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They're 6-0 and have allowed the fewest points in the state, yet the McMahon Senators have gotten little love from voters in The Day of New London's Top 10 state coaches' poll.
McMahon is aware it hasn't made the football masses believe in it just yet.
"We're the Kansas City Chiefs of the FCIAC," McMahon head coach A.J. Albano chuckled. "No one gives us respect, and everyone says that we have an easy schedule. (Quarterback) Matt Downey is a game-manager like Alex Smith."
There was positive buzz about the Senators during the preseason because they had a small senior class last season and returned most of their starters. That included eight on defense, which has allowed just 65 points.
"When we looked back at the end of last season, we knew that we had a lot of good kids coming back," said Albano, a 2001 McMahon graduate. "The defense has been our backbone. Kenny Keen is our middle linebacker. He's in the top five in the state in tackles (according to statistics submitted to MaxPreps.com). He's been unbelievable. He's averaging 14 tackles a game. (Defensive tackle) Matthieu Hargrove, one of our captains, I think he's in the top 20 in tackles. He leads the team in assists, show it shows you what kind of hustle he has. He's always pitching in and always helping out.
"Allan Lenard is a defensive end for us, and he's got five sacks on the season, and probably 10 (tackles) for a loss."
The Senators were forced to adjust early in the season when senior captain Trevon Forney, their most explosive offensive player, fractured his arm early in Week 2 against Danbury (he won't return this season). He averaged 10.5 yards a carry last year and was second in touchdowns (nine).
McMahon has used a running back by committee to get by without Forney. Timmy Hinton has averaged a team-high 82 yards a game with seven touchdowns. Keen has rushed for 46 yards a game, while Kentrell Snider has run for three touchdowns.
"Trevon Forney, to me, was one of the most electric players in the FCIAC," Albano said. "There's no doubt about it. ... He ran for two touchdowns and 115 yards against Wilbur Cross in Week 1 (and had two catches for 40 yards and a score), so losing him was a blow. But we have depth.
"We run the wing-T, which is not very modern, but we do what we need to do and we do it well. You want to defend the outside, then we're going to run in the middle. You want to defend the middle, then we're going to run outside. The running backs appreciate blocking for each other."
Downey has thrown for 536 yards and six touchdowns. The right side of the Senators' offensive line, tackle Andrew Starr and guard Brice Muldoon, started last season and have provided veteran leadership.
McMahon is second in the CIAC Class LL rankings, but its schedule has kept it from gaining traction in the Top 10 poll. Its opponents have a combined winning percentage of .286 (12-30), worst in the state.
The schedule will be tougher going forward. It plays at Fairfield Ludlowe (4-3) on Friday, and has games against fellow LL hopeful Ridgefield (5-2), St. Joseph (7-0), ranked third in The Day coaches' poll, and city-rival Norwalk.
"We put it on the board the first day of practice — "How many times can we go 1-0,'" Albano said. "And that's kind of what we've done this year.
"If we don't beat Fairfield Ludlowe, then Ridgefield or St. Joseph or Norwalk doesn't matter. This is as classic a trap game as you can have. Some coaches don't talk about trap games, but that's not how I'm going to handle this one. These kids have been given an opportunity to try to beat Ludlowe and continue to put ourselves in position to make playoff football."
The Senators haven't made states since they routed Killingly to win the 1994 Class MM championship. That's also their only playoff appearance.
"We haven't accomplished anything, but again, we've done what we had to do," Albano said. "We've won some close games, which I think could come into play later on in the season when we're in the fourth quarter and it's a tight game. We want to play playoff football, and we want to play December football, but we've got to win it one game at a time and see where it ends up."
• • • •
We're in a football era where more-and-more teams are opting to run a spread offense and stretch opposing defenses.
Not Ansonia. The defending Class S champions have won a state-best 35 straight games by using a black-and-blue power running game, usually run out of the I-formation.
"We could spread people out and become more a finesse team and run around and try to get more basketball players and soccer players and whatever," Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said after his team's 56-21 win over Masuk on Oct. 17. "We still really want those football players."
Arkeel Newsome, who owns the state records for most rushing yardage in a season and a career, has rushed for over 300 yards in each of the Chargers' last three games, tying a state record. Newsome is a good example of what the program expects from its players as he's just 5-foot-8 and 183 pounds, but he's not afraid of contact and will run over defenders if needed.
