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
North Branford QB Brandan Basil
TOP PLAYERS — Ansonia: Soph. QB JaiQuan McKnight (1,300 yards 23 TDs, 6 INTs); Jr. RB Arkeel Newsome (2,008 rushing yards, 35 TDs); Sr. WR/LB Andrew Matos (970 yards, 13 TDs); Sr. TE/DE Raeshaun Finney.Sr. LB Hezekiah Duncan Jr. Corey Dzienciewicz (6-4, 250); Sr. OL/DL Jh’mel Trammel (5-9, 217); Sr. DB Ryan O’Connor; Sr. OL Antone Mack (5-9, 260); Soph. OL/DL Tyler O’Connell (5-9, 230). North Branford: Sr. QB Brandan Basil (166-for-267 passing, 2,793 yards, 40 TDs, 7 interceptions); Sr. RB/KR Joe DeLucia (1,090 all-purpose yards, 26 TDs); Sr. RB/LB Dale Hausman (1,311 yards rushing, 13 TDs; Sr. RB/LB Chris Caron (48 receptions, 993 yards, 15 TDs), Sr. G/DE Christian Sgro (10 sacks); Sr. Alex McGuigan (545 yards receiving).
WORTH NOTING – Ansonia has the Connecticut-best 17 state championships, all since the CIAC playoffs began in 1976. … The Chargers have won 27 straight games. Their last loss was in the 2011 Class S final to St. Joseph. The Connecticut record is 49 set by Cheshire from 1992-96. Ansonia’s best winning streak is 35 games from 2005-08. … Newsome set the state record for career touchdowns with 116 in Ansonia’s semifinal win over Hyde. The previous record was held by former Charger Alex Thomas. … Brockett has the best overall winning percentage (.923) in state history, passing former Southington coach Joe Orsene who went 50-4-1 from 1961-66. … Ansonia has scored over 40 points in 12 of its 13 games. … Ansonia lost former coach Jack Hunt, who won 193 games and seven state championships from 1987-2005, to cancer on Thanksgiving morning. … North Branford quarterback Brandan Basil is the son of coach Mark Basil. …The T-Birds are playing in their first state final since losing to Bloomfield, 40-7, in the 2001 Class S championship game. The T-Birds defeated Ansonia 21-20 in the semifinals that year. …North Branford has met Ansonia twice more in the state playoffs. Ansonia has won both meetings: 47-14 in the 2007 Class S semifinals and 28-0 in the 2008 Class S semifinals. This is Basil’s first state championship game as coach. He is 0-2 vs. Ansonia. … The Thunderbirds average 234 passing yards and 226 rushing yards. … North Branford has scored at least 40 points in 11 of its 12 games. The Thunderbirds scored 70 in a win over Old Saybrook on Oct. 12. … The Thunderbirds scored nine times, piling up 546 yards in their semifinal win over Woodland, which lost to Ansonia twice this season including the NVL championship game.
Ansonia's Andrew Matos
OUTLOOK — North Branford has always had a solid football program. But this year, armed with 19 seniors, talented skill players and tough linemen and backers, North Branford has become one of the teams in the state and is looking like a strong contender for the Class S title. Basil is a talent at quarterback, Hausman is fast and tough to bring down, DeLucia and Caron are top-notch receivers. This offense can score and the defense, led by all of those players and Sgro is exceptional. But Ansonia, well, Ansonia’s a whole new ballgame. North Branford is well aware. The T-Birds have faced the Chargers in the playoffs before. They understand the Chargers’ talent and tradition. Maybe at midseason, North Branford’s prospects would have looked better. But with electric back Arkeel Newsome back in top form, the Chargers have one more weapon in their arsenal to go with terrors like Duncan and McKnight. If Ansonia has a weakness, it’s the experience up front, but if Newsome gets into the open field, he’ll be tough to catch. Ansonia’s defense is another worry, with Trammell, Duncan, Matos and Finney roaming the running and passing lanes. North Branford’s dynamic offense should be able to score, at least early until Ansonia adjusts. But as solid as the T-Birds’ defense can be, it’s still prone to giving up yards. And there hasn’t been a team that’s figured out how to stop Newsome or Matos or McKnight… or Ansonia.
