ECC likely to have only two teams in state football playoffs

Fitch's Pedro Monica (44) fights for extra yardage during the Falcons' 42-6 win over Windham last Thursday. The Falcons, who have already qualified for the Class L state playoffs, can put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season and enhance their chances of earning a quarterfinal home game with a win over rival Ledyard on Thanksgiving Day at Ledyard. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
Fitch's Pedro Monica (44) fights for extra yardage during the Falcons' 42-6 win over Windham last Thursday. The Falcons, who have already qualified for the Class L state playoffs, can put the finishing touches on a perfect regular season and enhance their chances of earning a quarterfinal home game with a win over rival Ledyard on Thanksgiving Day at Ledyard. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)

It used to be that qualifying for the CIAC football playoffs was one-part skill and two-parts luck.

The playoffs were state championship games from 1976-94. Two teams made it per class. That was it. There weren't any quarterfinals or semifinals. The format sometimes shut very good teams out of tournament. Trumbull (1980) and Fitch (1994) had unbeaten seasons in which they didn't make the playoffs.

The CIAC expanded the playoffs to 32 teams in 2010 to give more teams an opportunity. Theoretically, a handful of teams should qualify from each of the state’s leagues, yet the Eastern Connecticut Conference is set to have its worst representation since that expansion.

Fitch has unofficially earned a trip to the Class L playoffs. Killingly is the ECC's other playoff qualifier and is a strong contender for the Class M title.

That's it for the ECC, unless East Lyme (Class L) and Plainfield (Class S) experience a holiday miracle.

There were years in which the ECC had as many as four playoff teams when 24 teams qualified.

Two teams would be the fewest for the ECC since 2007 when 24 teams made the playoffs. Ledyard won Class M that year, beating Berlin 21-14, while New London lost to Ansonia in the Class S final.

New London would beat Seymour 27-18 in the 2008 Class SS final, which is the last season that an ECC team won a state title. It's never had a longer championship drought, and every league in the state has won at least one state title except for the first-year Connecticut Technical Conference.

Valley Regional/Old Lyme of the Pequot League (Class S) joins Fitch as southeastern Connecticut’s other playoff participant.

Here's a look at the four playoff races:

CLASS L: Windsor (9-0), Masuk (9-0), Hand (8-1) and Middletown (9-0) have all qualified.

Fitch (9-0) is ranked fifth and could earn a home quarterfinal with a win at Ledyard (2-7) on Thanksgiving. There's a chance Windsor could lose at home to Middletown on Wednesday and still outpoint Fitch for the fourth seed.

East Lyme (6-3) hosts winless Waterford on Thanksgiving. It can only qualify as the eighth seed. It needs New Canaan (7-2) to lose to Darien (9-0) on Thanksgiving, and Bunnell (7-2) to fall to Stratford (4-5). The Vikings will also need to earn as many playoff points as possible, but even that may not be enough.

CLASS S: Odds are that Valley/OL (9-1) will finish as the fifth or sixth seed and play a quarterfinal road game.

Defending champion Ansonia (9-0), St. Joseph (8-1), Rocky Hill (9-0) and Bullard-Havens (9-1) are the other qualifiers and have all clinched home quarterfinals.

CLASS LL: No local team qualified in this class.

Naugatuck (9-0), Darien, Shelton (8-1), Greenwich (9-0), West Haven (8-1), and South Windsor (8-1) have clinched berths.

CLASS M: There won’t be a local qualifier in this division, either.

Killingly (9-0) is presently the top-ranked team. It, the Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial co-op (10-0) and Sheehan (8-1) have all clinched home quarterfinals. Berlin (8-2) will most likely get one, too.

Watertown (7-2) and SMSA/University/Classical (7-3) have also qualified.

n.griffen@theday.com

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