2012 Class LL championship preview: NFA vs. Xavier


NFA's Joey Paparelli rips off a big run against Staples in the Class LL semifinals. NFA is hoping to spring another upset when it takes on No. 3 Xavier in the Class LL title game (Photo: Mike Ross)

No. 5 Norwich Free Academy vs. No. 3 Xavier

WHERE/WHEN — Rentschler Field, East Hartford; Friday, 7 p.m.
ON THE AIR — Radio: WELI 960-AM | TV: CPTV Sports | Online: ESPN 3, Watch ESPN app
COACHES — Norwich Free Academy: Jemal Davis: 5th year (40-14, 0 state titles); Xavier: Sean Marinan (10th year, 89-31-2, 3 state titles)
RECORDS – NFA: 12-0 (ECC Large Division champions); Xavier: 11-1 (SCC Division I West champions)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — NFA: def. Newtown 63-21; def. Staples 30-28; Xavier: def. Greenwich 55-14; def. Glastonbury 30-13
STATE TITLES – NFA (0-1): none; Xavier (3-2): 2005-LL, 2010-LL, 2011-LL

Xavier QB Tim Boyle

TOP PLAYERS — NFA: Sr. QB Joey Paparelli (871 yards rushing, 9 TD); Jr. RB Marcus Outlow (1,388 rushing yards), Soph. RB Khaleed Exum-Strong (660 rushing yards), Sr. WR Ryer Caruso (9 TD catches); Sr. OL/DL John Crooks (6-1, 203); Sr. DL/TE Tuzar Skipper (6-2, 205); Sr. OL/DL John Patick Kelly (6-2, 230); Jr. DB Airec Ricks; Sr. K Elisa Formiglio. Xavier: Sr. RB/DB DeAngelo Berry (1,600 yards, 34 TDs); Sr. QB Tim Boyle (2,087 yards, 21 TDs); Sr. WR/DB Kris Luster (66 receptions, 1,223 yards, 11 TDs); Jr. RB/DB Andrew Meoli (411 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. LB Max Tylki (6-1, 207); Sr. LB Charlton Ortega; Jr. DB/WR Nate Gonzalez (6 INT); Sr. OL/LB Matt Manzione; Jr. ILB Derek Jones (5-10, 207)

WORTH NOTING – This is only NFA’s second state championship appearance. The Wildcats lost the 1998 state final to Southington, 54-26. …This is NFA’s second playoff appearance under Davis. …NFA’s Outlow, a junior, has Division I offers from Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State, Florida, Michigan, Boston College, Oklahoma (among others) …NFA’s kicker Elisa Formiglo could be the first female to play in a Connecticut state championship game (provided NFA scores) …Xavier’s Tim Boyle is committed to play at Boston College. …Xavier has scored 526 points per game and allowed 203. It outscores its opponents by an average margin of 44-17. …NFA has scored 456 points and allowed 139. It outscores its opponents by an average of 39-12. …Since trailing Hillhouse 49-21 in the fourth quarter of a Week 6 meeting, Xavier has outscored its opponents 246-65.

OUTLOOK — NFA has gone from relative obscurity to dangerous championship contender in just two games. They announced their presence when coach Jemal Davis deliberately went over the ‘score management’ policy in a 51-0 victory over Stamford and suspended himself under the rule’s guidelines the following week. He might have been correct in insisting keeping his starters in late to ‘better prepare them’ for the challenges ahead. Though many of their victories in the ECC weren’t as impressive, beating SWC champion Newtown 63-21 and, even better, beating FCIAC champion Staples 30-28 just four days later made them their most-talked about team in these state playoffs. They’re big up front, have a potential Division I back in Outlow, and the quarterback and receivers are scrappy. This is a hungry and determined football team. Xavier, their opponents, didn’t rip through the SCC like it did the previous two seasons. A 40-20 loss at home vs. Hand cost them their No. 1 ranking. They were down 49-21 in the fourth quarter vs. Class M finalist Hillhouse in Week 6. But Xavier rallied to win that game 50-49 and have been on a tear ever since. Berry is one of the state’s top backs, Boyle-to-Luster is an impossible pitch-and-catch combo to contain. Crushed by injuries at midseason, the defense, led by Tylki and Luster, is healthy and perhaps a bit underrated during the Falcons’ . Up front Xavier matches, if not exceeds NFA in size. If they weren’t focused already, Staples loss to NFA should have woken up this group. They know they have a formidable task. Expect NFA to play the defending champions tough, but Xavier’s been here too many times to be denied.

