Any first place votes in parentheses
The Day of New London Coaches Poll
1. Xavier-Middletown (4) 1-0
2. Ansonia (4) 1-0
3. New Canaan (2) 1-0
4. Norwich Free Academy (2) 0-0
5. St. Joseph-Trumbull 1-0
6. Greenwich (1) 1-0
7. Southington 1-0
8. Middletown 1-0
9. Windsor 1-0
10. West Haven 0-1
New Haven Register Media Poll
1. Ansonia (14) 1-0
2. Xavier (12) 1-0
3. New Canaan (2) 1-0
4. NFA 0-0
5. Middletown 1-0
6. Southington 1-0
7. St. Joseph 1-0
8. Newtown 1-0
9. Greenwich 1-0
10. Masuk 1-0
The CIAC football committee met Wednesday to discuss, among other things, the impending move of its championship games to Central Connecticut State.
There was nothing official to report on that matter as of Thursday. But, make no mistake, it’s going to happen. And soon.
We’re told that the football committee wants to move. All that’s left is crossing crossing the ‘Ts’ and dotting the lowercase ‘Js’ on a contract that will free the CIAC from the shackles of the oppressive money pit that is Rentschler Field and send championship weekend to newly refurbished Arute Field in New Britain.
So, once they agree to a deal, we’ll get four games in a confined venue to make the 5,000-plus who show up look like it’s the Super Bowl (satisfying some of the Rent detractors).
There’s plenty of space for the growing media coverage. Plus, if inclement weather finally rears its head in December, Central has a turf field to handle it. Oh, and the CIAC will be satisfied by making a better profit.
But that’s not what’s making waves today. (Update: Not in the morning, at least)
What is officially being bandied about, according to Ned ‘Polecat’ Griffen of The Day, is discussions over tweaking the state playoffs to create a Tech and Co-Op school division or (are you ready for this?), adding an Open Division in hopes of creating a true champion.
Granted, this was all just talk for now. Don’t expect changes anytime soon. The CIAC is committed to the current system until 2015, Ned reports. And these kinds of things need to be discussed, and debated and re-debated and all of the logistics need to be hammered out before it becomes reality.
And, yes, even Hand coach and committee member Steve Filippone conceded that a potential Tech schools division was a more attainable goal in the near future. “I know we’re not going to get both,” he told Ned.
But they’re thinking about it.
Be still your beating hearts, football fans.
The idea is that that a BCS-styled (ugh) rankings system using the polls and computer rankings, would select the top eight programs that year and automatically place them into the open division for the state championship.
Teams could not opt out of playing for the open/overall title.
While an open division is — in theory — an awesome prospect and would settle once and for all the annual No. 1 debate, there are few criticisms.
First, the selection process might be flawed from the start. You can create all the computer and ranking models that you want, but someone’s going to be upset over its methodology. Anyone who followed college football’s BCS rankings will certainly understand.
Second, an open division would render the four other state championships utterly meaningless. Who would care about the Open Division castaways? What would that title mean?
But Filippone addressed those criticisms in Ned’s story:
“The arguments against the proposal is that picking the top eight teams is subjective,” Filippone said. “I don’t know if that’s legitimate.
“The other is it would water down the four divisional championships. My answer to that is a young football player in the state of Connecticut can say that he’s a state champion and is going to feel very proud of that. When he’s getting dressed for that game, he isn’t thinking, ‘Oh, well, Xavier (of Middletown) is playing in the open division, they’re in our division, and we’d get our butts kicked if we played them. He’s not thinking about that. He’s thinking of playing for a state championship.”
But I’d also argue as much as players might believe that, there will be an overwhelming contingent of fans, media folk and peers who’ll say: “Nobody cares, kid. Get lost.”
Another argument working for Filippone is that, in the debate over who’s No. 1, one or two divisions are usually disregarded anyway. What’s one or two more divisions?
Also, consider that winning championships are the end-all, be-all for all high school football coaches. The less titles they win with what they may believe are legitimate teams, the more antsy they get.
In conversations I’ve had, there already has been grumblings among a few coaches that four divisions aren’t enough to satisfy the overwhelming desire to have better odds at winning a tittle — if for nothing else but the sake of their careers. The pressure on some of these guys to win championships is overwhelming.
