Long time, no talk. How you’ve been? Has the summer treated you well? How about that Charles W. Morgan?
High schools may begin conditioning Wednesday, thus it’s high time for you to turn your focus to REAL AMERICAN FOOTBALL (not that other “football”).
(REAL CANADIAN FOOTBALL is hip, too — adopt the single, America).
Everyone here at Polecat HQ has been in hibernation, so when a staffer poked his head out of the ground and saw his shadow, well, that was confirmation that it was time to blog something about the upcoming high school football season.
(We’re just 30 days and counting from the Sept. 10 kickoff).
Here then is YOUR (early) itinerary for the season. Memorize and plan your weekends around it.
Wednesday, Sept. 10
• Ridgefield at Cheshire, 6 p.m.: The first game of the glorious season. Ridgefield is a consistent winner. A few coaches have opined that Cheshire could surprise folks.
Thursday, Sept. 11
• St. Joseph at Notre Dame-West Haven, 7 p.m.: Defending Class M champion St. Joseph graduated most of its offensive starters and will likely rely on All-State tailback Mufasha Abdul-Bashir until the noobies get comfortable. Notre Dame will be improved, using its speed and aggressiveness to compensate for its lack of bulk.
• Amity at Seymour, 6 p.m.: Long ago, these two neighbors were fierce Housatonic League rivals. Then the Southern Connecticut Conference was born in ‘94, the Housy dissolved, and Amity went to the SCC, and Seymour to the Naugatuck Valley League. They played last season for the first time in a since 1995 with Amity rallying for a 24-21 win.
Friday, Sept. 12
• Glastonbury at Southington, 7 p.m.: Glastonbury graduated a huge and talented senior class for like the umpteenth straight year. Ho-hum. Been there, done that, as it’s qualified for Class LL six years running. Southington has a shot to be the top-ranked team when The Day’s Top 10 state coaches’ poll debuts after Week 1. The defending LL champs return nine players from a quick and nasty defense. The offense will need more work as they’ll be breaking in a new quarterback and four linemen. The receiving corps has a chance to be better than last led by record-setting senior Alex Jamele (79 catches, 1,623 yards, state-record 29 TDs).
• New Canaan at Hand, 7 p.m.: New Canaan was pillaged by graduation. It’ll still find a way to win eight or nine because it’s New Canaan. You'll need to check out Northwestern-bound Zach Allen. Dude is 6-foot-5, 247 pounds, and runs a 4.77 40-yard dash. That ain't right. The Tigers are another team that’ll likely get first-place votes in the Top 10. They have 15 starters back including QB Nick van Dell, the entire offensive line, and the secondary.
• Xavier at Staples, 7 p.m.: Xavier returns just seven players, which won’t deter it from having championship aspirations. The Wreckers return nine on offense, and they may go back to a run-heavy approach after the graduation of three-year starting quarterback Jack Massie.
Friday, Sept. 19
• Capital Prep/Achievement First at New London, 6:30 p.m.: Ah, it always does the heart good to see teams schedule quality non-conference opponents. SPECIAL BULLETIN — There’s no “Classical” in CP/AF anymore. Not sure how many players Classical provided, but the Trailblazers had 37 on varsity last season and just six were seniors. Star tailback Bennie Fulse III did transfer to Windsor, however. The Whalers are going to be one of the Eastern Connecticut Conference favorites as they return a wealth of talent from last season’s Class L quarterfinalist, including frightening DE J. Hunter Roman. They also have a score to settle as CP/AF handed them their worst loss in years last fall (53-14).
• Darien at Greenwich, 7 p.m.: Too bad this game wasn’t scheduled later in the year as it has the potential to be the FCIAC final. Darien is going to be hell on defense (sophomore DE Mark Evanchick was beastly last season), and it has the potential to be better than last year’s Class L runner-up. Greenwich returns a lot, too, including swift tailback Austin Longi, who’s humbled many a defense the last two seasons.
• Derby at Ansonia, 7 p.m.: It’s Ansonia vs. Derby. That’s the only reason you need.
