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Twice Fairfield Prep had its lead cut to three points in the final minutes of its game at Shelton.
"It's a great credit to them," Jesuits coach Tom Shea said. "Hopefully that's now a sign of maturity as a team. We haven't had that in the last couple of years."
Fairfield Prep had lost its way four years ago. It went winless in 2009 and lost 17 of 20 games over two seasons. It had a proud history and wasn't used to losing.
Shea took over the program four seasons ago. He both played and coached under legendary Prep coach Earl Lavery, who ranks seventh for the most wins in state history, according to the Connecticut High School State Record Book.
The Jesuits gradually improved in Shea's first three years, finishing 3-7, 5-5, and 6-4.
"We won three, then we won five," Shea said. "Now the kids are saying, 'We're competing. This is good. We're not where we want to be, but success breeds success.'"
Friday's win pushed Prep to 4-1. It debuted at No. 8 in The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll this week.
"(It) took some time," Shea said. "When I took over, I knew all of the players in the program because they all played for me (as the freshman coach). … They had a good experience with me, so they were willing and open to listen.
"We've been very optimistic about this team for two years. … They have a tremendous work ethic. They had a great offseason. They worked really hard. The kids do whatever you ask them to do. They trust in the program and have thrown themselves into it and gotten great results out of it."
Prep lost in Week 2 (Sept. 20) in a game with the most outrageous finish of the young season. It led St. Joseph with seconds left in the game, but the Cadets scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass to end the game and won, 36-34.
"We told them (afterwards), 'Listen, that was a tough one but there are many more games,'" Shea said. "'Don't sit there feeling sorry for yourself. We have another (game) coming up. Let's get at it.'
"That's a good life's lesson — what to do when things don't go your way."
The Jesuits did that in the first quarter of last Friday's game. Shelton had more possessions and had one drive end with a missed field goal and turned it over on downs at the Jesuits' 26-yard line on another drive.
"They (Prep) put themselves in some tough spots," Shea said. "Shelton's a terrific team and they've got playmakers, but I look at it and I'm really upset with the way we were tackling.
"We were outplayed in the first quarter. I think they ran 30 plays to our 5, and we were winning 6-0. It was bend but don't break."
Prep's lead was cut to 24-21 with four minutes left in the game.
Mark Piccirillo threw a 34-yard touchdown to Kyle Drost to cut Prep's lead to 31-28 with one minute, 53 seconds left.
Prep scored in two plays as Smith ran for a 49-yard touchdown.
Smith ran 17 times for 208 yards and four touchdowns, and also completed 11 of 18 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown. He was enabled by the Jesuits' enormous offensive line — center AJ Mansolillo (5-11, 275), guards Connor Roche (6-2, 255) and Brendan Sullivan (6-2, 230), and tackles Anthony Palazollo (6-6, 305) and Michael Ruther (6-7, 290).
"We're fortunate that we have some guys who can make plays," Shea said. "You need one-or-two guys to step up and say, 'Okay, put the ball in my hands. I'll get it done for you.'"
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Avon pulled off a win last Saturday in arguably more amazing fashion than St. Joseph did against Prep.
Let us repeat — Avon scored 14 points in the final TWENTY SIX SECONDS.
The Falcons led 14-0 after one quarter, but the Thunderbirds scored 25 unanswered points to take the lead.
Jimmy Murphy, Avon's 5-foot-6 all-state running back-linebacker-Tasmanian devil, caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Noah Hahn with 26.6 seconds left. A conversion run failed.
The Falcons were forced to onside kick, and Murphy caught the ball at his team's 46.
Hahn threw a 26-yard touchdown to Justin Reichler with 11.4 seconds left. He followed with a pass to Luke Meaney for the conversion and a 41-38 lead.
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Ansonia remains the No. 1 team in The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll, but second-ranked New Canaan crept a little closer.
Ansonia (5-0) received seven first-place votes for 372 points.
The Rams (5-0) earned five first-place votes for 368 points, cutting the Chargers lead from six points to four.
New Canaan gained a little ground as seven coaches voted it second. Three coaches voted Ansonia second, and three voted it third.
The rest of The Day Top 10 state coaches' poll: 3. St. Joseph (5-0, one first-place vote); 4. Southington (4-0); 5. Middletown (5-0); 6. Newtown (5-0); 7. Windsor (5-0); 8. Fairfield Prep; 9. Glastonbury (4-1); and, 10. Xavier (4-1).