Now that many of them might annually be stuck an open division, would there be a desire to (ahem) tank a game or relinquish style points to avoid it if they believe their teams don’t have a legit shot at winning an open title?
We allegedly saw signs of such shenanigans when the CIAC created its infamous divisional structure in boys basketball a few years back. That arrangement lasted all of three seasons from 2004-2006. It might be a little harder to swing in football, but don’t rule it out. Besides, it’s not that hard to influence the outcome of a football game.
Yea, so there are some issues to debate. We’re a long way off from figuring this out.
But deep within the monotonous and uneventful offseason (hardly), it’s at least great discussion.
Too few fans. Too much overhead. A big shortfall.
That’s what the CIAC says is the problem with The Rent.
After just three years, the CIAC is thinking about abandoning East Hartford’s Rentschler Field as a football championship venue Marc Allard of the Norwich Bulletin reported today.
CIAC associate director Paul Hoey apparently dropped this bomb on the football committee’s monthly meeting on Wednesday at CIAC headquarters.
According to Hoey, the organization lost $38,000 from the four state title games and“the bills are still coming in,” the Bulletin writes.
Update: And now a follow-up report from the Hartford Courant quotes Hoey saying the figure is $20,000.
Either way, Hoey says, the organization is losing money on hosting the site at Rentschler Field.
“We rely on football to be a revenue-producing sport for us to help with those sports that don’t produce revenue, and we need to make money,” Hoey told Allard. “The management at Rentschler Field has been wonderful, but it just might be too big.”
With the Rentschler Field contract up for renewal this year, the CIAC is looking elsewhere. Central Connecticut State’s Arute Field, which recently expanded its capacity to 5,800, is the leading candidate, the Bulletin Reported.
The Class LL championship between Xavier and NFA, played Friday night, drew 4,576 fans, according to game statistics.
Significantly less attended the Class S and Class M championship games on Saturday morning and afternoon.
The Class L title game drew the second-best crowd of the weekend. Total attendance for the Saturday games was 5,189, according to figures.
The CIAC charges $10 for tickets for the two state championship days, suggesting the organization took in approximately $100,000 on ticket sales alone.
Benefits to making the switch is Arute Field’s artificial turf. Rentschler Field’s surface is grass, which is typically beat up by the UConn football season.
The Bulletin reported the committee members would tour Central’s facilities. No decision would be made until at least the next committee meeting, March 6.
The CIAC moved all of its state championships to Rentschler Field in 2010 when it revamped its state playoffs, reducing the championships from six to four but expanding the field to include a quarterfinals round (and 16 more teams).
Previously, the organization annually shuffled its sites between local high schools (like West Haven’s Ken Strong Stadium, Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium and Trumbull’s McDougall Stadium) and state colleges.
Central Connecticut State, which originally had just one side of stands, hasn’t been used as a site since it hosted the Class M title game between Ledyard vs. Berlin in 2007.
That year was also the last time the CIAC used Southern Connecticut State’s Jess Dow Field.
Hand of Madison earn the coveted No. 1 ranking in the state media poll conducted by The Register of New Haven.
I know. We’re stunned.
It was a unanim… wait, somebody voted Xavier No. 1?
Really? Did they not see THIS game?
Whatever. Didn’t affect the outcome. Though if you’re Ansonia I’m thinking you’re feeling a bit disrespected. 14-0. Back-to-back champs…
Oh well, to the victors go the spoils. Connecticut High School Football in 2012 is the SCC’s World, the rest of the state is just cannon fodder. The league came close to sweeping the top three spots.
Oughta be a fun time at the New Haven Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame dinner. Get your tickets now.
Anyway, Hand, the Class L champions, won all but one of the 25 first-place votes. This is the third time in school history the Tigers have been named No. 1.
Class LL champion Xavier leaped Ansonia to take No. 2.
Guess that Oct. 12 game really did live up to all the hype. Turns out it was for the No. 1 ranking.
Ansonia, the only team to ever go 14-0, went 14-0 again and won the Class S title. The Chargers finish third.
FCIAC Champion Staples was the only Fairfield County school to finish in the Top 10. The Wreckers were No. 7. Both SWC champion Newtown and FCIAC runner-up Greenwich dropped out.
Dropped Out: Newtown (7), Greenwich (8).
