A brash, young intern embarrassed Polecat Worldwide last Friday on WFSB's magnificent "Friday Night Football" and, in doing so, tipped off the corporation's picks to win a state title.
That will not prevent us from providing quick previews of tonight's 16 quarterfinals as well as the company's picks in the next two rounds.
YOU will also find hyperlinks in each division's designation. Said link will take you to watch a video preview of said division at WFSB.
No. 8 Ridgefield (9-2) at No. 1 Newtown (12-0)
Not sure what to make of this one. Ridgefield wasn't one of the FCIAC's top three teams (it lost to both St. Joseph and Darien) and received a pretty tame schedule by league standards (no Greenwich, New Canaan or Staples). It beat just two winning teams — McMahon (8-2) and Fairfield Ludlowe (6-5). It gets major credit for giving Darien a fight (a 19-14 loss). Newtown has won its last 10 games by 21 points or more. Fair or not, we still can't shake the image of it getting torn up at home by NFA in last year's LL quarters. Junior Ryan Dunn has thrown for 2,066 yards with 26 touchdowns for Ridgefield. Three-year starter Drew Tarantino has set all sorts of school passing records (2,426 yards, 32 touchdowns this year) for Newtown.
A WINNER IS YOU: Newtown.
No. 5 NFA (8-2) at No. 4 Southington (9-1)
Which NFA team shows up? There are times where it lives up to its considerable potential. There are other times where one wonders what it's doing. The Blue Knights only played three winning teams thanks to the CCC's goofy INTERDIVISION GAMES ARE BAD scheduling (it beat Glastonbury and Manchester). Both teams feature a Division I recruit — NFA RB-DB Marcus Outlow (Boston College) and Blue Knights QB Stephen Barmore (Yale). We'd pay money to watch Wildcat tailbacks Khaleed Exum-Strong and Outlow and Southington's Zak Jamele (linebacker) and Zach Maxwell (defensive end) charge at one another.
A WINNER IS YOU: Southington.
No. 7 Fairfield Prep (9-2) at No. 2 Glastonbury (10-1)
Now THIS is the game we want to see. It's Glastonbury's sixth-straight playoff appearance and it has beaten four winning teams, including Hall (25-28) and NFA (6-0). IMPRESSIVE. The Jesuits finished their season with back-to-back wins over Xavier (46-27) and 10th-ranked West Haven (29-20). IMPRESSIVE. Glastonbury QB Jalen Ollie has been good for three-or-more TDs a game and has speedy targets in Kyran McKinney-Crudden and Donevin O'Reilly. Jesuits QB Colton Smith has run wild of late thanks to an offensive line that makes Alabama's look petite. SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE.
A WINNER IS YOU: Fairfield Prep
No. 6 West Haven (9-2) at No. 3 Hall (9-1)
The Westies want to run-run-run-run, a sensible choice given that the trio of Syracuse-bound halfback Ervin Philips, QB Duane Gary, and fullback Marshont Little have combined to run for 291 yards a game and rushed for 51 touchdowns. The Warriors haven't gotten the attention that fellow CCC D-I powers Glastonbury and Hall have received, but it lost a close one to the former (35-28) and beat the latter (49-37). Tom Honyotski has passed for 218 yards a game and thrown 21 touchdowns for Hall.
A WINNER IS YOU: West Haven.
SEMIFINALS: Prep over West Haven; Southington over Newtown.
FINAL: Prep over Southington.
No. 8 Hand (8-3) vs. No. 1 Darien (10-1) at McMahon
Hand fielded an almost entirely new team this season, played the state's most savage schedule (including four playoff teams) and managed to qualify for states. Senior linebacker Dan Rogers (10.5 tackles a game) and junior safety Tommy Wilson (10.9) helped the Tigers beat the likes of No. 7 Fairfield Prep (35-27). Sophomore defensive end Mark Evanchick (89 tackles, 12 sacks) has evolved into a menace for the Blue Wave. Senior receiver-safety Nick Lombardo WILL make every all-state team (1,337 all-purpose yards, 18 touchdowns).
A WINNER IS YOU: Darien.