Saturday, Sept. 20
• Fairfield Prep at St. Joseph, 1 p.m.: Prep was one half away from winning the Class LL title. QB Colton Smith and 10 other Jesuits want to get back to the final and win that sucker. The Cadets beat Prep on a game-ending Hail Mary last season. We can only hope this game is as wild.
Friday, Sept. 26
• Holy Cross at Naugatuck, 7 p.m.: Both teams started a lot of underclassmen last season and should be part of a wide-open Naugatuck Valley League race, provided that Ansonia’s 11 new starters aren’t as dominant as the previous ones. Jason Bradley starts his third season for the Greyhounds.
• Greenwich at New Canaan, 1:30 p.m.: Two FCIAC aristocrats square off. Man, Greenwich starts the season at West Haven, vs. Darien, and at New Canaan. Whelp, we’ll know quickly if the Cardinals are state title contenders.
THURSDAY, Oct. 2
Yes, we’re gifted with an extra day of football thanks to Yom Kippur!
• Seymour at Ansonia, 6 p.m.: Seymour was the only team that gave the Chargers a scare last year and were over six minutes away from a win. Running back Joey Salemme ran for 239 yards and two touchdowns in that 21-20 loss. The NVL is overjoyed that tailback Arkeel Newsome has finally graduated. The bad news is that new starting tailback Tajik Bagley has the talent to be Ansonia’s next great tailback.
• North Branford at Valley Regional/Old Lyme, 6:30 p.m.: The first big Pequot game of the season. North Branford reloaded last season, and quarterback Eddie Miller and many other juniors helping it finish 7-4. The Warriors bring back a solid core from their unbeaten PFC championship team, including three-year starter Justin Cheverier (RB-LB).
• Notre Dame-W.H. at Ridgefield, 7 p.m.: A fine SCC-FCIAC crossover.
Friday, Oct. 10
• Montville at Stonington, 6:30 p.m.: These two Eastern Connecticut Conference Medium Division foes have had ridiculous games the previous two seasons. Catch the daffiness!
• Danbury at New Canaan, 7 p.m.: Perhaps the biggest off-season coaching change was Mark Ecke taking over Danbury. Ecke won four state titles at Cheshire, and Danbury annually has one of the state’s top boys’ enrollments and the athletic talent that consistently wins state wrestling and track titles.
• West Haven at Notre Dame-West Haven, 7 p.m.: There’s no love lost between these two, just lots of hate.
Friday, Oct. 17
HOLY TEBOW, this night. The bad news is it’s headlined by two of the year’s marquee games. The good news is that you’ll at least get to see one.
• Hand vs. Fairfield Prep at Fairfield Warde, 6 p.m.: THE Southern Connecticut Conference game to see this season as both are arguably the league’s top two teams. Hand upset the Jesuits last season (35-27).
• Ansonia at Newtown, 7 p.m.: The NVL’s kingpin takes a road trip to play the two-time South-West Conference champion, but there’s more to this story. MUCH MORE. Ansonia begins the season with a 43-game winning streak. It would extend that to 48 if it wins its first five games. A 49th straight win would tie Cheshire for the state record. It’ll have to be at its best on this night as the Nighthawks could be better than last season. They return 15 starters, and whoever takes over at QB gets to throw to a deep group led by Julian Dunn, one of the state’s best receivers.
Friday, Oct. 24
• Brookfield at Newtown, 7 p.m.: The SWC game of the year. Brookfield was very young last season, yet still played for the league and Class M title. Wing backs Danny Jackson and Robert Drysdale and fullback Austin Reich helped the Bobcats rush for over 4,600 yards last season (they used GOD’S OFFENSE, too). You already know about the Nighthawks, and it’ll be interesting to see what kind of shape their in after playing Ansonia.
• Staples at New Canaan, 7 p.m.: Come see the battle of two FCIAC superpowers, as well as New Canaan’s full color scoreboard (complete with replay capabilities!)
• Morgan at Valley Regional/Old Lyme, 6:30 p.m.: Likely the Pequot game of the year. Morgan qualified for states last season despite starting a lot of underclassment, among them QB Jake Ward (2,576 rushing yards, 41 touchdowns).
