2012 Class M championship preview: Berlin vs. Hillhouse


Hillhouse senior Andre Anderson looks for running room in the Class M quarterfinals vs. St. Joseph. The Academics are vying for their 2nd state title in three years when they face Berlin in the M title game Saturday afternoon at Rentschler Field

No. 2 Berlin vs. No. 4 Hillhouse

WHERE/WHEN — Saturday, 2:35 p.m. at Rentschler Field
ON THE AIR — Radio: WELI 960-AM | TV: CPTV Sports | Online: ESPN 3, Watch ESPN app
COACHES — Berlin:
John Capodice (9th year, 82-21-0); Hillhouse: Tom Dyer (6th year, 50-17, 1 state title).
RECORDS –Berlin: 11-1 (CCC Division III East champions); Hillhouse: 10-2 (SCC Division II West champions)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Berlin: def. Bullard-Havens 41-14; def. Weston 21-7; Hillhouse: def. St. Joseph 34-14; def. Montville 48-26.
STATE TITLES — Berlin (1-5): 2009-M. Hillhouse (4-1): 1985-M-I, 2002-SS, 2006-M, 2010-M.

Berlin RB Scott McLeod

TOP PLAYERS: Hillhouse: Jr. RB/LB Harold Cooper (1,550 yards, 21 TD rushing); Sr. RB/DB Andre Anderson (1,270 yards, 14 TD rushing); Sr. QB/DB Je’Vaughn Moore (809 yards, 8 TD passing; 850 yards, 7 TD rushing); Sr. LB/OL Terrell Fairweather (111 tackles, 5.5 sacks); SR WR/DB Darryn Horner (7 interceptions; 256 yards, 3 TD receiving); Berlin: Jr. QB Mitch Williams (1,400 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT passing; ); Sr. RB/CB Scott McLeod (954 yards, 10 TD rushing); Sr. RB Kevin Main (330 yards, 7 TDs rushing); Sr. OL/DL Mitch Blanchette (6-2, 300); Sr. OL Chris Meucci (6-2, 240); Sr. RB Wojtus Zak (5-10, 175); Sr. LB Hector Rodriguez (4 sacks); Sr. RB Mike Tinzioni (5-10, 170); Sr. TE Tyler Bouchard (30 catches, 440 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. WR Tyler Undercuffler (5 TDs);

WORTH NOTING — Hillhouse’s only losses this season were to Class LL finalist Xavier and Class L finalist Hand. …The Academics led Xavier 49-21 with just over 11 minutes remaining in their Week 6 meeting, only to lose 50-49. …Je’Vaughn Moore, Harold Cooper and Andre Anderson were all key parts of the Academics’ 2010 state championship. Cooper, then a freshman, ran 14 times for 39 yards scored the only touchdown in a 7-0 Hillhouse victory. Moore was the starting quarterback. …Berlin won its first title in 2009 after five previous tries. …Hillhouse is the state’s top rushing team, with an average of 400 yards per game. The Academics have scored 51 rushing touchdowns, No. 3 in the state behind Staples (53) and Ansonia (56). …The Academics have outscored opponents by an average of 39-18. …Berlin senior RB Justin Gombotz (1,159 rushing yards, 16 TD) injured his ankle in the quarterfinals vs. Bullard-Havens isn’t expected to play in the championship, though Capodice didn’t rule him out. …McLeod (137 total yards, touchdown) and Main (61 rush yards, touchdown) did a majority of the work in the semifinal win over Weston. Zak and Tinzioni are also expected to contribute. …Berlin averages 233 rush yards per game (a majority with Gombotz), 123 passing. It’s ranked No. 16 in the state in rushing. Berlin outscores its opponents by an average of 35-13. It’s only loss was to Class L quarterfinalist Platt.

Hillhouse RB Harold Cooper

OUTLOOK — Give Berlin credit for absorbing the loss of Gombotz to advance to its first state championship since winning it all in 2009. It’s a tough team (Meucci has been in and out of the lineup with a separated shoulder all season), and has managed to get this far without being hindered by its losses. But Hillhouse isn’t Bullard-Havens. It isn’t Weston. Berlin knows it’s up against a talented team with a championship already on its resume. Hillhouse has proven its worth against the likes of Xavier, Hand and North Haven. It had Xavier buried, only to allow it to storm back late. The Academics say they’ve learned their lessons since then. So far, they’ve practically cruised to the state title game. Berlin’s defense is tough, but can it stop Cooper and Anderson and Moore? The Academics love to kill teams with big plays. If one guy doesn’t make one, another will. If Gombotz can go, he might help the Redcoats keep up. But he’d have to be in tip-top shape to crack the Academic’s swarming defense. As it is, few teams in the state can keep up with Hilhouse, never mind Berlin. The Redcoats’ valiant run ends here in a blaze of Anderson-Cooper runs.

OUR PICK — Hillhouse 35-14.



CPTV Sports: Highlights of Hillhouse’s 48-26 victory over Montville in Class M semis

Hearst CT highlights: Hillhouse’s 34-14 victory over St. Joseph in Class M quarterfinals

RickVolk21 on YouTube: Berlin Redcoats tribute

Sean Patrick Bowley