It was exactly one year ago when snowpocalypse belted our region on a football Saturday morning. I was in Westport at the time, where Darien held a 17-7 halftime lead over Staples.
We all remember what happened next: Big flakes, a snowstorm and then an avalanche of 28 third-quarter points from Staples in an eventual 42-23 victory.
Staples grew a few inches that snowy, October day. It grew from an unknown into a legit FCIAC contender. The Wreckers, mostly juniors a year ago, transformed into an FCIAC champion and a state championship participant.
As we all knew at the time, this group was a year away.
And on Saturday, they too another step toward greatness. Just two days before another freak storm was about the hammer the region, Staples slammed Darien with a hurricane of its own.
Staples was flawless in rolling up 400 yards in the first half in an eventual 63-28 bludgeoning.
That’s a school record.
Last year, the Wreckers came from behind to win five games. This year, aside from their opening 42-28 victory over St. Joseph, they’ve essentially removed all doubt before halftime.
As always, the Wreckers have ripped through the FCIAC this season with exceptional offensive balance. Four players have each amassed over 300 yards rushing this season. Joey Zelkowitz and Nick Kelly did the honors on Saturday, each running 10 times for 138 yards in the Wreckers’ spread option.
And with big, dominating, exhilarating, overwhelming victories, comes the inevitable transfer of praise.
“In my 34 years, this is the best high school football team I’ve ever seen,” a shell-shocked Darien coach Rob Trifone told our own Doug Bonjour. “We played Masuk back in 2010 and we played Hillhouse in the state semifinals, and they were some phenomenal team back in 2008. This team is bigger and faster collectively than anyone I’ve ever played.”
Hyperbole from an awestruck vanquished foe? Perhaps. Trifone’s been known for it.
Regardless of whether you subscribe to those sentiments, Staples has gone beyond establishing clearly one of the top teams in the state. As of right now, the Wreckers are looking like the favorite in a Class LL field that got turned on its head with Fairfield Prep and Ridgefield losing on Friday.
As for its more immediate goals, Staples finishes with (and is favored to beat) Fairfield Warde and Westhill to clinch its spot in the FCIAC Championship game. Should Staples continue its torrid course, the only thing left is determining who will face them.
Will it be a rematch with Greenwich? The Cardinals certainly looked the part by dismantling Westhill 63-22 on Saturday. The Cardinals face upset-minded McMahon and then wrap the FCIAC regular season against Danbury.
Or will it be (gasp!) Trinity Catholic? The Crusaders wiped out Bassick and now dive right into the defining moment of their 2012 season: Back-to-back games vs. Darien and St. Joseph.
Should Trinity Catholic beat Darien, its finale vs. St. Joseph will decide when/where the FCIAC championship will be played. Another Trinity Catholic win, and it’ll be the Crusaders vs. Wreckers at Trumbull for the prize. A Trinity loss, and we will once again hone our focus on Thanksgiving: Cardinals vs. Wreckers.
The latest standings are above, right. Top two teams in average points reach the FCIAC championship. The only possible way New Canaan squeaks in is if they win out and both Greenwich and Trinity lose at least once (to force a three-way tie), or twice.
Meanwhile, in the SWC, things got busy.
There was excruciating drama Saturday afternoon, where Weston and Oxford won two thrilling games thanks to some late heroics by their do-it-all quarterbacks.
Tyler Hassett, still hobbling from a groin injury suffered against New Fairfield, came off the bench to lead the Trojans past Stratford with a 46-yard touchdown pass to Justin Schaffer with 29 seconds remaining. Weston 20, Stratford 15.
Up in Oxford, Brennen Diaz orchestrated a late-game comeback over Joe Pacheco and New Fairfield. Just when all seemed lost, he hit Chris Vankamerik with a 55-yard touchdown pass with a minute remaining and then found Jeff Haney for the winning 2-point conversion. Oxford 22, New Fairfield 21.
Both games were huge in terms of state playoffs. With Masuk looming, the Trojans needed to win to keep their Class M hopes kicking. They’ll need to win at least two more games and finish 8-2 to get into decent position. Any more losses, and they’ll be scrambling.
As for Oxford, is there any hope in Class S? The Wolverines are sitting at 5-2, but all the way back in 15th place. They’ll have to win out — Bunnell, Stratford, Pomperaug — and pray enough happens.
As far as the SWC Championship is concerned, it’s a three-horse race between favorites Masuk (Weston, Barlow remaining) and Newtown (Immaculate, Bunnell remaining). Barlow is statistically in the race, but must win out.
And that means beating Brookfield and Masuk, back-to-back.
Lots of luck, gentlemen.
Elsewhere on Saturday:
Of all the teams to show the CSC how it’s done against invincible Prince Tech, about ’bout them Abbott Tech Wolverines? That’s the way it’s done. Wow.
Anyway, here are your Saturday results and game story links.
Now we wait for the real storm…
- FCIAC: Norwalk 20, Harding 0 | New Canaan 21, Wilton 14 | St. Joseph 49, Fairfield Warde 6 | Greenwich 63, Westhill 22 | Staples 63, Darien 28
- SWC: Bunnell 52, Immaculate 18* | Oxford 22, New Fairfield 21 | Barlow 47, New Milford 21 | Masuk 53, Notre Dame-Fairfield 6* | Weston 20, Stratford 15
- CSC: Abbott Tech 17, Prince Tech 14 | Bullard Havens Tech 49, Platt Tech 6* | Cheney Tech 38, Wolcott Tech 18 | O’Brien Tech 28, Whitney Tech 0
- CCC: Newington 34, South Windsor 20 | Southington 42, Hall 10 | Hartford Public 48, Fermi 7 | RHAM 20, E.O. Smith 17 | Tolland 35, Rockville 6 | Northwest Catholic 42, East Catholic 8 | Manchester 40, Conard 14
- ECC: New London 49, Woodstock Academy 6 | Norwich Free Academy 31, Bacon Academy 6
- NVL: St. Paul Catholic 41, Kennedy 0
- PEQUOT: Hyde Leadership 45, Old Saybrook/Westbrook 8 | North Branford 42, Cromwell 7 | Valley Regional/Old Lyme 36, Coginchaug 7 | Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton 47, Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby 14 | Ellington/Somers 21, Enfield 0 | Gilbert/NW Regional 21, Canton 0 | Avon 37, Housatonic/Wamogo 7 | Granby Memorial 20, SMSA/University 12