Brockett makes practices physical to instill that kind of toughness in his players.
"We beat them up pretty good in practice," Brockett laughed. "We go after it hard. We know it's risk vs. reward. There's always the injury factor, but it's our brand. It's our style. I think a lot of people have gotten away from it, and we want to be as physical as we can.
"It's been a staple of Ansonia for so long. We've tried to be really physical, and it's gets harder the way people spread you out and stuff. It's gotten harder and harder to keep the phsyciality of football. We've been fortunate to do it."
• • • •
The New Haven Register Top 10 media poll: 1. Ansonia (24 first-place votes); 2. New Canaan (five first-place votes); 3. St. Joseph; 4. Middletown; 5. Newtown; 6. Glastonbury; 7. West Haven; 8. Hand; 9. Norwich Free Academy (5-1); and, 10. North Haven (6-1). Farmington was ranked 11th, and Platt 13th.
• • • •
Ned Freeman's cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com: 1. New Canaan; 2. St. Joseph; 3. Newtown; 4. West Haven; 5. Ansonia (strength of schedule has dragged it down); 6. Glastonbury; 7. Hand; 8. Southington; 9. Fairfield Prep (5-2); and, 10. Norwich Free Academy (5-1). Middletown was 12th, Platt was 20th, and Farmington was 29th.
Freeman's algorithm ranks Notre Dame of West Haven's schedule the toughest in the state. The Green Knights (2-5) have lost to No. 3 St. Joseph (7-0), No. 5 West Haven (6-1); Fairfield Prep (5-2), Xavier (5-2) and Ridgefield (5-2). They beat Amity (4-3).
Winless Sacred Heart has the toughest schedule based on its opponents' combined record (38-11, .776). Every team its played has a winning record — unbeaten Ansonia and Holy Cross, Naugatuck (6-1), New Fairfield (5-2), Holy Cross (5-2), Wolcott (4-3) and Seymour (4-3).
• • • •
Behold, the ballot Polecat HQ submitted to Pooch Diggity Dogg, comptroller of the New Haven Register Top 10 media poll (notes added where necessary):
1. Ansonia: Keeps winning big. No reason to move it. For the moment.
2. New Canaan: Wildly curious to see the result of Friday's New Canaan v. St. Joseph fray because it might prompt a change at the top of the ballot.
3. St. Joseph: We're really curious how New Canaan will defend a Cadets' offense that passes (quarterback Jordan Vazzano) as well as they run (Musafa Abdul-Bashir).
4. Newtown: Averaged 52 points in its last four games.
6. Hand: It's halfway through the Gauntlet From Hell.
7. Darien: Hadn't been giving it nearly enough credit for routing Greenwich (42-21), which beat West Haven in Week 1 (22-21).
8. West Haven
9. Middletown: It's season finally gets fun starting this Friday (vs. Farmington).
10. North Haven: It and West Haven are the only two teams that have knocked off Xavier.
11. Hall: As mentioned last week, Southington beat Glastonbury (16-9), Glastonbury beat Hall (35-28), and Hall beat Southington (49-37). And you thought voting so-oooo easy. Glastonbury gets a higher spot than its CCC D-I counterparts for beating NFA.
12. Southington: Scored 35 points against Conard last Saturday. In the FIRST QUARTER.
15. Fairfield Prep
• • • •
We're headed towards Week 8, so it's time to start guessing which teams qualify for states and who plays whom.
1. These are not to be taken as gospel. The forecast was done in less than 30 minutes.
2. Just because we didn't pick your team to qualify doesn't mean we hate you. Hell, we don't even KNOW one other. Should you choose to believe this is the worst insult you've ever suffered, use it as motivation, and go on to win a state title, then we expect a free meal at your year-end banquet for providing the extra incentive that you needed.
3. We plan on being wrong about half of these and, in fact, look forward to it. To err is human. To laugh at oneself is divine.
CLASS LL: No. 1 Newtown vs. No. 8 Staples; No. 2 Glastonbury vs. No. 7 Ridgefield; No. 3 NFA vs. No. 6 West Haven; No. 4 Southington vs. No. 5 Hall.
CLASS L: No. 1 New Canaan vs. No. 8 Naugatuck; No. 2. Middletown vs. No. 7 North Haven; No. 3 Hand vs. No. 6 Darien; No. 4 Platt vs. No. 5 Farmington.
