Ah, the mighty, mighty SCC.
Diamonds runneth over in the SCC’s chest of swag. And nobody swaggers quite like the SCC.
Why shouldn’t they?
The conference staked its claim as the best in the state in 2012. It features a two-time defending Class LL champion and state No. 1 in Xavier, the defending Class L champion in Hand. It has a Boston College-bound QB in Tim Boyle of Xavier, a UConn-bound linebacker in Hand’s Matt Walsh, three of the state’s best junior tailbacks in Hillhouse’s Harold Cooper, West Haven’s Ervin Phillips and North Haven’s Jalon White. And, it has a bunch of powerful football programs and recent state champions (Cheshire and Notre Dame-WH in 2009, Hillhouse in 2010) anxiously hoping to ascend the mountain again.
So, are we in for another smashing season from the SEC of Connecticut high school football?
The answer, of course, is yes.
Lets take a look, shall we?
1. Let’s cut to the chase: Who do you got Oct. 12? Hand or Xavier?
Let’s pull the reins back on the Hand v. Xavier talk. Can we at least get there first?
2. OK… Now, is Hand-Xavier for the unofficial SCC championship? No. 1 in the state?
Awright, awright. It does seem like every SCC maven is just itchin’ to hit that fast-forward button. So let’s first take a look at what the SCC’s top two teams have.
Let’s start with the incumbent No. 1 Xavier.
First off, the X-Men won’t be the same team in 2012 that they were in 2011 or 2010. They lost some players, Ryan Jacobucci, Pat D’Amato, Sean Marinan, Ryan Murphy, Jovan Santos, Mike Mastroianni, Austin Wesinski… They lost a lot.
If this were a TV show it would be called, X-Men the Next Generation.
New captain: QB Tim Boyle, who’s played about a season’s worth of football over two seasons as D’Amato’s backup and is committed to Boston College. Now he gets the bridge to himself.
New first mate: RB DeAngelo Berry, who was Mastroianni’s understudy for the last season.
And a new crew, among them LB Max Tylki and Kris Luster and a bunch of other guys who mostly played second fiddle to the superstars of state championships past.
Xavier’s got the skill guys, but needs to replace a few all-state players on the front lines. That might be pose a problem. The word from Middletown is that it won’t be. The newcomers are huge and, worse, just as talented.
Slipping down the Connecticut River to the shoreline, Hand took a few hits as well. The Tigers lost a huge graduating class, including QB Henry Foye, receiver Nick Vitale, lineman Joe DeMichele, back Kevin Frey, and LB Dan Ives.
Ah, but all is not lost. They bring back an equally huge senior class, including LB Matt Walsh, DL Peter Gerson, WR/DE Kyle Anderson, CB Andrew Tuccero, WR Hunter Mahew. Hand also added to its coffers junior back Dan Rogers and his twin brother Pat from Weston.
There’s no reason to think both schools won’t be the two best teams in the SCC. Are they 1-2 in the state right now? Maybe. Though we think Staples will have something to say in Class LL, we can at least say two of the state’s top three teams reside in the upper division of the SCC.
3. Is there anybody capable of derailing that train before Oct. 12?
Er… not that we can see. Given what we know now, it’s very likely the two powerhouses will meet undefeated at Palmer Field.
Xavier’s toughest tests might be its opener at Notre Dame-West Haven or vs. North Haven at Palmer Field in Week 2. Xavier follows with what could be a feisty Fairfield Prep team at Palmer before a road game against Hamden.
Hand gets Amity and Cheshire at the Surf Club in weeks 1 and 3. In weeks 2 and 4, the Tigers face Harold Cooper and Hillhouse and, later, Wilbur Cross in dreaded Friday afternoon games in New Haven.
Of the two, Hand seems to have the toughest road to unbeaten in Week 5. But unless something unforeseen happens, both squads will be heavy favorites in all of their opening games.
So, yes. Get your tickets now.
4. Gah!!! C’mon. Is the entire SCC season just about Hand and Xavier?
Well, no, but… yes.
Look, this is how we start football seasons. We take what we know of the past and apply it to the future. They were both state champions in 2011 and (as we’ve discussed) have a pretty fair amount of talent returning.
