State Quarterfinal Primer and Live Updates: The FCIAC-SCC Challenge [Updated]

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.

Ooooh. Ahhhh.

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.

So it’s finished.

Ladies and gentlemen: The FCIAC-SCC Challenge is done.

Here are your matchups.

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?

(Ding. Ding.)


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.

Two games are being broadcast: Hyde-Rocky Hill is on CPTVSports (check your local listings); St. Joseph-Hillhouse will be broadcast on WELI 960-AM.

Full Live Updates

Sean Patrick Bowley

45 Responses

  1. fciac fan says:

    What happens when the three bridgeport leave for nvl.

  2. GHS1973 says:

    Nothing but good for the FCIAC…16 teams and back to 2 divisons…More competitive scheduling, and etc…

  3. RAY BROWN says:

    no automatic wins for rest of league.

  4. RAY BROWN says:

    Great job by WEST HAVEN that scc “powerhouse”.They should change their names to the “dogs”

  5. RAY BROWN says:

    How is STAPLES notno.1?

  6. RAY BROWN says:

    Maybe ST.JOES thought they were playing BASSICK OR HARDING.BULLARD HAVEN hung for a while vs.experienced BERLIN and HYDE wins thriller.

  7. fan says:

    isnt the nvl and swc doing the same thing next year?

  8. Honus says:

    Just back from watching Staples play defense for 46 minutes. The other two minutes they were busy scoring 42 points. What a beatdown. West Haven’s half-time adjustments were to abandon the direct snap to Phillips and hand off to him instead. Brilliant. Staples meanwhile was busy ripping pages out of their playbook to keep their offense from scoring too quickly in order to give their defense some rest. This is a team that came a dropped conversion from beating Hand? Anyhow, something tells me it’s going to be Moore of the same up in Avon tomorrow.

  9. NBCoach says:

    @Honus. WH was not a drop conversion from beating Hand. Please get your info straight. First, the pressure put on WH QB forced him to throw the pass too early and Walsh was right there to break up the play. It wasn’t a drop. Hand then marched the ball down the field and was at the 2 yard line but did a classy thing and took a knee with over a minute to play. Could have easily scored but coach said no. WH has not been the same the rest of the year. WH needs to develop more players instead of playing their studs both ways. Hand did not play their A game. Still riding the emotional high of beating x the week before. However, no one in the State has played the type of schedule that Hand has. They are a proven commodity. Staples still has to win out and Hand lose for them to be No. 1.

  10. @Fan – yes. It’s mentioned

  11. JB says:

    Hand is not the #1 team in the state. Staples proved that in just 6 plays from scrimmage tonight. Some of us have said this all season about Hand/Xavier – they received the voter free card due to their great 2011 teams. But that was last year, NOT THIS YEAR. However, there is no sense in arguing with the stacked NH Register vote … that crowd will never elect an FCIAC or NVL team as #1, so let’s just move on to the next set of playoff games.

    Good luck to Xavier, you are going to need it tomorrow against a pissed-off Cardinal.

  12. Football Fan says:

    @ JB NVL team #1 …good one

  13. Xhs says:

    Ok JB, didn’t Xavier also have a 35-0 half-time lead against West Haven two weeks ago? They didn’t give up 20 (even with their JV playing) isn’t this the same big bad Staples team that had 28 rushes for 31 yards last year against us? Without 4 starting LBs Hand wouldn’t been within 20. Don’t worry you will get your wish next weekend!

  14. Football Fan says:

    It is quite amusing how some bloggers closest connection to quality teams are anti positive comments on a Blog.It is very easy to disrespect a team knowing your”Powerhouse” team of the Century,for the 20th time in 25 years,will never face thme on the field of play in the REGULAR season.Prince Tech …REALLY !!

  15. Ho Hum says:

    I saw that wh-hand game…It was an embarassing display of offensive football and don’t say it was because of dominate defenses….Hand did some things offfensiely that just didn’t make sense…in terms of blocking and hey just looked sloppy in from an execution standpoint. Yes they are are the number one team in the State …they deserved it. They beat the number one team at the time however from an offensive standpoint….they show little to be liked.

