Published October 22. 2013 4:00AM Updated October 27. 2013 1:25AM
America loves lists isn't just a subsection of AdultSwim.com — it's the truth.
We love rankings, be it Billboard's Hot 100, David Letterman's "Top 10", or "Best Household Uses For SPAM".
The state has two high school football polls — The Day's coaches' poll, and the New Haven Register's media poll. They exist to drum up interest in the sport.
Everyone wants to be number one, which often leads to folks acting like number two when their team doesn't receive that ranking. There's always complaints about bias, cronyism, Satanism, etc.
(Okay, I made that last one up, but folks do resort to stereotyping when they see you wearing a Slayer "Reign In Blood" t-shirt. GET SOME CULTURE, people.)
This weekend was a tumultuous one as four Top 10 teams all lost, so this seemed like a good time to debunk some myths. We coordinated the media poll from 1998-2002, and the coaches' poll since 2003. We'll also go through how we put together our media ballot in the interest of transparency. That and it's fun to rile folks up.
(Those of you that don't care about this topic are encouraged to scroll down to the other notes, or go read Rick Koster. The Dudeis a trip.)
• "The media/coaches only votes for their local teams/is biased towards their local conference/is biased to his friends."
Won't lie — there's always a small minority who'll throw a bone or two towards teams in their area or league. Those few votes are diluted, however, because there are so many voters.
Heard some claim that coaches will vote for their buddies. Yeah, it happens, but it's never affected the No. 1 vote.
There was a hot debate one season over which team should be the final No. 1.
A coach who we know hated Team A's coach voted that team No. 1.
A coach who was close friends with Team A's coach voted for Team B.
Some coaches will vote their team lower than the majority. Last season, Ansonia's Tom Brockett requested it be known that he voted Hand No. 1 in the final coaches' poll, not his own team, because he had respect for Hand going undefeated against a difficult schedule (it beat CIAC Class LL and M champions Xavier and Hillhouse, respectively.)
Shoot — there was one coach who never, ever voted for his own team. Not even after they won a state title.
• "The New Haven Register is biased towards New Haven County and disrespect (accuser's local league goes here)."
Perhaps our favorite myth because (1), it's dumb, and, (2) anyone who makes that claim would realize it's stupid if, you know, they actually bothered to look at the list of voters and see where each one works BEFORE saying something stupid.
The New Haven Register merely conducts and prints the poll. The majority of its voters are from outside its building. The paper has yet to hire a death squad that forces pollsters at gunpoint to vote for New Haven County teams.
The reason why the Top 10 features more teams from the Register's area is because New Haven County is home base for the Southern Connecticut Conference. SCC teams get ranked more than those in other leagues because it's had the most success.
■ SCC teams have won half of the 18 CIAC state titles the last four seasons.
■ Nine of the SCC's 19 teams have won titles this millennium. It has a 20-6 record.
■ The SCC has a state-high 75 state finalists and a .653 winning percentage (49-26) since the CIAC began sanctioning state championships in 1976.
Here's our motto when voting — when in doubt, vote SCC.
Admittedly, the SCC hasn't played up to its lofty standards of the past few seasons. The FCIAC won bragging rights by beating it in this year's awesome interleague series. We believe that the FCIAC will have two state champions (New Canaan and St. Joseph). We don't know if the SCC will win a title (it's only shot is in LL, and we have NO bloody idea who's winning that division).
We still think the SCC has better depth up top, though. Hey, we could be wrong. Better we screw up that than mixing ammonia and bleach again.
Since Polecat HQ is based here in eastern Connecticut, we'll address the complaint from Eastern Connecticut Conference coaches, players and fans about the league's "lack of respect" from pollsters and the rest of the state.
There's a reason why neither the coaches and media polls are generally filled with ECC teams — it has the second-worst conference record in CIAC finals history. Then consider that the ECC has a 4-16 record in state finals this millennium. Then factor in that it's 2-5 against the rest of the state this season.
Respect isn't given — IT'S EARNED.
• "There are too many voters from Fairfield and New Haven Counties in the media poll."
This is true. The problem is that other counties don't have the same number of media outlets that Fairfield and New Haven do, thus making it impossible to find a good balance.
The imbalance is a perception problem instead of an actual problem. The media poll generally has several teams that are also ranked in the coaches' top 10. That's important to note because the coaches' poll features two coaches from each of the major leagues (CCC, ECC, FCIAC, NVL, SCC and SWC) and one from the Pequot, thus shutting anyone down who wants to claim that there's too many voters from one region.
• "Media voters don't see enough teams from outside their area."