CLASS M: No. 1 Valley Regional/Old Lyme vs. No. 8 Wolcott; No. 2 St. Joseph vs. No. 7 Gilbert/Northwestern Regional; No. 3 Barlow vs. No. 6 Brookfield; No. 4 Ledyard vs. No. 5 Bethel.
Note: There's going to be a few 8-3 teams that qualify in this division.
CLASS S: No. 1 Capital/Classical/Achievement vs. No. 8 Bloomfield; No. 2 Ansonia vs. No. 7 Morgan; No. 3 Woodland vs. No. 6 Prince Tech; No. 4 Rocky Hill vs. No. 5 North Branford.
• • • •
Nolan Aurelia and Devante Teel, Bunnell: Aurelia threw a game-ending 5-yard touchdown to Teel to give the Bulldogs a 40-35 win over New Milford. Aurelia completed 18 of 37 passes for 285 yards and five touchdowns. Teel caught 12 passes for 172 yards and three scores.
Elijah Benjamin, Kennedy: Ran 13 times for 215 yards and two touchdowns to help the Eagles to their first win of the season on Friday, 33-15, over Watertown.
Jeremy Buck and Ivan Guadalupe, Farmington: Buck completed 19 of 29 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns in a 35-0 beating of Bristol Central on Friday. Guadalupe ran for 52 yards and two touchdowns and had two interceptions.
Joe Carbone and Andrew Meoli, Xavier: Carbone ran 12 times for 85 yards and two touchdowns and completed 9 of 13 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown to pace the Falcons past Notre Dame of West Haven on Friday, 54-13. Meoli ran 17 times for 211 yards and three scores.
Rafael Dominguez and Jeremy Gannon, Sheehan: Dominguez ran 13 times for 133 yards and four touchdowns as the Titans bounced Law on Friday, 47-13. Gannon ran eight times for 156 yards and three scores.
Julian Dunn and Drew Tarantino, Newtown: Tarantino completed 15 of 16 passes for 234 yards and five touchdowns in Friday's 47-13 win over Weston. Dunn added four catches for 72 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a 3-yard touchdown.
Foran defense: Held speedster Harold Cooper of Hillhouse to 14 yards on 17 carries in a 34-6 win last Friday.
Thomas Hayduk and Nick Roberts, Trumbull: Hayduk caught a deflection for a 7-yard touchdown with 30.5 seconds left to give the Eagles a 32-28 win over Wilton on Friday. Roberts completed 30 of 45 passes for 516 yards and four touchdowns for Trumbull. Roberts' passing yardage would rank eighth all-time in a game according to the Connecticut High School State Record Book.
Brett Phillips, Wilton: Ran for 312 yards and two touchdowns and threw for two more.
Richard Hunter, Capital /Classical/Achievement: Ran for a 45-yard touchdown, returned a punt for a 50-yard touchdown, and scored on a 75-yard kickoff return during Friday's 55-7 win over the Vinal Tech/East Hampton co-op.
Joe Leslie and Mark Hickman, Ellington/Somers: Leslie threw touchdown passes of 12 and 70 yards to Hickman during last Saturday's 41-26 win over Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby. Leslie also ran for 147 yards and a touchdown, while Hickman scored on a 24-yard run.
Jarvis Miller, Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby: Ran 26 times for 312 yards and three touchdowns.
Jeremy Meccariello, Bristol Eastern: Kicked a game-winning field goal with three seconds left and gave the Lancers a 30-28 win over Windsor on Friday.
Ricky Mejia, Norwalk: Ran for a game-winning 3-yard touchdown with 19 seconds left to give the Bears a 44-42 win over Bridgeport Central on Friday.
Mykel Morris, Bridgeport Central: Completed 8 of 19 passes for 247 yards and five touchdowns, ran 18 times for 214 yards and a touchdown, an scored on a 60-yard punt return.
Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia: Ran 34 times for 321 yards and scored five times in Friday's 62-27 rout of Wolcott. It was his third straight 300-yard game, tying a state record.
Jalen Ollie, Glastonbury: Ollie was 16 of 25 for 327 yards and five touchdowns as the Tomahawks beat Manchester on Friday, 41-0, and clinched their sixth consecutive CCC D-I East title.
Jack Shaban, Barlow: Ran for 207 yards and four touchdowns as the Falcons downed Pomperaug on Friday, 41-19.