No. 5 New London (9-2) at No. 4 Middletown (10-1)
Hey, haven't we seen this matchup before? New London has been white-hot and won eight in a row, including wins over then Top 10 teams Middletown (23-21) and NFA (9-7). Danny Maranda has completed 61 percent of his passes for 1,943 yards and 26 touchdowns. Orrin Parke has rushed for 1,206 yards and 13 touchdowns. Receiver Jose Garcia has a team-high 45 catches, 797 yards, and 14 touchdowns. The Blue Dragons know that you know that they know that you know what they're going to do on offense — have QB Dario Highsmith run repeatedly behind a bunch of big dudes. We're going with the hot hand here.
A WINNER IS YOU: New London.
No. 7 North Haven (9-2) vs. No. 2 Platt (11-0) at Falcon Field
Here's the other game we'd love to see — two physical teams that want nothing more than to trample over your face over-and-over-and-over-and-over. North Haven runs the mas macho GOD'S FATHER'S OFFENSE. Ethan Suraci has rushed for 1,033 yards and 21 touchdowns for North Haven and Michael Halloran has run for 762 yards and 10 scores. Panthers tailback Tyzahn LEATHERWOOD (1,811 yards, 26 TDs) has been used conservatively the last four games since returning from an ankle injury. Reckon Platt gave him a little rest lately with the playoffs in mind. Andrew McBride was asked to throw more in LEATHERWOOD'S absence and has averaged 10.2 yards an attempt (that's a lot) with 22 TDs to just two picks. He's also run for seven more. Two-way lineman Erlin Colon (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) has a bright future in whatever he wants because no one is crazy enough to tell him that he can't do something.
A WINNER IS YOU: North Haven.
No. 6 Farmington (9-2) at No. 3 New Canaan (11-1)
Finally, Farmington qualified for states after losing just three games the last two years and finishing ninth in the Class L rankings in both seasons. Ivan Guadalupe (1,007 yards rushing, 13 total touchdowns) is a dual threat at running back and safety … and he's also Farmington's punter. One big problem for the Indians — they're meeting the Rams after a 28-24 loss to rival Darien. Linebackers Michael Root, Cole Harris, Zach Allen (6-foot-6, 234 pounds) and lineman Connor Buck (6-5, 244) are out to ruin Farmington's day.
A WINNER IS YOU: New Canaan.
SEMIFINALS: Darien over New London; New Canaan over North Haven.
No. 8 Quinebaug Valley (9-2) at No. 1 Valley Regional/Old Lyme (11-0)
The Quinebaug Valley PRIDE are a fun story as they're making their first playoff appearance since Putnam got its chocolate in Tourtellotte/Ellis Tech's peanut butter and decided they were two great football tastes that go great together. John Sanderson and Raiff Santerre have combined to run for over 2,300 yards and 27 touchdowns. We don't like the QVP's odds though as they were the third-best team in the Constitution State Conference, a league which has yet to have a playoff winner. WARRIORCATS junior running back-linebacker Justin Cheverier (854 yards rushing, 19 TDs, 13.9 tackles) is one of the best players you've never seen because you couldn't be bothered to drive to rustic Deep River. Junior receiver-safety-punter-punt returner Chris Jean-Pierre does it all for the Pequot champs.
A WINNER IS YOU: Valley Regional/Old Lyme.
No. 5 Brookfield (9-3) at No. 4 Bethel (9-2)
Hey — they just played on Thanksgrabbing (a 20-0 Bethel win)! Young Brookfield was coming along nicely late in the regular season until back-to-back losses to Newtown in the SWC final (28-7) and Bethel. Both teams are going to run often (the Bobcats average 292 yards a game, Bethel 285 yards). Brookfield sophomore Bobby Drysdale has run for 1,751 yards and 23 TDs. Wildcats QB Joseph Piatnik (1,062 yards rushing, 16 TDs) directs the magnificent triple option.
A WINNER IS YOU: Bethel.
