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Well, we've reached November, and it's cause for great angst.
November is the last month of our enchanting regular season. You'll be bloated full of Thanksgiving turkey shortly, passed out cold on your aunt's couch due to tryptophan, with only two weeks of playoff football left.
There are three positives to the first weekend of November. The first is that we get to set our clocks back and get that extra hour of sleep we so desperately need.
The second is that Week 8 is astoundingly awesome, headlined by the Game of the Year of the Week between St. Joseph, ranked third in The Day Top 10 coaches' poll, and No. 2 New Canaan.
Two mighty teams. Two state title contenders. Yet there can only be ONE unbeaten FCIAC overlord.
No. 9 Farmington plays at No. 4 Middletown as part of the night's undercard. No. 8 Hand plays host to Xavier, which is fighting for its playoff life.
The third positive — November is METAL MONTH.
Let's go over where YOU need to be tonight and why:
On paper, this shouldn't be a game to watch. On paper. We have a hunch about this game. Don't know why. Berlin has been more vulnerable than it's been in a while, but they could be meeting the Panthers at a good time (if such a thing exists). QB Andrew McBride sat out last week's game due to injury, and running back Tyzahn LEATHERWOOD was pulled from the game early after tweaking his ankle (we spelled "tweaking" right this time — are you HAPPY now, you Twitter spelling puritans?) The Redcoats should also be looking to deliver a receipt as Platt ransacked them on their home field last season, 34-14, to win the division. Berlin QB Mitch Williams is starting his third season and has averaged almost eight yards an attempt with 11 touchdowns. Berlin loves to run and has used the committee of Dan McLeod, Nate Campbell and Anthony Sisti. McLeod has also averaged a team-high 7.7 tackles at inside linebacker. LEATHERWOOD has rushed for 24 touchdowns, averaged 10.8 yards per carry, and TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY ONE YARDS per game. Crème Watford, a 6-foot-2 receiver, has averaged a robust 17.5 yards a catch and scored seven times.
Montville (4-3, 2-1 ECC Medium) at Ledyard (6-1, 2-0), today, 6:30 p.m.
The game lost a lot of shine when Montville wasted a 14-point halftime lead against Killingly last week and lost, 26-21. It should still be in a foul mood, which helps the game's appeal. It still has a shot at the division title, too. This could be the toughest game left on the Colonels' schedule, and they're trying to keep pace in the CIAC Class M playoff race (their ranked fifth).
These two have a lot in common. Valley Regional/Old Lyme walloped both in their last game (North Branford had a bye last week). A loss would really screw up either team's shot at the Class S playoffs, especially North Branford. Both also have burly offensive lineman that allow for maximum running room. Morgan's Jake Ward has rushed for 216 yards and game with 20 touchdowns. QB Eddie Miller has thrown for 10 touchdowns and run for seven, while RB Josh Melaccio has runshed for 80 yards a game with four touchdowns
No. 9 Farmington (7-0, CCC D-II West) at No. 4 Middletown (7-0, 3-0), today, 7 p.m.
Middletown has allowed a state-best 9.4 points a game, Farmington is second (9.6). Ivan Guadalupe has run for 105 yards a game with eight touchdowns for Farmington and has three interceptions at defensive back. End Jayson Martin (8.6), and linebackers Connor Martin (7.4) and Jack Sucato (7.4) have averaged the most tackles per game. Blue Dragon QB Dario Highsmith has rushed for 180 yards per game with 21 touchdowns and thrown five touchdowns.
Northwest Catholic (6-1) at Bristol Eastern (6-1), today, 7 p.m.
Northwest has been passing its way to victory this fall. Christian Flynn has thrown for 1,504 yards with 14 TDs for the Indians. Aidan McDonnell (14 catches, 349 yards, one TD), Chris McLaughlin (18 catches, 362 yards, six TDs) and Owen Tyler (23 catches, 301 yards, two TDs) have been Flynn's top targets. Tyler also averages seven tackles a game at inside linebacker while tackles Elijah Riley and Mike Story both have 6.5 sacks. The Lancers have been the surprise of the CCC and edged Windsor last week, 30-28, as Jeremy Meccariello kicked a 25-yard field goal with three seconds left. Gerry Ouellette ran 20 times for 140 yards and two touchdowns in that win. Tommy Curtin and Alex Hunter have alternated at quarterback.
