Connecticut High School Football

High School Football news, analysis, commentary and features from the reporters of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

THE GAME OF THE CENTURY*: No. 3 Hand at No. 1 Xavier

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♦♦♦

Two defending state champions.

Two teams from the mighty, mighty Southern Connecticut Conference.

Two teams riding long winning streaks.

Two teams vying for the No. 1 spot in the polls forever.

Two teams.

One winner.

It’s the one you have been waiting for since the Class LL and Class L trophies were handed out back in December.

It’s the Game of the Century.*

It’s Hand vs. Xavier.

We’re trying desperately not to get swept up in the hype machine. After all, in terms of sheer importance, Hand-Xavier takes a backseat to the SCC Division II clash between Hillhouse and North Haven, or the other SCC Division I fight between Fairfield Prep and Cheshire.

The losers of those final two games are all but cooked in their respective state playoff races.

Meanwhile, the loser of Hand-Xavier still will be in good shape in the Class LL and Class L playoff races. They just can’t afford to lose again.

See what we’re getting at?

But, loooord, we just can’t help ourselves down here in Shangri La. The top two state champions from last year trading blows on a statewide stage? Sign us up.

It’s a game so big, yours truly has been commandeered to make sure Hearst Connecticut has presence among the media blitz. And, it’ll be a media blitz, that’s for sure.

Roll call! New Haven Register, Hartford Courant, WELI, CPTV, Middletown Press, Shoreline Times, The Day? … did I miss anyone? Répondez, s’il vous plaît.

Anywho, here’s the ol’ SPB Blog’s humble contribution to the Rumble at Palmer. We don’t typically cover these behemoths, so don’t expect a lot of insight from our end.

We do want to give our media buddies who *do* cover these teams a pop. Because they’re working hard — oh, so very hard — on giving us the most on this mega-matchup-of-a-lifetime.

When you see your web traffic spike with referrals from “blog.ctnews.com,” you can thank me with gifts later, Mr. Barker and Mr. Otterbein.

These links will be updated all week. Here we go:

Hartford Courant

New Haven Register/Middletown Press

Also:

The game will be broadcast live on CPTV Sports, which is broadcast on Cablevision (ch. 139), Charter (ch. 223, 224), Comcast (185, 187, 744), Cox (ch. 805) and Thames Valley cable (ch. 87).

Maxpreps has designated this one of the Top 10 national games of the week.

So… who’s going to win???? You’re seeing a few crazy polls up there in the links. But what would we be doing if we didn’t poll our readers, as well? (I mean, let’s be honest. Anybody who’s anybody is already here and weighing in, right? :)

After you vote, please feel free to discuss until the big game Friday.

*Until the Next Game of the Century.

Categories: SCC
Sean Patrick Bowley

55 Responses

  1. SJ Alum says:

    Xavier 34 Hand 21 Final.

  2. dave k says:

    Xavier 21 Hand 14.
    The teams are even but home field gives X an advantage. Palmer is the worst place for a visiting team in the SCC. The visiting side lines are up against the bleachers filled with x fans screaming and stomping their feet when visiting coach is sending in play. Hand should select field direction to be driving toward left field in last quarter.

  3. @dave k – *Great* point. Shelton knows this too well.

  4. Frank Football says:

    Hand brings fans that are loud and proud, and a 250 person Marching Band. There will a Madison Invasion in Middletown!!

  5. mooncake says:

    For us rump meat in FFld county, x v hand on cablevison channel 139 live.

  6. Somebody tell Filippone to put his stats up on MaxPreps. …C’mon Steve. MORE INFO!

  7. Bobby says:

    Hand SuperFans will be at Palmer in full force. Along with the Tiger Band… So Xaviers home field will be neutralized, at least to a degree.

  8. jay says:

    Does anyone know about the depth factor? It may be tough for two way players.

  9. FauxRealism says:

    Alright I’ll bite… @ SPB
    Do you always cite the Coaches poll, or are you trying to reign in the euphoria this week? (#3 Hand?!)

  10. @Faux — Hand’s No. 3 in both polls, actually.

  11. JB says:

    Come on, Sean, the only elite teams in CT are Hand and Xavier … kind of like a poll of the anointed two and then the rest of everyone else is rump meat, right mooncakes? Why have the playoffs? …. let’s just mail ‘em the LL and L trophies right now.

  12. Fact says:

    This game would not be as hyped up if the scc didn’t put out the schedule every year to favor there two big dogs. Everyone speaks so highly of these two programs but replace them with a staples, masuk, ansonia ect it be no different. At least the fciac, swc and nvl have there own league championships so its known who the best really is each. To have one regular season scheduled game in five years is a joke! SCC commish just worries how many state championships they can get to boast how inferior the rest of the state is.

