Newtown's Cooper Gold is grabbed by Norwich Free Academy's Tuzar Skipper during their Class LL state quarterfinal game at Newtown High School on Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012. N.F.A. won, 63-21. Photo: Jason Rearick / The News-Time
With every Twitter update, you could just sense the exasperation and frustration coming from the losing team.
Touchdown after touchdown after touchdown after touchdown…
When would it stop, this avalanche of points? Would this frightening state quarterfinal display ever end?
No, we’re not talking about Prince Tech vs. Ansonia.
We’re talking about Newtown.
The newly-crowned SWC champs got a first-hand glimpse at the team that’s sure to be the talk of Connecticut over the next four days leading up to Sunday’s Class LL quarterfinals at Ken Strong Stadium.
Yes, NFA was unbeaten. Yes, they’d already got our attention down here in Shangri La when coach Jemal Davis voluntarily suspended himself for beating Stamford 51-0 under score management back in October.
At 10-0, NFA was clearly a good team with an outstanding tailback in Marcus Outlow.
Just how good? Well that’s what these playoffs are all about.
Now we know.
“That’s an outstanding football team,” Newtown coach Steve George said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make it all the way through to the finals.”
Wait. …The Finals, Steve? But the reservations I’m seeing for the Class LL playoffs are for Xavier and Staples. You know, Rentschler Field. Party of Two?
Well, pull up another chair because Outlow and the Wildcats are crashing this date and, already the fans are out in full attack mode.
Did you hear it?
“We want Staples! … We want Staples! … We want Staples!”
Yes, we were all impressed Tuesday night. Staples looked practically invincible in thrashing West Haven, 42-20. The Wreckers scored four times on six plays.
NFA didn’t quite score that quick, but — hello — it looked just as dominant.
Khaleed Exum-Strong scored twice to make it 14-0 before anyone could blink. It was 21-0 before Newtown scored its first touchdown.
The Nighthawks got within 28-14, but NFA exploded for 35-points in the third quarter.
NFA scored on runs, passes, interception returns, punt returns.
What? No kickoff returns?
“We come in as the underdogs because we come from the Eastern Connecticut Conference,” said Outlow, a junior who’s been getting offers from a bunch of Division I powerhouses, to WFSB’s John Holt.
“We like it because it gives us a boost and just motivates us more to prove to everybody that we’re the real deal.”
So don’t start buying up those cozy Rentschler Field suites, Westportians (or is it Westportites?).
You have a game to play.
Greenwich's Austin Longi is taken down by a pair of Xavier defenders during Wednesday's quarterfinals
We’ll see if Glastonbury, which righted the score against No. 2-seeded Southington, wants to make this a foursome.
Since trailing Hillhouse 49-21 in Week 6, Xavier has now outscored its opponents 216-52.
Beating the two-time defending champions will be a tall order for the Tomahawks. (Though we are wondering about the status of Xavier back DeAngelo Berry, just as we’re awaiting word on Staples’ Nick Kelly.)
So forget that game for the moment.
Everyone’s eyes are fixed on Staples-NFA.
It’s this year’s Hand-Masuk.
Who thought that would be the case when they got up this morning?
(No, you don’t count NFA).
Attack of the ECC II!
NFA wasn’t the only ECC team sending shockwaves through the state.
How about Montville? The No. 8-seeded Indians, who squeaked into the playoffs a week ago, derailed the Mike Nicol Express at Wolcott for good with a surprising 32-14 road victory.
Jeremiah Crowley, who’s come out of nowhere for the Indians this season, ran for a pair of touchdowns, including a 50-yarder that put his team up 25-14 late in the third quarter.
And now Montville, not Wolcott, will get a crack at the 2012 Class M cham… (er, scratch that)… No. 4-seeded Hillhouse Academics.
Weston won this game the way it’s won most of its games: by the hair of their chinny-chin-chins.
“These are the games we play — it’s an ulcer every time we play,” Lato said. “I know it going into it, it’s going to be a roller-coaster ride, but I’m super proud of our kids.”
Weston faces No. 2 Berlin in the semifinals.
Masuks Frank Barcarella chugs upfield during the Class L quarterfinals vs. Middletown
After a season’s worth of routs, Masuk’s been living on the edge of late.
It lost to Newtown in the SWC championship game a week ago and, against Middletown in the Class L quarterfinals, found itself down two touchdowns for the first time since last year’s semifinal clash with Hand.
“It’s worked for us all year, so we went back to it and jammed it down their throats,” guard Stergios Koutikas said.
In addition to the usual suspects, we saw a few new names, Brandon Charney at QB and Joe DaMota at back, but the result was the same.
“Once we started having success, I wasn’t going to beat my head against the wall and go back,” Murphy said. “It was the best way to get the ball to Thomas (Milone) and Frank (Bacarella). Our offensive line played so well.”
Masuk advances to play — who else? — No. 1 seeded, No. 1 ranked and defending champion Hand in a rematch of last year’s anticipated semifinal, won by Hand 35-14. It doesn’t have the same teeth as a year ago, but it’s still a match-up to watch.
On the other half of the draw, another Class L rematch. New Canaan got a fright from Avon, but advanced with a 16-7 victory. Meanwhile, Windsor was the only state team to handle the ECC. The Warriors took out Fitch 38-7.
New Canaan won last year’s game in a nailbiter, 26-24. Windsor is no doubt looking to settle the score.