    On to scheduling….Hand has played Xavier…WH..and Hillhouse….Staples has played Greenwich ..St.Joes…and Darien..I guess I’d give the edge to Hand but in common opponents Staples is light years ahead of Hand….35-0 at the half c’mon. Ghs 7 Xavier 28…

  16. mooncake says:

    I was at Staples Westies game. Brian McMahon could beat that team. They were a disgrace. CAN ANYONE TACKLE? CAN ANYONE TOUCH A STAPLES PLAYER? That is the second best LL school in the SCC? LOL.

    Greenwich might have a shot…

  17. mueller says:

    I agree Ray, I think Staples is 1 Ansonia 2 Hand 3

  18. NBCoach says:

    West Haven is not the same team it was earlier in the season. I don’t know if it is injuries (I know Taylor was out and they play a lot of players both ways) or just not being in the right frame of mind this time of year. They are enigma. I saw Hillhouse whoop up on St. Joes. The St. Joe’s QB was overrated. St. Joe’s is not a powerhouse of a team. Look who they played. Very few winning teams. If they played in the SCC they would be a .500 team. North Haven is a much better team and they did not make the playoffs. St. Joe’s is on par with Guilford and Amity. As for Hand-WH, the starting O had their best lineman out and two of its receivers were out as well. No excuses for poor blocking but from an O execution it is difficult to play when your 2 top receivers and 2 lineman are out. Blocking was an issue since you had two first year sophomore offensive lineman filling in and two receivers who get very little playing time. Hand had to rearrange its line for the WH game. Two starting DB out as well. Hand is back to full strength and should be able to run the table and remain No. 1 if they do. Staples big test will be vs. Xavier if X wins tonight. Staples will have to settle for No. 2 even if they win out. Hand did the same last year and had to live with it until they dominated X in the second half.

  19. Honus says:

    @NBCoach – My point was that Staples needed just their first five offensive plays of the game to accomplish what Hand needed pretty much the entire game to do. It also appears you are using “riding the emotional high” of beating X as some sort of excuse for a letdown. If so, coming off the emotional high of beating arch-rival Greenwich in the FCIAC championship, I guess we should cut Staples some slack for needing that fifth play to score those four TDs?

    As for “the type of schedule Hand has”, we all know what that means. But, hey, I’m fine with that if the voters truly think they are being unbiased. But what is an utterly ridiculous statement to make is that whoever is #1 before the playoffs begin deserves to stay there until they lose. In other words, it’s OK to use “type of schedule” to choose #1 before the playoffs, but we just ignore “type of schedule” after that point. Anyhow, I understand the polls are for our amusement, so forgive me for being amused!

  20. Yeah says:

    Staples is far an away the best team in the state. They would beat hand by 3 TDs along with every other team in the state.

  21. JB says:

    @Xhs – yes, I realize that Xavier had a similar lead. However, I watched that X/WH replay and the difference is Staples had that lead in like 15 minutes. I believe that right now … not last year or a month ago … the best two teams in the state are Xavier and Staples. Hand folks seem to claim every week they are playing the NE Patriots, but with 5 key guys out. That was the same smoke screen in the pre-season. And WH didn’t have any major injuries last night, so please stop telling us this stuff.

    The West Haven kids played hard and the coaching staff is very impressive. Their QB being banged-up may have altered the scheme but WH is loaded with athletes on offense. Maybe the best set of RBs in the state. #36 is the fastest HS player I have seen in years. And Erv Phillips is a strong leader and player – a class act. Staples was just that much better on defense. And on offense, it was no contest – basically no different than all the FCIAC wins this year for Staples. However, this was an elite SCC team … the same team that the Hand coach and players called the clear #2 team in the entire state.