OUR PICK — Xavier 28-13



NFA defeats Staples in Class LL semifinals

WFSB’s Friday Night Football: Class LL semifinals Xavier vs. Glastonbury

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Sean Patrick Bowley

40 Responses

  1. Cthsfootball says:

    First thing that I noticed when I read this write up was the size of NFA’s OL/DL that is mentioned. A couple of their best lineman are around 200 pounds, another at 230. Xavier has an O line full of 265 and up with a 270 pounder, a 280 pounder, and a 313 pounder. I’m sure NFA has some guys bigger than the 200 pounders mentioned but that is where this game is going to be decided and if the size difference is as big as it seems that’s not a good sign for NFA.

  2. @cthsfootball – Didn’t seem to bother them much vs. Staples.

  3. Cthsfootball says:

    Xavier is bigger than Staples my man.

  4. gur says:


  5. @cthsfootball — They ARE??!?!?! !!!!!

    Look, I don’t know about some of these weights on their roster to begin with. They look a lot bigger than these numbers.

  6. ciacfollower says:

    @cthsfootball – size doesnt matter in cthsfootball. X is bigger than Hand.

  7. ciacfollower says:

    Its all about Fundamentals, hitting & speed – in that order. Thats why Hand & NFA will be the top two teams in the polls next week.

  8. teamguy says:

    One should never fully believe what teams and/or websites might list player”s wieghts at. NFA is much bigger than advertised. I havent seen X, so I won’t comment. To run down a wieght sheet/player program and pick a winner is a bit foolish to begin with, regardless of those numbers being accurate or not. I look forward to watching the game being settled on the field, not in a blog.

  9. Cthsfootball says:

    Of course you can win even if you’re not the bigger team but from what I’ve seen of Xavier the past few years, the biggest reason for their success has been their ability to control the line of scrimmage. The size and strength of the lines definitely is a big reason for that. Execution, play making at the skill positions is obviously, and qb is obviously important as well.

  10. hoop says:

    with four games to be played in the rain in 24 hours, I’m sure UConn will be resodding the entire surface! by the Hand game, the field could be a quagmire. Sean, need anyone to take notes for you in the media center? how do you like your coffee? anticipate that the crowds will be down 50% from a year ago because of the weather.

    but it is what it is: victors: scc, scc, scc and ansonia. expect xavier game to be the closest game and ansonia to win by the widest margin. the chargers win big to honor former legend, Coach Hunt.

  11. @hoop – Yes. Cream & sugar.

  12. Fred G Sanford says:

    I watched both games held at West Haven High School over the past weekend and let me tell you this, the coach of NFA did his best to give Staples the game. Staples did not have to burn all of their timeouts because of the poor decisions from NFA coaches as they were attempting to throw the ball with 3< minutes to go in the game. Staples was set to receive the ball at the 50 after NFA's three and out with timeouts to boot prior to the punt hitting a Staples player.

    Lamont Jr's clock management at the end of the game was beyond poor. And having this game on Friday night was not a good thing for NFA either. It was clear that NFA took a big lumping in their victory. #11 was a tough kid who ran the ball hard but his legs and body could surely use another day of rest. Xavier is going to blow them out big time.

    You big dummy!

