Is this the year someone crashes the Big Four’s party?

St. Joseph quarterback Jordan Vazzano returns to call signals for the Cadets' high-scoring offense. (Shelley Cryan/For Hearst Newspapers)

St. Joseph quarterback Jordan Vazzano returns to call signals for the Cadets’ high-scoring offense. (Shelley Cryan/For Hearst Newspapers)

It’s no secret FCIAC football has been dominated by a Fearsome Foursome of teams over the last 16 years – Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and Staples, winner of the last two league championships.

With high graduation losses across the league many believe, that maybe, just maybe 2013 is the season someone will crash the Big Four’s party.

“It could anybody. This could be the year you see two teams with one loss playing for the championship,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said.

At Tuesday’s first ever FCIAC Football Media Night at Zody’s 19th Hole at E.G. Brennan Golf Course in Stamford, the buzz seemed to gravitate towards three teams at having a shot of breaking through: McMahon, St. Joseph and Trumbull.

So, in alphabetical order, we’ll make a case for each squad.

BRIEN McMAHON SENATORS

Head Coach: A.J. Albano

2012 record: 6-4

Why the Senators: First off, McMahon returns one of the best players in the league in Tre Forney. Forney is one of the most explosive running backs in the league, rushing for 660 yards on 66 carries last year. That’s 10 yards a carry folks.

Tre Forney rushed for 660 yards last season, averaging 10 yards a carry. (Lindsay Perry/Staff photographer)

Tre Forney rushed for 660 yards last season, averaging 10 yards a carry. (Lindsay Perry/Staff photographer)

“We need to block up front,” McMahon coach A.J. Albano said.
“Tre burst on to the scene last season and has a target on his back.”

McMahon also brings back junior quarterback Matt Downey, who started the final eight games for McMahon last year “and really finished the season strong” throwing for 807 yards and seven touchdowns.

Albano has worked tirelessly to get McMahon headed in the right direction, and coaches around the league have taken notice.

“I’m hearing lots of good things about McMahon,” Greenwich High coach Rich Albonizio said. “They run a wing-T, and not a lot of teams run that anymore. That could be an advantage for them, because no one knows how to defend it anymore.”

Albano knows if his Senators are going to have a shot a success, it will take more than Forney’s speed and Downey’s arm.

“Those four teams do the little things,” Albano said, referencing Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan and Staples. “That’s what I’ve been preaching to my team. We’ve played Staples the last four years. When they’re in a dogfight they just wait for you to make a mistake. Then they pounce on you and you never recover. Because they don’t make that mistake. The little things is what we’ve been preaching. We need to do more of the little things and luckily the kids understand that.”

ST. JOSEPH CADETS

Coach: Joe DellaVecchia

2012 record: 8-2 (Class M quarterfinals)

Why the Cadets: St. Joseph rode the right arm of then sophomore Jordan Vazzano – a Hearst Newspapers Super 33 All-Star – into the Class M quarterfinals last season, where it lost to eventual champion Hillhouse.

“St. Joseph is a talented team,” Albano said. “Vazzano has a big time arm and he can run.”

St. Joseph runs a spread offense, so a wiser, more mature Vazzano (2,110 yards passing, 27 TDs; 237 rushing yards) can only mean more nightmares for opposing defenses trying to stop what figures to be high-scoring attack once again.

“It’s another year where understands what we’re trying to do. He’s very confident in our offense and we’re able to add more things,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “Jordan played as sophomore and was very raw. He grew into the system. He grasps everything we’re trying to now.”

For St. Joseph to make the postseason again, it might take some of the best football the Cadets have ever played. St. Joseph faces a brutal schedule that includes only four home games and six straight road games spanning October and November. St. Joseph hosts Notre Dame-West Haven to kick off the season as part of the FCIAC-SCC challenge and then visits another SCC hopeful, Fairfield Prep. The Cadets will also face the likes of Ridgefield and Darien at home as well as Wilton, Trinity Catholic, New Canaan and McMahon on the road.

“I think we’ll be pretty good. How far we go … We have the toughest schedule in that state. It’s second to none,” Della Vecchia said. “Whatever we do it won’t be easy, I can tell you that.”

TRUMBULL EAGLES

Head coach: Bob Maffei

2012 record: 5-4

Why the Eagles: Like their crosstown rivals, much of the Eagles hopes are tied to their quarterback. After a solid season last year, Trumbull’s Nick Roberts has drawn the attention of coaches from around the league and college scouts too.

Nick Roberts returns under center for Trumbull this season. (Amy Mortensen/For Hearst Newspapers)

Nick Roberts returns under center for Trumbull this season. (Amy Mortensen/For Hearst Newspapers)

“Roberts is a legit quarterback,” Albano said.

Added Norwalk coach Sean Ireland: “I’m hearing big things out of Trumbull, Trumbull High and St. Jospeh. So watch out from up north.”

They are just two of many coaches around the league impressed with Roberts.

“They should be,” Trumbull coach Bob Maffei said. “He’s 6-4 ½, 230 pounds and throws rockets. He knows the offense.”

Trumbull also has a bit of history on its side. The Eagles were the last team to crash the Big Four’s championship game party, reaching the FCIAC final in 2010, falling to Darien. The Eagles were also the last team outside of the Fearsome Foursome to win an FCIAC championship, beating Staples in 2005.

If anything, Maffei seems to know this much: if the Eagles aren’t successful it won’t be for a lack of trying.

“I gonna let the product on the field speak for itself,” Maffei said. “I gotta tell you, our kids worked real hard all winter, all summer. They got up at 7 o’clock in the morning and worked out every day. They’re very well conditioned. We have experience and we got stronger. Hopefully we can return to playing physical football.”

Chris McNamee