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The reason for the season is giving, so GO NOW to The Matthew Jacques Mission page at Facebook and donate a stuffed monkey to a child at Yale New Haven Children's Hospital.
Matthew was six years old when he died this fall due to complications from a heart transplant. The North Haven football team adopted Matthew and raised money to help with his bills. They also had him dress at their annual "Spring Brawl" last June and finished by having him run for a touchdown.
Here's where YOU fit into the equation — take part in the Monkey for Matty fundraiser. A mere $22 will get a deserving child something warm and fuzzy to hug.
You can't give $22? No problem — any amount will help.
We just learned of the fundraiser and it ends today. So GO. DONATE. NOW.
• • • •
The first line of T.S. Eliot's poem "The Waste Land" is "April is the cruelest month."
Eliot, the dingbat, is unequivocally wrong. DECEMBER is the cruelest month as brings to an end our sweet, beloved high school football season.
Sadness becomes us.
The finals are this weekend, and while we'll bask in the warming glow of the best each division has to offer, we'll feel melancholy knowing that the season ends Saturday afternoon. Maybe. One never knows when the weather might force the manly Chris Everone and his band of field crew commandos to prepare West Haven's Strong Stadium with little advance warning.
The melancholy is worse given that the finals have been broken up due to this weekend's alleged SNOWMAGEDDON. We write "alleged" because weather forecasting is legalized gambling without money being exchanged (and so we think).
WORSE, the networks have turned weather forecasting into this generation's version of "air raid drills," terrifying the populace into hording bread, artichokes and SPAM at the local store so that they can continue monitoring the weather from the safety of their homemade bunker under the coffee table (covered in a blanket, of course).
Where were we? Oh, yeah — the Class L final between Darien and New Canaan was moved from New Britain's Arute Field on Saturday afternoon to Stamford's Boyle Stadium that morning.
Those of you who have better things to do with your life than monitor the Twitter or message boards are aware that Darien and New Canaan had fans email the CIAC on Monday to ask them to move the Class L final from Arute to Boyle because the latter was closer.
We assume that Darien and New Canaan also asked the CIAC to move the Class S final (Ansonia and Woodland) to Naugatuck. And the Class M final (Brookfield vs. St. Joseph) to Bunnell.
Hey — if you want the CIAC to make things convenient for you, then do it for everybody.
Meanwhile, those who live in Litchfield, New London, Tolland and Windham Counties snicker because they have to travel more than the other counties to attend neutral site games.
Some of you may not have noticed that Connecticut is the second-smallest state in the Union. Nothing is more than two hours away. Suck it up and drive. This ain't Texas.
Furthermore, holding state finals at one site is about bringing everyone together, to see the best-of-the-best and what other parts of the state have to offer. It's about inclusion, not exclusion. Saturday's ticket at Arute gets you two games (three had SNOWMAGEDDON not screwed everything up).
Alas, the choice Saturday is to either go to Boyle to see the most anticipated game, or to Arute for an intriguing game (Fairfield Prep vs. Southington) and a potential blowout (Class M).
The season will end sometime around 4 p.m. on Saturday.
We'll miss Arkeel Newsome and Ansonia's offensive line make 12-yard runs as simple as texting.
We'll miss Dario Highsmith and Jack Shaban making fools miss tackles.
We'll miss Khaleed Exum-Strong and Jordan Kowalski truck defenders.
We'll miss Jose Garcia turn a screen pass into a 144-yard gain.
We'll miss Jordan Vazzano and Stephen Barmore throwing long.
We'll miss Michael Root and Cole Harris swarm on running backs like Black Friday shoppers on flat screens.
We'll miss GOD'S OFFENSE and GOD'S FATHER'S OFFENSE (HINORTHHAVEN).
Whelp, at least we still have college playoffs, bowl season, and the NFL season left to tide us over.
After that, seven months of withdrawal.
All right, enough wallowing. It's the holidays. People are gifting (*). Christmas lights are everywhere. THE GRINCH.
Let's be HAPPY.
Below are previews for YOUR 2013 division championships.
Three of the finals are at Arute Field on the campus of Central Connecticut State in rustic New Britain. It's not as cool as Southern Connecticut State in AWESOME NEW HAVEN, but nothing is.
The Class L final is at Boyle Stadium.
HERE WE GO:
NO. 2 ANSONIA (14-0) vs. NO. 4 WOODLAND (12-2)
TIME: 7:05 p.m.