  13. Xhs says:

    Dear fact, if the conference playoff games don’t count it doesn’t effect the conference winning state titles so I don’t understand your argument.

  14. roto says:

    @Fact. 1) These are not the two big dogs in the conference year in and year out. In 2008, they were both 7-4. In 2009, Hand was 5-5. 2) Unlike the conference championship games, this counts for state playoff points. If anything, the SCC’s scheduling over the years has kept more of its teams out of the playoffs. Thanks to SPB’s lobbying to create the current playoff system, we will only see more SCC champs in the future as going undefeated in the SWC and drawing a Farmington or East Lyme will no longer be a ticket to a state title.

  15. Reality Check says:

    @Fact. Umm, reality check. The SCC commissioner has a right to boast because the SCC IS the dominant league. I refer to games last year between Staples and Xavier, and Hand and New Canaan as evidence. In regard to putting “out the schedule every year to favor (their) two big dogs,” I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. The SCC does anything BUT favor their dominant teams. An SCC school’s schedule is determined by the previous season’s performance. The better teams play the better teams. That is why Xavier has North Haven, Hillhouse and Hand on their schedule this year. All three were dominant teams last year.

  16. Bubba says:

    Hey Fact: Here are the real facts: The SCC Football schedule is a power rated system based on results of 2 years: Let me explain to you in simple terms: They play everyone in their Division I East and West, Crossover to the # 1 seeds in Division I and II. As a result their are no cupcakes on the best teams in the SCC’s schedule. Unlike the FCIAC three division tier nightmare 5 year schedule, and the SWC whatever that thing is.
    So Hand plays: Amity, Hillhouse, Cheshire, Cross, X, West Haven, North Haven, ND, Shelton, and Guilford.
    X Plays: ND, North Haven, Prep, Hamden, Hand, Amity, HH, Shelton, Westhaven, and Middletown.

  17. MXR says:

    To buttress Bubba’s point, Madison has already won at Hillhouse and beaten Cheshire. After X, they go on the road to West Haven, with North Haven down the road. X has already beaten North Haven and Prep. Two weeks after Madison they are on the road @ Hillhouse and @ Shelton, then close with current unbeatens West Haven and unbeaten Middletown. The only arguable power games not being played are Madison-Prep and X-Cheshire. They all count for States. I would prefer more inter-conference play, but in the current climate I don’t now how a conference of this size could get it any better.

  18. mueller says:

    Anybody who argues that anyone in the SCC D1 is not playing murderers row based on the omission of one or two solid squads on the schedule is crazy, so by that logic Alabama and South Carolina have easier skeds cause they avoid each other in the SEC. The FCIAC and CCC are the leagues who need to reassess their scheduling methods- Southington and Berlin are border towns and top 10 caliber teams yet don’t play each other because one is LL and M? That’s absurd

  19. The reason the SCC doesn’t go whole-hog and play all nine of their Division I (eight Division II) opponents is because they believe in scheduling the crossover games to maintain the structure of the league. When the new format was developed D1 coaches etc wouldn’t agree to wholesale D1 vs D1, so this was the compromise. You can read between the lines.

  20. Fact says:

    All im saying is the system is flawed and this game would not have been as big if they played every year, atleast then there would have been a clear number one for state poll sake. Im sure its not just me bet X and hand players both would love the bragging rights. Thanks for explaining the scheduling Bubba.

    XHS, you wouldnt understand you have a real loser attitude

  21. JB says:

    Yeah, but the last two years in the SCC the best two teams never played each other. Who planned that one? SCC fans may not like the way the FCIAC schedules its regular season from 3 leagues and cross-overs, but it would never cheat its undefeated teams the chance to meet on the field in a championship game … never. The FCIAC doesn’t need to change anything.

  22. MXR says:

    JB: Two years ago ND-WH opened the season at #1 and hosted X in the opening game. X and Hillhouse each won their classes, after playing in the regular season. Which two best SCC teams didn’t meet in 2010? The potential for problems in the SCC is in the second year of the two year cycle, which is what happened last year and could happen next year (e.g., Madison-Prep). Still the two year cycle makes sense so all of the seeded match-ups wind up home and home.

  23. Just throwing this out there: Xavier-Hand is a 1 vs. 3 matchup. I don’t care what the Hartford Courant says.

  24. Chris Berman says:

    I find it ironic that a guy who goes by the name “Fact” doesn’t really know what he’s talking about…

  25. MXR says:

    LOL — SPB trying to rile up the Tiger fans and take on the Courant with one line. Even after defending the SCC scheduling, this game should be played every year. It is a great rivalry, and would be an intense game even if both teams were 1-3 and no one was watching. Good luck to both.