Other teams receiving votes: Berlin (11-2), 257; Newtown (10-1), 241; Masuk (10-2), 212; Greenwich (8-2), 186; West Haven (8-3), 113; New Canaan (9-3), 106; Middletown (8-3), 46; North Haven (7-3), 25; St. Joseph (8-3), 24; Hyde (10-2), 19; Montville (9-3), 15; Woodland (8-4), 9; Wolcott (9-2), 8; Platt (8-3), 7.
The following voted: Marc Allard, Norwich Bulletin; Bob Barton, New Haven Register; Bill Bloxsom, Hersam-Acorn; Sean Patrick Bowley, Connecticut Post; Don Boyle, Sporting News CT; Jim Bransfield, Middletown Press; Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican-American; Chris Brodeur, Danbury News-Times; Bryant Carpenter, Meriden-Record Journal; George DeMaio, WELI; Mike DiMauro, The Day of New London; Matt Doran, MSG Varsity; Noah Finz, WTNH-8; Ned Griffen, The Day of New London; John Holt, WFSB-3; Mark Jaffee, Waterbury Republican-American; Ken Lipshez, West Hartford News/New Britain City Journal; Mike Madera, Elm City Newspapers; Joe Morelli, New Haven Register; Dave Phillips, Shore Line Newspapers; Mike Pucci, New Haven Register; Dave Ruden, Stamford Advocate; Tom Yantz, Hartford Courant; Mike Wollschlager, New Haven Register; Jimmy Zanor, Shore Line Newspapers.
The Day is holding their final coaches poll for a blowout piece. All we care about is who is No. 1, and who else got high billing. They did give us a taste, which is all we really need, anyway. Ahem, they emailed it, as usual. Brain. Fried.
Hand’s No. 1, of course. The Tigers got 13 of 15 first-place votes. Ansonia got the other two first-place votes and finish No. 2.
Dropped out: Southington (6), Newtown (7), and Greenwich (T9).
Also receiving votes: Southington (10-1), 124 points; Masuk-Monroe (10-2), 117; Newtown (10-1), 107; West Haven (8-3), 61; Tie, Greenwich (8-2) and Middletown (8-3), 52; New Canaan (9-3), 44; North Haven (7-3), 35; St. Joseph-Trumbull (8-3), 15; Wolcott (9-2), 10; Montville (9-3), 8; Tie, Weston (9-3) and Woodland-Beacon Falls (8-4), 7.
The following coaches voted: Tom Brockett, Ansonia; Jim Buonocore, Ledyard; Craig Bruno, Bunnell-Stratford; Dave Cadelina, Bridgeport Central; Steve Filippone, Hand-Madison; Rob Fleeting, Windsor; Tanner Grove, Montville; Jude Kelly, St. Paul-Bristol; Tim King, Valley Regional-Deep River; Sean Marinan, Xavier-Middletown; John Murphy, Masuk-Monroe; Marce Petroccio, Staples-Westport; Bob Zito, Maloney-Meriden.
— Al Carbone (@SCCcommissioner) December 9, 2012
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.
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.
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:
#cthsfb Xavier D-coordinator Andy Guyon: “Know what SCC stands for? ‘State Champions Conference.’
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) December 8, 2012
Hillhouse and Hand had yet to play.
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.
“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.
EAST HARTFORD — Dan Rogers and his twin brother Pat really had no choice. Their parents divorced. The two Weston football stars had to pack up and move to another part of the state. New town, a new school, new friends, a whole new football team.
When they moved to Madison in August, Hand coach Steve Filippone, whose program was coming off a Class L championship the year before, made the newcomers a promise: “You will win a state championship.”
As it turned out, at a most crucial moment in the Class L championship game vs. Windsor, Rogers was the one who made Filippone’s promise come true.
Rogers scooped up a fumble and raced 42 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter for what turned out to be a back-breaking score that delivered Hand its second consecutive Class L championship and, most likely the No. 1 ranking — the third No. 1 ranking in school history.
“Two years in a row, it’s almost unreal,” said linebacker Matt Walsh, who led Hand’s staunch defense with 15 tackles. “One or two other Hand High School teams have gone out No. 1. And for us to do that our senior year, it’s just an unreal feeling right now. No other words can describe that.”
This is Hand’s 11th state championship, which passed St. Joseph for second-most in state history behind Ansonia (18).
