New London must win out ... and get help ... to make state football playoffs

New London still has a shot at qualifying for the CIAC Class L football playoffs, but the Whalers are going to need more than just winning their final two games to earn a berth.

The Whalers (5-3) are ranked 12th in the current Class L rankings. The top eight teams qualify. New London must win its final two games against arguably the toughest teams left on its schedule — Middletown (8-0) and long-time rival Norwich Free Academy (5-4).

New London plays at Middletown on Thursday, then hosts the Wildcats on Thanksgiving in the 157th meeting of the nation’s oldest rivalry.

Don’t be fooled by NFA’s record as it’s lost to two playoff qualifiers (Newtown and Killingly), and two teams (Fairfield Prep and Windsor) that will clinch berths if they win their season finales.

Four teams have unofficially qualified in Class L — defending champion Hand (9-0), Naugatuck (9-0), Maloney (8-1) and Middletown. The pairings aren’t official until they’re approved by the CIAC’s football committee the day after the end of the regular season.

New London, in addition to winning out, needs two of the following five teams to lose their final game — Bunnell, Windsor, North Haven, Platt and RHAM.

It’s highly unlikely that Bunnell (8-1) or RHAM (7-2) will lose. Bunnell hosts Stratford (1-8), while RHAM hosts Bacon Academy (3-6). Both games are on Nov. 21.

North Haven (7-2) hosts Amity (5-4) on Thanksgiving and will be favored to win.

It’s not far-fetched to think that Platt (7-2) and/or Windsor (7-2) will lose. Windsor plays at Middletown on Nov. 21, while Platt plays town-rival Maloney on Thanksgiving.

None of that matters, though, if New London loses just once.

Fitch (6-3) is 11th in the rankings and barely mathematically alive. It cannot catch Bunnell, Windsor or North Haven under any circumstances, and it’s unlikely to catch Platt, even if it loses to Maloney.

Here’s a look at the other three divisions:

CLASS S

Valley Regional/Old Lyme (7-1) is ranked ninth and hosts No. 7 Haddam-Killingworth (8-1) in the equivalent of a play-in game on Nov. 20.

Plainfield (8-1) is eighth and will qualify with a home win on Thanksgiving against rival Griswold (5-4).

Ansonia (9-0) and Bullard-Havens (9-0) have both unofficially qualified and clinched a home quarterfinal. Stafford/East Windsor/Somers (9-0) has also unofficially qualified.

CLASS M

Defending champion Killingly (8-1) unofficially clinched its fourth straight playoff berth after beating NFA 12-6 in overtime last Friday.

Berlin (9-0) and St. Joseph (9-0) have also unofficially qualified.

Killingly can earn a home quarterfinal by winning its regular-season finale at Capital Prep/Achievement First (3-5) on Friday night, coupled with a Sheehan win over East Haven that same night.

CLASS LL

NFA (5-4) was eliminated from contention after Friday’s loss to Killingly.

Four teams have unofficially qualified — three-time defending champion Darien (9-0), Newtown (9-0), Shelton (8-0) and Southington (9-0).

n.griffen@theday.com

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