    I still don’t fully understand Xavier’s 2nd half meltdown against Hand. But I am starting to buy into Xhs’s comments about the Xavier LBs being banged up in that game. Don’t get me wrong, I realize Hand beat Xavier and is the #1 voted team … but I don’t see them being able to stop the way Xavier is currently playing. Nor could they handle Staples based upon how easily WH was dispatched. Greewnich would likely be even-up with Hand. Hopefully, NC gets a shot at them in the finals … that could be a decent match-up given the coaching. But I think it will be Windsor. The L playoff teams are just not that physical this year, so I doubt Hand gets much of a stern, playoff-type test. The NH Register will vote them #1 no matter what the LL teams do, so why get all bothered by that. Win football games and be proud of your accomplishments – every team, good luck.

  22. Dr. Von Nostran says:

    @NBCoach – So what you’re saying is that it would be erroneous to judge West Haven and the SCC based on last night’s game because “they are not the same team”, but it IS ok to judge SJ (and the QB) based on their performance. Do I have that right?

  23. jeb says:

    Pure and simple..Hand is good but Staples is better. This is a good West haven team but Staples scored on 4 of the first 7 plays from scrimmage and they were not even touched on three of their scores. Don’t demean WH but lets give credit to Staples..they are that good. Staples will have a heap of trouble with Xavier if Kelly does not return for Staples. Preliminary reports have him having a dislocated shoulder that was reset by the trainer. If Kelly is unable to play the rest of the season then Staples is in deep trouble. He is the one player that Staples can’t afford to play without. He is the brightest star among many stars on this Staples team.

  24. MXR says:

    Interesting discussion. Since the Polls are determined by voters, each has a different way of evaluating teams. Should they focus on ordering the teams as they seem at the end of year, or on their entire body of work over the year? They are inter-related, and I am not sure which is “right.” No doubt each voter takes some of each into account, in different weights depending on the voter (and depending on the teams in question, since no voter can be fully free of bias, whether pro or con). Madison clearly has the best body of work to date based on who it has beaten. Staples maybe has the best body of work to date based on how it has beaten who it has played. There is ots of football left though, so it is too early to be crowning anyone yet.

  25. UBilly says:

    @JB – not having your starting QB might be considered by some to be a major injury, not something which just affects some schemes. If Nick Kelly ends up missing the rest of the post season, will that be major?

    @RAY BROWN – funny how good WHHS is when Ansonia needs some type of proof source and you keep pointing back to a pre-season scrimmage against them to show how you could line up with the rest of the state.

    @mooncake, meuller and HoHum – you guys all sound like MASUK DAD last year. Remember, all Hand does is win, maybe not big and flashy, but they win. Too slow, too unskilled, too small…but they win.

    @Xhs – it took a month to start with the excuses on every post of why X lost, too bad humility isn’t part of your curriculum. I think the X v Staples game will be awesome, two excellent teams going for a state championship if they get there. I still think Southington and Barmore might have something to say about that though.

    I just hope if X loses, we won’t hear a bunch of excuses from guys like you of how you were better but… And if Staples loses, maybe then the Hand win over X will not be ignored by everyone suddenly convinced you would beat Hand by 3 TDs. (Just like Masuk would last year!)

  26. JB says:

    @UBilly – the WH QB (#2) played in the game last night, but had some sort of issue with throwing the ball. Besides EP did a fine job filling in and actually threw 2 TD passes. WH was competitive on offense, that wasn’t the issue. The reason the game wasn’t ever close was because WH couldn’t stop Staples’ offense. They had no answer. In regards to Kelly, if he can play as much as WH’s QB played last night that would not be considered a major injury. Limiting, yes, but on the field and making plays on Sunday? The Wreckers would be very happy with that right now.

  27. Chris Berman says:

    Couldn’t agree more with JB’s assessment @21…Hand beat X fair and square and I’m not trying to take anything away from that win, but if there was a rematch (like an SCC championship game for example) I would not hesitate to take X by 2 td’s. They are a completely different team since the almost meltdown vs Hillhouse. Obviously, it helps to have the team back at full strength, but they have been playing with a toughness and edge that was not there until the 4th quarter in the HH game, not to mention Boyle has been on an absolute roll since then as well.

    Hand’s a great team and right now, deserve to be #1. But L is very weak this year and I personally feel that the winner of LL should be the final #1. You’re gonna have to beat 3 excellent teams if you want to win LL, there’s no gimme games in that bracket.

