Connecticut High School Football

High School Football news, analysis, commentary and features from the reporters of the Hearst Connecticut Media Group.

The SCC: “State Champions Conference”

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The three state champions from the SCC pose with their hardware on the turf at Rentschler Field this weekend: From top, No. 1-ranked Hand (L), Hillhouse (M) and Xavier (LL).

There was poignant moment as Hand and Hillhouse football players exchanged places on the grand stage of Rentschler Field Saturday evening.

Hillhouse had just defeated Berlin 34-12 and was slowly making its way off the field. Hand’s players, meanwhile, had just began their pregame stretching before taking on Windsor in the Class L title game.

As the Hand players in their sparkling clean jerseys ran past, the bruised, muddied and deliriously happy Hillhouse players went out of their ways to wish the Tigers well against Windsor.

“Go get ‘em, boys,” they yelled, arms extended. “Bring another one home.”

Just a few months ago, these two teams were beating the pulp out of each other at Bowen Field.

Now, they were BFFs.

They’re family.

The SCC family.

While they battle and squabble beneath the Southern Connecticut Conference roof, when the siblings venture outside of the league, its a different attitude. When it comes to state championship time, nobody screws with the family.

And who would now?

Nobody, that’s who.

This is going to rankle those of you in Fairfield County, but this is the case. We advise you to stop reading now if it upsets you.

The SCC cemented itself as the SEC of Connecticut High School Football Saturday, winning three state championships and — in all probability — the No. 1 ranking for the fourth-consecutive season.

You’ve probably seen it everywhere: At games, in articles, on blogs, on Twitter. SCC players, coaches, parents and fans are all bound to bring it up at some point or another. They’ll let you know it every chance they get.

S-C-C! S-C-C! S-C-C!

And now get ready to hear it over and over again for another year.

“We’re the best league in the state.”

It was funny at first, but now it’s serious. For three years running now, the SCC has dominated the same as college’s SEC dominates. With defense, a powerful running game, and great coaching.

Xavier toppled NFA 42-14 to win its third straight Class LL championship.

Hand won back-to-back Class L championships, and will win the No. 1 ranking in a few hours.

Hillhouse won its second title in three years.

Content Commish

Content Commish: Al Carbone watches proudly as Hillhouse leaves with a state championship trophy and Hand makes its entrance to play Windsor at Rentschler Field Saturday. Carbone's SCC won three titles.

His kids in tow, ‘The Commish,’ Al Carbone spent three quarters of state championship week at Rentschler Field presiding proudly like a father over his bigger children’s report cards.

A former SID at Trinity College and now ‘government relations’ manager (Read: PR) at United Illuminating, Carbone is big on self-promotion and public perception. He is easily the most visible league leader in the state.

And with every state championship plaque an SCC team raised, Carbone held up a virtual scoreboard on Twitter in hopes of putting his league’s dominance in perspective.

Carbone doesn’t need to do any lobbying. The SCC doesn’t need to explain itself. No one comes close to its recent pedigree: The CIAC has awarded 12 state championships over the last three seasons, the SCC has won seven of them.

As the clock wound down on his team’s 48-14 pasting of Norwich Free Academy, Xavier defensive coordinator Andy Guyon summed it up thusly:

Hillhouse and Hand had yet to play.

Confidence, man.

But why? And how is this league so dominant?

It was asked many times this weekend, and the league’s 2012 championship coaches, Hand’s Steve Filippone, Tom Dyer and Sean Marinan, explained it in different ways every time. Sometimes they offered explanations without anyone asking.

The crux was this: The SCC has great programs, strong programs, physical teams with longstanding traditions. The league’s alignment is construed in a way that the strongest teams rarely, if ever, duck each other. If you reach the state playoffs, you’ve earned it by playing the toughest teams in the league almost every week.

“I call it the gauntlet,” Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer said. “Our league prepares us, week in, week out, to play in games like this.”

Excellence begets excellence.

“We have a lot of programs with tradition, everybody’s had their day in sun. Everybody’s had an opportunity to be in a place like this on a night like this. And that spurs us on to try to do a little bit better,” Filippone said. “In our league, and maybe many other leagues, I know I have to prepare our team very well because the guy across the field is going to do a heckuva job of getting his team ready.

“So we compete every week and don’t get a week off.”

