By NED X. GRIFFEN
Xavier wasn't the only team that benefited from its state-record tying comeback in late October.
Hillhouse of New Haven had a 28 point, fourth-quarter lead over the Falcons during their Oct. 26 game.
Xavier scored 29 points in less than 11 minutes to win, 50-49. The team has said that game got them back on track.
The loss got the Academics back on track, too, as they've returned to the CIAC Class M final for the second time in three seasons.
"We realized that there were some things we needed to fix and we've been doing a great job of that," Hillhouse coach Tom Dyer said. "We learned a lot about finishing. You have to finish games."
The Academics (10-2) have won their last five games by an average of 33 points. Their two losses were to teams playing for a state title — Xavier (Class LL) and Hand of Madison (Class L), the No. 1 team in The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll.
"One of the benefits of playing in the Southern Connecticut Conference (is) if you get out of it, you're chances of (doing well) in the playoffs are very strong because the competition that we face on a weekly basis is very strong," Dyer said.
Hillhouse has also flourished thanks to one of the state's most dynamic backfields — running backs Andre Anderson and Harold Cooper.
Anderson, a senior, has rushed for 1,270 yards and 14 touchdowns. He's averaged 11.24 yards a carry.
Cooper, a junior, has run for 1,550 yards and 21 touchdowns in 10 games. He's averaged 11.48 yards a carry. He's also the 2012 State Open indoor champion in the 55-meter dash (6.55 seconds).
"I'm extremely blessed as a coach to be coaching probably the best backfield tandem in the state," Dyer said. "I really look it as having a 1-A and a 1-B running back. … I think if either one of them were on a team by themselves, with the amount of carries that they would get, it would be an amazing amount of yards that they could compile.
"I think the biggest thing with the two of those guys is that they're unselfish and that they have great chemistry together. They understand that it's all about winning. It's not about their personal stats. The way that they catch the ball, the way that they run, the way that they do things in the game, those kids are amazing talents."
Senior quarterback Je'Vaughn Moore runs the show at quarterback. He controls the Academics triple-option offense and has thrown for 800 yards and eight touchdowns and rushed for 850 yards and seven scores.
"The thing with Je'Vaughn is that he's a competitor," Dyer said. "The kid competes and the kid will win at anything that he does. He wins in the classroom. He wins as a person. He wins on the football field. He only weighs about 170, but there's a reason that Georgetown is offering him a scholarship."
Moore, who'll play defensive back in college, became the starting quarterback in 2010. He, Cooper and Anderson all helped Hillhouse win the 2010 Class M championship.
"We felt as a staff that he'd be perfect playing quarterback in a triple option offense because of how many reads you have to make at the line and the kind of player he was and how competitive he was," Dyer said. "The kid has come a long way and that's one of the great things about coaching — you have a kid for four years and you see the maturation process and the kids really come in like this and he's leaving as a young man.
"Je'Vaughn is definitely one of those kids that I'm proud of as well as all my 14 seniors. It's just great seeing those kids have a chance to do this their senior year."
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We know there are many of you who are ready to puke if you hear another word about the SCC.
Better get your barf bags ready as we're going to type a few more words about the SCC.
Hand, Hillhouse and Xavier all played one another this season. Three teams, three state finalists.
There was only one team that played all three state finalists — North Haven. Those were also the only teams that beat it.
And you complain that your team's schedule is too tough?
The Indians won by an average of 29 points. New London will vouch for their ability as they beat it, 34-20, at Cannamela Field on Oct. 5.
Again — you complain that your team's schedule is too tough?
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There's been some folks out there who've complained the last two years about the CIAC holding its state football championships at Rentschler Field.
The tickets cost too much (they're a whopping $10). It's too far. It's too cold.
The whiners and cheapskates should've been at Monday's press conference at The Rent. Players from all eight finalists attended and they loved the joint. Lost count of how many of them went down to the field to take a look around.
Heck, Ansonia has played at The Rent the last two seasons, and even its players went to take a walk around the field.
The kids like The Rent, and that's all that matters.
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Any of you who cannot make it to The Rent this weekend (or are too cheap or think it's too far to go), we encourage you to follow along in any of the following ways:
■ Check out Twitter at #dayfb or #cthsfb.
■ Watch the games on Connecticut Public Television or ciac.tv.
■ Listen to the jovial George DeMaio at WELI-960 (you can listen on the Innerwebs should you not live in the New Haven area).
(Back in the day, you actually had to GO to the game to know what was happening. And that day was 1987).
The championship schedule is, of course:
Class LL: Norwich Free Academy (12-0) v. Xavier (11-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Class S: Ansonia (13-0) v. North Branford (12-0), Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Class M: Berlin (11-1) v. Hillhouse (10-2), Saturday, 2 p.m.
Class L: Hand (12-0) v. Windsor (11-0), Saturday, 5:30 p.m.
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Marc Allard, Norwich Bulletin: Xavier faces new challenge with NFA.
Kyle and Brian, The NVL Blog: Class S preview.
Sean Bowley, Hearst Inc.: Brockett expects battle from North Branford in Class S final.
Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican-American: Observations from football championship media day.
Mike DiMauro, Steve Addazio Fan Club (secretary), TEAM DAY: ECC owes NFA a big 'thanks' for buzz it has created.
Jeff Jacobs, Hartford Courant: NFA Flies From Under the Radar.
Mark Jaffee, Waterbury Republican-American: Brockett thankful for chance to lead Chargers, Lester takes pride in his team's accomplishments, and, Trammell grows into leadership role with mighty Chargers.
Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Berlin football ready for blast form past.
Tom Yantz, Hartford Courant: Fleetings, Father And Son, Lead Windsor Into Football Final, and, Hand Shows It's Back On Track With Semifinal Win.
Pooch Diggity Dogg, JRC Amalgamated: October win over Hillhouse a turning point for Xavier, and, North Branford's Mark and Brandan Basil have one game to go for a dream come true.
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Minutia — Jack Cochran took a team of state players to a national 7-on-7 passing league tournament during the offseason.
Among the players were Xavier quarterback Tim Boyle, running backs Arkeel Newsome (Ansonia), Marcus Outlow (Norwich Free Academy) and Cooper, Ansonia receiver Andrew Matos, Xavier receiver-defensive back Kris Luster, and Moore.
Yeah, you could do worse than putting that group together.
Vaya con dios….