The end is nigh, Class LL preview, and please read responsibly
It's the best and most melancholy time of the high school football season — championship weekend.
There's the excitement of watching four state champions crowned. There's the disappointment that the season is finished. It's also the first sign that all football is winding down. The Grey Cup has been decided (oh, Saskatchewan). The college bowl season starts next week. There's only four weeks left in the NFL regular season.
(Grits teeth, shakes fist at sky).
Curious to see just what the finals will look like at Rentschler Field. Fair warning to those of you making your first trip there — dress warmly. The place can turn into quite the wind tunnel.
There were several minutes left in the UConn-Cincinnati game a few weeks ago when a flock of geese were trying to fly in the direction of the luxury and press boxes.
The wind was blowing hard and the geese, God love''em, were flapping their wings like a hummingbird strung out on Mountain Dew in Pixy Stixs. Try as they might, they couldn't fly forward and were pushed backwards.
The geese finally came to a consensus of "screw this," changed course, and flew with the wind towards the end zone.
I pointed this out to Mike DiMauro and said, "and some UConn fans trash Randy Edsall for not throwing enough and running too much? Idiots."
(Truthfully, I said something with more colorful adjectives.)
If wildlife is smart enough to know not to fight the wind, then a football coach shouldn't either.
The whole Rent experience is going to take some getting used to for everyone. Before the season began, coaches said that if their team made the final, then they would lobby to play in the first game. They were concerned that The Rent's grass field would get torn up quickly.
The other concern is the goal posts. They're at college width (18 feet, six inches), not high school width (23-4). That's a loss of nearly five feet and could be a factor for teams with shaky kickers. That was always a concern coaches had when state finals were played at Southern Connecticut State's Jess Dow Field.
I have mixed feelings about playing at The Rent. I'm all for giving kids the chance to play at the best facilities, be it Mohegan Sun Arena or The Rent.
The game is always bigger (and cooler), though, when it's played at a field or gym with a capacity crowd. The wall of noise, be it at a game or concert, is an awesome experience. That's lost when a few thousand fans are spread across a 40,000-seat stadium.
One of the fine folk at the CIAC acknowledged that element will be lost. They added that other state athletic associations told them that they have the same issue, i.e. ten thousand fans in a 50,000-seat venue will sound and look just as empty.
Understood, but the crowd wouldn't be affected if it played it at a high school stadium.
I'm a bit biased — I believe that West Haven High's Ken Strong Stadium is the home office for state playoff football. I've have spent more time there the last 13 years covering regular season and playoff games then I've spent with some relatives. The Westies''staff is absolute aces, too, when it comes to running the show.
It's all about the kids, though. If they dig playing at The Rent, then who cares what I think?
Enjoy the weekend. Hopefully some of you diehards take the opportunity to stick around for all three Saturday games.
Yes, it'll make for a long, cold day. Yes, you'll be lighter in the wallet paying for concessions.
You'll also get a better appreciation for how the other half lives (and plays) watching teams outside of your neighborhood play. And a $10 ticket for three games is a heck of a bargain.
If you consider yourself a high school football diehard, then it's your pigskin duty to stay for all three games.
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An open memo to Troy McKelvin and jbeez — Branford didn't beat Hillhouse. Hillhouse beat the Hornets, 46-9 (Nov. 5).
The Academics' losses were to Cheshire (29-6), Lyman Hall (28-20) and Xavier of Middletown (9-6), as mentioned in Wednesday's story. That would be the same story in which you responded with reader comments that Branford beat Hillhouse.
C'mon, guys — pay attention here. I'm writing to inform cats like you, and this is how you repay me?
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CLASS LL CHAMPIONSHIP
NO. 1 XAVIER (12-0) VS. NO. 3 TRUMBULL (11-2)
Site: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, today, 7 p.m.
Championship history: Xavier 1-2; Trumbull 3-4.
Playoff results: Xavier def. No. 8 West Haven 28-7 (quarterfinals), and No. 4 Glastonbury 24-13 (semifinals); Trumbull def. No. 6 Conard of West Hartford 27-9 (quarterfinals), and No. 2 Norwich Free Academy 21-6 (semifinals).
Points: Xavier, 333 for, 103 against; Trumbull, 372 for, 167 against.
Players to watch: Xavier, Sr. TE-LB Graham Stewart, Sr. WR-SS Gerry Bassadonna, Sr. WR-SS Kosi Broderick, Sr. RB-LB Austen Ahern, Sr. G-DE Sean Marinan, Sr. TE-DE Eric Mischke, Jr. RB-LB Mike Mastroianni, Jr. QB-FS Pat D'Amato, Jr. G-NG Austin Wezenski, So. QB-FS Tim Boyle.
Trumbull, Sr. WR-CB Phil Terio, Sr. DE Brian DeWalt, Sr. DE-WR Thomas Pauciello, Sr. QB Ian Milne, Sr. LB-FB Matt Lena, Sr. G-DT Will Testani, Sr. DL Ryan Monaco, Sr. DT Brian Barnash, Jr. RB-LB Don Cherry.
Outlook: There's been some debate over who's No. 1 — Xavier or Masuk. Here is Xavier's chance to show folks why it's ranked No. 1 in The Day's Top 10 state coaches poll. The Falcons' strength has been their defense, which has allowed seven points or less in seven games. The defense starts up front with the trio of Marinan, Mischke and Wezenski, and Stewart is headed to Boston College. They'll be the most formidable challenge Trumbull's offense has faced this season. The Golden Eagles run an up-tempo spread attack, but they stuck to running the ball or using screens last Saturday at West Haven as the wind was blowing in from Long Island Sound. The wind could affect Trumbull again tonight. Milne did the bulk of the running in the NFA win, and Cherry and Lena are strong enough to bang it inside. Terio is electrifying and should be one of the focal points of Xavier's defense. Paucilleo, at 6-foot-6, is an inviting target. Mastroianni will run over 30 times if need be for the Falcons and has the luxury of running behind a big, physical offensive line. Xavier prefers to keep it on the ground, but will let D'Amato and Boyle throw it to keep defenses honest.
Vaya con dios.
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