Thanksgiving Day 2012: The State Playoff Field quickly, quietly comes together

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Staples coach Marce Petroccio gets a dousing from Brian Book after the Wreckers won back-to-back FCIAC titles with 48-30. Staples earned the top seed and a date with No. 8 West Haven in the Class LL playoffs.

Only — what? — five, maybe four years ago figuring out the state playoff pairing became a Thanksgiving game unto itself. Without the benefits of Twitter and the genius of the CIAC’s information maven Matt Fischer, we lowly reporters used do anything and everything to get the results and then calibrate the playoff rankings.

Sitting in our running cars and our stomachs rumbling, we’d text each other, call each other, scribble in our notepads, call our sources. Once we thought we had a firm grasp of the scenarios, we’d go on on the air with ‘The Coach’ George DeMaio of WELI and then argue about the results.

Nowadays, it’s a cinch. We punch the scores into Fischer’s playoff calculator and (voila!) we know who’s in and who’s out.

Sure, we may still sit in our cars, but now getting the information is quick and easy.

Heck, I was able to accurately tell Weston coach Joe Lato that his team had qualified for the state playoffs for the first time in 23 years while he was addressing his football team.

It took me slightly longer to figure out if Barlow had lucked out, but that was only because its last hope — Hillhouse — was still playing. Hillhouse was burying Wilbur Cross 35-0 by the time I’d retreated to my car in Redding.

It was only after a quick check of Fischer’s supercomputer that I realized Hillhouse’s impending victory was going to keep Barlow out.

I didn’t bother going back into the school. I’m sure coach Rob Tynan already knew.

We had the Class LL state playoff field set by 1 p.m. We knew the Class M and S playoff fields set just 15 minutes later. Class L needed to await the result of the day’s final game — Darien-New Canaan — but we knew that field by 1:20.

I think it’s a record.

Anyway, while playoff dreams for teams like Barlow, Darien, North Haven, Fairfield Prep and Ridgefield came to a screeching halt on Thanksgiving morning, 11 regional teams had an extra happy holiday. Trinity Catholic is in for the first time since 1993. Weston, for the first time since 1989. Despite its SWC Championship loss the night before, Masuk still managed a home playoff game (at Bunnell, where else?)

Here are the final playoff standings.

And here’s the quick breakdown:

The SCC-FCIAC challenge for 2013-14 is being held up due to continued grumblings about Amity opting to play Seymour Week 1. Thankfully, the state playoffs of 2012 have forced-fed these leagues to each other. In the first round the heavyweights will clash in the first round: Staples-West Haven, Greenwich-Xavier, St. Joseph-Hillhouse. Only Hand and New Canaan avoided each other… for now.

Yes, Hillhouse and St. Joseph would have been a nice championship. We’re sure the rest of Class M will disagree.

The monstrous CCC got seven bids and is guaranteed at least one victory (whew!) when Glastonbury gets a rematch with Southington in Class LL. The NVL, SWC, ECC and CSC were tied with the least with three.

Two of the CSC schools will match up with two NVL schools in the Class S first round. The other, Bullard-Havens, travels to Berlin in Class M.

Southington missed out on some points when Manchester-East Hartford was canceled due to a tragic drowning death of a Manchester student on Wednesday. But it didn’t matter once all the points came in. Staples still would have clinched the No. 1 seed, regardless.

NFA is the only unbeaten team that didn’t earn a home game. Damon Outlow and the Wildcats travel to Blue and Gold stadium to take on the new SWC Champions, your Newtown Nighthawks.

Masuk inched up and claimed a home game in Class L thanks to losses by New Canaan and Fitch. Masuk will host Middletown at Bunnell. New Canaan travels to Simsbury to play Avon, since Avon doesn’t have lights.

St. Joseph-Hillhouse will play at East Haven since Bowen Field doesn’t have lights.

The 2012 Playoff Field

CLASS LL

  • No. 8 West Haven (8-2) at No 1. Staples (9-0)
  • No. 5 Norwich Free Academy (10-0) at No. 4 Newtown (10-0)
  • No. 6 Greenwich (8-1) at No. 3 Xavier (9-1)
  • No. 7 Glastonbury (9-1) at No. 2 Southington (10-0)

CLASS L

  • No. 8 Platt (8-2) at No. 1 Hand (10-0)
  • No. 5 Middletown (9-1) vs. No. 4 Masuk (9-1) [at Bunnell]
  • No. 6 New Canaan (8-2) at No. 3 Avon (10-0) [at Simsbury]
  • No. 7. Fitch (8-2) at No. 2 Windsor (9-0)

CLASS M

  • No. 8 Montville (8-2) at No. 1 Wolcott (9-1)
  • No. 5 St. Joseph (8-2) at No. 4 Hillhouse (8-2) [at East Haven]
  • No. 6 Weston (8-2) at No. 3 Ellington/Somers (9-1)
  • No. 7 Bullard-Havens (8-2) at No. 2 Berlin (9-1)

CLASS S

  • No. 8 Prince Tech (8-2) at No. 1 Ansonia (11-0*)
  • No. 5 Hyde Leadership (9-1) at No. 4 Rocky Hill (9-1)
  • No. 6 Trinity Catholic (8-2) at No. 3 North Branford (10-0)
  • No. 7 Woodland (7-3*) at No. 2 Capital Prep/Classical/Achieve 1st (10-0)

Jack Hunt

Ansonia loses a legend on Thanksgiving morning

While Thursday’s games didn’t offer much in the way of upsets, there certainly was plenty of drama.

The games began beneath a pall when word spread through word-of-mouth at Jarvis Stadium and to the rest of the state via the Twitter game updates that Ansonia patriarch Jack Hunt had died just hours before kickoff.

Even the furthest reaches of Connecticut knew of Hunt, who starred at Ansonia in the 1960s and returned as coach to win seven state championships and almost 200 games from 1987-2005.

His death, from cancer at age 66, to come on the biggest sporting day in Ansonia and Connecticut, suddenly made everything else that happened seem insignificant. He will be missed. Our thoughts are with the Hunt family and everyone in the Ansonia community.

Read our own Mike Mayko’s exceptional obituary of the Ansonia giant.

That said, we’ll return to discuss Hunt and recap the rest of the nuttiness later. For now, here’s how the final day of the regular season shook out:

Thursday’s Local League Results / Story Links

Thursday’s State Results

Sean Patrick Bowley