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.
Windsor's Lance Ormsby (11) bears down on New Canaan quarterback Nick Cascone during the Class L semifinals. Windsor will try to win its first state title when it takes on No. 1-seeded and No. 1 ranked Hand in the state championship.
No. 2 Windsor vs. No. 1 Hand
WHERE/WHEN – Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Saturday, 5:35 p.m.
ON THE AIR — Radio: WELI 960-AM | TV:CPTV Sports | Online:ESPN 3, Watch ESPN app
TICKETS — $10
COACHES — Windsor: Rob Fleeting (4th year, 38-5); Hand: Steve Filippone (24th year, 200-61-5, 6 state titles).
RECORDS – Windsor 11-0 (CCC Division II West champions); Hand 12-0 (SCC Division I East champions)
HOW THEY GOT HERE —Windsor: def. Fitch 38-7; def. New Canaan 27-21; Hand: def. Platt 55-26; def. Masuk 42-23
STATE TITLES –Windsor (0-1): None. Hand (10-6): 1976-M, 1977-M, 1982-MII, 1984-MI; 1989-MM; 1997-L; 2003-M; 2004-M; 2005-M; 2011-L
Hand LB Matt Walsh loses his helmet making a tackle vs. Masuk in the Class L semifinals. He required stitches on his head, but will be ready to go when the defending champion Tigers take on Windsor Saturday. (Photo: Brian Pounds)
TOP PLAYERS —Windsor: Sr. QB Robert Quinn Fleeting (2,488 yards, 32 TDs, passing; 655 yards, 10 TDs rushing); Sr. RB Devonte Dillon (674 yards, 5 TD rushing); Jr. RB Jalen Berry (496 yards, 7 TD rushing through 10 games); Sr. WR Ryhieme Moore (771 yards, 8 TD receiving through 10 games); Sr. LB Cole Ormsby (14 sacks through 10 games); Sr. WR/DB Terrell Huff (451 yards, 4 TDs; Sr. LB Chris Traore. Hand: Sr. FB/LB Matt Walsh (10 TDs); Sr. DL Peter Gerson; Sr. WR Kyle Anderson (504 yards, 4 TD receiving); Sr. WR Caleb Ewald (936 yards, 9 TD receiving; Sr. QB Brendan Bilcheck (2,125 yards 17 TD, 11 INT; 696 yards, 10 TD rushing); Sr. SS Alex Tuccero; Sr. RB Ian O’Toole (858 yards, 15 TDs rushing); Jr. LB Dan Rogers.
WORTH NOTING – Hand has won the second-most CIAC titles (10), tied with St. Joseph (10) and behind Ansonia (17). …Filippone has won six titles, including last year’s Class L title over New Canaan. His 42-23 victory over Masuk was his 200th career victory. …LB Walsh is a UConn commit. DE Gerson will attend Yale. …Hand has been the No. 1 team in Connecticut since a 40-20 victory over Xavier on Oct. 12. …The Tigers have won 25 straight games dating back to last season. …It’s last loss was to New Canaan in the 2010 Class L semifinals. …Windsor is making its second appearance in the championship game. It lost to Ridgefield 14-13 in the 2002 Class L final. …Robert Quinn Fleeting is the son of coach Rob Fleeting. …The Tigers average a balanced 176 passing yards and 168 rushing yards per game. …Windsor allowed just 8 points per game in the regular season, the second-least in Connecticut. Overall it’s allowed 10 per game. …Cole Ormsby is committed to UMass and twin brother Lance is committed to Central Connecticut.