Yes, because there's no way anyone in the media could ever see all the state's top teams and still hold down a job.
Newspapers and TV have smaller staffs than ever, and most games are played on Friday night. It's impossible to go watch a Friday night game out of a voter's region when there are several games that need to be cover in their region.
Voters do their best to make an informed opinion by talking to one another, reading up on other teams, talking to coaches, etc. It's not a perfect method, but no one who votes in any of the college polls has a chance to see every good team every week.
Some voters make an effort to see how the other half plays. Sean Patrick Bowley of GameTimeCT.com and Kyle Brennan of the Waterbury Republican-American and NVLBlog.com have visited other parts of the state this season.
Voter Bob Barton, a retired Register copy editor and Polecat HQ's spiritual leader, crisscrosses the state every fall. A Polecat intern also tortures his car in an effort to see as many of the state's best as time and space will allow.
Should you still be bothered by voters not seeing enough teams, hey, it's a poll. It's a collection of opinions. It's not worth flipping your wig.
• "The preseason and early weeks of the poll are based too much on last season."
Glastonbury was 3-7 in 2007. It turned things around in 2008. It had a very strong team, went unbeaten, and made a great case to be ranked No. 1.
The Tomahawks weren't ranked in the preseason poll and, as such, were "playing from behind" the entire season. They chased defending Class MM state champion New Canaan, which was a known commodity among voters.
New Canaan finished unbeaten and never lost its hold on No. 1.
Perhaps things would've been different had both The Day and Register waited a few weeks into the season before beginning voting. Perhaps they wouldn't.
The Day has since ditched the preseason poll so that decisions aren't completely made on last year's finish. It ain't perfect, but it's better than nothing.
Okay, all that written, let's look at how we put together our ballot this week. There are two big problems that voters in both polls faced:
1. The CCC triangle.
Southington opened the season with a win at Glastonbury (16-9). Glastonbury won at Hall the following week (35-28). Hall beat Southington this weekend, 49-37.
Which team do YOU vote ahead of the others?
2. The SCC Six.
The six SCC teams receiving votes in both polls are Fairfield Prep, Hand, North Haven, Shelton, West Haven and Xavier.
A quick look at the six:
• Fairfield Prep (4-2): Lost to No. 3 St. Joseph (36-34) on a game-ending, 42-yard Hail Mary. Beat Shelton (38-28).
• Hand (5-1): Was bludgeoned by No. 2 New Canaan in the Week 1 SCC-FCIAC throwdown, 50-21. It has won five in a row since, including wins over North Haven (21-6) and Fairfield Prep (35-27).
• North Haven (5-1): Beat Xavier (42-28), which was ranked No. 1 at the time.
• Shelton (5-1): Beat Trumbull (5-1) in the Week 1 SCC-FCIAC throwdown, 57-20. Twice cut its deficit to three points in the final four minutes of its loss to Prep.
• West Haven (5-1): Lost to Greenwich (3-3) in Week 1, 22-21. The Westies also beat Xavier in overtime last Friday, 35-34.
• Xavier (4-2): Beat Staples (5-1) in the Week 1 SCC-FCIAC throwdown, 30-22.
Now answer these questions:
• Fairfield Prep v. Shelton: Prep beat Shelton. Shelton has a better record. Who do you vote higher?
• North Haven v. West Haven: Both beat Xavier at home. North Haven won by 14 points. West Haven won by a point in overtime. Who do you vote higher?
• Staples v. Xavier: Xavier beat Staples. Staples has a better record. Xavier has played a better schedule (its opponents are a combined 24-12, the Wreckers' opponents are 15-21). Who do you vote higher?
• West Haven's loss: Twas a wacky defeat. Greenwich scored just one offensive touchdown. Their first touchdown was on a 20-yard fumble return. The second was on an 88-yard return of a blocked field goal. West Haven had fourth down at its own 1-yard line with under two minutes left. Head coach Ed McCarthy opted to take a safety so that they could get a free kick, cutting the Westies lead to 21-16. Greenwich's Austin Longi returned the punt to the Blue Devils' 36-yard line, and he scored the game-winning touchdown with 31.5 seconds left. How much stock do you put in that loss?
Yeah, you thought this voting stuff was easy.
You were WRONG.