HISTORY: Ansonia 18-8 (1976-77 Class S, 1979 Class M, 1981-84, Class SS, 1987-89 Class S, 1994 Class SS, 1995 Class S, 2002-3 Class S, 2006-07 Class S, 2011 Class M, 2012 Class S); Woodland 2-0 (Class SS 2004-05).
MEET THE CHARGERS: Sr. RB-DB Arkeel Newsome (3,608 yards rushing, 64 total TDs); Jr. QB Jai'Quan McKnight (970 yards passing, 13 TDs; 500 yards rushing, 8 TDs); Sr. RG-DL Ryan Hovan (6-5, 230); Sr. LG-DL Antone Mack (5-10, 275); Sr. C-DL Corey Dzienkiewicz (6-5, 258); Sr. RT-DL Matt Simon (6-3, 260; Jr. LT Tyler O'Connell (5-11, 210); Sr. FB-LB Saiheed Sanders.
MEET THE HAWKS: Sr. QB Tanner Kingsley (3,215 yards passing, 45 TDs); So. RB-DB Sean McAllen (1,520 yards rushing, 16 TDs; 511 yards receiving, 2 TDs); Jr. WR-DB Mike Kenney (55 catches, 995 yards, 15 TDs); Sr. Taylor Tucciarone (51 catches, 763 yards, 14 TDs); Sr. Levi Fancher (127 tackles, 10.5 sacks); Jr. Will Flormann (109 tackles, 7.5 sacks).
OUTLOOK: This will be brief. Ansonia beat Woodland over three weeks ago, 48-7, in the NVL title game. Many of the players participated in last year's two meetings. The Chargers won both. They've outgained the Hawks, 1,415-726 in their last three games. The status of Woodland running backs Colby Vaccarelli (knee) and McAllen (concussion) has yet to be determined. Vaccarelli also starts at defensive back. Newsome needs just 156 more yards to break his state record for most rushing yards in a season (3,763). He may have that by halftime.
A WINNER IS YOU: Ansonia.
NO. 2 ST. JOSEPH (12-2) VS. NO. 5 BROOKFIELD (11-3)
TIME: 10:05 a.m.
HISTORY: St. Joseph 10-2 (1980-84 Class S, 1988-90 Class M, 2009 Class SS, 2010 Class S); Brookfield 2-3 (1995 Class M, 2008 Class M).
MEET THE CADETS: Sr. QB Jordan Vazzano (2,897 yards passing, 37 TDs; 7 rushing TDs); Jr. RB-DB Mufasha Abdul Basir (2,315 yards rushing, 28 TDs); Sr. WR Shane Miller (832 yards rushing, 10 TDs; 49 catches, 928 yards, 12 TDs); Jr. WR-S Lars Pedersen (54 catches, 967 yards, 14 TDs); Sr. G Peter Mestre (6-6, 295); Sr. T Steve Hashemi (6-6, 260); Sr. LB (94 tackles, 3 sacks); Sr. DE Mike Schuchmann (80 tackles, 4 sacks); Jr. LB Kevin Bortnick (96 tackles).
MEET THE BOBCATS: Sr. QB-DB Brad Westmark (1,437 yards passing, 10 TDs); So. RB-LB Bobby Drysdale (1,929 yards, 26 TDs; 77 tackles, four sacks); Jr. RB Danny Jackson (720 yards rushing, 11 TD); So. FB-LB Austin Reich (812 yards rushing yards, 8 TD; 106 tackles); Sr. WR-DL-LB Liam Clancy (33 catches, 531 yards, 3 TDs); Jr. WR-DB Gabe Pompette (23 catches, 269 yards, 1 TD; 72 tackles, 5 INTs); Sr. TE-DE Nick Seis (87 tackles, 10 sacks); Sr. NG Justin Lyons (73 tackles, 8 sacks).
OUTLOOK: All credit to Brookfield for starting so many (young) noobs this season and getting to the state final. It gets SUPEREXTRACREDIT for running GOD'S OFFENSE and running it so well. It faces a different beast here, though. St. Joseph is the bigger and stronger team. Vazzano throws a beautiful ball. Basir, who suffered a stinger early in last Saturday's semifinal win over Barlow (62-34), plans on playing. That makes the Cadets passing game even more dangerous (and Vazzano makes Basir more dangerous). We're sure the Bobcats will get their points. St. Joseph has scored 207 in its last three games. That's as many or more than 43 teams scored during the entire regular season.