We think after the season that we'll all look back on the night when the Class M champion (St. Joseph) played the Class L champion (New Canaan). St. Joseph Jordan Vazzano has thrown for 220 yards a game with 18 touchdowns and has run for five scores. Lars Pederson (25 catches, 528 yards, eight TDs) and Shane Miller (25 catches, 437 yards, six TDs) have been the top receivers. New Canaan's defense can't focus exclusively on the pass as Cadets RB Mufasa Abdul-Basir has averaged 133 yards rushing with 13 TDs. Linebackers Dylan Ryan (7.9 tackles), Kevin Bortnick (7.6) and end Mike Schuchmann (four sacks) have been three of St. Joe's best defenders. The Rams' offense has been ridiculous as they've gone to ludicrous speed and scored seven times in the first half of some games. Nick Cascione has thrown for 166 yards a game with 19 TD and run for six scores. Frank Cognetta has run for six touchdowns. Jack Gilio (20 catches, 285 yards, five TDs) and Alex LaPolice (12 catches, 232 yards, four TDs) have a knack for getting open. New Canaan's defense may be even better. Cole Harris (10.1 tackles, three INTs) is one of the state's top linebackers. Michael Root, another linebacker, has averaged a team-high 10.6 tackles. Lineman Connor Buck (four sacks) and linebacker Zach Allen (5.5 sacks) are large dudes.
Both need the win to keep themselves in the FCIAC championship and Class LL playoff races, and one can only hope this game is as madcap as Trumbull's last two. The Eagles have won back-to-back madcap games against Greenwich (50-44) and Wilton (32-28), winning both in the final two minutes. Nick Roberts had thrown for 907 yards. In the last two weeks. Really. He's averaged 299 yards with 24 TDs. Marc Cesare has rushed for 88 yards a game with eight TDs, while Thomas Hayduk has 38 catches for 672 yards with eight TDs. The WRECKERS still love them some option, even if they went over to the dark side and operate out of that devilish spread. Patrick Lesch (111 YPG, nine TDs) and Jack Greenwald (348 yards, four TDs) are the leading rushers. Jack Massie has run for five touchdowns and thrown for 133 yards a game with nine TDs. Defensive back Peter Blevens has averaged 11.1 tackles and linebacker Nicholas Esposito averages 8.9 tackles.
Woodland (7-0, 4-0 NVL Copper) at Holy Cross (5-2, 3-0), today, 7 p.m.
The Copper Division is on the line and a berth in the league championship, most likely against top-ranked Ansonia. Woodland would clinch with a win, while Holy Cross would be well on its way to doing so. Tanner Kingsley's stats are freaky — he's completed 70.6-percent of his passes for 1,865 yards and 30 TDs. Mike Kenney (28 catches, 570 yards, 11 TDs) and Taylor Tucciarone (22 catches, 348 yards, eight TDs) have gotten the bulk of the catches. Sean McAllen has rushed for 112 yards a game with seven TDs. Linebacker Levi Fancher (8.1 tackles, four sacks) leads a defense that's allowed 15 points a game. Defense has been the Crusaders' strong point — they've allowed 146 points, which is fourth-best in the NVL.
Xavier has won a state-record three straight CIAC Class LL titles. Its chances of a four-peat are getting remote as it's already lost twice. Worse, it's only playing 10 games in a season that allows for 11. The Falcons continue to run the ball like men, led by Andrew Meoli (125 yards per game, 12 TD). QB Joe Carbone has rushed for 308 yards and six TDs and thrown for five scores. Cornerback Nate Gonzalez (9.4 tackles) and linebackers Derek Jones (7.4) and Will Garrity (5.6) key the defense. The Tigers have won six in row and are halfway through its Gauntlet From Hell — it's beaten Fairfield Prep (35-27) and Shelton (44-41) the past two weeks and plays at No. 6 West Haven next week. Their offense has improved once Nick van Dell earned the QB gig. The sophomore has completed 64.7-percent of his passes and averaged 189 yards with 14 touchdowns. He's run for seven touchdowns, too. Connor Down (643 yards rushing, six TDs) and Tom Wilson (33 catches, 519 yards, six TDs) are both offensive catalysts. Safety Tommy Wilson has averaged a team-high 11.1 tackles with three sacks. Linebacker Dan Rogers averages 10.9 tackles and safety Scott Sweitzer 8.6 tackles.