Windsor QB Robert Quinn Fleeting
OUTLOOK — Windsor comes in as the once-jilted, now redeemed power from the north. The Warriors are a year older and wiser than a season ago when New Canaan rallied to knock them out of the running. This time, they held their ground and have advanced to their first final since losing to Ridgefield in 2002. Fleeting has established himself as one of the state’s best passers, and Windsor’s stable of backs and receivers are all tough to defend. The Ormsby twins lead a defense that’s perhaps a bit overshadowed by Quinn Fleeting’s fireworks. They’re a tough opponent. But Hand will be the most talented, most physical team Windsor has seen all season. The No. 1-ranked Tigers aren’t particularly huge up front, but they’re fierce, virtually flawless and just as determined to grab a state championship. Quinn Fleeting figures to have his hands full trying to stave off Hand’s fearless defense, led by Walsh and Gerson. If he can escape, he’ll have Tuccero and the Hand secondary with which to contend. Of more concern is how Windsor will stop the Hand offense. It was perfect in Sunday’s state semifinal vs. Masuk, especially the Bilcheck-to-Ewald combo which torched the Panthers for 185 yards and two TDs. Sheer talent and experience as seniors will allow Windsor to hang around. But by the second half, as the hits began taking their toll, it’ll be all Hand, all the time.
OUR PICK — Hand 38, Windsor 21
NFA's Joey Paparelli rips off a big run against Staples in the Class LL semifinals. NFA is hoping to spring another upset when it takes on No. 3 Xavier in the Class LL title game (Photo: Mike Ross)
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
Xavier QB Tim Boyle
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.
The mighty Southern Connecticut Conference released its 2012 all-conference football teams Tuesday.
Division I Offense
Offensive line: Dennis Flanagan (Amity), John Thomas (Hamden), Zack Creeron (Xavier), Greg Purcell
(Amity) Wide receiver: Kris Luster (Xavier), Chris Perry (Notre Dame), Kyle Drost (Shelton), Kyle Anderson
(Daniel Hand) Running back: DeAngelo Berry (Xavier), Ervin Philips (West Haven), Cameran Tucker (Notre Dame),
Dave Attolino (Amity) Quarterback: Tim Boyle (Xavier), Brendan Bilcheck (Daniel Hand) Kicker: Ed Groth (Shelton)
Division I Defense
Defensive line: Alex Chow-Yen (Wilbur Cross), Peter Gerson (Daniel Hand), Eddy Williams (West Haven),
Anthony Palazzolo (Fairfield Prep) Linebacker: Nick Crowle (Fairfield Prep), Matt Walsh (Daniel Hand), Matt Tylki (Xavier), Kadialy Toure
(West Haven), Chris Golger (Fairfield Prep) Defensive back: Alex Tuccero (Daniel Hand), Jack Cunningham (Cheshire), Sam Pascale (Cheshire),
Andre Gee (West Haven), Vincent Sansone (Cheshire) Punter: Yasan Frazier (Wilbur Cross)
Division II Offense
Offensive line: Matt Marcarelli (North Haven), Zach Huber (Foran), Nick Casagrande (Jonathan Law),
George Knoth (Jonathan Law), Sean Merrill (Sheehan), Colton Schilling (Guilford) Wide receiver: Nick Weissauer (Foran), Ryan Bohne (Lyman Hall) Running back: Harold Cooper (Hillhouse), Jalon White (North Haven) Quarterback: Jake Kasuba (Foran), Joe Nault (Guilford) Utility: KC Horton (Guilford)
Division II Defense
Defensive line: Andrew Klarman (Branford), Mark Spadacenta (East Haven), Anthony Jones (Branford),
Teno Simpson (Hillhouse) Linebacker: Mike Halloran (North Haven), Ford Linell (Guilford), Alex Borkowski (Branford), Terrell
Fairweather (Hillhouse), Quincy Pecora (North Haven) Defensive back: Je’Vaughn Moore (Hillhouse), Kyle Paolella (Sheehan), Darryn Horner (Hillhouse), Andre
Ansonia back Arkeel Newsome set Connecticut’s career touchdown record (breaking former Chargers’ great Alex Thomas’ mark back in 2007. Ansonia reaches its 26th state championship game. They take on North Branford in the Class S final Saturday at 10:30 at Rentschler Field.