    Fred G. Sanford

  13. NFA Historian says:

    In a way I am pleased to see that this veteran reporter is picking against NFA yet again for the third time in the playoffs. There is often a pack mentality among reporters and insiders in politics, and sports are even worse. Think about it. If NFA wins and then is justifiably ranked number one in the state, then just about every sports reporter in the state totally missed a major story until the last week of the season. It will be a great year for NFA even if they lose but they will be back next year for another try. The success of the past three years is going to build up enthusiasm incredibly in our area. Finally, I think everyone is focusing on the weak records of some of the opponents on their schedule and forgetting that they have also beaten some pretty good teams. Against opponents other than NFA, Staples was 11-0, Newtown was 10-0, Fitch was 9-1, New London was 7-2 and Ledyard was 7-2. It’s like saying the Atlanta Falcons stink at 11-1 because they have 6 easy games in their division. Football is all about beating the opponent in front of you. If NFA can play error free like the last three games (1 turnover total) they will score enough to win. Then maybe next year they won’t have to go 10-0 before getting any votes in the polls from the western part of the state.


    (Easy. Eaaaasy. Just kidding).

    I actually feel better about picking Xavier this time than Staples last time.


    Show me another paper that picks WITH a score (NVL Blog doesn’t count).

  15. Dave Lib says:

    I have a prediction for Saturday…..
    Hoosiers 94, Central Connecticut State University 59.

    Oh, sorry, wrong sport.

    Anyway, thank you to SPB for providing the best high school football coverage around. The guy works his tail of for us fanatics. And he truly loves what he does….and that comes across through his posts/writing.

  16. another fan says:

    @7 you could be right If Ansonia looses, NB is the real deal ,it could happen.

  17. NFA Historian says:

    I agree that SPB shows a lot of passion and commitment to the sports and the kids he covers in his writing and also doesn’t get involved with the drama that can arise at the local level. So kudos for that. I have been a bit provocative deliberatively in a few posts to get people (and reporters) to pay attention to a strong NFA squad. Now they are on the big stage, so they will create their own buzz this year and next year too. History lesson- in 1969 durning the 100 th anniversary game of the NFA New London rivalry a kid by the name of Jakubowski kicked a 52 yard field goal with 2 minutes left to put NFA ahead in front of almost 10,000 fans. Then New London came back and won something like 37 to 33 on a Hail Mary pass as time ran out. Called by many the best high school game ever played in Connecticut. Jakubowski went on to break many kicking records at UConn if I recall.

  18. The Dude says:

    Xavier 24 NFA 20- I’ll give NFA credit. They talked an obscene amount and to date have backed up every word they’ve said. Outlaw is a stud but they have a lot more than him and with a pretty big class of juniors they could very well be the LL favorites next year. But Xavier is Xavier. Different cast of characters but the same program that has turned into the best in Connecticut. They’ve been there, they’ve done it. And this group will do it again. But will definitely have to work for it this time.

  19. ciacfollower says:

    “Historian”, you think NFA is “justifiably” #1 when they win because they are the bad-ass LL team ? If & when Hand wins, the highest NFA will be ranked is #2.
    Remember, as our neighbors in the south west corner of the state seem to forget, the rankings come down to how the coaches & writers, who are chosen to vote, vote.

  20. hillhouse dad says:

    the only chance nfa have is to attack x through the air that is what hh did but in the 4 quarter the coach decide to run the ball and it was not working and he would never go back to the passing game. hh learned from that experience and it has made them a better team, they learned that the game is played for 4 quarters not 3 Berlin better be ready because this hh team will be.score hh 48 berlin 21

  21. teamguy says:

    NFA Historian, can’t really blame SPB for missin’ the boat on Outlow and NFA. NO ONE had a clue as to how good they are. I am not even sure if Norwich is in CT Post’s region. Is there any other state wide periodical that really knew what NFA had? not to my knowledge. Even coaches and teams underestimated NFA. It’s what makes following HS football so much fun. It’s a shame someone has to lose. Good luck to all the teams!

  22. fan says:

    If NFA can beat STaples then they can beat XAVIER.

  23. fanta says:

    @hillhouse dad i agree with you 100%. only way NFA can win is to have success throwing the ball.

