Published November 26. 2011 11:33PM Updated November 28. 2011 6:35AM
Masuk of Monroe has had practices that have flustered defensive coordinator Chris Gueli.
"(The offense) has our good days and (quarterback) Casey (Cochran) is picking them apart," Masuk coach John Murphy said. "(Tailback) Colin (Markus) is running well. And all of the sudden, (Gueli) will say, 'We're not too good.'
"We're damned good. You're just playing against two special players."
The Panthers have two special players in Cochran and Markus who get the most attention.
The Panthers also have a defense that's been just as special.
Masuk's defense was the show during Wednesday's 46-7 whipping of Newtown in the South-West Conference title game. They stuffed bruising tailback Lou Fenaroli and sacked Andrew Tarantino three times in the first half alone.
"The starting defense has hardly given up many points," Murphy said. "And the thing that I've been trying to get across to everyone is that we score so darn quick and so often that (the defense) is on the field defending a lot. They've got a ton of possessions to defend against. You score 41 points in the first quarter, you're defense is out there a lot."
The Panthers (10-0), ranked second in The Day's Top 10 state coaches poll, begin their CIAC Class L title defense Tuesday when they play No. 10 North Haven at Trumbull's McDougall Stadium (6:30 p.m.)
Masuk had scored in every first quarter this season in its first nine games.
The Panthers went three-and-out on its first four possessions Wednesday.
Cochran's 17-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Cusmano got the Panthers on the board early in the second quarter.
A minute later, Masuk's defense gave its team more points. Pat Tripodi recognized that the Nighthawks were attempting a bubble screen, intercepted the pass and ran 40 yards for a touchdown.
"I saw the line going away and the running back coming down," Tripodi said.
Murphy said, "That was a huge play on the screen. He stuck to his assignment. …It was something we worked on because that's something they run a lot. He made the play.
Nate Coleman had two interceptions. He returned the second pick 65 yards for Masuk's final touchdown.
"Nate Coleman has been making plays all year for us," Murphy said. "They (the defense) were the difference tonight."
Newtown (8-2), the sixth seed in LL, had won its previous game, 54-48, in overtime over Bunnell of Stratford.
Fenaroli, a 5-foot-10, 225-pound bruiser, averaged 171 yards and ran for 24 touchdowns through nine games.
Masuk held Fenaroli to 59 yards on 19 carries.
"Fenaroli was hard to take down," Tripodi said. "We all played together as one and came out with the win."
Markus ran 16 times for 97 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a sensational 73-yard run after a short reception that set up another touchdown and was named game MVP.
Cochran completed 9 of 19 passes for 192 yards with a touchdown and interception.
The offense has averaged 54.7 points, which has prepared the defense for game days.
"That's the best offense in the state," Tripodi said. "That's the best you can get."
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A conference breakdown of this year's playoff participants:
CCC (seven): Berlin, Conard-West Hartford, Glastonbury, Hall-West Hartford, Northwest Catholic-West Hartford, Rocky Hill and Windsor.
Pequot (six): Coventry/Windham Tech, Cromwell, Ellington/Somers, Haddam-Killingworth, North Branford, and Valley Regional/Old Lyme.
FCIAC (four): New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, and Staples-Westport.
SCC (four): Hand-Madison, Notre Dame-West Haven, North Haven, and Xavier.
ECC (three): Ledyard, New London, and Waterford.
NVL (three): Ansonia, Holy Cross-Waterbury, and Wolcott.
SWC (three): Bethel, Masuk, and Newtown.
CSC (two): Capital Prep/Classical Magnet-Hartford, and Cheney Tech-Manchester.
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WFSB's John Holt did a segment worth your time about the football team at Middletown's Connecticut Juvenile Training School. Check it out HERE. The team plays all of its games at home and on an 80-yard field. Their families are not allowed inside the playing area and must watch from the outside.