NFA fans delight in their 30-28 semifinal victory over Staples on Super Sunday. (Sean Patrick Bowley)
The running joke at the state playoff luncheon, at least from your intrepid reporter’s perspective, was Fairfield County’s complete and utter lack of a representative (Bunnell’s Dave Johnson showed up. That might have been it?) and the sudden lack of coverage from Team Hearst.
Save for perennial champion Ansonia.
Ha ha, yeah, yeah, guys, Ansonia’s our “favorite” team now. No, we weren’t crying when Masuk, Staples and New Canaan failed to make the cut. Hardy har har. Good one, though.
With the winter season bearing down on us, having one team in the final allows the home office to start gearing for basketball season. We’ve suddenly become significantly more casual observers on the state football scene rather than active ones.
When was the last time we had just one state finalist in the Connecticut Post region? Let’s try NEVER. So this is new territory. Shangri La has been appropriately humbled and we’re suddenly not so busy as usual.
But there are some talented writers and broadcasters around our fair state. And, seeing that this is mostly a central, southern, eastern Connecticut affair, they’re entirely more invested into these state finals than we are, unfortunately.
We’ll be at all the state championship games, of course. We still have Ansonia to cover and we’ll be chronicling Saturday’s Class S final between the Chargers and the high-flying T-Birds of North Branford. Good stories there.
We’ll be paying close attention to and chronicling the rest of the proceedings, too. Videos will be made. Previews written. We know many of our readers here do not merely reside in Fairfield County, so we press onward.
But for the first time in a long time, we’re going to sit back and digest the chronicles of others. We’re scouring newspaper websites and TV channels to get you everything. So here we go:
Players from the eight state football finalists gathered Monday at Rentschler Field for the annual state championship luncheon.
Players walked awestruck into the stadium’s banquet hall and across the field below. They mingled near each other. They took pictures. They dined on a massive catered lunch.
Oh, and they were peppered with questions by TV, radio and newspaper personalities from points all across Connecticut.
Not one of the players complained that the venue was too big. None of them worried about the atmosphere. They soaked it all in. Some didn’t leave the premises until after a good hour of walking around.
Jared Levi and the Wreckers walk solemnly off the Ken Strong Stadium field following their stunning 30-28 loss to NFA in the Class LL semifinals
With big smiles, massive hugs, and emitting a cacophony of whoops and hollers that echoed across the state, the entire football team gathered in the southern end zone of Ken Strong Stadium for a photo. It could have been West Haven in August, gathering for its annual team photo.
But this was December. These were the state playoffs. And the photographers weren’t contracted shutterbugs from the local studio, they were equally happy and proud parents and inquisitive newspaper reporters. This wasn’t West Haven.
This was Norwich Free Academy.
Jubilant. Victorious. Posing below the scoreboard, emblazoned on it, their birthday gift to coach Jemal Davis.
This was supposed to be one of, if not the best Staples teams in the Marce Petroccio era. It was supposed to be invincible. It was going to take care of these upstarts from way out east and get a championship rematch with mighty Xavier.
Instead, junior back Marcus Outlow, quarterback Matt Paparelli and a massive and determined NFA front held the FCIAC’s best team in check, took command in the second half while Staples wilted with several critical second-half errors.
There was an errant punt that resulted in a safety (and gave NFA the lead for good), an option pitch at the goal line that was batted away and recovered by NFA with 7 minutes remaining and then, just when it looked as if the Wreckers would make a valiant comeback, the punt that fatefully bounced upfield and off a Staples player and recovered by NFA.
Staples’ offense, which didn’t score less than 42 points throughout the entire season yet uncharacteristically committed three turnovers and had just over 100 yards in the second half, never saw the ball again.