Colton Smith, Fairfield Prep: Ran 16 times for 126 yards and three touchdowns as the Jesuits beat Cheshire on Friday 26-0. Smith also completed 8 of 12 passes for 135 yards.
Ethan Suraci, North Haven: Had 15 carries for 205 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-20 triumph over Guilford on Friday.
Valley Regional/Old Lyme defense: Held Jake Ward to 90 yards on 28 carries as the Warriors routed previously unbeaten Morgan on Friday, 51-6. Ward averaged 242 yards with 20 touchdowns in the Huskies' first five games. Chris Jean-Pierre had two interceptions
Nick van Dell and Tyler Phan, Hand: Van Dell went 19 of 28 for 224 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions and ran 14 times for 63 yards and two TDs as the Tigers edged Shelton on Friday, 44-41. Phan kicked a game-winning 29-yard field goal with 24 seconds left.
Jason Bradley, Naugatuck: Completed 17 of 33 passes for 323 yards with six touchdowns and an interception as the Greyhounds downed St. Paul, 59-31, on Saturday.
Logan Marchi, St. Paul: Completed 26 of 49 passes for 382 yards with three touchdowns and three picks.
Jordan Davis, Prince Tech: The sophomore reserve quarterback took over after starter Miguel Cartagena injured his leg on the fifth play of the game, and rallied his team back from a 10-point deficit to beat Cheney Tech, 19-18. Davis threw a game-winning 6-yard touchdown pass to Dan Hampton with 38 seconds left.
Daly Hebert, Darien: Kicked field goals of 23 and 47 yards and an extra point in Saturday's 19-14 win over Ridgefield. His 47-yarder tied him for 20th all-time, according to the Connecticut High School State Record Book
Tyzhan Leatherwood, Platt: Ran 14 times for 146 yards and three touchdowns as the Panthers trounced Weaver on Saturday, 55-22.
Nick Meadows and Jordan Shakes, Weaver: Meadows completed 20 of 28 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns during Saturday's 55-22 loss to Platt. Shakes had eight catches for 200 yards and two TDs.
Austin Longi, Greenwich: Ran seven times for 95 yards and two touchdowns, threw an 85-yard touchdown and returned an interception for a 20-yard touchdown as the Cardinals routed Fairfield Warde on Saturday, 42-7.
Opnyckie May, Platt Tech: Ran for 213 yards and two touchdowns during Saturday's 37-13 win over Wilcox Tech.
Chris McNamara, Bullard-Havens: Ran for four touchdowns in Saturday's 36-30 win over O'Brien Tech.
Jarvis Miller, Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby: Ran 26 times for 312 yards and three touchdowns in Saturday's 41-26 loss to Ellington/Somers.
Tony Ortiz, Gilbert/Northwestern Regional: Ran 33 times for 297 yards and two touchdowns and caught a 16-yard touchdown as the Yellowjackets beat Canton on Saturday, 28-15.
Southington's offense: Scored 35 in the first quarter of Saturday's 56-27 bashing of Conard. Matt Maxwell ran four times for 88 yards and three touchdowns and caught a 56-yard touchdown from Stephen Barmore.
• • • •
Kountry Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican American: His area rankings.
Kyle has also done a video series with Chris Anderson, the University of New Haven's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Anderson was the former coach at Woodland and led the program to two state titles. Kyle is a Woodland grad, so it makes sense that he chose Anderson as his Xs and Os guy. Check out the videos and learn something.
Kountry Kyle Brennan and Remmington, NVL Blog: Week 7 wrap.
Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: Notebook.
Ray Curran, JRC Amalgamated: Inside the SCC.
Tom Evans, Norwalk Hour: Notebook.
Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Knights' Maxwell has breakout game.
Norwich Bulletin staff: Notebook.
Dave Ruden, The Ruden Report: Derrick Lewis, head coach of Bassick and an outstanding chap, breaks down the St. Joseph and New Canaan game. His Lions are the only team that's played both FCIAC monsters this year.
• • • •
That's all for now. Thanks for reading.
Have a merry All Hallow's Eve — Don't forget to play your Black Sabbath and Slayer records backwards.
East Lyme returned just five players with any varsity experience and lost its first four games. It's made gradual improvement and downed Woodstock Academy last Friday, 42-7, its second-straight victory.