“They’re a very good football team,” Warriors head coach Robert Fleeting told Ned Griffen of The Day. “Things just got away from us offensively. We couldn’t get into a rhythm. Our defensive was just on the field a little bit too long.”
Until Rogers’ scoop and score gave Hand some desperately-needed breathing room, this title was still very much in doubt.
No. 2-seeded Windsor (11-1) had given the Tigers one of their toughest games of the season. Windsor’s big and aggressive defense harassed Hand quarterback Brendan Bilcheck into a pair of interceptions and held the Tigers scoreless until the final play of the first half.
Windsor led 6-3 on Robert Quinn Fleeting’s 28-yard touchdown pass to Ryheiem Moore. Though Hand salvaged a 27-yard field goal, everyone in the building was thinking upset.
But Hand got its act together in the second half. Bilcheck threw a 23-yard touchdown to Caleb Ewald on a middle screen which gave Hand its first lead of the game 10-6 early in the third quarter.
On the ensuing possession Quinn Fleeting absorbed a hit from Hand linebacker Matt Walsh and lost his helmet, forcing him to come out of the game for a play.
But on that one play, backup John Nolan fumbled the snap. The ball rolled beneath Nolan and right to Rogers with nothing but 42 yards of Rentschler Field grass in front of him.
“I was kind of surprised, yeah,” said Rogers, who assumed the starting job at linebacker toward the end of the season. “I wasn’t going to just fall on it. I never try to just fall on it.”
The play galvanized Hand.
“That was a huge game-changer, momentum changer,” Walsh said. “We’d only had one (touchdown) to that point. We had just been knocking on the door and as soon as that happened we busted down the door and we were running free.”
Hand’s defense held Windsor to just 16 total yards in the third quarter. Bilcheck tacked on a 4-yard touchdown to give Hand a 23-6 lead. Windsor never got any closer.
“I think that broke their back, to be honest with you,” Hand coach Steve Filippone said. “I think it would break most any team’s back. It’s bad enough when you score on offense, but to score on defense is tough.
Hand sacked Fleeting six times and made nine tackles for negative yardage. Weston Staples and Gerson had two sacks apiece. Alex Tuccero had an interception.
“First half, we had our mistakes on offense,” Gerson said. “Second half, we found our mistakes, we fixed them, we got our intensity back and it shows on the scoreboard.
“Our offense did its thing and our defense did what it does all year and that’s smack teams, punch them in the mouth. They made a personal insult on us, saying they were going to run the ball on us, saying they were going to get yards. You insult this team, we’ll punch you straight in the mouth and you’re going to figure it out fast.”
|December 8, at Rentschler Field, East Hartford||1||2||3||4||Total|
|(2) Windsor (11-1)||0||6||0||0||6|
|(1) Daniel Hand (13-0)||0||3||20||0||23|
07:57 WIND Ryheime Moore 28 yd pass from Robert Fleeting (kick failed)
00:00 HAND Tyler Phan 27 yd field goal
08:33 HAND Caleb Ewald 23 yd pass from Brendan Bilcheck (Tyler Phan kick)
05:43 HAND Daniel Rogers 42 yd fumble recovery (Tyler Phan kick failed)
01:43 HAND Brendan Bilcheck 4 yd run (Tyler Phan kick)
EAST HARTFORD — Pushed around in the first half, its offense cold and its defense battered, Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer walked into the halftime locker room at Rentschler Field and didn’t say a word to his struggling football team.
“I just drew a heart on the board,” he said.
That was what it was going to take for the Academics to win the second half and their school’s fifth state championship.
Berlin might have handed it right to them.
Leading Hillhouse by six, the Redcoats went for it on fourth-and-inches deep in its own end in the third quarter. Hillhouse stopped the Redcoats cold.
The rest was history.
Harold Cooper scored three touchdowns and Andre Anderson scored on an electric, 20-yard run as the Academics rallied to defeat Berlin 34-12 in the Class M championship game at Rentschler Field.
“The first half we came out flat, no heart,” Anderson said. “The adjustment at the half was to come out with some heart. It wasn’t about Xs and Os, it was come out in the second half and play with some energy and play like it’s your last game. And that’s what we did.”
Hillhouse wanted to thank Berlin for giving them the spark they needed.
Minutes after Berlin’s defense stopped quarterback JeVaughn Moore inches from the goal line, Berlin faced fourth-and-inches at the 23. Berlin coach John Capodice elected to go for it, rather than punt.