The NVL-Pequot Challenge
Trinity Catholic's Sean Brown evades two North Branford players on his way to the endzone for a touchdown, during CIAC Class S boys football quarterfinals. Photo: Christian Abraham / Connecticut Post
Finally, Ansonia, Woodland and North Branford joined Hyde in the Class S semifinals, or as it will be now known, ‘The NVL-Pequot Challenge.’
Down by 13 points in the fourth quarter, Trinity Catholic rallied to within 34-28 and had the ball in North Branford territory. But then a fumble, a North Branford recovery and DeLucia’s fourth touchdown of the day.
That iced it.
“I wish we could have gone farther,” Trinity’s Peter Stokes said. “I really wanted these kids to experience what I and some of my assistants experienced here, winning championships.
“But hey, that’s a great freggin football team. Coach (Mark) Basil should be really proud. He’s got a heckuva son playing quarterback. I hope my son can turn out like him. Give them credit.”
As SCC Commissioner Al Carbone was so quick to send through the Twitter waves following Wednesday night’s proceedings, the SCC was one of the top leagues to emerge from the quarterfinals.
The mighty SCC saw three of four teams advance in different divisions (Xavier, Hand, Hillhouse).
But they have company.
Though it went 3-4 overall, the CCC also sent three teams into the semifinals (Windsor, Glastonbury, Berlin), the most since the CIAC expanded the playoffs in 2010.
The SWC, NVL, ECC and Pequot League sent two teams apiece. Despite a stronger effort this year (bravo), the CSC saw all of its teams eliminated.
As for the FCIAC, five teams went in, only two remain.
Welcome back to round 2 of the CIAC state quarterfinals.
Tonight the remaining 12 games kick off around the state. Locally, in Class LL Greenwich travels to Xavier and Norwich Free Academy goes to Newtown. In Class L, New Canaan plays Avon in Simsbury; Middletown goes to Bunnell High School in Stratford to take on Masuk.
In Class M, Weston plays Ellington in Enfield. In Class S, Ansonia plays host to Prince Tech.
Darryn Horner snags an interception in front of St. Joseph's Jake Pelletier at the goal line in Hillhouse's 34-14 victory over the Hogs at East Haven. Horner took the pick 98 yards the other way for a touchdown just before halftime.
A year ago, torrential rain played havoc with the CIAC state quarterfinals.
On Tuesday night, Mother Nature decided to test the playoff field again, this time with a significant (but not crippling) snowstorm.
The other four hosts decided to give it a go. To the chagrin of of a few, CIAC made no attempt to intervene. “We’re playing … Not sure if we should be playing,” said one football committee member, whose complaint wasn’t the snow, but the advantage the mass postponements give the Tuesday crowd, “but we’re playing.”
And then there was the other side.
“Football is played the elements,” Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer said. Asked again, Dyer added, “We were prepared. This is football weather. This is a turf field.”
So we kicked off four quarterfinal games, some played in driving snow for at least a half or two. The worst of it was high atop Wheelbarrow Road in East Haven (The East Haven Himalayas, says Ned ‘Polecat’ Griffen’). Westport seemed to get the least.
Three hosts won. The other lost in a heartbreaker.
Staples passed its test. With high flying colors, it passed.
So did Hillhouse.
Visitors St. Joseph and Bullard-Havens? Not so much.
Bullard-Havens didn’t seem to mind. “It’s no excuse for not doing our job,” senior back John Shannon said of his team’s 41-14 loss.
St. Joseph… to say they minded would be sugarcoating it.
“I’m not sure whose idea it was to play,” said coach Joe Della Vecchia, in a string of not-so-subtle complaints about the weather and the officiating, which he believed hindered his team’s potential.
“I’m not a fan of it. It certainly didn’t help the timing of what we had to do. It didn’t hurt us as far as the outcome, I don’t think, but the whole time the receivers were a little bit slower and the balls were going a little bit farther. I disagree with the decision to play here today. I thought it was just raining. We came up here and the field was covered in snow and it wasn’t really taken care of well. It was tough for both teams.”
Andre Anderson stretches the ball across the goal line for a touchdown in Tuesday night's Class M quarterfinal victory over St. Joseph.
The Hogs’ offense never found its footing on the inch of snow on the Crisafi Field turf. They committed four turnovers, one fumble and three interceptions. The fumble came on the first play from scrimmage. It led to a touchdown. Darryn Horner took another 98 yards for a touchdown to put the Academics up 28-6 at halftime.
St. Joseph also couldn’t score inside the 10-yard line twice in the first half.
Hillhouse, meanwhile, were practically making snow-angels. While Harold Cooper wasn’t a major factor with 47 yards, Andre Anderson was. He ran for 139 yards. One long run led to a touchdown, the other was a touchdown.
“I never played in anything like this,” said Horner, who had two interceptions to lead a physical defensive backfield that harassed and punished St. Joseph’s receivers “It was exciting.”
“”I’m real proud of them for showing some real toughness and battling the weather and really not making the weather an issue,” Dyer said. “I never once heard my kids say, hey coach, I slipped.”
The speedy and physical academics will face the winner of Wolcott-Montville. They’re the surefire favorites in Class M now after winning what many of us called the ‘Class M championship in the quarterfinals.’
Dyer didn’t want to hear it.
“This wasn’t the state championship,” he said. “We’ve seen Wolcott. We’ve seen Montville. Both two quality programs. We’ve got to be prepared to play because if we’re not prepared to play, we’re going to be sitting home watching the state championship.”