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The New Haven Register Top 10 media poll has the same 10 teams as the coaches' poll, albeit in a different order: 1. Ansonia (23 first-place votes); 2. New Canaan (6); 3. St. Joseph; 4. Middletown; 5. Southington; 6. Newtown; 7. Windsor; 8. Fairfield Prep; 9. Glastonbury; and, 10. Xavier.
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Ned Freeman's cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com: 1. Southington; 2. St. Joseph; 3. New Canaan; 4. Ansonia; 5. Glastonbury; 6. Newtown; 7. Xavier; 8. Fairfield Prep; 9. NFA (3-1); and, 10. Shelton (4-1).
Notre Dame of West Haven (1-4) has endured the top-ranked schedule — St. Joseph, Branford (0-5), Fairfield Prep (4-1), Ridgefield (4-1), and West Haven (4-1).
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So Hand has righted itself after being stomped by New Canaan, 50-21, in Week 1. It's improved to 4-1.
Check out the savage gauntlet the Tigers run the next four weeks:
■ v. Prep (Friday).
■ at Shelton (4-1, Oct. 25).
■ v. Xavier (4-1, Nov. 1).
■ at West Haven (4-1, Nov. 8).
YOUR team's schedule is not as brutal as Hand's.
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Some notables from Week 5:
■ Harold Cooper ran for 211 yards in the first half and had five touchdowns as Hillhouse beat Lyman Hall on Thursday, 54-20.
■ Joey Salemme had 27 carries for 228 yards and three touchdowns as Seymour crushed Sacred Heart on Thursday, 45-6.
■ UConn-bound Arkeel Newsome ran 33 times for 315 yards and five touchdowns to pace Ansonia past Division Street neighbor Derby on Friday, 62-28. Newsome is closing in fast on Alex Thomas' state career rushing record. Thomas, the former Ansonia great, ran for 8,279 yards. Newsome needs 278 more yards to set the mark.
■ Yale-bound Stephen Barmore completed 15 of 28 passes for 225 yards and five touchdowns as Southington bounced New Britain on Friday, 38-7. Alex Jamele caught four of those touchdown passes, all in the first half.
■ Dario Highsmith ran 13 times for 251 yards and three touchdowns as Middletown trounced Hartford Public on Friday, 41-7. Highsmith also threw two touchdowns.
■ Drew Tarantino threw four first-half touchdowns during Newtown's 56-13 rout over New Milford on Friday. Cooper Gold also ran for two first-half touchdowns.
■ Andrew Meoli ran for 222 yards and three touchdowns as Xavier beat Amity on Friday, 42-28.
■ Syracuse-bound Ervin Philips ran for 179 yards and two touchdowns and caught another as West Haven beat Notre Dame of West Haven, 38-29. Teammate Marshont Little ran for 140 yards and scored twice.
■ North Haven had three 100 yards rushers as it ran down Sheehan on Friday, 47-28. Ethan Suraci ran 17 times for 114 yards and four touchdowns, Michael Halloran ran 18 times for 113 yards and three TDs, and Michael Montano ran 13 times for 126 yards.
■ Tyzhan Leatherwood ran 30 times for 347 yards and four touchdowns as Platt routed Rocky Hill on Friday, 47-14. Andrew McBride also completed 7 of 11 passes for three touchdowns.
■ Hand sophomore quarterback Nick van Dell threw for 288 yards and a touchdown and ran for another to help his team beat Cheshire on Friday, 35-24.
■ Wade Prajer threw a 12-yard touchdown to Steven Croce as Pomperaug rallied to stun unbeaten Masuk on Friday, 35-32. Pomperaug trailed, 14-0, in the first quarter. Prajer was 38 of 54 for 401 yards with five touchdowns.
■ Stevie Swinson and Jaylin Fuller combined to lead Wilbur Cross past Hamden on Friday, 33-7. Swinson ran for 187 yards and a touchdown, and Fuller ran for 118 yards and three TDs.
■ Ryan Dunn completed 15 of 20 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns as Ridgefield beat Stamford on Friday, 48-22.
■ Griffin Ross had 12 catches for 196 yards and two touchdowns as Darien downed Fairfield Warde on Friday, 31-6.
■ Barlow's Jack Shaban ran 17 times for 102 yards and four touchdowns, threw for another and had a sack as his team beat New Fairfield on Friday, 45-21.
■ Tyler Quidgeon completed 10 of 11 passes for 230 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 53 yards and a TD as Montville thrashed Fitch on Friday, 65-26.
■ The Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech tri-op had 344 yards of offense — all via the run — in its 34-12 win over Cheney Tech on Friday. We approve of your offensive approach, Pride.