“The fourth-down call? We felt disrespected as a team,” said Anderson, a senior. “We took it personal. We stepped it up.”
Cooper was credited with stuffing Berlin back Scott McLeod inches short of the first down.
“When you’re in this situation, and you’re a significant underdog, you got to try to pull out all the tricks,” Berlin coach John Capodice told Mike Pucci of the New Haven Register.
It took Hillhouse just five plays to score and take its first lead of the game. Cooper bulled in from 3-yards out and quarterback JeVaughn Moore added the extra point for 13-12 lead with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter.
“It was a great momentum-changer for us,” said Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer, who won his second title as coach. “Not a lot of teams in our league (the SCC) would have done that, knowing our offense. But at the same time our offense can score from 30 yards out or 90 yards out with the running backs we have. So it’s not a bad all by coach (John Capodice). I understand.”
Hillhouse held Berlin to just four yards on the Redcoats’ next possession and then rolled right back down the field as the fourth quarter began.
On fourth-and-18 from the Berlin 20, Moore looked down field, scrambled and then found Anderson in the left flat. Anderson scooted against the grain and scored to put the Academics up by 8.
Berlin couldn’t advance past its 36 on its next possession and Moore broke its hearts with a 62-yard touchdown run that iced the game and Hillhouse’s second title in three years.
Moore led all rushers with 106 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. Cooper had 88 yards and two touchdowns.
McLeod ran for 71 yards on 19 carries for Berlin, which was playing without leading rusher Justin Gombotz for the second consecutive playoff game. Quarterback Mitch Williams was 8-of-16 for 77 yards and a touchdown.
After amassing 200 yards of total offense and holding a 3-1 edge in time of possession in the first half, Berlin could only muster 45 yards in the second half.
“Our defense needed to step up,” Anderson said. “We were just playing flat. We had to come out and make a change in the second half and that’s what we did.”
The title was a bit of sweet end to a tough season for Dyer, who was one of several New Haven Public School employees suspended from their jobs for their alleged roles in grade-tampering.
“I’m real proud of our coaching staff, our kids and our senior class for digging in and fighting against tough times,” Dyer said.
|December 8, at Rentschler Field, East Hartford||1||2||3||4||Total|
|(4) Hillhouse (11-2)||6||0||7||21||34|
|(2) Berlin (11-2)||6||6||0||0||12|
07:30 BERL Kevin Main 18 yd pass from Mitch Williams (Pat Lomaglio kick failed)
06:33 HILL Harold Cooper 62 yd pass from Je’Vaughn Moore (Je’Vaughn Moore kick failed)
05:49 BERL Wojtus Zak 1 yd run (Kevin Main rush failed)
21 plays, 80 yards, TOP 9:51 6 – 12
02:43 HILL Harold Cooper 3 yd run (Je’Vaughn Moore kick)
09:23 HILL Andre Anderson 20 yd run (Je’Vaughn Moore kick)
06:14 HILL Je’Vaughn Moore 62 yd run (Je’Vaughn Moore kick)
3 plays, 67 yards, TOP 0:58 27 – 12
00:31 HILL Harold Cooper 6 yd run (Je’Vaughn Moore kick)
North Branford struck first. Ansonia struck harder and more often.
Titletown added a record 18th trophy to its already jam-packed display case Saturday, using a dazzling display of offense and defense to topple unbeaten North Branford 59-26 in the Class S championship game at Rentschler Field.
Arkeel Newsome ran for 234 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns as the Chargers turned a relatively close 28-14 game after three quarters into an fireworks display.
Though the two teams combined for 1,049 yards of offense, it was defense that was key to complete Ansonia’s second consecutive 14-0 championship season.
North Branford had the ball inside Ansonia’s 25-yard line three times but couldn’t score.
Outside the 25? North Branford did just fine. Quarterback Brandan Basil hit Joe DeLucia with a 74-yard touchdown pass just 1:02 into the game. It was just the second time all season Ansonia trailed. It was the deepest deficit of the year.
Ansonia marched back and scored on Newsome’s 3-yard run. Not long afterward, Jaiquan McKnight (3-of-8 for 181 yards) hit Raeshaun Finney’s for a 75-yard touchdown and Andrew Matos for a 74-yard score. Matos added a 9-yard run to make it 28-6 at halftime.