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Ansonia's Arkeel Newsome set the state-scoring record during Thursday's 49-14 win over Naugatuck. He ran 24 times for 280 yards and five touchdowns. He had 50 touchdowns this season, besting the mark set by Alex Thomas in 2007 (47 touchdowns in 13 games).
Newsome was named the game's MVP. In a classy touch, he thanked his linemen and handed the trophy to fullback Dennis Danley.
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Wednesday's Berlin at New Britain game ended with one minute, 46 seconds left because coaches and players from both teams got hot at each other. Berlin won the game, 14-7.
Berlin had a first-and-10 at the Hurricanes' 27 when players from both teams began jawing and flags began flying. Coaches from both sides went on the field, and referee John Baibak opted to stop the game.
"A New Britain kid takes a shot at our guy," Berlin coach John Capodice told the Hartford Courant. "And they get a 15-yard penalty. We have a sideline management policy. Some coaches stay on the sidelines to keep our players there and others go on the field to try to calm things down. We followed that."
New Britain coach Tebucky Jones told the Courant that Capodice, "came at me like he wanted to fight."
Jones also told The Herald of New Britain, "I just don't think he wants to play it, and that's what is part of this is. It's tradition. Their town is right there and this game should be played every year. It should have been played when I was in high school."
The latter is an interesting charge by Jones given that Capodice groused about having to play the series after a 27-13 loss in 2009. His complaint was that New Britain is a LL school while Berlin is Class M.
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Glastonbury qualified as the eighth and final seed in Class LL in the oddest of circumstances — it's lottery number.
The Tomahawks and Pomperaug of Southbury tied in the first two tiebreakers — playoff points (1,090) and tiebreaker points (94).
The final tiebreaker is the "tiebreaker number". Every team was assigned a computer-generated random number up to one million two weeks before the end of the regular season.
Glastonbury had the higher number, 919,581 to 716,083.
Other CIAC sports use tiebreaker numbers to break ties in seeding.
Glastonbury's "reward" for winning the lottery — a quarterfinal against unbeaten defending champion Xavier of Middletown.
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Michael Campbell completed 3 of 4 passes for 142 yards and three first-half touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns as Bloomfield beat Fermi of Enfield Tuesday, 47-6. P.J. Modest scored on an 81-yard punt return and a 93-yard interception return. … Montville's Kenny Strecker had 15 carries for 230 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half — in a 43-0 rout of St. Bernard/Montville Tuesday. … Harrison Hudson ran 18 times for 137 yards and four touchdowns as Platt Tech of Milford beat O'Brien Tech of Ansonia Tuesday, 48-8.
Tucker Hewitt ran seven times for 189 yards, including touchdowns of 99 and 34 yards, as Tolland beat E.O. Smith of Storrs Wednesday, 39-7. … Cromwell's Anthony Morales was 13 of 19 for 301 yards and six touchdowns and ran six times for 44 yards in Wednesday's 50-26 win over Coginchaug of Durham. Michael Antonio added four catches for 111 yards and three touchdowns. … Jake D'Amico ran 16 times for 221 yards and two touchdowns as Abbott Tech of Danbury beat Wilcox Tech of Meriden Wednesday, 21-0.
Ridgefield's Sam Gravitte ran for 230 yards and three touchdowns in Wednesday's 56-14 win over Danbury. John Turner scored on a 68-yard fumble return and runs of 15 and 29 yards. Danbury's James Harrington ran for 202 yards and two touchdowns. … Matt Zaccagnini had 28 carries for 205 yards and a touchdown as Woodland of Beacon Falls beat Seymour Wednesday, 28-7. … North Branford's Brandon Basil completed 16 of 24 passes for 217 yards with three touchdowns and an interception to pace his team to a 34-13 win over Hyde of New Haven Wednesday.
Jolly Black ran for 256 yards and four touchdowns Wednesday as Sacred Heart of Waterbury edged city-rival Wilby, 39-34. Jay'Len Mahan ran 16 times for 180 yards and a touchdown for Wilby and completed 9 of 18 passes for 135 yards with three and three touchdowns with an interception.
