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Ansonia efficiently punished nearly everyone during the first 36 games of its winning streak.
The Chargers' 37th successive win, well, that was a toughie.
Ansonia trailed the majority of Thursday's game at Seymour. It turned the ball over three times and couldn't recover three onside kicks.
The Chargers escaped DeBarber Field with a 21-20 win in which the Wildcats gave them hell.
Seymour had a chance to go ahead late, but a 28-yard field goal went wide right with 1 minute, 58 seconds left.
"To be honest, I was really nervous, but I didn't want to show it to everyone else," Chargers senior co-captain and two-way lineman Antone Mack said. "You have to (set a tone) that everyone follows."
Ansonia (9-0) set a school-record for wins and has the second-longest winning streak in state history. Its last loss was to St. Joseph in the CIAC Class S final (49-28) on Dec. 10, 2010.
Cheshire holds the state-record for most successive wins (49, 1992-96).
"We made a lot of mistakes tonight, and they made some huge plays on third-and-fourth down," Chargers coach Tom Brockett said. "Their kids were hungry.
"It's hard (to win). It's the reason why we're the second team to ever win 37 games in a row. There's a reason. You get that number; everybody wants to be the one to knock you off. People want (to say), 'Oh, you're going to get to 37 (wins), you're going to get to 40, oh, you're going to get to 50.' No, you're not. You better bring it every week or you're not going to get there. You've got to line up, put your hand in the ground, and you've got to play."
It was unusual to see Ansonia struggle given its two-plus years of dominance. Its struggle also came during a week in which New Canaan overtook it for No. 1 in both The Day coaches and New Haven Register media polls. The Rams did so after they routed then No. 3 St. Joseph last Friday, 62-21, the latest in their weekly series of shredding.
The Chargers and their fans were understandably annoyed. Some declared that it was unfair for Ansonia to lose the ranking when it hadn't lost. Others countered that New Canaan had played a better schedule and were playing at another level.
Joey Salemme was the bane of the Chargers' existence on Thursday. He ran 38 times for 244 yards and two touchdowns and threw a 42-yard touchdown for Seymour (5-4).
Arkeel Newsome, the state's all-time rushing leader, ran 26 times for 112 yards and three scores.
"I've got to give all the credit to Seymour," Mack said. "It looked like they knew every single play we were going to run, and they knew our weaknesses. (Give) credit to them."
The Wildcats led 14-7 at halftime, and 14-13 after three quarters.
Newsome scored on a 19-yard run with 6:37 left in the game. Jai'Quan McKnight threw a two-point conversion to Tajik Bagley as Ansonia went ahead, 21-14.
Seymour came right back with Salemme scoring on a 9-yard run more. He was stopped on a conversion run.
The Wildcats followed by recovering their third onside kick of the night. Their final drive of the night stalled out at the Ansonia 11, and they attempted their ill-fated field goal.
"At first, I wasn't on the field," Mack said, "but I told coach to put me on the field. If we were going to lose, I wanted to lose with me on the field.
"I prayed a little before the kick."
McKnight ran for a first down on the Chargers next drive and allowed them to run out the clock.
"I thought that the stars really aligned for Seymour tonight to pull an upset," Brockett said, "and we got very lucky to get out of here with a win."
• • • •
Another significant score from Thursday night — Naugatuck trampled Holy Cross, 56-20, thus muddling the Naugatuck Valley League's Copper Division.
The NVL now has its own Circle of Strife — Woodland beat Naugatuck in Week 4 (25-22). Holy Cross beat Woodland last Friday (37-18). And then Naugy pillaged Holy Cross.
Woodland (7-1, 4-1) would clinch the division with wins over Torrington (tonight) and Derby (Nov. 15).
Naugatuck (8-1, 4-1) would clinch the division if it beat Kennedy next week, and Woodland lost once.
Whoever wins the division gets an NVL title date with Brass champ Ansonia.
Kountry Kyle Brennan of the Waterbury Republican-American has your WORDS about Thursday's rout.
• • • •
We're into Week 9, and the state's four playoff races are getting wackier and wackier.
YOUR weekend itinerary:
• Ledyard (7-1, 3-0 ECC Medium) at Stonington (5-2, 2-1), today, 6:30 p.m.
This weekend's Class M shake-up game. Ledyard is sixth in the Class M rankings, the Bears eighth. The Colonels could withstand a loss. A loss would just about end Stonington. Oh, yeah — the Medium Division title is at stake, too. Ledyard could clinch it with a win; a win keeps the Bears in the hunt.
• No. 3 Middletown (8-0) at New London (5-2), today, 6:30 p.m.
The first of this weekend's Class L shake-up games. Middletown is second in the divisional rankings, the Whalers 11th. The odds don't look favorable for an 8-3 team to qualify, so New London is in "must win" mode. The Blue Dragons have allowed 9.1 points a game, third best in the state.