But if you want to know who might overturn the applecart, we’ll give you a few of teams to look at, two of them might be legit state playoff contenders (the SCC doesn’t do conference titles).
The two best candidates play both Hand and Xavier in the second-half of the year, but not each other.
Your first contender is West Haven. The Westies return sterling junior back Ervin Phillips, bigger and stronger than before, and a bunch of senior linemen tasked with letting him bust loose. “We’ve got a good team,” says coach Ed McCarthy. “A good team.”
The second candidate: Shelton. The Gaels return a massive and talented junior class — QB Connor Wallon, WR Ed Kochiss, RB Jagger Kallagian, to name just a few — and senior WR Will Karcher (back from a knee injury). All of the juniors will be starting. Shelton’s only weakness is that its replacing a few starters on the front lines.
Outside of those two? Cheshire and Notre Dame-West Haven suffered greatly from graduation and look as if they’re rebuilding.
Cheshire lost quite a few seniors, not to mention longtime head coach Mark Ecke, who resigned after an off-season altercation at a Glastonbury lacrosse game. The Rams replace Michael John Ecke with Vincent Sansone at quarterback and return Sam Pascale at tailback. Their strength may lie in a large junior class. Until we see otherwise, jury’s still out on the Rams.
The same can be said for Notre Dame-WH lost a massive and talented senior class from last year’s 8-3 playoff run. This year’s senior class features unknowns. Notre Dame’s top returning star is junior LB/RB Cameron Tucker.
We’re still waiting for Fairfield Prep to burst from anonymity. The Jesuits return backs Dillon Ryan and Joe McBride who missed the second half of last year due to an injury vs. Xavier. Update: McBride will not play this season.
Amity (which is looking to find a do-it-all playmaker like graduated star Tyler Vallie), Wilbur Cross and Hamden are unknown at this point in the season.
Of course, there are the two heavyweights in Division II…
5. Who’s gonna be boss in Division II? North Haven? Hillhouse?
Both. Even if it doesn’t look like it in the standings.
A favorite last year before losing the infamous Week 1 Ain’t No Way! game at Bowen Field thanks to the nimble feet and hand of North Haven’s Jalon White, Hillhouse should be as good or better in 2012.
Senior Quarterback Je’Vaughn Moore and a large senior class returns to help awesome junior tailback Harold Cooper, who’s already picked up an offer from Boston College.
North Haven, fresh off its second state playoff berth in three years — and an impressive show against Masuk, to boot — lost quite a few pistons from its singe-wing engine, notably Joe Schwab, Mark Zurlis, Jake Mikos and Andrew Savenelli. But White’s back along with a large senior class, both in numbers and size.
There’s been some talk about Guilford and maybe Foran on the rise, but for the most part no other SCC D2 team seems to compare to these heavyweights.
The North Haven-Hillhouse rematch is Oct. 12 at North Haven. Yes, the same night as Hand-Xavier.
Let’s call it SCC Judgement Night. You heard it here first.
Whoever wins on Judgement Night will have an edge in its state playoff race, Hillhouse in Class M and North Haven in Class L. Like Hillhouse last year, the loser is likely sunk unless it can win one of its two SCC crossover games.
Let’s talk about that for a moment: Both North Haven and Hillhouse play Xavier and Hand on the crossover weeks of Sept. 21 and Oct. 26. Also North Haven also picked up — get this — New London as its bye game on Week 4 (Oct. 5).
No one can accuse North Haven coach Tony Sagnella of ever ducking anyone. Ever.
No one should be holding their breath for North Haven to go 9-1 this season, either.
So unless the Indians can somehow surprise Hand or Xavier (ehh…), it’s crucial that North Haven beat Hillhouse and New London if it wants a remote shot at returning to the Class L playoffs.
Meanwhile, the equation is simple for Hillhouse: Do what you did last year and beat North Haven this time. That should be enough reach the Class M state playoffs, regardless of how it fares vs. Hand or Xavier. (If the Acs want to beat Hand or Xavier that would suffice, too).
Good lord, this league is nuts.
Bon voyage, gentlemen. And good luck with all that.