No. 7 Ledyard (9-2) vs. No. 7 St. Joseph (10-2) at Trumbull
Ledyard gets to play the division's favorite. It's going to have to use its speed, whether it's junior running back JoJoShumaker (1,606 yards, 16 TDs) or senior receiver Jordan Kowalski (36 catches, 640 yards, 19 TDs). Sophomore Ty Ebdon has been very efficient in his first year at quarterback (63 percent completion rate, 2,056 yards, 29 TDs). The Cadets are a pain to defend because of senior quarterback Jordan Vazzano (2,568 yards, 32 TDs) and junior running back Mufasha Abdul Basir (1,944 yards, 23 TDs). And can the smaller Colonels deal with St. Joseph's large offensive line?
A WINNER IS YOU: St. Joseph.
No. 6 Gilbert/Northwestern Regional (9-2) vs. Barlow (9-2) at Western Connecticut State
G/NR's offense has revolved around senior running back Tony Ortiz (1,673 yards, 17 TDs) and quarterback John Lippincott (1,330 yards, 13 TDs, and seven rushing TDs). The Yellowjackets struggled when they played the Pequot's best teams, a concern given that Barlow is one of only two teams that gave Newtown a scare. Senior quarterback Jack Shaban (1,841 yards rushing, 32 TDs) leads offense that one coach called the best pure triple option team he'd seen in 20 years. Junior Harry Wilson has run for 864 yards and 11 TDs.
A WINNER IS YOU: Barlow.
SEMIFINALS: Bethel over Valley Regional/Old Lyme; St. Joseph over Barlow.
FINAL: St. Joseph over Bethel.
No. 1 Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achievement First (11-0) at No. 8 Bloomfield (9-2)
Bloomfield is the only team that gave Platt a scare (a 34-32 loss). Bloomfield senior Norvel Stewart has thrown for 1,147 yards and 7 TDs and run for 1,001 yards and 15 touchdowns. Senior defensive end Jonathen Mumby has 14 sacks. The Trailblazers are determined to show the state that it ain't just another CSC team. They handed New London its worst loss of the season (52-14) and allowed just 71 points. There's a chance you'll see soon be seeing senior fullback-linebacker Mike Jones playing on Saturdays. Bennie Fulse III averages 13.1 yards a carry and run for 16 TDs. Defensive end Dequan Reese (6-2, 240) has 8.5 sacks. The game will be played at Bloomfield at Dillon Stadium is presently unfit for football consumption.
A WINNER IS YOU: C/C/A.
No. 5 Morgan (10-1) at No. 4 Woodland (10-2)
Morgan junior Jake Ward has averaged 25 carries for 227 yards and run for 41 touchdowns. So, yeah, you know what the Huskies want to do. Senior Alex Lipka has thrown for 996 yards and 8 TDs. Lipka and Ward also have the luxury of playing behind a big o-line. Hawks QB Tanner Kingsley has completed 63 percent of his throws for 2,950 yards and 40 TDs. His top target has been junior Mike Kenney (49 catches, 920 yards, 15 TDs). Sophomore running back Sean McAllen has added balance (1,420 yards, 14 TDs). We think the Hawks have more firepower than the Huskies.
A WINNER IS YOU: Woodland.
No. 7 Coginchaug (9-2) at No. 2 Ansonia (12-0)
Congratulations to the Blue Devils for earning their first postseason berth. Unfortunately for them, they play the state's all-time winningest program. The Chargers are the also the state champion in the manly discipline of the running arts (402 yards a game).
A WINNER IS YOU: Ansonia.
No. 6 Prince Tech (9-2) at No. 3 Rocky Hill (10-1)
Prince Tech deserves credit for getting to states after starting quarterback Miguel Cartagena suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5. The Terriers are better than any team the Falcons have faced this season not nicknamed "Trailblazers," though. There will be a lot of sweet, beautiful rushing in this game. Vernon McAlmont has rushed for 158.7 yards a game and scored 14 touchdowns for Prince. Chris Young has rushed for 157.9 yards a game and scored 30 touchdowns for Rocky Hill, which runs GOD'S OFFENSE.
A WINNER IS YOU: Rocky Hill.
SEMIFINALS: C/C/A over Woodland; Ansonia over Rocky Hill.
FINAL: Ansonia over C/C/A.
• • • •
We encourage you to follow tonight's action on the Twitter at #cthsfb. TEAM DAY members and others fine folk will be updating regularly.