North Branford didn’t slink into the Rentschler Field mist. The T-Birds defense held Ansonia scoreless in the third quarter while Basil, DeLucia and Gary Falanga went to work. DeLucia’s 63-yard touchdown catch pulled North Branford within 28-14 and, after another defensive stop, the T-Birds marched inside the Ansonia 10.
But for the third time, North Branford (12-1) couldn’t convert. McKnight’s scrambling 22-yard run gave the Chargers excellent field position and Newsome’s 1-yard run just as the fourth quarter began gave Ansonia a 20-point cushion.
Newsome tacked on a 64-yard touchdown run not 2 minutes later and the game devolved into a meaningless shootout that culminated into another Ansonia championship celebration.
|December 8, at Rentschler Field, East Hartford||1||2||3||4||Total|
|(3) North Branford (12-1)||6||0||8||12||26|
|(1) Ansonia (14-0)||14||14||0||31||59|
10:58 NBRN Joe DeLucia 74 yd pass from Brandan Basil (Joe DeLucia kick blockd)
05:09 ANSO Arkeel Newsome 3 yd run (Arthur Kwaskiewicz kick failed)
01:20 ANSO Raeshaun Finney 75 yd pass from Jaiquan McKnight (Arkeel Newsome rush)
08:21 ANSO Andrew Matos 74 yd pass from Jaiquan McKnight (Jaiquan McKnight rush)
00:45 ANSO Andrew Matos 9 yd run (Jaiquan McKnight rush failed)
09:21 NBRN Joe DeLucia 63 yd pass from Brandan Basil (Gary Falanga pass from BASIL)
11:49 ANSO Arkeel Newsome 1 yd run (Arkeel Newsome rush)
10:25 ANSO Arkeel Newsome 64 yd run (Raeshaun Finney pass from MCKNIGHT)
09:49 NBRN Alex McGuigan 10 yd pass from Brandan Basil (Brandan Basil pass failed)
09:34 ANSO Jaiquan McKnight 56 yd run (Andrew Matos rush)
06:53 NBRN Joe DeLucia 12 yd pass from Brandan Basil (Brandan Basil pass failed)
02:01 ANSO Andrew Matos 5 yd run (Arthur Kwaskiewicz kick)
Good, early morning. Rise and shine campers.
The cheers have barely died down on Xavier’s 48-14 victory over NFA in the Class LL championship game. Save for a few turnovers that let NFA hope down 20-14 at halftime, Xavier went to DeAngelo Berry and its defense to bring home the threepeat, and title No. 4.
Will the SCC get two more today to complete its own threepeat?
We’re about to find out.
But first, NVL power Ansonia — mighty Arkeel Newsome, Andrew Matos and Ansonia — take on upstart North Branford of the Pequot League in the Class S title game at 10:30 a.m.
Then the SCC gets two more shots. Hillhouse faces Berlin in the Class M title game at approximately 2:30 (though expect a little later). And, finally, No. 1 Hand plays Windsor in the Class L final at approximately 5:30, though it too might be later.
We’ll start with Ansonia. Here’s the short preview and the live blog is below. We here at Hearst Central need to get our shuteye. Expect full recaps as the day progresses.
WHEN/WHERE — Saturday, 10:35 a.m., Rentschler Field, East Hartford
ON THE AIR — Radio: WELI 960-AM; TV: CPTV Sports; Online: ESPN 3, Watch ESPN app
COACHES — Ansonia: Tom Brockett (7th year, 84-7, 3 state titles); North Branford: Mark Basil (11th year, 82-34)
RECORDS — Ansonia: 13-0 (NVL champs); North Branford: 12-0 (Pequot League Sassacus 1st place)
HOW THEY GOT HERE — Ansonia: def. Prince Tech 53-16; def. Hyde Leadership 41-13. North Branford: def. Trinity Catholic 49-28; def. Woodland 62-27.
STATE TITLES — Ansonia: (17-8) 1976-S, 1977-S, 1979-M, 1981-SII, 1982-SII, 1983-SII, 1984-SII, 1987-S, 1988-S, 1989-S, 1994-SS, 1995-S, 2002-S, 2003-S, 2006-S, 2007-S; 2011-M; North Branford: (1-1) 1979-S