A WINNER IS YOU: St. Joseph.
NO. 1 DARIEN (13-1) VS. NO. 3 NEW CANAAN (12-1)
TIME: 11:05 p.m.
HISTORY: Darien 4-6 (1979 Class L, 1991 Class M, 1992 Class SS, 1996 Class S); New Canaan 8-4 (1982 Class LL, 1993 Class M, 2001-02 Class M, 2006-09 Class MM).
MEET THE BLUE WAVE: Sr. QB Silas Wyper (2,944 yards passing, 20 TDs; 406 yards rushing, 4 TDs); Sr. HB-SS Nick Lombardo (44 catches, 1,494 all-purpose yards, 19 total TDs); Sr. TB-SS Jay Harrison (12 rushing TDs); Jr. WR-DB Griffin Ross (78 catches, 1,045 yards, 7 total TDs); Sr. TB-ILB Andrew Nault (114 tackles); Sr. LB Myles Ridder (85 tackles); Jr. DE George Reed (77 tackles, 5 sacks); So. Mark Evanchick (104 tackles, 14 sacks).
MEET THE RAMS: Sr. QB Nick Cascione (2,513 yards passing, 31 TDs; 617 yards rushing, 11 TDs); Jr. Frank Cognetta (1,170 yards, 14 TDs); Sr. WR Cole Turpin (35 catches, 596 yards, 9 TDs); Sr. Jack Gilio (35 catches, 496 yards, 6 TDs); Jr. WR Alex LaPolice (31 catches, 533 yards, 9 TDs); Sr. Michael Root (163 tackles); Sr. LB Cole Harris (159 tackles); Jr. Zach Allen (73 tackles, 10 sacks).
OUTLOOK: YOUR second championship game rerun — Darien done stunned the then top-ranked Rams, 28-24, with a last-minute touchdown on Thanksgrabbing. Wyper vexed New Canaan's defense as ran for 104 yards and three touchdowns and threw for 269 yards. About all Darien did wrong that day was turn it over three times (one which the Rams returned for a TD). New Canaan did further damage to itself by racking up 110 yards in penalty yardage, including a late hit on Wyper on fourth down to extend the Blue Wave's game-winning drive. The Rams need to run MUCH better than they did the first time as the Blue Wave stuffed them (New Canaan averaged just 2.59 yards). The Rams averaged 5.6 in their two playoff wins. New Canaan passing game was erractic the first time around, too (12 of 30 for 239 yards with a TD and INT). Those of you who enjoy defense will love Evanchick, Harris and Root. It's tough to pick against a Lou Marinelli-coached team, especially after Darien outplayed his team once.
A WINNER IS YOU: New Canaan.
NO. 4 SOUTHINGTON (11-1) VS. NO. 7 FAIRFIELD PREP (11-2)
TIME: 1:35 p.m.
HISTORY: Fairfield Prep 3-1 (1988 Class LL, 1982 Class L, 1977 Class L); Southington 1-5 (1998 Class LL).
MEET THE BLUE KNIGHTS: Sr. QB Stephen Barmore (2,742 yards passing, 38 TDs; 370 yards rushing, 3 TD); Sr. RB Tyler Hyde (1,052 yards rushing, 18 TDs); Sr. WR Alex Jamele (69 catches, 1,393 yards, 26 TDs); Sr. LB Zak Jamele (116 tackles, 4 sacks); Sr. DE Zach Maxwell (78 tackles, 17 sacks).
MEET THE JESUITS: Jr. QB Colton Smith (1,584 yards passing, 9 TDs; 1,743 yards rushing, 27 TDs); Sr. FB-ILB Nick Crowle (882 yards rushing, 15 TDs); Jr. WR-S John DelliSanti (40 catches, 882 yards, 8 TDs); Sr. FB-LB Maxwell Trudeau; Sr. LB Anthony Johnson.
OUTLOOK: The weekend's other curious game. Southington was one of only two teams to beat Glastonbury (16-9). The other — Prep (33-23). Southington splattered Norwich Free Academy (52-14) and Ridgefield (45-0). The Jesuits have been as hot as any team in the state and have beaten Xavier (46-27), Glastonbury and West Haven (29-20, and 29-28) in their last four games. The matchup that interests us most in Prep's offense vs. the Blue Knights' defense. Smith has made a helluva debut this season. He and Crowle (6-foot-3, 246 pounds) are a pain for opposing defenses to contain. Then factor in that the Jesuits' offensive line look like ubermensches. The Blue Knights don't have that bulk (who does) and will counter with their speed. You can bet that the Prep o-line has been famliarized with the two-headed terror known as Zak Jamele and Maxwell. There's nothing scientific or schematic about it, but when in doubt, pick the SCC team (except when playing the FCIAC this season).