Alex Manwaring caught a 12-yard touchdown from John Rainey with 4.6 seconds left as Ledyard rallied to beat Fitch Thursday, 14-12. Fitch led after three quarters, 12-0. Manwaring ran 16 times for 178 yards. He set an Eastern Connecticut Conference rushing record with 2,068 yards, breaking the record set by East Lyme's Tim Allen (2,012, 2004).
West Haven beat Fairfield Prep in another of Thursday's wildest games, 42-39. The team's combined for 33 fourth-quarter points and the game had 12 touchdowns. Nick Nieves completed 13 of 19 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns for the Westies while Tahir Manning had 10 catches for 107 yards and three touchdowns. Also, James Moore ran 17 times for 115 yards and scored on a 45-yard kickoff return. Tommy Brewster was 11 of 15 for 213 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for the Jesuits.
Watertown's Anthony Avoletta ran 23 times for 166 yards and three touchdowns as the Indians upset Torrington Thursday, 18-13. … Devon Molway ran 15 times for 255 yards and three touchdowns as Gilbert/Northwestern Regional beat Housatonic Regional/Wamogo Thursday, 43-14. Jake Sutterlin had 23 carres for 226 yards and a touchdown for Housatonic/Wamogo. Gilbert/Northwestern's uniforms are also so ugly that they're wonderful — bright yellow jerseys and pants with blue numbers, trim and helmets. They're worthy of the Orlando Thunder of the old World League Of American Football … Cesar Nunez ran 14 times for 236 yards and three touchdowns Thursday as Kennedy of Waterbury beat city-rival Crosby, 39-24.
New London's Kyle McKinnon ran 27 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns as the seventh-ranked Whalers beat Norwich Free Academy Thursday, 37-17, in the 150th meeting of the nation's oldest rivalry. NFA's Erik Washburn threw for 269 yards and two touchdowns. … Killingly's Jay-R Richeeds ran 30 times for 215 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team to a 48-20 win over Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech Thursday.
Tight end Peter Bonenfant caught a game-winning 16-yard touchdown from Jack Massie with one minute, 21 seconds left to give No. 6 Staples of Westport a come-from-behind 31-27 win over Greenwich Thursday in the FCIAC title game. Bonenfant had only four catches before the game and no touchdowns. Game MVP Nick Kelly ran for 65 yards and two touchdowns for Staples and Massie was 16 of 22 for 207 yards. The win had extra significance for Staples coach Marce Petroccio as his team won the McDougall Trophy, named this year for former Trumbull coach Jerry McDougall. McDougall passed in October, and Petroccio was one of his former players. Sean Patrick Bowley of Hearst Inc. did a fine job summarizing both that game and all the others Thanksgrabbing games around southwest Connecticut.
Bridgeport Central's Frederick Tucker ran 37 times for 317 yards and three touchdowns in Thursday's 28-20 win over city-rival Harding. Kudos to Central's coaching staff for wearing classy, throwback threads. … Dave Yerxa ran seven times for 153 yards and three touchdowns as Foran of Milford trounced town-rival Law Thursday, 48-13. Teammate Matt Aspinwall completed 7 of 8 passes for 182 yards and three touchdowns. … Derby's Ray Kreiger was 23 of 38 for 324 yards and three touchdowns in a losing cause as Shelton beat the Red Raiders Thursday, 26-19.