  26. Bubba says:

    Hand doesn’t play Prep, and they play the Westies at home. Do your research before you post. It’s all available. Love Bubba

  27. roto says:

    @JB. I don’t remember many people clamoring for Hand-X in 2010, a year in which Hand lost to Notre Dame in the regular season. As far as the exhibition conference championship games go, there are people posting here every year that the system (in which the game is played before the end of the regular season, unless it isn’t) doesn’t put the two best teams on the field.

  28. Fact says:

    I find it ironic a guy named Chris Berman is doin commentary on nothing to do with football, add to the argument or just sit and watch. Thanks boomer

  29. JB says:

    @roto … whenever NC loses a game and then still claims they are the best in the conference … just learn to tune that noise out. That is part of the FCIAC fun, we do it in every sport.

  30. FauxRealism says:

    The CIAC has it right – the league title games are meaningless exhibitions.

    Problems with the FCIAC title game:

    Relies on a formula to arbitrarily decide who plays in the title game. In any year there is certainly debate about who deserves the opportunity. I know about 5 years ago Greenwich beat NC to win the lauded FCIAC crown, and then lost on Thanksgiving to Staples. So what does that mean?

    Game played before the season is complete. Isn’t it a giant advantage to Greenwich and Staples, and NC and Darien, that they never play their toughest opponent before the title game? Is it any wonder that those 4 teams have hogged 24 out of 32 spots in the finals since 1996 (see Dave Ruden article).

    Uneven strength of schedules, ex. New Canaan doesn’t play Greenwich, Staples, or Ridgefield in the current cycle (2011-12)? In the last 10 years, NC has never played both Staples and Greenwich in the same year (regular season).

    Talk about favoring your ‘big dogs’!

  31. JB says:

    @MXR – agreed, nothing is perfect for either league with 19 teams. The FCIAC uses the 3 divisions, meaningful cross-over games and a CIAC-like point system to balance strength of schedule (if needed) to deliver a championship game. Is that perfect? No (see roto’s comment) … but it is the best they can do.

  32. MXR says:

    @JB — agreed neither is perfect, and with a 10 (or 11) game season there is nothing a 19 team league can do to make it perfect. I also like that the two approach it differently. It gives us something to argue about every year and makes it fun when the two leagues square off in States, or next year’s challenge.

  33. FCIAC lives says:

    JB, yes, no system is perfect but when you have great programs in the FCIAC and SCC and you have tough matchups weekly, you don’t have to wait until the Championship game like the NVL and SWC in order to see a good game. I feel sorry for the boys in Masuk and Newtown going 5 weeks without any comp. Actually, it is going on 9 weeks until the death match on Thanksgiving weekend.

    Predictions for SWC this week:
    Masuk 55 NF 14
    Newtown 42 Oxford 7

    NVL:
    Ansonia 49 Seymour 7

  34. Chris Berman says:

    @Fact I’m sorry, let me rephrase that so it does have something to do with football, you don’t know what you’re talking about in regards to the SCC’s year-by-year schedule. The SCC is a huge conference and, although both are D1, X and Hand are in different divisions so they won’t play every year. It just so happens that the schedule rotation was this year, meaning more X-Hand matchups in the near future. That is why they don’t play every year, not some insane conspiracy theory involving the scheduling of the SCC.

  35. R-MAC says:

    This game between Xavier and Daniel Hand is really the CIAC Championship. Ever since Masuk got beat got by Hand last season, the X-Men are the undisputed #1 TEAM in Conn. Hand shut down the mighty Casey and never looked back. This time last year Masuk and Xavier were all the rage of who is the best highschool football team in the state. Now we get to see who the best team really is for this year, and were only half way into the season. Fairfield Prep got shutdown at Palmer by a great Xavier defense and some well tuned play calling in the 1st half. Prep in my opinion would have got beaten by Hand the same way on surf turf also. Anyway, lets get ready to rumble !

  36. JB says:

    @R-Mac – agreed, where do we mail those LL and L trophies? Let’s just start the hoops season next week.

  37. CTHSFB fan says:

    If only Foye and Vitale had one more year together for Hand, that would’ve been something to look forward too in this game, but they did their work against masuk. It’s going to be hard to prove who number one is when last year both teams were more dominant, goodluck to both teams but I’m pulling for Hand

  38. Honus says:

    There’s no denying X had an amazing team last year, but for SCC devotees, a bit of perspective might be in order. Staples as I recall, a team traditionally known for defense, spotted teams three, yes three, TDs a game. Their sophomore QB pulled off more miracle second half comebacks than Eli Manning last year, most through the air. They refused to lose. They were more gritty than great. This year, with pretty much the same team except a year older, they are truly great, routinely blowing teams out. I guarantee you this is a veteran team that can beat a strong but rebuilt X.