    Staples was impressive last night, but I’m not sure why everyone was so surprised by the final score. If they are actually as good as everyone seems to be saying they are, then they should have beaten a good, but very one-dimensional, WH team by 3 td’s.

    Classes L, M, and S seem to be pretty locked up (Hand, HH, and Ansonia) barring a huge upset and I’d be shocked to see anything but a Staples-X final rematch in LL. As of now, they seem to be two very evenly matched teams. Not sure who would win, but if it happens it should be a great game

  28. RAY BROWN says:


  29. mooncake says:

    Dear @jeb #23 : Although #5 Kelly is truly an offensive star, I think Staples will miss him more on defense. Kelly will be replaced by #25 Lesch and #32 Strauss. Both are maybe faster to the hole than Kelly but not as tough or big. The brightest offensive stars are QB #16 Massie and WR #4 Frusciante. Kelly is third and #22 Zelokwitz forth. Massie is the piston that makes The Show go. Honestly, I cannot think of one mistake he has made all year. He is vastly underrated. And Frusciate is so special he is my favorite player. His two TDs last night were awesome.

    As I have said before, passing defense is Staples weakness. with Kelly out this weakness becomes more acute. But Staples can still win.

  30. JB says:

    And no one should overlook Newtown and NFA … love to hear insights into those two teams. NFA is a complete mystery to me other than the Stamford beatdown. But everyone in the FCIAC had the same result on Stamford this year, so that tells me nothing. Newtown seems to have young guys stepping up … but really all the way into filling the big shoes of Fenaroli and that strong OL/DL? And then Hebert is out. What is the team strength? You never hear anything about Newtown’s defense but they held Masuk to a pretty low number – how did that happen?

    Personally, I think Glastonbury is going to take down Southington. Why? Playoff tested players. Also, Soughtington had to come from behind in their regular season game. Rematches are often a trap game for the comeback team. Why? Playoff tested coachng.

  31. Xhs says:

    I have to change my wording. I walked Palmer today and the field is not in good condition. It will be a real mess by the end of the first quarter. I used another word a my post was dropped.

  32. Xhs says:

    JB like the Glastonbury pick. Game will be within 7 Pts and in the 20’s.

  33. JB says:

    @Chris Berman – I don’t think the final score was the “surprise” in the WH/Staples game. Really it was the 35 unanswered points in about the first 15 minutes of clock. That was shocking because no one was expecting that to happen to an elite, 8-2 SCC D-1 program. I don’t get to see many of the SCC teams in person, but the game went about the same as every other Staples game this year. What I took away from the game was that the FCIAC, as a whole, is not nearly as “weak” as everyone has made it out to be. It was kind of like that Myth Busters show.

    Having said that, WH is no middle of the pack FCIAC team. They would likely have about the same 8-2 record in the FCIAC. Anyway, really liked the way West Haven is coached, the players never gave up and showed a ton of class. They should be congratulated on their accomplishments this season and EP will be a great leader for them again next year.

  34. JB says:

    @Xhs – the muck bowl? Good thing you are back to full strength at the LB position. The Cardinals are old school. Should give you a pretty good game. Good luck tonight.

  35. SCC_Fan says:

    @JB – a good game? They have 5 sacks in 1st quarter & Berry is running for like 100 yds & 2 TD’s already.

    And Greenwich is the “2nd best” FCIAC has to offer? In NO WAY are they as good as WH. They look like Amity. Negative yardage so far?

    A “pissed off Cardinal”? They have a kick returner & that’s it. Their D is swiss cheese. Just watched X receiver carry G defender for 6-7 yards. And when their offense moves the ball, you know, forward you’ll let me know.

    Oh, and I see Hillhouse beat up St. Joe’s and Masuk, Newtown doing the SWC proud.

    Is Staples 35 pts better than last year? We’ll see. 50 pt rule looks to be in play tonight for Cardinals.

    SCC looks like the class of the field again. No surprise. Prediction here is SCC 3 state titles, FCIAC none (well, maybe TC).
    BTW if things change later tonight, I’ll certainly print a full retraction. But I doubt it.