Their dreams were crushed.
“It’s awful,” stunned coach Marce Petroccio said. I’m going to try and pick up some of the greatest seniors we’ve ever had at Staples High School. But today was not our day.
“We just found a way to lose.”
NFA’s dreams lives on.
In retrospect, everything we heard about NFA ever since it hammered Stamford 51-0 back in October, and everything we saw from the Newtown game turned out to be spot-on. They were big, they were talented, they were determined.
“We know we can play with anybody,” Davis said.
NFA's Marcus Outlow falls through the Staples defense in a 30-28 upset victory over the Wreckers in the Class LL semifinals (Photo: Mike Ross)
And, my oh my, junior Marcus Outlow is legit.
Outlow has been a key player for NFA since getting significant time on the 2010 semifinal team that lost to Trumbull. This is confirmed: He has “full-ride” offers from Alabama, Oregon, Ohio State… you name it, since impressing a ton of scouts at an NUC combine over the summer. At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, “he definitely passes the eye test,” said MSG Varsity’s Mike Quick.
But it was quarterback Joey Paparelli, who carried the Wildcats in the second half. He scrambled for first downs. He found receivers, particularly Khaleed Exum-Strong, for third-down conversions. Staples’ strong defense eventually found a way to contain him, giving the offense a chance to rally. But that wasn’t until the Wildcats
had 9-point lead. His long run set up the eventual clinching touchdown late in the third quarter.
“To knock off the No. 1 team, we knew we had it in us,” Paparelli said. “We just went out and got the job done.”
Staples was just as good as NFA, but on this afternoon, in the state playoffs, it had to be perfect. It wasn’t.
Junior Airec Ricks made the biggest play of the game when he batted away an option pitch from Jack Massie at the goal line and recovered by NFA. Later, with Staples in full rally mode, he recovered the punt that bounded up the turf and hit Staples captain Kevin Kearney in the leg.
“You can’t win in a game like this playing the way we played,” stunned Staples coach Marce Petroccio said. “I’m just upset that we waited until today to play the way we did.”
So there will be no rematch. NFA ran out the clock to set up a date with No. 3-seeded Xavier at Rentschler Field. Staples, which has seen more than its share of crushing, state playoff losses of the last six years, goes home empty handed.
“Like I said earlier in the week, we were underestimated because we play in the Eastern Connecticut Conference,” Outlow said. “But people look at it and say, oh your conference is weak, blah, blah, blah. But we just come out here and we try to pursue what our coaches meant for us to do, we came out and we executed as well as we can, and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Their talent and their efforts are now preserved forever, in record books and — more importantly for these players — in photographs. A moment frozen in time.
Fairfield County: Denied.
Michael DiCosmo picks up a fumble that he raced 76 yards for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining vs. Windsor. It turned out to be New Canaan's last gasp in a 27-21 loss.
Super Sunday was not a good day for Fairfield County football teams.
First Staples went down in a gutwrenching finale. Then New Canaan lost its first state semifinal game since 2005.
Those losses erased the last FCIAC teams from state championship contention — something that’s never happened in the 36-year history of the CIAC playoffs.
Weston and Masuk lost.
No one from Shangri La will be playing for a state title.
For the second straight season, New Canaan found itself down big. But visions of a season ago began dancing in the Rams’ heads in the fourth quarter. Cole Turpin’s long catch set up a Louis Hagopian touchdown run to cut a 27-7 defcit to 28-14.
Trying to run out the clock, Robert Quinn Fleeting fumbled and Michael DiCosmo returned it 79 yards with just under a minute remaining.
Not again? Nope. Not again. Windsor corralled the onside kick and hung on to win 27-21, ending New Canaan’s string of state championship games at six.
“It just goes to show the game’s never over,” Windsor coach Fleeting said. “The difference from last year is we didn’t panic. The kids have grown up.”