    As for Hand, I will certainly give them their due for beating NC. That NC team was a group of kids that could count the number of losses since third grade on one hand. Their only prior loss was when their starting QB had a head injury and couldn’t finish the game. Hand got a couple of quick scores early while NC couldn’t convert in the red zone. If this Hand team is similar, watch out.

    I’m going to be a stick in the mud and say X-Hand is going to be riddled with penalties and mistakes. The consensus will be yes they are both good, but yes they are both beatable.

  39. Dylan says:

    @CTHSFB are you serious? your best shot is with the players from this year. So if Foye and Vitale were back, give Xavier Jacobucci and Santos…or give XHS Marinan Jr. and the other O-lineman from last year…you have to play with the Hand you are dealt…lets be honest, the pressure is on XHS in this game…Hand is great but they are not playing for a third consecutive Divisional and state #1 title with a bunch of kids who were mostly part time players last year…Hand is the “underdog” if you believe their own coach…I am pulling for Xavier, they bare the champions burden and are always favored to win, that is pressure…

  40. CTHSFB fan says:

    Okk all i said was itd be fun to watch if those two were playing in this game, were these two that big of a threat that they would need four xavier players back? and besides hand is all Madison bred, Xavier has kids from all over the state. I wish the best for both teams, just more for Daniel Hand

  41. Weasel says:

    When I read the nonsense written by “Fact” I miss the nonsense written by Masukrules.

  42. Dylan says:

    What difference does it matter where the XHS kids come from? DHHS has the two Div 1 players, XHS has only one confirmed thus far. Those are facts beside the point. Regardless of where the kids come from they have to be coached and they have to learn to play with strangers. I was not suggesting 4 XHS players vs. 2 DHHS players, not at all. The point was Foye and Vitale were not good enough to win back-to-back titles and establish a 26 game winning streak. Also it is not possible to wish the best for two teams with just a little more for one team.

  43. bubba says:

    Dylan: The Hand kids having been playing together since 3rd grade, no strangers in Madison. Back to Back for Hand is premature, but a real good shot at it. Hand has a 16 game winning streak, close enough. I wish for a good game with no injuries to both teams, may the best program win tonight. Love Bubba!

  44. CTHSFB fan says:

    How could you downgrade these kids and say they weren’t good enough to win back to back titles, Foye only started 1 year and Vitale started with 3 different qb’s, I’m positive if they were seniors this year theyd win another title, and I do wish both teams beat of luck because they’re both hard working, dominant teams that deserve all the credit in the world for what they’ve accomplished, I just want hand to win because I think we’ve seen enough of Xavier just like we saw enough of masuk last year, until Hand beat them.

  45. Joe says:

    maybe you xavier to take a drug test for pid’s then we’ll talk about how good they used to be

  46. another fan says:

    Gee whiz, How does an L team win over an LL team that can’t happen … hater’s beware …I predicted this ..Hand a touch down or more …to all you believers the larger the enrolment the better the football team Ha Ha Ha…

  47. another fan says:

    1. Hand will maybe win over Xavier ,Windsor could win L over Hand, Xavier could beat Staples LL ,leaving Ansonia #1 if they go the distance.

  48. JB says:

    Gritty win by Hand – congrats. Watched it on CPTV. Ugly football game. Not very impressed by either team quite frankly. Sloppy and poor defense by each … like JV level tackling. IMO – these teams are no where near as good as last year’s squads.

  49. Frank Football says:

    JB: You can’t appreciate line play on TV. When you execute complicated schemes it doesn’t look pretty for any team. Football is won between the trenches, if line play is marginal you get to see all these play makers do their thing. These two teams are smash mouth and nasty and would hammer the FCIAC programs.

  50. JB says:

    @Frank Football – the Hand OL/DL played great and I thought was more physical than Xavier. I just thought the tackling be each team wasn’t as dominate from the corners and safeties as last year. Agree that both teams upfront are very physical, but Hand just rolled out of that war zone and basically did whatever they wanted. There are a few teams in the FCIAC that could execute that game plan and play just as well at the corner/safety positions as Xavier. Windsor will also be a tough out for Hand. I wouldn’t punch your ticket quite yet, but a great win over a very good Xavier team so enjoy it. Filippone is one heck of a coach.

  51. Frank Football says:

    Well said JB

  52. RAY BROWN says:

    O-V-E-R-A-T-E-D-

  53. SCC says:

    Hand did a great job penetrating and making sure there were no holes for Xavier’s run game, really nowhere for Berry to go, and Boyle was pressured the whole night and was sacked by Gershon and others ,tremendous game for Matt Walsh and Anderson . Terrific game by the new number one team, X has some things to work on

  54. FauxRealism says:

    @ Ray

    No shame in losing to a top 10 team. In fact, Hand plays another top 10 team this week – West Haven.

    How many YEARS does it take Ansonia to play 2 opponents in the top 10?

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