  24. GHS Fan says:

    I like NFA and I like Xavier. That is, I am sure both teams are stocked with players and coaches who sacrificed a lot to get to this clash. Hours in the offseason in weight rooms, running on tracks, bettering skill sets etc.
    That said, my only prediction is that the zebras, part-time officials who are not accountable to anyone, will try to slant the game in NFA’s favor. This game has all the earmarks. An “upstart” team against a consistent powerhouse. A nominally “public” school against a “private” school.
    Yes, the refs will influence the outcome where they can. Let’s see how many thrid down conversions are called back on an “offensive hold”. Let’s see how many times Xavier players “lose their composure” while NFA “plays hard.” (That is, Xavier gets called for a late hit, while NFA gets away with post-whistle murder.)
    I truly hope I am wrong about this. However, since the refs do not report to anyone, and because they are as human as everyone else, they will be eager to see an upset. If NFA can keep it close, the refs will do whatever they can to get them what they need.
    Xavier fans – bring many many cameras to the game and film it from as many angles around the field as you can get. Maybe somebody will fianlly hold the refs accountable.

  25. Kevin Pataky says:

    How do you deliberately go over the ‘score management’ policy with a safety?

  26. Rob says:

    Does anybody know if The Rent will allow you to bring umbrellas into the stadium?

  27. ciacfollower says:

    There goes another FCIAC person blaming the refs. Its either them or the polls. No way a FCIAC can drop in the ranks on their own, due to being simply inferior.

  28. fanta says:

    @GHS fan – already making excuses for Xavier losing. Should we bug the field too? plant listening devices in the refs locker room? wow, do you sound paranoid

  29. jeb says:

    GHS fan….
    You are way off base…give the officials a break. 99% of officials and referees have played or coached the game and they know the importance of the championship game. Officials have zero bearing on the game.

  30. Ctfan says:

    Anyone know if their is a chance of the game being postponed?

  31. Jake says:

    Thank you Kevin…I’ve been saying that since it happened. When a “friendly” coach went over 50 points, it was “it’s better to go over 50 than to embarrass the other team by taking a knee throughout the 4th quarter”. When NFA went over via a fluke (or at least, a rare and unexpected) play, folks wanted the coach’s head on a platter because he didn’t apologize. I’m not an NFA fan at all (actually played for Xavier when we were horrible in the 90s, and will be rooting for them tonight), but I was astonished at the hypocrisy shown at the time.

    I’m just realizing now how NFA has made their name this year on punts-turned-safeties. Also, for some good laughs, go back and read the comments from the NFA 50 point rule story…all the warnings to NFA: “Be careful what u wish for in Staples…or Greenwich for that matter. Let’s hope it happens.” “you have no shot vs staples ….. thats the truth” “i wouldn’t use Danbury as representation of the fciac let nfa go play Staples,Greenwich, Darien,NC OUCH” disclaimer: I didn’t expect NFA in the finals either

  32. ciacfollower says:

    um, Jake, whatev that all meant.
    Staples will be watching it tonight on CPTV, since they def wont rough it all the way up to the Rent in the cold.

  33. MXR says:

    Good luck to all 8 teams. And for the fans, relatively dry and good games.

  34. Garf says:

    You guys are naive if you think officials at EVERY level don’t possess personal biases that influence some of the calls they make. Read Tim Donaghy’s book, it’s not even debatable.

  35. Garf says:

    @26 Rob, we weren’t allowed to bring an umbrella in to a Uconn game at the Rent, not sure if it’ll be different with a relatively sparse high school crowd.

  36. @Garf – “NO UMBRELLAS!!!!” – Rentschler Field

  37. ciacfollower says:

    Doesnt matter how dominant X’s win is tonight, if Hand wins by 1 pt tomor night, they’re #1 at the end of the season.

  38. Terri Homiski says:

    Hi I missed the NFA Xavier Championship CIAC LL football game. When will CPTV replay that game, I would like to see it. Thanks Terri

  39. Garf says:

    Terri, tomorrow night at 7:00.

  40. Jake says:


    Games are all here for watching online, also.