“They’re just a gutsy group of kids,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “They never gave up. We didn’t play well. We lost to a better team. They’re a team that deserves to go play in a state championship. We did not play well enough.”
Weston's Zach Cannon attempts to bat the ball away from Berlin's Tyler Bouchard in the Class M semifinals at Bunnell.
Down 14-0 after a half, Hassett pulled the Trojans within a touchdown. Later, with the score 21-7, just as the Redcoats appeared they would put it away, Erik Dammen-Brower picked off a pass and was headed for the end zone.
But he was chased down, fumbled the ball back and the Trojans were eventually eliminated. Berlin advances to face No. 4-seeded Hillhouse, a 48-26 winner over Montville, in the state championship. This is Hillhouse’s sixth state championship game in school history.
Little Weston, meanwhile, finishes 9-3, including a state playoff victory. This was their best season in 23 years.
“Our kids fought hard,” Lato said. “I’m proud of their effort.”
“This isn’t the finish line. We want to get here every year. It’s always toughest the first time you do something and now we’ve done this and got this far. The underclassmen gained experience and got to see what it’s like to play in playoff games. I’m really proud of what this team has done for Weston football.”
As for Masuk, they were never in it vs. top-seeded and top-ranked Hand.
And this wasn’t even that close. In a heavy fog, Caleb Ewald took a flat pass from Brendan Bilcheck and raced 74 yards for a touchdown on the game’s first play. “They throw a screen, the kid that was supposed to cover it never saw the ball in the air,” Masuk coach John Murphy said. “But they took it to us on both sides of the ball in the first half.”
Hand rolled to a 35-0 halftime lead, piling up over 400 yards of offense to reach its second straight state championship game.
This was Hand coach Steve Filippone’s 200th career victory. “I didn’t win a game,” Filippone said. “I’ve never won a game. … I really take no great satisfaction in it. I take satisfaction in that this team has won 26 games in a row.”
Only some heroics by outstanding senior back Thomas Milone, who returned a free kick for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass and also had an interception, kept the score from looking too lopsided.
But his career, which included a state championship in 2010, now shifts to baseball season and Hand will face Windsor in the state final.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Murphy said. “After what we lost last year, nobody said they could get back here. I’m proud of them.”
Newsome, Chargers roll into final
Ansonia was our only regional team to reach a state championship game.
As expected, there was no doubts about this one.
Newsome ran for 215 yards and four touchdowns and, in the process broke former Ansonia standout back Alex Thomas’ career state record of 115, as the Chargers reached their third-straight championship game and 27th overall with a 41-13 victory over Hyde. | [CPTV VIDEO]
The Chargers, who have won a state-best 27 consecutive games (Hand has won 26 straight), will play North Branford in the Class S championship.
The T-Birds hammered Woodland 62-27 to reach their first state final since 2001.
S-C-C! S-C-C! S-C-C!
Guess which conference will be playing for three state championships this weekend?
Look no further than Al Carbone’s official Southern Connecticut Conference Twitter account. The Commish’s nimble fingers quickly let everyone know that his league is dominating the proceedings thus far.
Xavier (11-1) will play for its third consecutive Class LL title. Hand (12-0) will play for its second consecutive Class L title. And now, joining the fray, is Hillhouse (10-2), which will be playing for its second Class M title in three years.
After spending the last two championship weekends on the sidelines, the CCC has two representatives. Windsor (11-0) plays Hand in Class L; Berlin (11-1) plays Hillhouse.
The ECC went 1-1 in the semifinals, sending NFA (12-0) to take on Xavier in the Class LL final.
The NVL-Pequot challenge ended 1-1 for each league. Ansonia (13-0), the NVL’s final representative, takes on North Branford (12-0), the Pequot’s last representative.
Overall, the NVL is 3-2 in the state playoffs. The Pequot is 3-3.
And of course, the FCIAC (0-2, 2-5 overall) and the SWC (2-3) will send no state championship representatives.
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