And now, our media ballot:
1. Ansonia (6-0): Yes, we know that the NVL isn't as good as the FCIAC, SCC or, this year, the SWC. Yes, we think it would have a tougher time if it played in the FCIAC or SCC. Perhaps the wear-and-tear would catch up to it and lead to more losses. There have been years where all those beliefs prevented us from voting the Chargers No. 1. Sometimes we were right. Sometimes we were wrong. Here's what we think right NOW — it has the state's best offensive player (Arkeel Newsome), a veteran and physical offensive line, a strong pass rush, and a very experienced coaching staff. It just clobbered Masuk (56-21). Masuk may not be playing up to its lofty standards, but no one had beaten it that badly since Morgan in 1995 (35-0). Finally, and most importantly, we've had Ansonia No. 1 from the start. We've been given no reason to change our vote, although the next team has certainly given us reasons to think about it.
2. New Canaan (6-0): It led Hand by as much as 43-7. It bludgeoned Greenwich, 66-20. Neither Hand or Greenwich is as strong as it's been in previous seasons, but NO ONE thrashes either program like that. TEAM DAY has records dating back to 1982, and we can't find an instance where anyone scored that many against either team. The Rams fast-break offense is gassing-and-gutting opponents. Their defense may be the best in the state (linebacker Cole Harris is sublime). And if we were ever forced to put up all of our money on a high school football game and got to choose one coaching staff, Lou Marinelli and company are among those on our speed dial. New Canaan is No. 2 .... but that could change if it continues to lay waste to all those that oppose it.
3. St. Joseph (6-0): It's a Class LL/L program playing in Class M. We think Jordan Vazzano is the state's best QB. He's got an XXXXL-sized line giving him ample time to cut up defenses. Mufasha Abdul Basir is a sweet running back. We're certain the Cadets will win Class M.
4. Newtown (6-0): The only knock we've heard about it is that NFA pile-drove it 10-feet into the ground during last year's Class LL quarterfinals. It's a new season. The defending SWC champs have a two-year starter at QB (Drew Tarantino), returned last year's tailback (Cooper Gold), and have a D-I recruit in junior receiver Julian Dunn. Those are just three of the nine returning starters on offense. Over half of the defense is back, including junior linebacker Tim Krapf. The only concern is whether-or-not it'll be tested enough prior to states.
5. Glastonbury (5-1): Its 6-0 win over NFA earned it the nod over Southington and Hall. The defense has played very well with only Hall giving it fits.
6. Hand (5-1): We wouldn't have believed after Week 1 that we'd be voting the Tigers again this season. Wins over North Haven and Prep changed everything. We're strong believers in Ned Freeman's computer rankings for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com (its eerily accurate the later the season gets), and the algorithm rated Hand's schedule the state's second toughest. And it's 5-1. This could be a quick stay, however, as its next three games are at Shelton, v. Xavier, and at West Haven.
7. West Haven (5-1): The Westies are scary when they're playing to their potential. The backfield of QB Duane Gary and RBs Ervin Philips (who has committed to Syracuse) and Marshont Little are a nightmare.
8. Middletown (6-0): It feels odd to have the Blue Dragons this "low" given that we were driving their bandwagon this preseason, doing donuts on many lawns in the process. Finished 8-3 last year, losing to Class LL champ Xavier (41-14), Class L finalist Windsor (40-35), and Class L semifinalist Masuk (21-14). Almost the entire offense is back, as is most of the defense. QB Dario Highsmith is living up to the family name. The offensive line is big and experienced. The only knock on Middletown is that it hasn't had as good a win as the seven teams ahead of it yet. We'll have more clarity when it plays host to Farmington next Friday.
9. North Haven (5-1): Beat Xavier by more points than West Haven, but our sense is that the latter has more game-breakers.
10. Hall (4-1): Took Glastonbury to the wire before losing. Rallied from a 21-point, first-quarter deficit against Southington and hung 49 on it. Impressive.
11. Southington (4-1): Doesn't have as good a second win as Glastonbury does. Had the biggest loss of the CCC trio. Stunned that it gave up 49 to Hall as its defense had looked and played so strong.
12. NFA (4-1): Has as much potential as any team in Class LL, but we don't think it has a win that matches those won by other teams in the division. We're very curious to see what it does in states as it has championship game experience and, again, so much talent.
13. Darien (5-1): Surprised the Blue Wave haven't gotten more play. WR-DB Nick Lombardo has been able to carry the passing game at times. The defense has been pretty good. Led St. Joseph at halftime, 14-7, before the Cadets committed to the run and took over. We'd love to see its game at North Haven on Nov. 15 as its a fun interleague game and will affect the Class L rankings.
14. Barlow (5-1): We must see QB Jack Shaban, who has run opponents ragged. It actually made Newtown sweat before losing, 49-36 (the Nighthawks' final touchdown was on an INT in the end zone very late in the game).