James Fruciante hauls in a long touchdown pass from Jack Massie in the Wreckers' 42-20 victory over West Haven.
SPEAKING OF FAVORITES, Staples sure looked like one in demolishing West Haven 42-20. The Wreckers scored on the first offensive play of the game — a 60-yard touchdown pass from Jack Massie to James Frusciante and then scored another three touchdowns on five more plays.
The Wreckers defense had no issues stopping the Westies sterling back Ervin Phillips.
Like they did to so many teams this season, the Wreckers amassed over 300 yards in the first half and led 35-0.
“We came out fired up,” Frusciante said. “I think we were really ready to go for this game. The offense came out fired up and the defense was lights out in the first half.”
The Westies came into the game without staring quarterback Jevon Taylor but, “Our problems really weren’t on offense in the first quarter,” West Haven coach Ed McCarthy said.
Staples did get a jolt of reality when senior back Nick Kelly injured his shoulder in the third quarter and didn’t return to the field, except to sit on the bench. Losing the all-state player wouldn’t be fun for the Wreckers. Not now.
Still, what a performance.
BULLARD-HAVENS MUST have had underdog fans giddy in the second half of their state quarterfinal vs. Berlin. The Tigers were down early, but rallied to pull within 21-14 in the second half on a pair of Jacqua Solomon runs.
But Berlin turned on the jets and eventually cruised to a 41-14 victory.
It was a much better effort than their last two trips. “This was the most talented team I’ve coached,” Johnson said. “We represented ourselves well.”
FINALLY, it was heartbreak in Class S for Rocky Hill. The No. 4-seeded Terriers had just rallied from 15-0 down to pull within 15-14 with seconds remaining against Hyde, pending the extra point. They decided to kick, take their chances in overtime. But the it was blocked slightly and fell just short of the goal posts. Hyde wins and advances.
Watch highlights of that, and West Haven-Staples below from the guys at WFSB.
Here’s hoping for more excitement in today’s quarterfinals.
It wasn’t that long ago that Central football was one of Connecticut’s most downtrodden programs.
Then the school hired Dave Cadelina and began one of the great turnarounds in state football history.
Now, after 16 years, 93 victories, a pair of state tournament appearances and two FCIAC championship game appearances, Cadelina has decided to hang up his whistle.
The 47-year coach, who’s came to be known for his flair for drama, using movie themes, quotes and even game-day makeup to help motivate his players, made his decision after several months of mulling it over with his family.
His decision made, Cadelina met with his players this afternoon.
“Feel that it’s time for me to step aside,” said Cadelina, a math teacher at the school. “Throw Excalibur back into the lake if, you will, and open it up for somebody new to come on in.
“Have had nothing but enjoyment being here for 16 years serving players and the community at Central.”
Cadelina, a Bethany native and Amity graduate who was a freshman on the Spartans’ 1979 state championship team, was an assistant coach for nine years, including time spent at Harding under Bob Cole.
When Cadelina took over in 1997, Kennedy Stadium was a dump, Central hadn’t had a winning season in 25 years, nor had it beaten crosstown rival Harding in recent years.
It didn’t take long for Central to smash down barriers.
“My first goal when I got there was beating Harding,” said Cadelina who was 93-71-1 at Central. “I really wanted to help even out that series. We accomplished that goal fairly early.”
Central beat Harding in his first season. It went on to win 15 of 16 meetings, including the last 14 years, under Cadelina’s watch.
“Our next goal was to have a winning season,” he said. “We took care of that too.”
Central went 6-5 in 1999.
In 2004, Cadelina and the Hilltoppers stunned the rest of the FCIAC by going 9-0 in the regular season and reaching the school’s first FCIAC championship game. Central lost to Greenwich 43-27, but also reached the state playoffs. Kennedy Stadium hosted its first state playoff game, but Central got hammered by eventual state champion New Britain, 59-7.
Three years later, Central returned to the state playoffs. But they were defeated twice by Greenwich. First in the season opener, than in the Class LL semifinals.
In 2009, Cadelina had one of his best, most physical teams. The Hilltoppers defeated Greenwich and New Canaan on the way to a second straight FCIAC championship. They led Staples 10-7 with 1:55 remaining, but Brendan Rankowitz broke their hearts with the winning 66-yard touchdown catch-and run.
“I was dying to win that FCIAC championship,” Cadelina said. “We came close.”
That was Central’s last, great team. Though the last three Central teams didn’t win as consistently as Cadelina would have liked, he said his decision to leave had nothing to do with wins and losses.
“Some of my losing years have been the enjoyable,” he said. “I’m 100 pct proud of accomplishments we’ve had at Central in 16 years.”
“But as most coaches will tell you, it’s a year round job and I’ve been thinking long and hard about this. Only the future will tell if this is a good decision. For me and for team, I believe I’m making right one. I will miss it terribly and I have no aspirations on coaching anywhere else but at Central High School. I’m sure it’ll be in good hands.”
The SCC and FCIAC will face off in three state quarterfinal games, beginning tonight. Above, left column: Hillhouse's Harold Cooper; Xavier's DeAngelo Berry; West Haven's Ervin Phillips. Right column: St. Joseph's Mike Pulaski; Greenwich's Joe Kelly; Staples' Joey Zelkowitz.
For a good part of the last year, the good folks from the state’s two biggest and mightiest leagues — the Southern Connecticut Conference and the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference — have been attempting to help each other out.