    SCC Fan

  36. SCC_Fan says:

    OK, I take back what I said about Masuk.

    And you were right about the “pissed off” Cardinals. Of course, they are down 5 TD’s and “pissed off” involved pulling down Boyle by the facemask when he’s 5 yards into the end zone down 5 TD’s.

    And the FANS are showing their composure, aren’t they? Of course, with X scoring at will even without Berry after 1st qtr, it’s understandable.

    You stay classy FCIAC (and JB!).

    SCC Fan

  37. JB says:

    Wow, what a beat-down on Greenwich. No excuses, but without O’Neil the Cardinal offense was shy about 2 TDs it could have scored and maybe a few other turnovers it could have avoided. However, in the end, it would not have mattered. Xavier firing on all cylinders right now. No way Hand could touch them in this current mode. Boyle is on fire. Only concern is Berry’s injury … but the way everyone else is playing around him, not sure it matters.

    Glastonbury has the next honor of trying to stop the X-men. Good luck.

    @Xhs – Palmer Field look OK via the CPTV coverage. Not the muck bowl.

  38. Xhs says:

    Wow chippy game. Just got back from Palmer and a bad job by the refs letting it get out of hand. Berry potential concussion sat out early in the first half for the game. No disrespect to NFA or Glastonbury but ran into McCarthy (WH coach) asked him who wins Xavier or Staples? His comment was 56-49 you pick the winner. I think some up state don’t give Staples their due (after last year) and some down state discount Xavier (really trust me crushed with injuries mid season)and had some mediocre games. Really could get interesting kudos to the#3 kid from Greenwich nice player.

  39. Xhs says:

    JB you got Glastonbury right!

  40. Xhs says:

    Field did hold up better then I thought but it was ripped up in places.

  41. JB says:

    Staples and Xavier can’t look past NFA and Glastonbury. But how cool to have a Rematch at the Rent for both schools given all the hype and the 2013 Challenge game. Need to take care of business.

    @Xhs – chippy, yes … I would guess Greenwich just frustrated without a QB match-up to Boyle. Not saying O’Neil is at that level, but the rest of the offense looked like patch-work versus normal. You didn’t get the Cardinal’s best tonight … but, again, that would not have mattered. Xavier a superior team to Greenwich.

  42. MXR says:

    XHS, I agree with you on the field — bare a lot of places, but a lot less muddy than I expected (and certainly than for the Quarter Final with GBury last year). I also agree the refs let things get out of control. I disagree that it was a chippy game. Greenwich was a chippy team — all night, not just after the game stopped being competitive. There were incidents after almost every special teams play all night, all with X players walking away and no flags. It went over the top with the brutal late hit / facemask on Boyle, followed by a punch thrown by a Greenwich player setting off the “brawl.” Greenwich’s conduct/sportsmanship was much worse than its performance, which is saying something. I know it is tough to go from 8-0 to giving up 103 points in a week. But that was disgraceful.

  43. Dylan says:

    I am a Xavier fan but have to admit, Xavier parents border on obnoxious and they taunt high school kids like they are adults. Xavier should allow opposing teams to have the far bench so they are away from the unstable adult fans at Xavier.

  44. NBCoach says:

    Remember last year. Class L was loaded and LL was not. Xavier was ranked No. 1 and Hand No. 2. This year, as you all are stating, Class LL is loaded and L is not. Hand is No. 1 and Staples No. 2. Funny what a year makes. To all those X fans saying that would now beat Hand by 2 TD’s because they have all their linebackers healthy, remember that Hand’s D stuffed your run game and chased/sacked/int. Boyle all night. Your linebackers would not have made a differences since Hand’s QB picked apart your DB’s in the second half. Let’s go to the video tape.

  45. John says:

    The Challenge is a great idea….but they should make Fciac LL schools play Scc L schools and vice versa so at the end of the season there is less debate about #1….if staples plays Xavier, great, but they’ll play in states anyway….if Hand plays Staples week 1 for instance, then they both win out and win states, then you have a clear #1…Staples/Hand, Xavier/New Canaan, Greenwich/Hillhouse, West Haven/Darien, St.Joe’s/Cheshire would be best