Well, how does that explain Hillhouse? They’re in the “small” SCC Division II side of the bracket. They don’t matchup with the big boys consistently, right?

Embedded in the league’s structure is two ‘crossover’ weeks, when the sides match up against each other. Call it ‘relief’ for the bigger schools and call it unfair for the smaller ones, if you will. Most times, it is. Division II teams rarely win crossovers. It’s kind of a running joke that there are built-in losses for the Forans, Hillhouses and North Havens of the league.

And yes, whenever North Haven, Hillhouse or whomever from Division II reaches the state playoffs, it’s always with one or two losses. This year a pretty strong North Haven squad was left out of the state playoffs.

North Haven’s sin? Losing to three state champions: Xavier, Hand and Hillhouse. Had North Haven beaten Hillhouse in Week 5, the Class M champions would have been left out of the playoff field, North Haven would have had to beat Hand to win in Class L.

It’s tough. It’s unforgiving and maybe even a bit unfair. But in the long run, the SCC’s scheduling is a weekly litmus test to see just how well your team stacks up and just how good they must be to become a state champion. There are no paper champions here.

Greenwich's Austin Longi is taken down by a pair of Xavier defenders in the Class LL quarterfinals. The SCC went 3-1 vs the FCIAC in the 2012 state playoffs.

“We just went through a gauntlet of a season,” Hand’s outstanding defensive lineman Peter Gerson said. “I don’t think there was one bad team. That’s what happens when you play in the SCC.”

And it has been that extra edge that has spurred it on in the state playoffs. The SCC went 3-1 against the FCIAC in the state playoffs, knocking more than half of that league of of title contention before the semifinals.

Staples did hammer West Haven, 42-20. But then the Wreckers followed by losing to NFA 30-28, a team Xavier beat by 34 points in the state final.

When an SCC team plays outside of the league, it’s like dropping that extra bat as you step out from the on-deck circle. Everything seems so much easier when SCC teams dig into the batter’s box against the rest of the state.

“The SCC just plays a different brand of football,” Gerson continued. “I know people go, oh the SCC, there are other leagues, there’s the eff-cee-eye-ay-cee, and there’s this, there’s that… I’ve played teams in other leagues and the SCC is just a different brand. It’s a fire, you hit every play, you don’t give up and that puts a wear on you. It was a grind to get through.”

So what does Fairfield County and the rest of the state have to do to keep up? The bar has been set enormously high. New Haven County is boss (we’ll add Class S champion Ansonia into that discussion, as well.). It stings, no doubt. Nobody — and we mean nobody — from the FCIAC and SWC can say they get thrown into the fire weekly like the teams in the SCC. While the Masuks, New Canaans, Greenwichs and Staples of the world have been and remain strong football programs capable of beating anyone. Over the long haul, the FCIAC has lost more often than win against the battle-tested SCC.

Maybe these recent realignments are the answer? The SWC recently realigned into three divisions by size. So the largest schools won’t miss each other in the future. (Though, honestly, there are fewer powerhouses in the SWC.)

The FCIAC recently divvied up its teams by size, but not as much by strength. And it costs them. Who did New Canaan, Staples or Greenwich play in the regular season? They didn’t play each other regularly, that’s for sure. The way the league has scheduled of late, all of the best programs have missed each other, give or take.

That won’t be the case over the next two years. But what’s from preventing weak scheduling from happening again?

Then again, these things tend to go in cycles. It wasn’t that long ago that the FCIAC and SWC were puffing out their chests after winning a majority of titles in 2006 and 2007. Before that, the CCC reigned with teams like New Britain and Southington and Bloomfield. The ECC, too, did well with Fitch, Ledyard and New London. In the smaller divisions, the NVL pretty much has always ruled thanks mostly to Ansonia, Woodland and Holy Cross.

But this is a brand-new world of Connecticut high school football. There are no longer six watered-down champions. There are now four, legit ones. You have to beat three legit teams to take home a plaque. And to win in this world, you have to work, work and work, then you have to be tested every week, and you have to play flawless and — most of all — you have to survive.

The SCC has the blueprint, not to just to survive, but thrive.

Again, things go in cycles, both Hand and Xavier lose a lot heading into 2013, as does Hillhouse. So maybe this run of excellence hath reached its zenith.

Maybe. But at this moment, it’s hard to envision the league taking a step back in the immediate future.