Beginning next year and concluding in 2014, the CIAC will allow teams to schedule an 11th regular season game.
So naturally, someone quickly came up with the idea that the 19 teams from the SCC and the 19 from the FCIAC could matchup and play together in a massive crossover arrangement designed to fill the extra date and spark interest among fans.
The FCIAC-SCC Challenge.
Thirty-eight teams, 19 games, spread out over the first few days of Week 1. You’d get Xavier-Shelton, Greenwich-West Haven, Hand-New Canaan… and on down the list. MSG Varsity would pump money into broadcasts and promotion, and a way we’d go.
Alas, it’s never that easy. After some initial handshakes between the proud conferences, hammering out the format and getting the actual deal done has been plagued with smalls issues.
Then there was the Amity conundrum. A good year before the FCIAC and SCC began figuring this out, Amity athletic director Paul Mengold reached out to his schools old Housatonic rivals at Seymour and scheduled a Week 1 game. When the SCC later requested he ditch his Seymour agreement in favor of scheduling an FCIAC school, Mengold refused to renege his agreement with Seymour.
That caused about three months of wrangling until finally, finally the two league agreed to a deal (right around the same time as we published this post.)
Due to Amity’s agreement with Seymour, two FCIAC schools opted out and will play each other. That left Branford, which also agreed to look elsewhere for a game.
New Canaan vs. Daniel Hand | Staples vs. Xavier | Darien vs. Hillhouse | Ridgefield vs. Cheshire | Greenwich vs. West Haven | St. Joseph vs. Notre Dame-WH | Central vs. North Haven | Trumbull vs. Shelton | Stamford vs. Fairfield Prep | Danbury vs. Hamden | Wilton vs. Guilford | Fairfield Warde vs. Foran | Trinity Catholic vs. Sheehan | McMahon vs. Wilbur Cross |Fairfield Ludlowe vs. Lyman Hall | Bassick vs. East Haven | Harding vs. Jonathan Law
But we don’t have to wait for 2013 to see these two mega-league match up.
Divine intervention — results, playoff points and formatting — has pitted three FCIAC teams and three SCC teams in the state quarterfinals.
Staples takes on West Haven, Greenwich plays Xavier in Class LL. St. Joseph plays Hillhouse in Class M.
If things shake out the right way, there’s also potential for New Canaan-Hand in Class L Maybe even Staples-Xavier (or Greenwich-West Haven).
This has happened a lot over the years, especially in Class LL and L.
For those scoring at home — and we know you are — since the CIAC expanded the playoffs to include quarterfinals (a year into the leagues’ current configuration):
The SCC has beaten the FCIAC 15 times in 25 meetings (15-10).
The SCC is 12-5 in Class LL
The series is tied 3-3 in Class L.
The FCIAC was 2-0 in the now-defunct Class MM division.
The SCC is 7-1 in the Class LL championship game and 3-0 in the Class L championship game.
Greenwich’s LL win in 2007 and New Canaan’s MM win over Hand in 2007 are the FCIAC’s only state title victories over the SCC.
Overall, the SCC dominated the proceedings from 1996-2005, winning 10 of 13 games and five state championships over the FCIAC.
The FCIAC turned it around from 2006-2010. It won five straight playoff games, won two state titles over the SCC (Greenwich, New Canaan) and was 7-2 overall.
Last year, the SCC dominated with three victories and two state championships (Xavier, Hand).
The SCC has won the last three Class LL championships (all against the FCIAC)
The SCC has won two of the last three Class L championships (one against the FCIAC).
The SCC has won one of the last three Class M championships.
Clearly, it’s been the SCC’s playoffs. Especially recently.
And now we go again. Staples is the favorite to play for a Class LL championship. But West Haven, which has one of the state’s top backs in Ervin Phillips, lost only to Xavier and Hand. St. Joseph takes on Harold Cooper, Andre Anderson and the explosive Hillhouse Academics.
And finally, Greenwich, playing in its first state playoff game since beating Shelton in the 2007 Class LL final (the last time the FCIAC took home an LL trophy), takes on Boston College QB recruit Tim Boyle and two-time defending champion Xavier.
It’s the FCIAC-SCC Playoff Challenge. Playoff Edition.
You wanna ring the bell, Apollo?
WELCOME TO PLAYOFF CENTRAL
The live blog is below. Of course there’s lots to tell you. Three quarters of the playoff field have been postponed until tomorrow, with semifinals getting pushed to Sunday. (Not sure why the CIAC would allow the remainder to play, giving them an extra day’s rest to recover and scout), but that’s where we are.
Start off with the two-time defending state champs, the FCIAC champions, the SWC champions, the ECC Large champs, CCC Division I’s best team.
It’s a division so good, one unlucky 10-0 team must hit the road in the state quarterfinals: All the way from Norwich to Newtown.
Since losing 42-7 to Xavier in last year’s Class LL final, this has been a season of destiny for Staples. The Wreckers haven’t trailed all season and made mince meat of the FCIAC. They’re stacked with talent up and down the roster. Eight state voters have deemed them the No. 1-ranked team.
They’re aligned for a rematch with Xavier. But first things first: The Wreckers must find a way to halt top tailback Ervin Phillips and West Haven.
The Westies have only lost to two teams this year, 10-0 Hand and Class LL No. 3 seed Xavier.
What do you say about Xavier? They’ve looked vulnerable this year? Have you seen Xavier lately?
