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
TICKETS — $10
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
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
- Different year for Falcons, same destination – Middletown Press
- Xavier’s offensive line filled with unsung heroes – Middletown Press
- Xavier finds motivation in loss to Hand - Middletown Press
- Xavier handles Glastonbury in LL semifinal - Hartford Courant
- NFA players trying to enjoy week - Norwich Bulletin
- ECC owes NFA thanks for buzz it’s created – Mike DiMauro, New London Day
- Why was UConn so late to the Outlow party? - Mike DiMauro, New London Day
- NFA’s Formiglio could make history by kicking in Class LL final - Hartford Courant
- NFA Flies From Under The Radar – Jeff Jacobs, Hartford Courant
- NFA visits Rentschler Field - Marc Allard, Norwich Bulletin
- Xavier faces new challenge with NFA - Marc Allard, Norwich Bulletin
- October win over Hillhouse the turning point for Xavier - Pooch, New Haven Register