The serious programs in the FCIAC and SWC will have all offseason to stew over this. Thankfully, redemption, in a smaller form for the FCIAC, is on the way. The league has agreed to play the SCC in 16 crossover games. Dubbed ‘The SCC-FCIAC Challenge’ on this space a year ago, we’ll get Xavier-Staples, Greenwich-West Haven, New Canaan-Hand, Darien-Hillhouse, etc. in a kick-ass, kickoff to 2013 and 2014.

So, run off into the wilderness of Russia FCIAC. Pull sleds, carry logs up mountains, run through snow. Scream ‘SCC!!!!!!’ from the rooftops of the world. Do whatever it is you have to do to get ready next year. You’re getting lapped in the Connecticut high school football championship scene.

Sean Patrick Bowley

41 Responses

  1. Matt Glasz says:

    “The CIAC has awarded 12 state championships over the last three seasons, the SCC has won seven of them.”

    The SCC doesn’t even have a Class S school in the conference. So really they’ve won 7 of the past 9 state championships that they were eligible to win.

  2. Bubba says:

    Carbone looks like Mr. Potter in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

  3. “Merry Christmas to you, Bailey…in JAIL”

  4. johnnyballgame says:

    YOUR BEST ARTICLE IN 12 YEARS!!!

  5. @johnnyballgame – OH STOPPIT, JH

  6. mueller says:

    The SCC top teams also are very dedicated in the off-season in terms of lifting and running, this isn’t the be all end all but hard work pays off- there is a reason why the Danbury’s of the world aren’t eating at the big boy table

  7. Pequot Rising! says:

    Meh, these things go in cycles.

  8. SJ Alum says:

    The SCC will be starting football practice this afternoon for the 2013 season! Way to represent SCC!

  9. Xhs says:

    I hate to say this but too bad these games start next year. I think it will be a down year (it catches up to you eventually) but the following we will be right there again as we have a strong current bunch of sophomores

  10. johnnyribbs says:

    If anyone can come up with anything that resembles a counter argument to this, that would be almost as impressive as the 7 of 9 possible titles. All Hail the mighty mighty.

  11. Raff says:

    @SPB- Best article I have seen with full breakdown. I think we can fully agree here that with the Ansonia quote hanging in there locker room and you posing with it on Saturday and no Staples or New Canaan you took everything in stride this weekend. Way to be a professional. I know some SCC fans like to remind you a lot about the conference but the FCIAC has the challenge in 2013 to fire back. What better way to try and make a statement.

    I still say it will be tough but who knows.

    SCC SCC SCC

  12. I don’t care who wins. I really don’t.

    Only reason why I’d really care if a Fairfield County team won is: it was an awesome story and it gets us more page views. And it’s technically more fun for me. That’s it.

  13. MXR says:

    Sean, your objectivity can’t reasonably be questioned, despite some of the comments on here during the course of the year. Which makes a piece like this all the nicer to read for an SCC fan.

  14. RAY BROWN says:

    THE SCC DOMINATED PLAYOFFS THIS YEAR FOR SURE.XAVIER AND HILLHOUSE FINISHED BEHIND ANSONIA IN FINAL POLL,AND HAND DESERVEDLY NO.1.
    XHS——-DONT START CRYING NOW——”DYNASTIES DONT HAVE DOWN YEARS”
    THEY RELOAD.

  15. Dave Lib says:

    This was my favorite SPB article ever!
    And I know for a FACT that a certain FCIAC powerhouse does not want another certain FCIAC powerhouse to win state titles. I LOVE how the SCC kids root for each other to win state titles…..that’s the way it should be.
    I’m a New Canaan fan…..but as I’ve been saying for several years, the SCC is the best conference in the states…hands down. The SCC does its scheduling the right way. Can’t say the same for the FCIAC.
    Congrats to the three champs from the SCC and also an excellent Ansonia team!

  16. GHS Fan says:

    I remember a few years ago when Greenwich stomped everyone in Connecticut en route to a state championship, but lost a game to some national powerhouse from Florida.
    The writer of this website declared that the little pipsqueak Ansonia, who played a bunch of cupcakes all year and had an undefeated season, were better than Greenwich because Ansonia was undefeated.
    In this article the writer extolls the virtues of a competetive season, but then he punishes teams who actually go out of their way to liven up their schedules.
    No, let’s all take the Ansonia – cupcake route. You are punished in Connecticut for doing any different.
    I actually agree with the premise of this article, but the writer should review his old work before posting, lest he contradict himself.

