. WR/DB James Frusciante (3 INT); Sr. OL/DL Bo Gibson (6-0, 245); Jr. RB Joey Zelkowitz (800 yards, 10 TD rushing); Jr. LB Pieter Hoets (8 sacks).
YOU SHOULD KNOW – The teams met in a preseason scrimmage Sept. 5., but did not meet in the regular season. …Staples defeated Ridgefield 31-17 in Week 3 of 2010. …Ridgefield’s last victory over Staples was 36-7 in 2008. Staples has won two straight. …Staples’ Joey Zelkowitz missed two games due to a shoulder injury. LB Kevin Kearney has missed the last three games. ..Staples leads the state in sacks with 43. …LB/K Robbie Wolf has 7 field goals. …Ridgefield’s only losses were to Greenwich and Norwalk. …It has 16 interceptions, sixth most in the state. …Gravitte averages 12 points per game (21st best in state). Rowe averages over 200 yards in total offense. …Common opponents in the FCIAC: Greenwich (Staples won 31-27; Ridgefield lost 16-3); McMahon (Staples won 24-21; Ridgefield won 14-13); Warde (Staples won 35-17; Ridgefield won 37-20); Central (Staples won 48-8; Ridgefield won 48-32); Danbury (Staples won 31-12; Ridgefield won 56-14).
OUR PICK – Staples 27-17
No. 8 Notre Dame-WH at No. 1 Windsor
WHERE — Windsor High School
RECORDS — Notre Dame-WH 8-2; Windsor 10-0 (CCC Division II West champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Notre Dame-WH: 5-3; Windsor 1-3
LAST APPEARANCE – Notre Dame-WH: 2009 (2-0, defeated Pomperaug 28-21 in Class L final); Windsor: 2008 (1-2, lost to Masuk 50-12 in Class L semifinals.
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Windsor: Sr. WR/S Aaron Berardino (1,182 yards, 17 TD receiving); Jr. LB Kamahl Valentine (9.5 tackles/gm); Sr. LB Mike Joseph (8 tackles/gm); Sr. RB Kymm Jordan (588 yards rushing); Jr. QB Rob Fleeting (2,445, 28 TD, 5 INT passing; 418 yards, 4 TDs rushing); Notre Dame: Sr. RB Amihr Bess (722 yards, 8 TD rushing); Sr. RB/LB Javon Grey (929 yards, 13 TD rushing); Sr. LB Davante Mallard (7.8 tackles/gm); Sr. DB Eamon DelTorro (4 INT, 3 TD); Sr. DB Anthony Masucci (8.2 tackles/gm); Sr. T Ludovic Richardson (6-3, 277); Sr. DB Maliik Tinney (4 INT)
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Notre Dame’s opponents were a combined 53-38 this year… ND’s only losses were to 10-0 Xavier (36-7) and 10-0 Hand (24-14). …ND averages 276 rushing yards per game, 36 passing. …Notre Dame has the 15th-best rushing offense in Connecticut, 2,487 yards. …Windsor has the state’s third-ranked passing offense (2,641 yards) and is sixth in total offense (4,256). …Windsor has the fourth-most sacks in the state with 31. …Fleeting, the son of Windsor coach Rob Fleeting, is second in the state in total offense, fourth in passing yards. …Berardino has the second-most receiving yards in the state and is No. 3 in scoring (17.2 ppg).
OUR PICK – Notre Dame-WH 28-21
No. 5 New Canaan at No. 4 New London
WHERE — Canamella Field, New London HS
RECORDS — New Canaan 9-1 (FCIAC East champion); New London 9-1 (ECC Large champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — New Canaan 18-5; New London 9-7
LAST APPEARANCE – New Canaan: 2010 (2-1, lost to Masuk 50-20 in Class L final); New London: 2010 (2-1, lost to Hillhouse 7-0 in Class M final)
PLAYERS TO WATCH – New London: Sr. RB/LB Kyle McKinnon; Sr. OL/LB Brendan McNeil (6-0, 220); Sr. QB Robert Key; Sr. RB/DB Jevon Elmore. New Canaan: Sr. QB Matt Milano (2,362 yards, 30 TD passing); Sr. TE/DE Dylan Leeming; Sr. LB Kevin McDonough; Sr. WR/DB Patrick Newton (678 yards, 9 TD receiving); Sr. OL/DL Thomas Rochlin (6-2, 265); Sr. WR/LB Connor Kilbane; Sr. LB Bobby Distler; Sr. OL/DL Kalin Killinger (6-3, 285)
YOU SHOULD KNOW – This is New Canaan’s seventh-straight state playoff appearance; it won four state titles and was runner-up once during that run …New Canaan has made the state finals five-straight years; the last time it failed to reach the final was with a Class MM loss to East Lyme in 2005. …Milano recently surpassed Kurt Horton as New Canaan’s all-time leading passer … New London reached last year’s Class M championship game, losing to Hillhouse. …McKinnon set the school’s career touchdown record this year. …New London’s only loss was 14-0 to Fitch. The Whalers defeated FCIAC opponent Greenwich 51-33 in Week 3. …New Canaan did not play Greenwich this season. …New Canaan’s only loss was to Stamford, 36-29. Milano missed most of the game due to a migraine.
