Class M is looking a little… tilted, no?
Hillhouse-St. Joseph, two recent state champions (St. Joseph won back-to-back in 2009 and 2010, Hillhouse won in 2010) facing off in a game that many (outside of Wolcott and the NVL) pegged as this division’s likely state championship matchup a few weeks ago.
To the lucky winner of this mega-matchup of SCC and FCIAC clubs: a trip to face two strong programs in Montville or Wolcott in the semifinals.
Ah, well. Them’s the breaks in the wacky CIAC state playoff seeding formula.
While the power teams are weighing down one half of the Class M seesaw, on the other side you have a 2009 state champion in Berlin and three solid programs with little or no state playoff pedigree.
Know more for being a basketball school, Weston is making its first playoff appearance since being run over by the late Jack Hunt’s Ansonia squad in the 1989 Class S championship. This is the school’s third state playoff game.
Coach Joe Lato, QB Tyler Hassett and the Trojans travel waaaaay up to Enfield where they’ll take on Ellington/Somers in that school’s second state playoff appearance.
Bullard-Havens has been here twice before. Both time the CSC power took to the road and got hammered. First by Tolland in 2007, then by Montville in 2009. Big back John Shannon and the Tigers are hoping this time will be different.
Who’s the favorite? Though we’re curious to see what outstanding QB Mike Nichol and Wolcott — making its second-straight state playoff appearance — can do against a team against the SCC or FCIAC, the winner of the Hillhouse-St. Joseph game will undoubtedly have the faith and big-game experience to go all the way.
We’ve had our say. Who’s your favorite?
Preview capsules compiled by Hearst Connecticut sports staff: Sean Patrick Bowley: Montville-Wolcott; Bullard Havens-Berlin; Michael Fornabaio: St. Joseph-Hillhouse; Doug Bonjour: Weston-Ellington
Class M previews
No. 8 Montville at No. 1 Wolcott
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30
WHERE – Monroe Field, Wolcott
RECORDS — Montville 8-2 (ECC Medium champion); Wolcott: 9-1 (NVL Brass second-place).
PLAYOFF RECORD — Montville 3-6; Wolcott 1-2
LAST APPEARANCE — Montville: 2010 (lost to Ansonia 48-15 in S semifinals); Wolcott: 2011 (lost to Ledyard 35-0 in M semifinals).
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Montville: Jr. RB Jeremiah Crowley (1,537 yards, 19 TDs) Crowley; Sr. OL/DL Jake Basillica (6-4, 295); LB Holloway; Wolcott: Sr. QB Mike Nichol (1,352 yards, 18 TDs passing; 1,226 yards, 20 TDs rushing); Sr. RB/LB Joe Lynch (819 yards, 13 TDs rushing; Sr. WR Matt Cyr (376 yards, 8 TD receiving); Soph. WR Jay Pelletier (396 yards, 4 TD receiving)
YOU SHOULD KNOW – This is Wolcott’s second state playoff appearance. It won the school’s first playoff game in last year’s quarterfinals. …It had the second-best record in the NVL, losing only to Ansonia 41-12. It defeated NVL runner-up Woodland 54-12 the week before the NVL title game. … Nichol is one of the state’s most dynamic players, with 2,500 yards of total offense. He has accounted for 38 TDs. … Lynch transferred from Holy Cross to Wolcott before the season began. … Montville has won three straight since a 26-21 loss to Ledyard. It’s other loss was to 38-6 to New London. …Montville’s only wins over winning teams was Stonington and Windham. …Basillica is a four-year starter who played on the Indians’ last-two playoff teams (2009-10) … Crowley played with NFA’s Marcus Outlow in Norwich’s youth football league.
SPB’S PICK – Wolcott 28, Montville 14
No. 5 St. Joseph at No. 4 Hillhouse
WHERE — Crisafi Field, East Haven High School
RECORDS — St. Joseph 8-2; Hillhouse 8-2 (SCC Division II West champion)
PLAYOFF RECORD — St. Joseph 13-2; Hillhouse 9-2
LAST APPEARANCE — St. Joseph: 2010 (3-0, beat Ansonia 49-28 in Class S final); Hillhouse: 2010 (3-0, beat New London 7-0 in Class M final)
PLAYERS TO WATCH — St. Joseph: Jr. QB Jordan Vazzano (2,016 yards, 27 TD passing); Sr. RB/LB Mike Pulaski (9 TD rushing); Sr. WR/DB/K Jake Pelletier (800-plus yards, 14 TD receiving; 54 PAT); Jr. WR/DB Denzel Moscova (5 TD receiving); Soph. DB/WR Lars Pedersen (5 interceptions). Hillhouse: Jr. RB/LB Harold Cooper (1,337 yards, 19 TD rushing); Sr. RB/DB Andre Anderson (1,080 yards, 12 TD rushing); Sr. QB/DB Je’Vaughn Moore (649 yards, 6 TD passing; 760 yards, 7 TD rushing); Sr. LB/OL Terrell Fairweather (92 tackles incl. 4 sacks); SR WR/DB Darryn Horner (3 interceptions; 206 yards, 3 TD receiving).