Avon (5-2, 4-1 Pequot West) at Gilbert/Northwestern Regional (5-1, 3-0), Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Do you realize that there's a meager 15 games this Saturday? That's awful. This one looks like the best of that small group. Avon can't lose as its 13th in the Class L rankings, and odds are that a team can't lose more than two games and make the playoffs. Falcons' RB-LB Jimmy Murphy is worth the trip alone to Winsted. The Yellowjackets' Tony Ortiz is another reason. He's rushed for 181 yards a game with nine touchdowns and averages 5.3 tackles at outside linebacker. QB John Lippincott has thrown for nine touchdowns and run for four more. He also averages 6.5 tackles with three sacks at safety. Middle linebacker Ryan Ott (8.2) is the team's leading tackler.
• • • •
Now it's time for the downer portion of the blog.
The Housatonic/Wamogo co-op forfeited its second straight varsity game due to a lack of players, as reported by Mark Jaffee at the Waterbury Republican-American. The Mountaineers had only 14 healthy players last week when they forfeited to Lewis Mills, the latter's first win of the season.
In more disconcerting news, Darien assistant coach Christian Garnett faces multiple charges after a bad, bad Thursday morning.
Norwalk police told the Norwalk Hour that Garnett was stopped after an officer saw him speeding on three tires and one rim after midnight. Garnett then failed sobriety tests.
Oh, but it got worse. Garnett allegedly kicked one officer, scuffled with a few of them, and had to be Tasered twice. Holy cats, did his face pay the price.
Garnett was arrested and charged with interfering with a police officer, assault on a police officer, possession of drug paraphernalia, and driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
• • • •
Back to happy stuff — STORYTIME:
Gentleman Jim Bransfield, Middletown Press: His weekend picks.
Kountry Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican-American: Five players with best Week 7; Four big questions for Week 8; Three key stats of the week; Two games to watch; and, One bold prediction. We don't know how he wrote this much copy this week as he obsessed over the Red Sox.
Kountry Kyle and Remmington, NVL Blog: Week 8 predictions; and, their game of the week (Woodland at Holy Cross, of course).
Doug Bonjour, Hearst Inc.: Unbeatens New Canaan, St. Joseph collide in FCIAC showdown.
Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal and deliriously happy Red Sox fan: Once again, it's Platt vs. Berlin to settle the CCC D-III East; 200 pounds of torque, to the second power; and, area capsules.
Mike DiMauro, TEAM DAY and the Dr. Drew of Red Sox and Yanqui fan relations: Area capsules.
Pooch Diggity Dogg, JRC Amalgamated: St. Joseph hoping to right last year's wrongs in No. 3 vs. No. 2 showdown with New Canaan; and, Pooch's Picks.
Scott Ericson of Hearst Inc. had Bassick coach Derrick Lewis and Kevin Callahan of Ridgefield break down the Cadets vs. the Rams.
Tom Evans, Norwalk Hour: McMahon's success on defense starts with line.
David Fierro, Hearst Inc.: Greenwich running back Austin Longi is really, really good. No, that's not the headline. It's the truth.
Dave Greenleaf, Bristol Press: Bristol Central's foe is again a tough one.
Ryan Lacey, Hearst Inc.: Staples looks to rebound against Trumbull.
Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Southington looks to slow down strong Newington offense; and, Hurricanes defense hopes to slow down East Hartford rushing attack.
Chris McLaughlin, New Britain Herald: Newington looks to keep win streak going against Southington; and, Berlin trying to end Platt's unbeaten season.
Norwalk Hour: Area capsules.
Kevin D. Roberts, Bristol Press: Bristol Eastern set for yet another tough test in NWC.
Dave Ruden, The Ruden Report: He breaks down St. Joes vs. New Canaan.
Sean Patrick Starfish, JRC Amalgamated: Audibles; and, Welcome to Thunderdome — Two unbeaten mega-showdowns highlight Week 8. Thunderdome? NO. P.E.'s "Welcome to the Terrordome" is much, much better. COME ON DOWN.
Matt Straub, New Britain Herald: Finishing against Rockville is Plainville's priority.
Tom Yantz, Hartford Courant: Notebook.