  17. Kent says:

    @GHS Fan, writers are people too, their opinions can change
    (by the way, I believe Greenwich played Naples that year)

  18. ncfeld says:

    I would like to know the reasoning behind voting a team number 1 over a team they lost to.

  19. Dave Lib says:

    GHS FAN…
    you get the “biggest complainer” award this year on the blog.

    1- Wanting spreadsheets for every ref and every flag thrown. Saying these refs want to help the underdog and show a bias. (Um…the favorite won every game this weekend by at least 3 scores, so there goes that theory)
    2-Thinking that its okay that 250 kids make All-FCIAC.
    3- Questioning SPB….who has actually SEEN, IN PERSON every good football team in the state over the last several years.

    I try to remain unbiased and reasonable on here…..but your posts….wow! I’m glad I don’t have to sit in a four-hour car ride with you. You like to complain!
    You’d complain about paying taxes after winning Powerball!

  20. Xhs says:

    Hey mr. Brown, read the polls. It’s really not that close between Xavier and Ansonia. I would hope that the writers who were voting actually were there to see the games. Not a biased fan like yourself who have never seen a team outside the valley.

  21. scc follower says:

    Go back four years and the SCC has won 9 of 12 titles in LL, L & M classes as Cheshire beat Staples and NDWH beat Pomperaug in the finals. The SCC schedule prepares the best teams for the post season as you can’t get to a 10-0, 9-1 or 8-2 record w/out earning it on the field week after week.

  22. GHS1973 says:

    Ansonia…Come on, man…Try and talk them into playing up, no matter what, it will make for a better game, eh?

  23. sawthat says:

    I think when the owners get together this winter for their annual league meetings there will be a lot of discussions about how to improve their respective leagues. Maybe someone will sue for free agency or worse there will be a salary cap!! Either way there is sure to be lots of talk about how to bring parity to football in Connecticut…. Great season all….Merry Christmas

  24. Paul says:

    I actually signed off for this year but had to get one more dig into RAY BROWN.READ THE REGISTER RAY……IT SHOWS XAVIER FINISHED AHEAD OF ANSONIA….For the record NB threw for 400 yards and lost b/c they have no defense….It would be scary to watch Xavier throw and run on that NVL defense.For the record Xavier 48-Ansonia 27.That’s all…Best of Holiday’s to everyone.

  25. GHS Fan says:

    Dave Lib – I guess if I am “Biggest complainer” that would make you “Biggest brown noser”.
    “Ohhh SPB – oh wise one -please educate me as to how I should think and what I should say so that I appear to be unbiased and intelligent!”
    As to the 4 hour car ride, I hope you and your gang of compliant, polyanna friends all have fun agreeing with each other in your little mutual admiration society. Yuck!

  26. RAY BROWN says:

    GHS —-TALK GREENWICH INTO SCHEDULING ANSONIA—A ASS–KICKING TO A CLASS S TEAM WILL ELIMINATE YOU EARLY.YOU WONT HAVE TO WAIT FOR STAPLES ON TURKEY DAY.READ THE COURANT PAUL.

  27. Jarrod says:

    Hate to agree with him, but Dave Lib, you are a bit of a suck up

  28. Paco says:

    I Heard that NC has a Bye Week next year, I’m sure they’d love to play the kings of the kiddie pool

  29. Dave Lib says:

    @ GHS Fan & @Jarrod

    FYI, I don’t “suck up” to Sean Patrick Bowley. I’ve known him for a while, and I admire his work and his passion for the sport. But he doesn’t need me to come on here and agree and praise him for everything he writes. Yes, I agree with ALMOST everything he writes on his blog. Why? Because there’s not many people in Connecticut who follow more teams/games and does more research than he does.
    What would I get for “brown nosing” him? What good does that do me? A raise? 50-yard line tickets to a Weston football game?
    Believe me, there are some issues/beliefs that I disagree with SPB on. Trust me, I have my own opinions. I don’t want to bring up Politics on a h.s. football blog, but I have different views than SPB. College hoops? I don’t root for Syracuse, his alma mater. He once called my alma mater’s hoop team (which I shall not name) “A Midwest horror show that has not been relevant in a quarter-century.”…….or something close to that!!
    There’s more criticism given out nowadays than there are compliments. If complimenting or agreeing with a columnist is a crime….than I’m guilty—because, as I said, there’s not many people in these circles that I trust more that SPB when it comes to high school football.
    @Paco
    New Canaan plays (arguably) the toughest schedule in the state next year.