The perpetually chipper George DeMaio will be adding his smooth tones to the North Haven vs. Platt game on WELI (960-AM).
CPTVSports will broadcast Hand vs. McMahon.
• • • •
We present you these results so that you know how difficult it's been to be a voter in either The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll, or New Haven Register media poll:
■ Barlow beat Bethel (24-14). Brookfield beat Barlow (28-26). Bethel beat Brookfield (20-0)
■ Ledyard beat New London (21-3). NFA beat Ledyard (32-14). New London beat NFA (9-7)
■ Hand beat Fairfield Prep (35-27). West Haven beat Hand (46-35). Fairfield Prep beat West Haven (29-20)
■ North Haven beat Xavier (42-28). Hand beat North Haven (21-6). Xavier beat Hand (28-14)
■ St. Joseph beat Darien (28-14). New Canaan beat St. Joseph twice (62-21, and 31-21). Darien beat New Canaan (28-24)
■ Southington beat Glastonbury (16-9). Glastonbury beat Hall (35-28). Hall beat Southington (49-37)
■ Woodland beat Naugatuck (25-22). Holy Cross beat Woodland (37-18). Naugatuck beat Holy Cross (56-20)
■ St. Joseph beat Fairfield Prep (36-34).
■ Capital/Classical/Achievement beat New London (53-14), which beat Middletown.
• • • •
The New Haven Register Top 10 media poll: 1. Ansonia (26 first-place votes); 2. Newtown (two firsts); 3. Glastonbury; 4. Darien; 5. New Canaan; 6. St. Joseph; 7. Southington; 8. Middletown; 9. Platt; and, 10. Fairfield Prep. West Haven was ranked 11th.
• • • •
Ned Freeman's cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com: 1. New Canaan; 2. St. Joseph; 3. Glastonbury; 4. Darien; 5. West Haven; 6. Fairfield Prep; 7. Ansonia; 8. Southington; 9. Newtown; and, 10. Xavier (7-3). Platt is ranked 22nd.
New Canaan No. 1 after a loss? Darien at No. 4 after beating New Canaan? Ansonia NUMBER SEVEN?
Reckon the algorithm takes into account that New Canaan was the best team in the best league (the FCIAC) during the regular season. Or so the algorithm thinks the FCIAC is the best league — beating the SCC head-to-head helped.
New Canaan had two wins over St. Joseph, shredded one of the two teams that beat West Haven (Greenwich), and beat Class L participant Hand.
We'll assume St. Joseph is ahead of Darien based on a combination of winning head-to-head and beating Fairfield Prep (36-34).
Ansonia is likely seventh because the Naugatuck Valley League has been the equivalent of an anchor to the algorithm. The Chargers' opponents are 62-71 (55-67 in conference). The 14-team NVL also sent only one other team to states (Woodland).
The algorithm rewards a team for winning a state title, so it'll be curious to see what kind of bounce the Chargers would get should they win their 20th state title (which we think they will).
(We won't write, "when they win their 20th state title," as Ansonia coach Tom Brockett will yell at us).
Pomperaug (4-7) played the toughest schedule based on an opponent's win-loss record (81-43). Eight of its 11 opponents finished over .500. Six won eight-or-more games.
St. Joseph (82-51) and New London (74-44) both ranked second and third, respectively, in an opponent's win-loss record.
The computer still ranks Hand's schedule as the state's toughest. The Tigers (8-3) beat two playoff participants (Fairfield Prep and North Haven), and lost to No. 3 New Canaan, No. 10 West Haven, and Xavier. Their opponents are a combined 75-46.
• • • •
Behold, the ballot submitted to Pooch Diggity Dog, comptroller of the New Haven Register media poll. And, lawd, assembling it made our cerebral cortex ooze out our ears:
1. Ansonia: Hi, again.
2. Darien: One must not....
3. New Canaan: ....break up these....
4. St. Joseph: ....three FCIAC teams.
6. Fairfield Prep: Before you howl, "but you picked Prep to beat Glastonbury", we're going on current performance here, not projected performance. Or were we? We forget.