• Platt at Berlin, 6:30 p.m.: These two have ruled the CCC’s D-III the past few years. You also need to make time to go see Platt senior RB Tyzahn LEATHERWOOD before he graduates.
Friday, Nov. 7
• New London at Ledyard, 6:30 p.m.: If you only see one ECC game this season, then this is it. You know about New London. The Colonels return the bulk of last season’s Class M quarterfinalist, including QB Ty Ebdon and RB JoJo Shumaker.
• Woodland at Ansonia, 6:30 p.m.: Ansonia beat the Hawks three times last season, including the Class S final, so you know they’d like payback. They also have far, far more players returning than everyone’s NVL nemesis.
Friday, Nov. 14
• Windsor at Glastonbury, 6 p.m.: Windsor has oh-so-much veteran talent and speed and should challenge for a Class L title. This should be its first big test of its season with its second on Thanksgrabbing Eve.
Saturday, Nov. 22
• Conard at Hall, 1:30 p.m.: The annual West Hartford skirmish.
• FCIAC Championship, site, time TBA: Who cares who’s involved — you’ll want to be there.
• Seymour at Woodland, 6 p.m.: This should be critical to Class S playoff positioning. That and the combined score could get into the 100s.
• Masuk at Newtown, 7 p.m.: One of these two have won the last four SWC championships. Masuk will be one of the state’s more intriuging teams as Joe Lato will be its third coach in three seasons. Lato had been Weston’s head coach the previous eight years.
• Windsor at Middletown, 7 p.m.: The Blue Dragons graduated a lot from last season’s Class L semifinalist. Fortunately QB Dario Highsmith returns, last year’s Gatorade Player of the Year. This game is also huge for the Class L rankings.
• Cheshire at Southington, 10 a.m.: It’s among the few annual nonconference games that are left, and it often wild and influences the Class LL rankings.
• NFA at New London, 10 a.m.: The nation’s oldest rivarly rarely disappoints.
• Stonington at Westerly (R.I), 10 a.m.: The nation’s granddaddy of Thanksgrabbing games.
• Staples at Greenwich, 10 a.m.: There’s been a few times where this sucker doubled as the FCIAC final.
• Derby at Shelton, 10:30 a.m.: It’s not the oldest rivaly in The Valley, but it might be the most bitter.
• Naugatuck at Ansonia, 10:30 a.m.: Some parts of the state were displeased when there were discussions this winter about starting the playoffs before Thanksgrabbing or eliminating them. These two towns would’ve been displeased to have their rivarly end. It’s among the state’s oldest and most passionate games. This may also serve as the de facto NVL final.
• New Canaan at Darien, 10:30 a.m.: New Canaan has lost just three regular season games the previous two years. Darien is responsible for two of said defeats. Yet another game that’ll shape the Class L race, in addition to being a huge draw.
Yes, no one is thrilled to have eight state champions this season, save for the four schools that wouldn’t have won one without it. It’s still a better alternative than shrinking the field down from 32 teams due to the one-year elimination of the quarterfinal round. Wel only have to deal with this for one year, thankfully, as we get our beloved quarterfinals back in 2015.
• Semifinals, Saturday, Dec. 6 at the higher seed, times TBA. They’ll all be during the day time. BOO-OOOO. Just give us ONE marquee night game, CIAC, so that we can all enjoy two games that day. MORE > less.
(I'm looking at you, Paul Hoey and Leroy Williams. DO US A SOLID HERE.)
• Finals, Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13, at sites and times to be determined.
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Special thanks to Sean Patrick Starfish of GameTimeCT, Kountry Kyle Brennan of the Rep-Am, and Dave Ruden of the eponymous Ruden Report for their help in filling in the (many) blanks in our memory.
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As a public service to Connecticut high school football coaches everywhere, we bring to you a play that YOU MUST incorporate into your arsenal of chicanery — the onside-punt.
Click HERE and let Dobson Collins and the rest of the CFL’s Ottawa REDBLACKS show you how to pull off said play for a touchdown.
(FYI — Ottawa’s nickname is actually "REDBLACKS" and not us capitalizing it for max effect.)
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That’s all for now. Thanks for reading. More soon.
Vaya con dios.