A WINNER IS YOU: Fairfield Prep.
• • • •
NVL (two teams, two finalists): 4-0.
FCIAC (four teams, three finalists): 7-1.
SCC (four teams, one finalist): 4-3 (including a SCC-on-SCC scrum).
SWC (four teams, one finalist): 3-3 (including a SWC-on-SWC battle).
Pequot (four teams): 1-4.
CCC (eight teams, one finalist): 5-7.
CSC (three teams): 0-3.
ECC (three teams): 0-3.
• • • •
Should you be keeping score at home, here's how the Top 10 in The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll have fared during the first two rounds of states:
1. Ansonia beat Coginchaug in the Class S quarterfinals (49-21), beat Rocky Hill in the Class S semifinals (49-27).
2. Newtown (12-1) lost to Ridgefield in the Class LL quarterfinals (35-33).
3. New Canaan beat Farmington in the Class L quarterfinals (46-0), beat North Haven in the Class L semifinals (17-0).
4. Darien beat Hand in the Class L quarterfinals (31-29), beat Middletown in the Class L semifinals (13-7).
T5. Glastonbury (11-2) lost to No. 7 Fairfield Prep in the Class LL quarterfinals (29-28).
T5. St. Joseph beat Ledyard in the Class M quarterfinals (84-49), beat Barlow in the Class M semifinals (62-34).
7. Fairfield Prep beat No. 4 Glastonbury in the Class LL quarterfinals (33-23), beat No. 10 West Haven in the Class LL semifinals (29-28).
8. Platt (11-1) lost to North Haven in the Class L quarterfinals (35-0).
9. Southington beat Norwich Free Academy in the Class LL quarterfinals (52-14), beat Ridgefield in the semifinals (45-0).
10. West Haven (10-3) beat Hall in the Class LL quarterfinals (51-26), lost to Fairfield Prep in the semifinals (29-28).
• • • •
Ned Freeman's computer rankings for CalPreps.com: 1. New Canaan; 2. Southington; 3. St. Joseph; 4. Fairfield Prep; 5. Darien; 6. West Haven; 7. Ansonia; 8. Xavier; 9. North Haven; and, 10. Glastonbury. Brookfield is ranked 22nd and Woodland is 26th.
• • • •
■ Mary Albl, JRC Amalgamated: Fairfield Prep teammates from Newtown play for title, aim to bring some happiness.
■ Gentleman Jim Bransfield, Middletown Press: Class L is still the best division.
■ Roger Cleaveland, Waterbury Republican-American: It's air vs. land in Class S football final, Kingsley's air attack vs. Newsome's ground game; and, Ansonia quarterback near full strength. That would be Jai'Quan McKnight.
■ Kevin Duffy, Hearst Inc.: Fairfield Prep's Shea moves 'harder, faster, smarter'.
■ Scott Ericson, Hearst Inc.: In New Canaan-Darien rivalry, moments that last.
■ Carl Josephson, New Britain Herald: Southington full of weapons on both sides of the ball.
■ Sean Krofssik, Meriden Record-Journal: Brockett and his Chargers chase another title.
■ Pooch Diggity Dogg, JRC Amalgamated and proud Ansonia grad: Newsome hopes to cap stellar career with Ansonia's third-straight title; Brookfield gets back to its running roots; Class LL, Class L, and Class S previews; and, notebook.
■ Matt McDonough, Hartford Courant: Arkeel Newsome the reason behind Ansonia's playoff run. Don't forget that offensive line of Dzienkiewicz, Hovan, Mack, O'Connell and Simon! And Sanders and the defense!
■ Kevin D. Roberts, New Britain Herald: Rocky Hill building football tradition thanks to seniors.
■ Dave Ruden, The Ruden Report: Darien's Wyper now a big-name quarterback; and, Reduced role but same success for St. Joseph's Vazzano.
■ Jason Sonski, Hearst Inc: Newsome puts on Ansonia uniform one final team. The rest of the NVL and Class S weep tears of joy.
■ Sean Patrick Starfish, JRC Amalgamated: Class M preview.
■ Tom Yantz, Hartford Courant: Notebook.
• • • •
That's all for now.
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.