7. West Haven
12. North Haven
14. Valley Regional/Old Lyme
15. Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achievement First
• • • •
Here's how Freeman's algorithm would seed the playoffs if Skynet were in charge:
No. 1 Glastonbury vs. No. 8 NFA
No. 2 Fairfield Prep vs. No. 7 Hall
No. 3 West Haven vs. No. 6 Xavier
No. 4 Southington vs. No. 5 Newtown
NOTES: Xavier's win over Hand and its schedule gave it a boost. The computer ranked Ridgefield 11th behind Shelton and Greenwich.
No. 1 New Canaan vs. No. 8 Naugatuck (9-2)
No. 2 Darien vs. No. 7 Notre Dame-West Haven (5-6)
No. 3 Hand (8-3) vs. No. 6 Platt
No. 4 North Haven vs. No. 5 Middletown
NOTES: Notre Dame? Yes, Notre Dame. It didn't beat a winning team, but the algorithm seems to be enamored with its schedule — it lost to St. Joseph, Fairfield Prep, West Haven (38-29), Xavier, Hand (21-20), and Ridgefield (28-21). The computer ranked Farmington ninth and New London 11th.
No. 1 St. Joseph vs. No. 8 Wolcott (7-4)
No. 2 Valley Regional/Old Lyme vs. No. 7 Brookfield
No. 3 Bethel vs. No. 6 Foran (8-3)
No. 4 Barlow vs. No. 5 Ledyard
NOTES: Foran is an SCC team, and the algorithm skews SCC based on its successes over time. It's losses were to North Haven, Shelton and West Haven. Wolcott's one win over a winning team (Seymour) was outweighed by it playing three of the NVL's four best teams (Ansonia, Holy Cross and Naugatuck) and Newtown. Gilbert/Northwestern Regional was rated 12th and Quinebaug 20th.
No. 1 Ansonia vs. No. 8 Bloomfield (9-2)
No. 2 Capital/Classical/Achievement vs. No. 7 Montville (7-4)
No. 3 Rocky Hill (10-1) vs. No. 6 Holy Cross (8-3)
No. 4 Woodland (10-2) vs. No. 5 Morgan (10-1)
NOTES: Not surprised to see Holy Cross as it beat NVL runner-up Woodland (37-18) and Wolcott. It lost to Ansonia, Naugatuck and Derby before it lost star tailback Tyrae Small to a season-ending shoulder injury. Surprised to see Montville. It did lose to two much better teams (Ledyard and NFA), as well as Windham when star running back Jeremiah Crowley was suspended for Week 1. That's fine. It did, however, waste a 21-point lead and lost to Killingly, 26-21, in Week 7. Killingly finished 4-7. Coginchaug was ranked 10th and Prince Tech 21st.
• • • •
Say you haven't seen how Holy Cross beat Wolcott on Thanksgrabbing Day? Well GET GOING.
• • • •
Marc Allard, Norwich Bulletin: Ledyard's sophomore sensation (quarterback Ty Ebdon).
Doug Bonjour, Hearst Inc.: St. Joe's, Ansonia, Fairfield Prep face sudden-death playoff games. "Sudden death"? This ain't no soccer!
Gentleman Jim Bransfield, Middletown Press: His area playoff preview and picks.
Kountry Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican-American: Four area teams eye state titles; and his analysis for Class LL, Class L, Class M, and Class S (hint, they wear lavender).
Kountry Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican-American: Their quarterfinal predictions.
Kountry Kyle Brennan and Remmington, NVL Blog: Ansonia and Woodland quarterfinal previews.
Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: The name of that truck is 'Ki-Reek'; Panthers, Indians look to prove playoff worth; and, North Haven takes page from century-old playbook. He's talking about GOD'S FATHER'S OFFENSE there. Yet another reason why we love Bryant.
Ray Curran, JRC Amalgamated: Inside the SCC. He's also giving out "Curren Awards". Sorry, Raymond, but you're no Oscar.
Gerry deSimas Jr., Collinsville Press: Big challenge awaits Farmington in Class L quarters against New Canaan.
Mike DiMauro, TEAM DAY: New London freshman kicker Garrett Burdick has led to pair of Top 10 victories; and, Wildcats looking for a new beginning.