YOU SHOULD KNOW — Two of the top mid-sized schools from two of the state’s top conferences meet for the first time in the playoffs. … It’s Hillhouse’s home game on a strength-of-schedule tiebreaker; it’s at East Haven because Bowen Field, the Academics’ home, has no lights. … Vazzano threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns the night before Thanksgiving against Trumbull, pulled soon after halftime of a 55-20 win. … The Cadets have won four in a row, needing to win all four, scoring 208 points. ..Lleading rusher Mufasa Abdul-Basir will miss the remainder of the season due to academics. … Hillhouse has scored 182 points in its past four games, winning the last three by a combined 133-7 after losing to Xavier 50-49. … Cooper, bound for major college football, missed two early season games with injuries but still ran for 150-plus yards five times. … St. Joseph has won 10 CIAC championships, tied with Hand for second (Ansonia, 17), including the 2009 Class SS and 2010 Class S titles. Hillhouse, among the oldest programs in the state, has won four CIAC titles (1985, 2002, 2006, 2010) and claims 10 state championships before playoffs began in 1976.
SPB’S PICK – Hillhouse 34, St. Joseph 28
No. 6 Weston at No. 3 Ellington/Somers
POSTPONED TO WEDNESDAY, 6:30
WHERE – Enfield High School, Enfield
RECORDS – Weston 8-2; Ellington/Somers 9-1
PLAYOFF RECORD – Weston 1-1; Ellington/Somers 0-1.
LAST APPEARANCE – Weston: 1989 (lost to Ansonia 44-0 in S final); Ellington/Somers: 2011 (Lost to Wolcott 32-26 in overtime in M quarterfinals).
PLAYERS TO WATCH – Weston: Sr. QB/DB Tyler Hassett (1,540 passing yards, 16 TD, 720 rushing, 10 TD), Sr. WR/DB Justin Schaffer (946 receiving yards, 8 TD), Sr. DE/OL Austin Gomar (57 tackles, 14 sacks), Jr. LB/TE Erik Dammen-Brower (66 tackles). Ellington/Somers: Sr. RB/LB Neal Janiga, Jr. QB/DB Joe Leslie, Sr. WR/S Austin Tautkus, Sr. WR/DE Brandon Coverdill.
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Weston will be making just its second appearance in the state playoffs. … Weston has three fourth-quarter comebacks this season. … Wide receiver Justin Schaffer is third in the state with 946 receiving yards. … Weston is listed seventh in the state with 27 sacks. … Ellington/Somers has allowed just 93 points in 10 games. … Ellington/Somers has three shutouts and has held opponents to single digits six times. … Lone loss came at undefeated Avon 14-7 on Nov. 10.
DOUG’S PICK – Weston 17, Ellington/Somers 13
SPB’S PICK — Weston 27, Ellington/Somers 20
No. 7 Bullard-Havens at No. 2 Berlin
WHERE — Sage Park, Berlin
RECORDS — Bullard-Havens 8-2; Berlin 9-1.
PLAYOFF RECORD — Bullard-Havens: 0-2; Berlin: 4-14.
LAST APPEARANCE — Bullard-Havens: 2009 (lost to Montville in Class SS semifinals, 48-12); Berlin: 2011 (1-1, lost to Ansonia in Class M semifinals 48-14).
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Bullard-Havens: Sr. RB/LB John Shannon (1,423 rushing yards, 25 TDs); Sr. OL/DL Shaq Rowe (14 sacks); Jr. OL/DL Trayvis Keitt; Sr. QB Equan Brooks; Berlin: Jr. QB Mitch Williams (14 TDs, 5 INTs); Sr. RB Justin Gombotz (18 TDs); Sr. RB/CB Scott McLeod (13 TDs); Sr. RB/S Kevin Main.
YOU SHOULD KNOW – Berlin’s only loss came to Class L No. 8 seed Platt in Week 8. … Bullard-Haven’s two defeats are against Class S playoff teams Capital Prep and Prince Tech. … Berlin defeated New Britain 32-28 in the Wishbone Bowl on Thanksgiving Eve. Redcoats backs McLeod and Gombotz each went over the 100 yard mark in the win. … The Redcoats average over 35 points a game with a balanced offense (223 rushing yards/134 passing yards). … Bullard-Havens recovered from a shutout loss to Capital Prep on Nov. 11 to beat Bassick, 49-24, in its regular season finale to clinch a playoff spot. … The Tigers average just over 300 rushing yards per game. … Shannon has gone for over 100 yards in eight games, including a 280-yard, five-touchdown display against Bassick.
MIKE’S PICK – Berlin 36, Bullard-Havens 20
SPB’S PICK — Berlin 48, Bullard-Havens 14
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.