Since being down 49-21 to Hillhouse in the fourth quarter in Week 6, the Falcons have scored 170 points, averaging just under two touchdowns in 13 quarters. Worse for this field, they’re healthy. Their starting linebacker unit has returned. Their offense, led by Boston College recruit QB Tim Boyle, is on fire.
The Falcon start off with FCIAC runner-up Greenwich, which is itching to redeem itself after last week’s FCIAC title-game loss.
Let’s not discount QB Stephen Barmore and No. 2-seeded Southington, or their quarterfinal opponent, No. 7 Glastonbury. The Tomahawks were yards away from winning their CCC showdown with the Blue Knights in October only to see an interception eventually turn into the winning touchdown of a 28-21 Southington victory.
The winner of the rematch might get to test Xavier’s championship meddle. Or maybe get an LL heavyweight match with Greenwich.
Perhaps still overlooked despite going 10-0 for the first time in 16 years and winning its first SWC title in 15 years, Newtown is anxious to prove it’s among the elite. Their first game at Blue and Gold Stadium matches up with back Marcus Outlow and unbeaten Norwich Free Academy. Winner gets the Staples-est Haven winner.
We know Newtown would love another chance at Staples after letting slip a 14-0 least in last year’s semifinals.
Most observers like Staples-Xavier II. But anything can happen. This division just might prove it.
What do you think?
Class LL preview
Previews and predictions by the Hearst CT sports staff: Doug Bonjour: Staples-West Haven; David Fierro: Greenwich-Xavier; Sean Patrick Bowley: Glastonbury-Southington. Stats provided by teams via MaxPreps. Some statistics may not include Thanksgiving Week.
No. 8 West Haven at No. 1 Staples
WHERE – Staples High School, Westport RECORDS — West Haven 8-2 (SCC Division I East second place); Staples 9-0 (FCIAC champions) PLAYOFF RECORD — West Haven 6-6; Staples 11-8 LAST APPEARANCE — West Haven 2010 (Lost to Xavier 28-7 in LL quarterfinals); Staples 2011 (Lost to Xavier 42-7 in LL final). PLAYERS TO WATCH — West Haven: Sr. FB Eddy Williams (855 rushing yards, 16 TD), Jr. RB Ervin Phillips (957 rushing yards, 22 TD), Jr. LB Jesse Ridgway (61 tackles). Staples: Sr. RB/DB Joey Zelkowitz (954 rushing yards, 14 TD), Sr. RB/S Nick Kelly (507 rushing yards, 10 TD), Sr. WR/DB James Frusciante (658 receiving yards, 11 TD), Jr. QB Jack Massie (1,189 passing yards, 12 TD, 549 rushing, 9 TD), Sr. DE Pieter Hoets (73 tackles, 7 sacks), Sr. LB Lance Lonergan (74 tackles, 4 INT, 1.5 sacks). YOU SHOULD KNOW — The teams last met in 2006 in the semifinals of the Class L state playoffs, a game Staples won 24-7. … West Haven’s two losses this season came against teams with a combined 19-1 record, 21-20 against Daniel Hand and 42-7 against Xavier. … West Haven is averaging 41 points in its eight wins. … Staples leads the state with 52 points a game, and has scored no fewer than 48 points in its nine wins. … Staples is third in the state with 4,573 total yards of offense. … Running back Joey Zelkowitz rushed for a record 317 yards in a 48-20 win over Greenwich in the FCIAC championship game on Thanksgiving. … Staples is fifth in the state in rushing with 3,356 yards. … Offense has allowed just five sacks this season. … Senior linebacker Lance Lonergan has returned three of his four interceptions for touchdowns. … Staples has not trailed at any point this season. DOUG’S PICK – Staples 31, West Haven 17 SPB’S PICK – Staples 35, West Haven 20
No. 5 Norwich Free Academy at No. 4 Newtown
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 WHERE – Blue and Gold Stadium, Newtown RECORDS — Norwich Free Academy: 10-0 (ECC Large champions); Newtown: 10-0 (SWC Champions) PLAYOFF RECORDS – Norwich Free Academy 2-3; Newtown 4-8. LAST APPEARANCE — Norwich Free Academy: 2010 (lost to Trumbull 21-6 in LL semifinals; Newtown: 2011 (lost to Staples 44-20 in LL semifinals). PLAYERS TO WATCH –Norwich Free Academy: Sr. QB Joey Paparelli (580 yards, 11 TDs passing; 702 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs); Jr. RB Marcus Outlow (954 rushing yards, 15 rushing TDs, 2 TD catches); Soph. RB Khaleed Exum-Strong (592 yards, 8 TDs rushing); Sr. WR Ryer Caruso (6 TD catches); Sr. LB Anthony Gomes (6 sacks). Newtown: Jr. QB Andrew Tarantino (98-for-162, 1,675 passing yards, 23 passing TDs, 3 interceptions); Jr. RB Cooper Gold (815 yards, 16 TDs rushing); Soph. WR Julian Dunn (565 yards, 9 TDs receiving); Sr. WR/DB Justin DeVellis (5 TD catches, 4 INTs); Soph. LB Tim Krapf (70 tackles); Sr. OL/DL Pat Thornberg (3.5 sacks); Jr. OL/DL Josh Krapf (3.0 sacks). YOU SHOULD KNOW – Sr. WR Dan Hebert has been out of action since breaking his arm against Bunnell on Nov. 9. …Newtown won its first SWC championship since 1997 with a 21-14 victory over Masuk. Gold was the MVP with 222 yards rushing and 2 TDs. … Paparelli threw two TD passes to Caruso and Outlow ran for two scores as NFA beat New London on Thanksgiving in the 151st meeting … Both Newtown (Masuk) and NFA (Fitch) have each played just one team that qualified for the state playoffs. … Newtown outscored its opponents 372-106, while NFA out-scored its opponents 393-91. … This is the first time in the brief history of the quarterfinal round that two undefeated teams are meeting … When Newtown won its last state title (1992, Class MM), it was playing in the now-defunct Western Connecticut Conference, its mascot was the Indians and Blue and Gold Stadium was still named after Olympic gold medalist Bruce Jenner. RICH’S PICK — NFA 28, Newtown 21 SPB’S PICK – Newtown 21, NFA 14
