There are a mere four weeks left in high school football's regular season and southeastern Connecticut will feature two of the state's most influential games for the CIAC playoffs.
The region's most anticipated game of the week is Fitch at New London on Friday. It's also the MyTV9 game of the week, streaming live on wtnh.com and rebroadcast Saturday on MyTV9.
The second game is Montville at Stonington on Friday.
Fitch (5-1) is seventh in the Class L rankings with four games left to play. At the moment, it doesn't look as if two losses will quash a team's chances in the division. There are four unbeaten teams and four with one loss. There'll be one less one-loss team after this weekend when Middletown plays at Farmington.
Fitch could withstand a second loss, but it would likely give the Falcons no further margin for error. They'll be heavy favorites to win their next two games at winless St. Bernard/Norwich Tech and Bacon Academy (1-5), but they close the season at home on Thanksgiving against Ledyard. And the Colonels are fighting for their playoff lives.
New London (6-1) is sixth in Class M and has the toughest end to the season of any Eastern Connecticut Conference team. It plays at Ledyard next Saturday in a game that will be broadcast by The Day, and it plays host to unbeaten Norwich Free Academy on Thanksgiving. At this moment, two losses looks to be the cut-off point for Class M contenders, but it's in the Whalers' best interests to win out.
The division does work to New London's advantage because it should have its fair share of two-loss teams. There are four unbeaten teams, three one-loss teams, and seven two-loss teams. Furthermore, most of those teams have games against fellow Class M contenders or a state heavyweight.
Wolcott currently leads the division, but it's just now getting to the hardest part of its schedule. It plays Friday at unbeaten Ansonia, ranked second in The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll.
The Eagles finish with Class S hopeful Woodland of Beacon Falls (5-1) and defending Class S champion Holy Cross of Waterbury (5-2).
Unbeaten Barlow plays at fellow Class M hopeful Brookfield (5-2) this week. It plays at No. 5 Masuk of Monroe next week and, on Thanksgiving, plays host to Weston (6-1), which is ranked seventh in the division.
Montville (5-2) is 12th in Class M and likely needs to win out. It's received very few points from teams it has beaten - three of its five wins were over teams with one win - and that has dragged down its point total. It also closes against winless East Lyme and St. Bernard/Norwich Tech.
Stonington (6-1) is eighth in Class S, and it's looking like anything more than one loss will doom a team in this division. The Bears play host to Plainfield (5-2) next week, and play at old friend Westerly (5-3) on Thanksgiving.
Here's a look at the area's other contenders:
Ledyard (5-2): The Colonels are 10th in the Class M rankings. They'll likely need to win their final three games in order to make a return to the playoffs. They play host to Bacon Academy on Friday, New London next week, and at Fitch on Thanksgiving.
Norwich Free Academy (7-0): It's fifth in the Class LL rankings, and no team in the region has a better chance to get to states based on its schedule. It plays at Griswold (3-4) and plays host to Waterford (3-4). The Wildcats could certainly lose at New London on Thanksgiving, but 9-1 wouldn't hurt their playoff chances.