    And, yes, I consider myself unbiased and intelligent. I go to many high school football games each year, and don’t just follow one or two teams around.
    I’ll stand by my statements…..Ansonia could have played with ANYBODY in the state this year……….The SCC has been the top conference in the state the past several years…..and I thought Staples was the best team in the state all year (up until the loss to NFA). Sean just happened to share the same feelings. I didn’t make those statements just because he felt the same way. Anybody who knows me knows that I have my own opinions. If I had my own h.s. football blog, I’d say the same things there.
    -David Liberatore

  30. @Libby – Suck up ;)

    Yes, let’s not get into politics. I get enough “Hey! it’s Old Man Libby!” rants on Facebook. Haha

  31. Dave Lib says:

    Also, SPB loves the fact that all teams get to play on Thanksgiving. I don’t like it at all. I strongly disagree with him.
    At least in the FCIAC, that is I liked it when the FCIAC Championship Game was at Boyle Stadium on Thanksgiving morning, while the rest of the teams in the league were DONE with their regular season schedules. I believe that you should have to EARN the right to play on Thanksgiving.
    If SPB were to write a blog post/column saying “It’s great that all kids get to experience playing on Thanksgiving”—-I would be the FIRST one on here to disagree with him and give my feelings why. You better believe it!

  32. Dave Lib says:

    Just a few more examples of how UNBIASED I am:

    - Played sports at an FCIAC school, I do some work for an FCIAC school, and my favorite team is in the FCIAC….but I think that the SCC is the better football conference. Just my opinion.

    -I’ve been a Yankees’ fan since attending my first gamke in 1978, but I think that Derek Jeter is the most overrated player to ever play baseball. Just my opinion.

    -My alma mater is currently the #1 ranked team in college basketball, but I don’t think they deserve to be at this point. I think dreaded Duke should be #1 based on its handful of victories over Top 10 teams so far this year. Just my opinion.

    - I went to a Big ten school, and I think the Big Ten is the most overrated FOOTBALL conference of all time. I think the SEC is tops. Just my opinion.

    So much for me being “biased”…as you claim.

  33. gur says:

    There is a Xavier Asst Coach who should be FIRED. he taunted ryer caruso on the sidelines on the play before caruso’s TD…he swore at him, said he sucks and to get up and away from the X sidelines. That is the reason caruso taunted after his TD. a 40 something yr old man taunting a high school kid, and a good kid. Shameful. the coach should be fired. just so you all know..its on the game film. you can tell he taunted caruso.

  34. gur says:

    Xavier Asst caoch should be fired for taunting NFA player
    ryer caruso during state final…shameful behavior. you can see it
    on game film. what a pathetic person….

  35. Jarrod says:

    Dave Lib. The most interesting man in the world.

  36. Reggie Palmer says:

    @ Gur
    I’ll try to take a look at the video on the ‘net. But let me ask, how do you know? Were you on the Xavier sideline?

  37. gur says:

    @reggie palmer. No, but i have know a reporter who was. he heard the asst coach say, verbatim “you $uck, get up you [*****], go back to your side, you loser” – on film you can see caruso turn back around after he was walking back to NFA sideline, as if some one was talking to him from behind and seemed to be talking to coach.
    on the very next play, caruso scored. and as a kid, went back to coach and raise arms in TD sign..to be expected. you’d expect more from a 40 yr old coach. This was confirmed by Ryer after game. But Sean is right, the blog is not the place, i will take it up with appropriate channel..this is my last post about it. needed to be said as ryer’s name was being smeared wrongfully

  38. Reggie palmer says:

    I haven’t looked that the replay yet, but during the game i noticed after the NFA kid showboated a bit fter is his TD, Coach Davis REALLY let him have it on their sideline. I thought it was a class move by The Coach. If it was provoked, IMO someone should definitely let Coach Marinan know about it.

  39. Dave Lib says:

    @Jarrod.
    Thank you.
    Sasquatch tries to take pictures of me.

  40. Jarrod says:

    Ha Ha. I did say that I hated to agree with him………

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