No. 7 Glastonbury at No. 2 Southington
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE — Fontana Field, Southington RECORDS — Glastonbury 9-1 (CCC Division I East champion); Southington 10-0 (Division I West champion) PLAYOFF RECORD — Glastonbury 5-4; Southington 5-6 LAST APPEARANCE — Glastonbury 2011 (lost to Xavier 34-6 in LL quarterfinals); Southington: 2007 (lost to Shelton in 21-19 in Class LL semifinals) PLAYERS TO WATCH — Glastonbury: Sr. QB/WR Ben Berey; Jr. QB Jalen Ollie; Sr. DE/TE Joshua Hill; Sr. OL/DE Matthew Hill; Sr. RB/DB Charles Wooding; Sr. RB/DB Tyler Janssen; Southington: Jr. QB Stephen Barmore (1,819 yards, 18 TDs passing; 325 yards, 10 TDs rushing); Jr. RB Jarrid Grimmett (646 yards, 9 TDs rushing); Sr. Anthony Bonefant (40 catches, 610 yards, 5 TDs); Jr. WR Corbin Garry (33 catches, 598 yards, 6 TD); Jr. DE Zach Maxwell (8 sacks); Sr. LB Justin Rose (8.4 tackles/gm); Sr. LB Nick Spitz (8.7 tackles/gm) YOU SHOULD KNOW – This is a rematch of an Oct. 20 game, won by Southington 28-21 on Grimmett’s TD run with 34 seconds remaining. … is Glastonbury’s fifth straight state play playoffs. …This is Southington’s first state playoff appearance since losing to Shelton in the 2007 LL semifinals. …This is the second time these programs have met in the state playoffs. Glastonbury defeated Southington to win the 1984 LL title. …Southington coach Mike Drury is a Bristol native and the son of former Pomperaug championship coach Chuck Drury, who is an assistant on the staff. …Ollie is the son of UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie. …Southington has allowed just 98 points, the sixth least in the state and second-least for an LL school (behind NFA’s 91). Both teams average approximately 35 points per game. ….This is Southington’s second game on its new turf field. SPB’S PICK – Southington 34, Glastonbury 21
No. 6 Greenwich at No. 3 Xavier
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 WHERE — Palmer Field, Middletown ON THE AIR — CPTV Sports (check local listings) | WGCH 1490-AM RECORDS — Greenwich 8-1 (FCIAC runners-up); Xavier (SCC Division I West champions)
PLAYOFF RECORD — Xavier 8-4; Greenwich 16-5 LAST APPEARANCE — Xavier: 2011 (defeated Staples, 42-7, in LL finals); Greenwich: 2007 (beat Shelton, 28-14, in LL final) PLAYERS TO WATCH — Greenwich: Sr. RB Alex McMurray (628 yards, 17 TDs rushing, 3 TDs receiving); Sr. QB Liam O’Neil (1,134 yards, 17 TDs); Sr. TE/DE Joe Kelly (24 receptions, 602 yards, 12 TDs); Sr. FS/WR Taylor Olmstead; Sr. DL Alex McGee (team-high 8 sacks); Sr. RB/LB Mark Bernstein (483 yards, 7 TDs); Sr. WR Vincent Ferraro (23 receptions, 492 yards, 5 TDs); Xavier: Sr. RB/DB DeAngelo Berry (1,275 yards, 27 TDs); Sr. QB Tim Boyle (1,612 yards, 15 TDs); Sr. WR/DB Kris Luster (47 receptions, 930 yards, 6 TDs); Jr. RB/DB Andrew Meoli (304 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. LB Max Tylki (6-1, 207); Sr. LB Charlton Ortega; Jr. DB/WR Nate Gonzalez (64 tackles, 6 INT); Sr. OL/LB Matt Manzione (62 tackles); Jr. ILB Derek Jones (5-10, 207) YOU SHOULD KNOW — Greenwich and Xavier are facing each other in the postseason for the first time since the Cardinals beat the Falcons, 24-8, in the Class LL semifinals. … Two-time defending Class LL champion Xavier is 22-1 in its last 23 games, its only loss coming to Daniel Hand last month. … Boyle will play at Boston College next year. … Greenwich has won seven state championships, its most recent coming in 2007. … Xavier has captured five state titles. … The Cardinals are averaging 46 points per game, while the Falcons are scoring 44 points per contest. … Boyle and Berry are ranked among the top 20 in the state in passing and rushing, respectively. … Greenwich is 16-3 the last two seasons with two of the losses coming against Staples in the FCIAC championship game. … Berry has rushed for more than 200 yards in a game twice so far this season and has had three or more touchdowns in all but two games. … The teams representing the SCC have fared well in the state tournament recently. Xavier and Hand won their respective class titles a year ago, Xavier and Hillhouse won in 2010, while Cheshire and Notre Dame-West Haven claimed state titles in 2009. SPB’S PICK — Xavier 48, Greenwich 28
Finally, we talked state playoffs on the Laxworm High School Football show on Sunday. Hear Kyle Brennan of Re-Am, Ned Griffen of The Day and myself break it all down. Special guest was coach Rob Fleeting of Windsor.
