CIAC playoffs: For NL, beat NFA or go home

Anthony Hodges (3) and the rest of the New London Whalers must defeat unbeaten Norwich Free Academy on Thanksgiving morning to qualify for the Class M state playoffs.

Fitch High School and Norwich Free Academy have already clinched berths in next week's CIAC football playoffs.

Ledyard, Montville, New London and Stonington want to join the dance, too, but it won't be easy.

The final week of the regular season is the best of them all because old rivals square off across the state. Chaos is the rule of the day as underdogs everywhere upset the status quo and play havoc with the playoff races.

New London vs. NFA is the oldest rivalry in the nation, and Thursday morning's 151st meeting will be among the state's most important games.

NFA (9-0) is ranked fifth in Class LL and has unofficially clinched a berth (the rankings aren't official until approved by the CIAC football committee the day after the end of the regular season).

The Wildcats would likely earn a home quarterfnial game with a win. Sort of. NFA doesn't have permanent lights, which the CIAC now requires to host a night playoff game, so the Wildcats will have to look elsewhere (paging Coast Guard Academy).

For New London (7-2), however, it's win or go home. The Whalers, ranked seventh in Class M, might get it a home quarterfinal by upsetting NFA, depending on how fellow division hopefuls fare, but a loss ends their season.

Ledyard and Montville will be big NFA fans because a New London loss is in their best interests.

Montville (7-2) is ninth in Class M and should win at winless St. Bernard/Norwich Tech on Wednesday. The Indians then have to rely on others for help.

There are 12 teams still in the hunt for the six spots in Class M, and Montville can only outpoint one of them - Ledyard. It can't catch No. 3 Ellington/Somers, either.

The Indians need three of the following seven teams to lose - Barlow of Redding, Hillhouse of New Haven, St. Joseph of Trumbull, New London, Bullard-Havens of Bridgeport, Weston and/or Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton.

Odds are that Hillhouse (7-2) will beat city rival Wilbur Cross (2-7), and St. Joseph (7-2) should beat Trumbull (4-5).

The other games aren't easy to forecast.

It helps Montville that Weston plays at Barlow on Thanksgiving. It would be best if Weston lost as there's no way it could catch Montville.

Barlow would finish with 1,070 points with a loss, while Montville would have 1,060 points if it beats the Saints.

The Indians would need two of five teams to win in order to pass Barlow - Killingly (over Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech), Bacon Academy (over RHAM of Herbon), Watertown (over Torrington), Stonington (over Westerly), and/or Windham (over Woodstock). Windham is the only sure bet.

Montville will have a pretty good idea of where it stands tonight because Bullard-Havens plays city rival Bassick (1-8). A Bullard-Havens win would be a bad thing.

Ledyard is in almost the same spot as the Indians. It needs to beat Fitch (8-1) on Thursday. It also would need four of the following eight to lose - Barlow, Hillhouse, St. Joseph, New London, Bullard-Havens, Weston, Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton and/or Montville.

Stonington (7-2) is ranked 10th in Class S and one of 10 teams vying for the final four berths. It must beat Westerly (5-4) and catch some breaks in order to qualify.

The odds are against the Bears passing No. 5 Rocky Hill (8-1) if the Terriers lose to No. 9 Northwest Catholic of West Hartford (7-2).

Stonington might be able to pass Prince Tech of Hartford if it loses today to Hartford Capital/Classical/Achievement, but that's not a lock.

The Bears' best hope is that two of the following three lose - No. 7 Trinity Catholic (to Wilton), No. 8 Woodland of Beacon Falls (to Seymour) and Northwest Catholic.

Trinity (7-2) is favored to beat Wilton (4-5). Woodland (6-2) is the favorite against Seymour (5-4), too.

Fitch is ranked seventh in Class L, and the chances are the Falcons will open the playffs on the road.

Quarterback Devante Anderson (5) and the Fitch Falcons have already q	ualified for the Class L state playoffs, but chances are the Falcons will open the postseason on the road.
Quarterback Devante Anderson (5) and the Fitch Falcons have already q ualified for the Class L state playoffs, but chances are the Falcons will open the postseason on the road.


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