15. Fairfield Prep (4-2): Chose it over Shelton based on head-to-head. It's also gave St. Joseph its toughest game. We think its win over Shelton is better than any owned by Farmington, Platt or Woodland. And, as stated before, when in doubt, vote SCC.
Agree? Disagree? Think we're nuts? That's okay.
You have your opinions. We have ours. And we all know what they say about opinions.
• • • •
Week 6 NOTABLES:
• Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia: Had a record-setting night in last Thursday's 56-21 rout of Masuk. He ran 26 times for 395 yards and six touchdowns and become the state's career rushing leader (8,380).
• Harold Cooper, Hillhouse: Ran 19 times for 183 yards with four touchdowns in last Thursday's 42-2 win over Sheehan. Cooper also became the sixth player in state history to rush for over 6,000 yards, according to the Connecticut High School State Record Book. Cooper is fifth all-time with 6,024 yards.
• Duane Gary, Marshont Little and Ervin Philips, West Haven: The trio ran for 378 yards and five touchdowns in last Friday's harrowing 35-34 overtime win over Xavier. Gary ran 13 times for 171 yards and two touchdowns, Philips ran 16 times for 123 yards and two scores, and Little ran for 84 yards and a score. Philips also had a game-winning tackle when Xavier attempted a two-point conversion.
• Joe Carbone and Andrew Meoli, Xavier: Carbone ran 25 times for 185 yards and four touchdowns, while Meoli had 29 carries for 157 yards and a score.
• Tom Wilson, Hand: Caught seven passes for 177 yards and two touchdowns and scored on an 85-yard kickoff return in last Friday's 35-27 win over Fairfield Prep.
• Tyzhan LEATHERWOOD, Platt: Ran 48 times for 233 yards and three touchdowns in last Friday's 34-32 win over Bloomfield.
• Norvel Stewart, Bloomfield: Had 15 carries for 221 and four touchdowns and completed 7 of 14 passes for 118 yards and a TD.
• Nick Roberts, Trumbull: Completed 28 of 43 passes for 410 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in last Friday's 50-44 win over Greenwich.
• Austin Longi, Greenwich: Had 26 carries for 337 yards and five touchdowns.
• Jeremiah Crowley, Montville: Ran 27 times for 346 yards and six touchdowns in last Friday's 41-37 win over Waterford.
• BULKELEY: Roderic Crocker threw a 15-yard touchdown to James Hudson with 35 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 14-7 win over E.O. Smith last Friday. Bulkeley improved to 3-3, its most wins since it finished 3-8 in 2008. It is also the Bulldogs best start since 2002. Oh, yeah — Crocker ran 26 times for 255 yards and a TD in their latest win.
• Jake Hedberg, Newington: Completed 26 of 39 passes for 459 yards and four touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns in last Friday's 52-36 win over South Windsor.
• Jason Bradley, Naugatuck: Completed 20 of 32 passes for 396 yards and four touchdowns in last Friday's 39-0 rout of Bunnell.
• Alex Hunter, Bristol Eastern: The sophomore ran 11 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 5 of 6 passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of last Friday's 49-0 rout of Maloney.
• Jake Kasuba and Sean Deegan, Foran: Completed 19 of 23 passes for 344 yards and two touchdowns in last Friday's 54-18 win over Lyman Hall. Deegan had seven catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns.
• Bethel's defense: Either scored or set up their team's first three touchdowns in last Friday's 48-20 rout of Derby. Sloan Austermann scored on a 45-yard interception return, and Nick Silva's 26-yard fumble return to give the Wildcats a 13-0 lead. Silva followed with an interception, setting up Joey Piatnik's 17-yard touchdown run.
• Jack Shaban, Barlow: Ran 21 times for 270 yards and five touchdowns and threw an 8-yard touchdown in last Friday's 62-21 win over Torrington.
• Cooper Gold and Drew Tarantino, Newtown: Gold ran 20 times for 291 yards and three touchdowns in last Friday's 56-14 pounding of Wolcott. Tarantino threw for 289 yards and four touchdowns.
• Jack Massie, Staples: Ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns and threw a 28-yard touchdown in last Friday's 43-34 win over Danbury.
• Anfreny Ith and Elijah Duffy, Danbury: Ith completed 18 of 33 for 376 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. Duffy had eight catches for 254 yards and two scores.
• Junior Vasquez and Anthony Rivas, Manchester: Rivas scored on a 91-yard interception return, ran six times for 76 yards and three scores, and caught a 41-yard touchdown in last Friday's 68-41 win over Conard. Vasquez threw for 339 yards and three scores and ran for another.
