Fitch, Valley/Old Lyme closing in on state football playoff berths

Fitch head coach Mike Ellis, Jr., gives his team instructions during a time out late in Friday's 20-14 win over East Lyme. The unbeaten Falcons can clinch a Class L state playoff berth with a victory over Windham on Thursday night in Groton. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)
Fitch head coach Mike Ellis, Jr., gives his team instructions during a time out late in Friday's 20-14 win over East Lyme. The unbeaten Falcons can clinch a Class L state playoff berth with a victory over Windham on Thursday night in Groton. (Sean D. Elliot/The Day)

Fitch and Valley Regional/Old Lyme are on the edge of entering the CIAC football playoffs.

East Lyme and Thames River are on the edge of playoff elimination, and Norwich Free Academy has already gone over.

Fitch (8-0) is ranked fourth in Class L behind, in order, Masuk (9-0), Windsor (8-0), and Hand (8-1). Those three and No. 5 Middletown have all unofficially qualified.

Middletown (9-0) unofficially qualified despite being ranked below the Falcons because it has played more games and accumulated more points, whereas Fitch has a slightly better average but fewer points.

Teams don’t officially qualify until the CIAC’s football committee approves the pairings the day after the regular season ends.

The Falcons are fortunate because they have various ways to qualify. They could go the DIY route and win one of their final two games, either Thursday against Windham (2-6) or at Ledyard (2-7) on Thanksgiving.

Fitch will also qualify if one of four teams loses next week — Maloney (to Platt), North Haven (to Amity), New Canaan (to Darien) or Bunnell (to Stratford).

There’s no need for the Falcons to wait around to qualify, though, when they can take care of their own business Thursday night in Groton.

Two wins will likely earn Fitch a home quarterfinal, too, because Middletown plays at Windsor on Wednesday, Nov. 22. The loser of that game will have a slim chance to outpoint the Falcons.

The Falcons will be seeded no higher than third if they, Masuk and Windsor all win out. They will likely be fourth if Hand wins, too, but can edge the Tigers for third if bonuses go their way.

There’s a possibility Fitch doesn’t get a home quarterfinal if Hand, Masuk and Middletown all win their final games, and Windsor only beats NFA (5-3) this Thursday. The odds are against it, though.

All one needs to know about East Lyme’s Class L chances is that there are eight teams mathematically alive for the final four berths, and the Vikings are at the bottom of that group.

A look at the other three divisions:

CLASS S: Valley Regional/Old Lyme (8-1) qualifies with road win over Haddam-Killingworth (6-3) on Friday in the battle for the Principal’s Cup.

Aside for the old adage to throw out records in rivalry games, H-K shook up the Class S race (and the Valley/Old Lyme coaching staff) last Friday when it knocked off Old Saybrook/Westbrook, 14-7.

Old Saybrook/Westbrook routed the Warriors, 34-13, on Oct. 6. It would have qualified for Class S by winning out and finshing 9-1.

Valley/Old Lyme will likely be seeded lower than fourth and play a road quarterfinal should it qualify.

The Warriors can get a home quarterfinal, but needs No. 4 Bullard-Havens (8-1) to beat No. 5 Prince Tech (7-1) on Saturday, No. 2 Rocky Hill (9-0) to beat No. 8 Cromwell/Portland (8-1) next Wednesday, and Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby (4-5) to beat No. 6 Stafford/East Windsor/Somers that night, too.

Valley/Old Lyme will barely be alive with a loss to H-K.

St. Joseph (8-1), Rocky Hill and defending champion Ansonia (9-0) are the only three teams to unofficially qualify.

CLASS M: It’s crazy that Thames River (4-4) is in contention for one of the two spots left because it has four losses. No four-loss team has ever made states.

Thames’ odds, however, are smaller than a gnat’s naval.

The winner of No. 7 Barlow (6-3) and No. 8 Weston (6-3) on Thanksgiving will claim one of the remaining two spots. That leaves Thames and six other contenders fighting over one berth.

Thames must win Thursday at Stonington (2-6) and on Thanksgiving against Quinebaug Valley (4-5), AND catch so many breaks that they’re not worth listing at the moment.

n.griffen@theday.com

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