Scott Ericson, Hearst Inc.: The year of the quarterback: High school signal-callers are better than ever.
Tom Evans, Norwalk Hour: New Canaan, Farmington set for Class L clash.
Dave Fierro, Hearst Inc.: Darien, Hand set for rare matchup.
Nick Greene, Hartford Courant: Prince Tech heads into playoffs with a revamped offense.
Nick Greene, Colin and Matt McDonough, and Tom Yantz, Hartford Courant: Quarterfinal previews.
Rich Gregory, Hearst Inc.: Barlow set for playoff debut; and, New Canaan hosts Farmington, Rams look to rebound after loss to Darien.
Jeff Jacobs, Hartford Courant: Bloomfield stays focused through trying times.
Mark Jaffee, Waterbury Republican-American: Ansonia not looking past anyone; G-N getting defensive vs. Barlow; Southington hopes to stifle BC recruit (NFA's Marcus Outlow); and, Woodland facing state's leading rusher in 'S' quarters (Morgan's Jake Ward).
Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Southington takes on NFA tonight.
Ken Lipshez, Meriden Record-Journal: Polar opposites set to collide in 'LL' showdown. That would be NFA vs. Southington.
John Nash, Norwalk Hour: Darien's Trifone returns home for playoff game.
Owen Poole, Norwich Bulletin: New London's quiet leader (running back Orrin Parke).
Pooch Diggity Dog, JRC Amalgamated: Methodical North Haven looking to run past Platt; Class LL quarterfinal capsules; Class L quarterfinal capsules; Class M quarterfinal capsules; Class S quarterfinal capsules; and his Top 10 media ballot.
Paul Rosano, MaxPreps: Playoff facts.
Dave Ruden, The Ruden Report: Darien and New Canaan hope different roads lead to state final rematch; St. Joseph and Ridgefield: contrasting positions, common goals.
Jason Sonski, Hearst Inc.: Red-hot Bethel hosts Brookfield; Ridgefield to test Newtown.
Tom Yantz, Hartford Courant: Honyotski leads Hall into playoffs; and, 10 things to keep an eye on.
No bylines posted, Norwich Bulletin: A fearsome pair for Pride (running backs John Sanderson and Raiff Santerre); Colonels have their hands full with St. Joseph; New London is ready for Middletown rematch; NFA hoping for health; Pride hope to keep season going; and, Wildcats need some offense against Southington.
Some dude, TEAM DAY: Baseball born and bred: Kowalski now making a name for himself as Ledyard WR/DB; and Valley/Old Lyme's Jean-Pierre is all over the map.
• • • •
Being WRONG in public — here were the 32 teams the Polecat staff picked to make states this season.
CLASS LL: Glastonbury, Greenwich, New Milford, Newtown, Norwich Free Academy, Southington, West Haven, and Xavier.
Five of eight.
CLASS L: Farmington, Guilford, Hand, Naugatuck, New Canaan, New London, Platt, and Windsor.
Five of eight.
CLASS M: Berlin, Bethel, Foran, Ellington/Somers, Gilbert/Northwestern Regional, Ledyard, St. Joseph, and Valley Regional/Old Lyme.
Five of eight.
CLASS S: Ansonia, Capital/Classical/Achievement, Derby, Hyde, Morgan, Northwest Catholic, Oxford, and Rocky Hill.
Four of eight.
We set the bar pretty low for our picks, so we're happy to be over .500. It would also be the greatest batting average ever, too, if we played baseballs.
• • • •
The CIAC emailed the following to the press on behalf of Newtown on Monday:
"The school is requesting that media access to the game, and any subsequent Newtown football tournament games, be limited to the family of media entities who have demonstrated their long-term commitment to Connecticut athletics. In addition, the school requests that questions directed to players and or coaches following the game be restricted to game-related topics."
The CIAC also granted Newtown's request to play the Class LL final on Dec. 13, rather than Dec. 14, should it make it there. The Sandy Hook shootings were on Dec. 14, and you can bet the national media would descend upon Arute Field if Newtown were to play that day.
• • • •
Thanks for reading. More later.
Vaya con dios….