New Canaan's Matt Milano completed 19 of 36 passes for 279 yards and four touchdowns as his team trounced No. 9 Darien Thursday, 42-21, in a game where the winner earned a Class L playoff berth. Darien coach Rob Trifone suspended two players who attended a party last Friday that led to the arrest of a former player. … Brandon Schmidt ran 24 times for 190 yards and a touchdown and threw for two scores as Bethel beat Brookfield Thursday, 40-21. Brian Birdsell added 26 carries for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Eli Rodriguez intercepted a pass in the end zone with two seconds left as Bristol Eastern hung on to beat Bristol Central Thursday, 21-14. Eastern led 21-0 after three quarters. … Ellington/Somers' Bryan Rider had 20 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns as the unbeaten Knights beat Coventry/Windham Tech Thursday, 28-14, to win the Pequot Uncas Division. … Danny Rogers ran 20 times for 188 yards and three touchdowns as Weston edged Barlow of Redding Thursday, 27-23.
New Milford's Conor Shanahan completed 23 of 31 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns as the Green Wave hung on to beat New Fairfield Thursday, 31-28. … Stamford blitzed city-rival Trinity Catholic Thursday, 34-16. It finished 7-2, its most wins since 1995. … Jon Snyder completed 23-for-43 passes for 302 yards and two touchdowns to lead Newington past Wethersfield Thursday, 34-18. … Justin Potts ran 28 times for 178 yards and two touchdowns as Platt of Meriden beat city-rival Maloney Thursday, 34-27. Platt's Travaughan Morgan intercepted a pass in the end zone with 33 seconds left to ice the win.
South Windsor's Brent Young ran 10 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns as the Bobcats ended their season Thursday with their first win of the year, 39-6 over Rockville of Vernon. … Devin Pease completed 10 of 17 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a score as Lewis Mills of Burlington beat Nonnewaug of Woodbury Thursday, 26-7. … Antwaan Byrd completed 14 of 19 passes for 236 yards and a touchdown as Capital Prep/Classical Magnet of Hartford beat Prince Tech of Hartford Thursday, 41-6. Capital/Classical finished the regular season 10-0 and clinched the top seed in Class S.
Devon Lofton ran for 248 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 15-yard touchdown to pace Fairfield Warde past Fairfield Ludlowe Thursday, 52-13. Chris Foley added four touchdown passes. … Daquan Coleman had seven carries for 193 yards and three touchdowns and scored on a 90-yard interception return as Notre Dame of Fairfield won its first game of the season Thursday, 57-16, over Immaculate of Danbury. … Bryan Castelot completed 12 of 18 passes for 240 yards with four touchdowns and one interception as Bunnell thrashed town-rival Stratford Thursday, 50-19. David Camille had nine carries for 180 yards and a touchdown for the Bulldogs and Jawad Chisholm added five catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Nathan Schambach completed 6 of 10 passes for 133 yards and three touchdowns as No. 8 Notre Dame of West Haven beat Hamden in Thursday's Green Bowl, 42-14. Tim Dube ran 20 times for 145 yards and two touchdowns for Hamden and threw for 82 yards. … Michael John Ecke ran 14 times for 102 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another as Cheshire beat Southington Thursday, 41-30, in the first game on Cheshire's new turf field. Sebastian Little added three sacks. a fumble recovery and caught a 21-yard touchdown from Ecke. Stephen Barmore completed 15 of 25 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns for Southington and Corbin Garry had five catches for 155 yards and three touchdowns.
Harold Cooper ran 13 times for 179 yards and four touchdowns to lead Hillhouse of New Haven past city-rival Wilbur Cross Thursday, 48-12. Teammate Andre Anderson added six carries for 86 yards and a touchdown for the Academics (7-3), who didn't qualify for states and won't be able to defend their Class M title. … Joe DeSandre ran 32 times for 235 yards and four touchdowns and caught a game-winning 17-yard touchdown from Kyle Upton with 18.6 seconds left as Lyman Hall of Wallingford outlasted town-rival Sheehan Thursday, 42-38. DeSandre also had eight tackles and four catches for 52 yards while Upton was 19 of 27 for 269 yards. Sheehan's Billy Gannon ran 26 times for 208 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 174 yards. … Joe Schwab ran 30 times for 166 yards and three interceptions as North Haven beat Amity of Woodbridge on Thursday, 27-10.
Vaya con dios.