■ Andrew Bialoglowy ran 15 times for 211 yards and three touchdowns as Holy Cross bounced Kennedy on Friday, 43-6.
■ Jacob Thomas ran 20 times for 202 yards and three touchdowns to lead Wilby past Watertown on Friday, 27-0.
■ Gilbert/Northwestern Regional scored 14 points in the final seven minutes to force overtime and beat Ellington/Somers on Saturday, 20-14. John Lippincott threw two touchdowns for the winners.
■ Woodland abused St. Paul's defense during Saturday's 59-14 beatdown. Sean McAllen had nine carries for a school-record 274 yards with three touchdowns (61, 80 and 99 yards). Tanner Kingsley completed 12 of 14 passes for 272 yards and four touchdowns. The Hawks defense also flustered UConn-bound quarterback Logan Marchi. He completed 20 of 44 passes for 272 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions.
■ Nick Cascione completed 8 of 9 passes for 170 yards and four touchdowns, ran for another and was pulled in the second quarter of New Canaan's 49-7 rout of Danbury on Saturday. The Rams scored seven touchdowns in the first 20 minutes.
■ Nick Roberts completed 12 of 18 passes for 363 yards and six touchdowns as Trumbull crushed Westhill on Saturday, 49-16. Eric Anderson had four catches for 126 yards and two touchdowns for Trumbull. Also, Hunter Wnukowski had a 95-yard touchdown catch and Thomas Hayduk scored on a 90-yard catch.
■ Bennie Fulse III and Mike Jones both ran for two touchdowns as Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achievement First rallied to beat Bullard-Havens on Saturday, 27-18. C/C/A (5-0) trailed 12-0 at halftime and 18-6 late in the third quarter.
■ Michael Elsey ran 21 times for 233 yards and three TDs as Killingly blanked Woodstock Academy on Saturday, 40-0.
■ Peter Lummis had 304 total yards with four touchdowns and recovered a fumble to lead Weston past Notre Dame of Fairfield on Saturday, 62-32.
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■ Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: The X's behind Platt's 5-0 start.
■ Ray Curran, JRC Amalgamated: Inside the SCC.
■ Pooch Diggity Dogg, JRC Amalgamated: Out of nowhere, Leatherwood leads way for unbeaten Platt.
■ Tom Evans, Norwalk Hour: McMahon finding consistency.
■ Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Jamele becoming key part of Southington's offense.
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Oh, man, this week looks AWESOME.
Check out these delights:
■ Valley/Old Lyme (4-0, 2-0 Pequot South) at North Branford (4-1, 2-0), 6:30 p.m.: One of the biggest Pequot games of the season. V/OL is one of only two unbeaten teams in the league. The Purple and Black Attack are more than capable of handing it an 'L'.
■ Masuk (4-1) at Ansonia, Thursday, 6:30 p.m.: It would've be so much better had Masuk not lost last week but, hey, it's still the marquee match-up of the NVL v. SWC Challenge.
■ Derby (4-1) at Bethel (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: The Voices tell us that this will be the best game in the NVL v. SWC Challenge. Derby (NVL) and Bethel are two of the top teams in their respective leagues. Both teams still have difficult games ahead, so this game could prove hazardous to the loser's playoff hopes.
■ Fairfield Prep at Hand, Friday, 7 p.m.: LET THE WEEKLY SCC D-I BRAWLS BEGIN.
■ Windsor (5-0, 1-0 CCC D-II West) at Farmington (5-0, 1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.: Start the CCC D-II West three-way dance! (Middletown is the other participant)
■ Newtown at Wolcott (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: Wolcott has averaged 47 points. It might need to score that many as the Nighthawks are one of the most talented teams in the CIAC's Class LL.
■ Seymour (3-2) at Oxford (3-2), Friday, 7 p.m.: These Valley neighbors make for yet another great storyline in the NVL v. SWC Challenge. For those of who unfamiliar with The Valley, Oxford students used to go to Seymour before it got its own school.
■ Xavier at West Haven (4-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: The weekend's main event. SCC supremacy is on the line. More importantly, Class LL playoff positioning is at stake. A second loss could ruin the loser's postseason chances, especially if its Xavier — it plays only 10 games in this 11-game season.
■ Southington (4-0, 2-0 CCC D-I West) at Hall (3-1, 1-0), Saturday, 1:30 p.m.: Hall took Glastonbury to the limit before losing in the final minutes, 35-28, in Week 2. A big division game, too.
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Thanks for reading. More later.
Vaya con dios....