• Jason Thompas and Mike Pingree, Shelton: Thompson ran 34 times for 303 yards and two touchdowns in last Friday's 36-19 win over Wilbur Cross. Pingree added 20 carries for 166 yards and three scores and threw for 96 yards.
• Phil Cohen, Valley Regional/Old Lyme: Completed 21 of 30 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns in last Friday's 38-13 rout of North Branford.
• Cole Pecorda, North Haven: Ran 14 times for 201 yards and two touchdowns as his team trounced Branford last Friday, 46-12.
• Tom Honyotski, Hall: Completed 31 of 42 passes for 399 yards with three touchdowns to help the Warriors rally from a 21-point, first-quarter deficit and beat then No. 4 Southington on Saturday, 49-37.
• Alex Jamele, Southington: Had eight catches for 255 yards, including touchdown catches of 84, 58, and 35 yards.
• Logan Marchi, St. Paul: Completed 12-of-16 passes for 318 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in Saturday's 57-20 win over Notre Dame of Fairfield.
• Nick Lombardo, Darien: The Blue Wave's go-to scorer had five catches for 161 yards and three touchdowns Saturday in a 56-29 win over Trinity Catholic.
• Connor Amann and Courtlyn Victrum, Trinity Catholic: Amann caught a 23-yard touchdown and had two interceptions in a losing cause Saturday as Darien beat the Crusaders, 56-29. Victrum ran 33 times for 260 yards and touchdown.
• Christian Flynn and Chris McLaughlin, Northwest Catholic: Christian Flynn completed 12 of 26 passes for 360 yards and five touchdowns in Saturday's 40-20 win over East Catholic. McLaughlin added five catches for 151 yards and three scores.
• Jimmy Daher, RHAM: Ran six times for 144 yards and three touchdowns and threw a 3-yard touchdown in Saturday's 36-12 win over Fermi.
• Matt Holmes, Granby: Kicked a 36-yard field goal with three seconds left to lift his team to a 17-14 win Saturday over Lewis Mills.
• Enfield defense and special teams: Stopped Hyde four times at its own 1-yard line and forced four turnovers in a 13-9 win over Hyde on Saturday. Tyrik Henry also returned the opening kickoff for a 75-yard touchdown.
• Tyler Meeker, Coginchaug: Completed 9 of 14 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's 54-13 win over Old Saybrook/Westbrook.
• Bennie Fulse III, Capital/Classical/Achievement: Needed just eight carries to gain 161 yards and three touchdowns as the Trailblazers trounced Abbott Tech, 52-8.
• Mavric Pelletier, Cromwell: Completed 12 of 24 passes for 177 yards and a TD and ran for 120 yards and a score in last Saturday's 27-13 win over Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby.
• • • •
The New Haven Register Top 10 media poll: 1. Ansonia (24 first-place votes); 2. New Canaan; 3. St. Joseph; 4. Middletown; 5. Newtown; 6. Glastonbury; 7. West Haven; 8. Hand; 9. Norwich Free Academy (4-1); and, 10. North Haven (5-1).
• • • •
Ned Freeman's cold, calculated computer algorithm for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com: 1. St. Joseph; 2. New Canaan; 3. Newtown; 4. Ansonia; 5. West Haven; 6. Southington; 7. Glastonbury; 8. Middletown; 9. Shelton; and, 10. Hand. Platt is 19th, and Farmington was 25th.
• • • •
There are just 13 unbeaten teams left — Farmington, Middletown, Platt, Capital/Classical/Achievement, Prince Tech, McMahon, St. Joseph, New Canaan, Ansonia, Woodland, Valley Regional/Old Lyme, Morgan, and Newtown.
• • • •
• Gentleman Jim Bransfield, Middletown Press: Xavier made a good gamble against West Haven.
• Kountry Kyle Brennan and Remmington, NVL Blog: Week 6 Wrap; and, Week 7 predictions.
• Bryant Carpenter and Ken Lipshez, Meriden Record-Journal: Notebook.
• Ray Curran, JRC Amalgamated: Inside the SCC.
• Tom Evans, The Hour (of Norwalk): Notebook.
• Norwich Bulletin staff: Notebook.
• Pooch Diggity Dogg, JRC Amalgamated: State football notebook; and, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.
• Ken Lipshez, solo: Close call at Bloomfield helps Platt refocus.
• Sean Patrick Starfish, JRC Amalgamated: His state midseason report. Lists! Videos! LASER ZEPPELIN! It's the only football feature you'll read this week that's longer than this rambling, jibber-jabber filled, cry for help.
• • • •
That's all for now. Thanks for reading.
Vaya con dios....