Matt Walsh, Peter Gerson and the unbeaten defending Class L champion Hand Tigers are back for another run at a glorious 10th state championship. And as of now they’re the favorites to win it all again. After all, they come from the mighty Southern Connecticut Conference and toppled two-time defending Class LL champ Xavier back on Oct. 12.
So who’s going to do what Xavier couldn’t?
How about Windsor?
The talented, high-flying Warriors bring one of the state’s best quarterbacks in Robert Quinn Fleeting and twin monsters Lance and Cole Ormsby. Windsor, which knocked off Notre Dame-West Haven and had New Canaan down before the Rams rallied late and broke Windsor’s heart on a last-second field goal.
Coach Rob Fleeting, the QB’s father, said the team has taken that loss, rededicated themselves and learned from their mistakes. They’re a solid choice to reach the final and take a shot at the champs. (We interviewed Fleeting on the Laxworm High School Football show last Sunday. Listen below.)
Masuk, fresh off its first SWC regular season loss in four seasons, will have to regroup fast to take on talented Middletown and coach Sal Morello. The Panthers had their way with everyone in the league until Newtown. Were some cracks exposed?
And, returning to the state playoffs for the eighth consecutive year is New Canaan. The Rams, suffered their first Thanksgiving loss in nine years and haven’t been as dominant as season’s past. They get to play Avon, a relatively unknown Pequot squad up in Simsbury.
Mike Emery is back in the playoffs with Fitch for the first time since the state championship coach returned. Platt is armed with Justin Potts, but is burdened with a trip to the Surf Club in late November. Good luck.
In the end, Windsor and Hand seem headed for a collision course. But this field has just enough talented teams, don’t be surprised to see a surprise team emerge from the wreckage of a few upsets.
What do you think?
Class L previews
Previews and predictions by the Hearst Connecticut sports staff: Sean Patrick Bowley:Platt-Hand; Fitch-Windsor; Mike Cardillo:Masuk-Middletown; Dave Ruden:New Canaan-Avon.
All games at 6:30 p.m.
No. 8 Platt at No. 1 Hand
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 p.m. WHERE – The Surf Club, Madison RECORDS — Platt: 8-2 (CCC Division III East champions); Hand: 10-0 (SCC Division I East champions) PLAYOFF RECORD — Platt: 1-4; Hand: 18-7 LAST APPEARANCE — Platt 2010 (lost to New London 53-14 in M quarterfinals); Hand 2012 (defeated New Canaan 34-10 in L championship) PLAYERS TO WATCH — Platt: Sr. RB Justin Potts (1,466 yards, 22 TD rushing; 3 TDs receiving); Jr. QB Anton McBride (1,069 yards, 7 TDs, 6 INT); Jr. LB Jason Nelson (10 tackles/gm); Jr. TE/LB Scott Dargan; Hand: Sr. FB/LB Matt Walsh (10 TDs); Sr. DL Peter Gerson; Sr. WR Kyle Anderson (467 yards, 4 TD receiving; Sr. WR Caleb Ewald (519 yards, 5 TD receiving; Sr. QB Brendan Bilcheck (1,493 yards 13 TD, 10 INT; 488 yards, 8 TD rushing); Sr. SS Alex Tuccero. YOU SHOULD KNOW – Hand has completed the eighth unbeaten regular season in school history with back-to-back 10-0 seasons. …It is riding a 23-game win streak, second only to Ansonia (25) in Connecticut. …Hand’s Walsh is a UConn recruit and has run for 10 TDs this year. …Gerson will play at Yale. …Platt’s Potts is among the top 10 rushers in the state …Including a 34-14 win over then-unbeaten Berlin, Platt has won six straight since a 48-8 loss to Rocky Hill. …It has outscored its opponents by an average of 36-17. …Hand has outscored its opponents by an average of 36-15. …Hand has been ranked the No. 1 team since defeating then-No. 1 Xavier 40-20 on Oct. 12. SPB’S PICK — Hand 48, Platt 16
No. 5 Middletown vs. No. 4 Masuk
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE — Bulldog Field (Bunnell), Stratford RECORDS – Middletown 8-2; Masuk 9-1 PLAYOFF RECORD –Middletown: 3-3; Masuk: 13-11 LAST APPEARANCE — Middletown: 2009 (0-1, Lost in Class MM semifinals to New Canaan, 28-0); Masuk: 2011 (1-1, Lost in Class L semifinal to Hand, 35-14) PLAYERS TO WATCH –Middletown: Soph. QB Dario Highsmith; Sr. WR/RB Jha’Kur West; Jr. K Van Uk; Sr. WR Otto Marcello; Masuk: Sr. WR/RB/DB Thomas Milone (2,200 total yards, 36 TDs); Sr. RB Frank Bacarella (13 TDs); Sr. QB Malik Cummings (19 TDs, 4 INTs); Sr. DE Brad Swain; Sr. DB Kyle Fontneau; Sr. DL Bryan Monaco. YOU SHOULD KNOW — Both teams enter the playoffs off a defeat. … Middletown’s two losses are at the hands of Class L No. 2 seed Windsor and Class LL No. 3 seed Xavier, the