OUR PICK – New Canaan 34-30
No. 6 North Haven at No. 3 Masuk
WHERE — McDougall Stadium, Trumbull
ECORDS — North Haven 9-1 (SCC Division II East champions); Masuk 10-0 (SWC Champions)
PLAYOFF RECORD — North Haven 0-2; Masuk 11-10
LAST APPEARANCE – North Haven: 2010 (0-1, lost to Hand 19-7 in Class L quarterfinals); Masuk: 2010 (3-0, defeated New Canaan 50-20 in Class L final).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – North Haven: Sr. RB/DB Jalon White (1,061 yards, 12 TD rushing); Sr. QB/DB Joe Shwab (1,006 yards, 14 TD rushing; 483 passing yards); FB/LB Mark Zurlis (6-0, 205); Sr. TE/LB Spencer Oakes; Sr. OL/DL Andrew Savinelli (6-2, 260) ; Masuk: Sr. QB Casey Cochran (2,634 yards, 35 TD, 3 INT passing); Sr. RB Colin Markus (1,330 yards, 18 TD rushing); Sr. LB Shawn Flynn; Sr. LB Matt Duignan; Sr. LB Pat Tripodi; Jr. WR Thomas Milone (1,011, 16 TD); Sr. WR Jason Piontowski; Sr. DB Nick Lauricella (4 INT); Sr. WR Brandon Cusmano.
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Masuk has won 23-straight games dating back to Thanksgiving 2009. It was ranked No. 1 for two weeks and No. 2 since Week 4. …Cochran, a UConn commit, is 38-3 as a starting QB and has two state titles (New London and Masuk). …Cochran is the state’s all-time leading passer in yardage and touchdowns. …Milone is No. 5 in the state in receiving yards. …Masuk is the state’s top scoring offense (54 ppg), No. 2 in passing and No. 4 in total offense (4,722). …Masuk’s opponents were 40-60 this season. …Masuk failed to score in the first quarter for the first time all season vs. Newtown, but won 46-7. …North Haven is the third-best rushing team in the state (3,517 yards in 495 attempts and has passed for 604 yards. …North Haven’s only loss was to Class L No. 8 seed Notre Dame, 27-12.
OUR PICK – Masuk 42-8
No. 7 Coventry/Windham Tech at No. 2 Hand
WHERE — The Surf Club, Madison
RECORDS — Coventry/Windham Tech 9-1 (Pequot Sassaucas runners-up); Hand 10-0 (SCC Division I East champions)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Coventry/Windham Tech 0-2; Hand 15-7
LAST APPEARANCE – Conventry/Windham Tech: 2006 (0-1, lost to New Canaan in Class MM semifinals); Hand: 2010 (1-1, lost to New Canaan 38-21 in Class L semifinals).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Coventry/Windham Tech: Sr. QB/DB Mike Fahey (6-0, 180); Jr. RB/LB Kyle Wing; Jr. WR/LB Tim Meyers Hand: Sr. WR/DB Nick Vitale; Sr. QB/S Henry Foye (1,803 yards, 20 TD); Sr. OL/D. Joe DeMichele (6-2, 285); Jr. FB/LB Matt Walsh (6-1, 220); Jr. OL/DE Peter Gerson (6-3, 215; 12 sacks).
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Hand has completed the seventh unbeaten regular season in its history, last was 2007 (lost to New Canaan in Class MM final). …Coventry has 39 players on its CIAC roster; Hand has 62. …Vitale is committed to Stony Brook; His older brother Richie Vitale was the MVP of New London’s 2008 state title team. …Coventry’s only loss was to Class M participant Ellington/Somers on Thanksgiving, 27-14. …Coventry averages 34 ppg and allows 15 ppg. …It’s closest win was 26-21 over Avon. …Hand’s closest win was 24-14 over Class L qualifier Notre Dame-WH.
OUR PICK – Hand 42-6