• Bristol Eastern (7-1. 2-1 CCC D-II West) at Farmington (7-1 (3-1), today, 7 p.m.
Here's the other big Class L game. Eastern has been the state's best surprise and are fifth in the L rankings. Farmington is sixth. There's a bunch of one-loss teams in the division that are going to greatly benefit from whoever loses this game (and Middletown v. New London).
• Foran (6-2, 2-0 SCC D-II East) at North Haven (7-1 2-0), today, 7 p.m.
The Southern Connecticut Conference's Division II game of the year feature the odd couple. Foran wants to spread out defenses and throw, throw, throw. North Haven uses GOD'S FATHER'S OFFENSE and wants to smash puny defenses Stanford-style. Can two teams with nothing in common play one another without driving one another crazy? North Haven is ninth in the Class L ratings; the Lions are No. 10 in Class M, and a loss might cook them.
• McMahon (7-0, 3-0 FCIAC Central) at Ridgefield (6-2, 4-0), today, 7 p.m.
The first of two biggies Class LL. McMahon is second in the division rankings. The Tigers are way back at No. 13 and can't lose again. The Senators are one of the few unbeaten teams left in the state, but they take a step-up in competition both this week and next (vs. St. Joseph). Defense has been their strength as they've averaged 10.6 points a game.
• Hand (6-2, 2-0 SCC D-I East) at West Haven (7-1, 3-0), today, 7 p.m.
Finally, Hand finishes its Gauntlet From Hell having played Fairfield Prep, Shelton and Xavier the past three weeks. Its brutal schedule has given it an abundance of playoff points, thus allowing it to be eighth in the Class L rankings. Another loss might its chance at states. The Westies have rolled off seven straight wins and moved up to third in Class LL. It's hitting a brutal spot in its schedule as it finishes with Shelton and Prep.
• Shelton (6-2, 2-1 SCC D-I West) at No. 9 Xavier (6-2, 2-0), today, 7 p.m.
CLASS LL LOSER LEAVES TOWN MATCH. Shelton is ranked eighth in the division; the Falcons are ninth. Neither can afford to lose. Period.
• Prince Tech (8-0) at Windham (4-4), Saturday, noon
HATS OFF to Chuck Banning, el jefe of TEAM DAY, for pointing out the importance of this Class S game. Prince Tech is third in Class S with only one challenging game left after this one (unbeaten Capital/Classical/Achievement). A whole bunch of one-loss Class S teams are going to send the Whippets positive thoughts.
• • • •
Here's this week's installment of the playoff forecast. We hope to start doing a more thorough look next week, even if the process is time-consuming and shatters the brain.
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 you. Should you choose to believe that 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 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 one's self is divine.
Sayeth David Letterman, "this is an exhibition, not a competition. Please, no wagering."
CLASS LL: No. 1 Newtown vs. No. 8 Southington; No. 2 Glastonbury vs. No. 7 Hall (PART II); No. 3 Norwich Free Academy vs. No. 6 Ridgefield; No. 4 West Haven vs. No. 5 Staples.
CLASS L: No. 1 New Canaan vs. No. 8 Naugatuck; No. 2 Middletown vs. No. 7 North Haven; No. 3 Platt vs. No. 6 Darien; No. 4 Farmington vs. No. 5 Hand.
CLASS M: No. 1 Valley Regional/Old Lyme vs. No. 8 Foran; No. 2 St. Joseph vs. No. 7 Brookfield; No. 3 Barlow vs. No. 6 Gilbert/Northwestern Regional; No. 4 Ledyard vs. No. 5 Bethel.
CLASS S: No. 1. Capital/Classical/Achievement vs. No. 8 Canton; No. 2 Ansonia vs. No. 7 Bloomfield; No. 3 Rocky Hill vs. No. 6 Prince Tech; No. 4 Woodland vs. No. 5 Morgan.
• • • •
Kountry Kyle Brennan and Remmington, NVL Blog: weekend previews.
Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: Weekend previews.
Mike DiMauro, TEAM DAY: New London, Middletown are towns with great football pedigree; Marandas a winning combination at New London; Whalers' Roman a success on the field and in the classroom; and, weekend previews.
Scott Ericson, Hearst Inc.: McMahon visits Ridgefield in key FCIAC, LL football contest.
Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Southington looks to stay on pace for playoff berth tonight.
Chris McLaughlin, New Britain Herald: Berlin faces stiff test at Rocky Hill tonight.
Chris McNamee, Hearst Inc.: Weekend previews.
Kevin D. Roberts, Bristol Press: Ultimate Showdown: Bristol Eastern vs. Farmington.
• • • •
Thanks for reading. More later.
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.