latter on Thanksgiving. … Masuk’s lone defeat came on Thanksgiving Eve to undefeated Class LL No. 4 seed Newtown in the SWC championship game. … Middletown’s defense has allowed 124 points, but 81 of those came in the losses to Windsor and Xavier. … The Blue Dragons use a trio of running backs (Shaiquan Turner, Yaamal Jackson and Isaiah Thompkins) and their quarterback, Dario Highsmith, can run and throw. … Masuk’s offense has scored over 40 points in all its victories. … Milone has literally done it all for the Panthers — running, catching, returning, even throwing on occasion. He’ll need to be at his best for Masuk to make the semifinals for the third straight season. … Masuk is 1-0 at Bulldog Field this year, defeating Barlow 42-23 on Nov. 10. … Cummings picked up an ankle injury in the win over Barlow. He didn’t play the next week in a 49-0 win over Weston and returned against Newtown and threw a pair of interceptions. MIKE’S PICK – Middletown 31, Masuk 21 SPB’S PICK — Masuk 35, Middletown 21
No. 6 New Canaan vs. No. 3 Avon
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 WHERE – Simsbury High School RECORDS — New Canaan: 8-2 (FCIAC East second place); Avon: 10-0 (Pequot Uncas champions) PLAYOFF RECORD — New Canaan: 20-6; Avon: 0-2 LAST APPEARANCE –New Canaan: 2011 (0-1, lost to Daniel Hand 34-10 in Class L final); Avon: 2009 (0-1, lost to Berlin 35-28 in Class L semifinals). PLAYERS TO WATCH — New Canaan: Jr. QB/RB Nick Cacione (1,093 yards passing, 5 TDs; 711 yards rushing, 8 TDs); Teddy Bossidy Jr. QB/RB (619 yards passing, 7 TDs; 358 yards rushing, 3 TDs); Sr. WR Grady Lynch (29 catches, 299 yards, 5 TDs); Jr. DB Cole Harris (111 tackles, 2 interceptions); Jr. LB Michael Root (65 tackles); So. LB Zach Allen (55 tackles, 6 sacks); Avon: Sr. RB Colin Moore (2,003 yards, 29 TDs); Jr. QB Noah Hahn (652 yards, 6 TDs); Jr. LB Jimmy Murphy (123 tackles, 7 sacks); Sr. LB Joe Murphy (111 tackles). YOU SHOULD KNOW – New Canaan has played in six straight state championship games, but has lost two in a row after winning four straight. … The Rams head into the state tournament off a regular-season loss for the first time in 11 years. … Root has been the impact player he was expected to be on defense since returning in midseason from an injury. … New Canaan has more yards on the ground (1,942) than through the air (1,720) for the first time since adopting the spread offense seven years ago. … Avon and New Canaan are meeting for the first time. Avon has not played an FCIAC school since 1962. …Avon averages 261 rushing yards and 66 passing per game. …Avon has allowed just 96 points, sixth least in the state. Its closest win was 14-7 over Class M playoff participant Ellington/Somers. …Moore is just one of a handful of 2,000-yard rushers. DAVE’S PICK — New Canaan 28, Avon 14. SPB’S PICK – New Canaan 35, Avon 14
No. 7 Fitch at No. 2 Windsor
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30 p.m.
WHERE – Jack O’Brien Stadium, Windsor RECORDS — Fitch 8-2 (ECC Large, second place); Windsor 9-0 (CCC Division II West champions) PLAYOFF RECORD — Fitch: 7-4; Windsor: 2-4 LAST APPEARANCE — Fitch: 2005 (lost to Staples 27-21 in L semifinals); Windsor: 2011 (lost to New Canaan 27-24 in L semifinals) PLAYERS TO WATCH — Fitch: Jr. QB Devante Anderson (6-5, 200); Sr. RB/DB Saffwan Davis; Jr. RB/DB Robert Johnson; Jr. OL/DL Lester Smith (5-10, 230); Windsor: Sr. QB Robert Quinn Fleeting (2,125 yards, 27 TDs, 3 INT passing; 545 yards, 7 TDs rushing); Sr. RB Devonte Dillon (579 yards, 3 TD rushing); Jr. RB Jalen Berry (496 yards, 7 TD rushing); Sr. WR Ryhieme Moore (771 yards, 8 TD receiving); Sr. LB Cole Ormsby (14 sacks; Sr. LB Lance Ormsby. YOU SHOULD KNOW – This is Fitch’s first state playoff appearance since 2005, the first since coach Mike Emery’s return to coach the Falcons in 2008. …In his first stint, from 1992-2003, Emery won six playoff games, two state titles and the state’s No. 1 ranking in 2000. …The Falcons average 40 points per game, the ninth-best in the state. …Windsor allows just 8 points per game, the second-least in Connecticut. …Fleeting is the son of coach Rob Fleeting. …The Windsor averages 476 yards per game. This is its second-consecutive unbeaten regular season. Windsor has won 20 of its last 21 games. SPB’S PICK — Windsor 37, Fitch 21
Finally, we talked state playoffs on the Laxworm High School Football show on Sunday. Hear Kyle Brennan of Re-Am, Ned Griffen of The Day and myself break it all down. Special guest was coach Rob Fleeting of Windsor.