Waterford in good shape to qualify for Class M football playoffs

Last season was rock bottom for local high school football teams because none qualified for the CIAC playoffs.

This season could be slightly better.

East Lyme, Fitch, New London, Norwich Free Academy, Thames River and Waterford all have three-or-fewer losses, thus have a shot at qualifying for states.

But Very few from that group will qualify.

East Lyme, Fitch, New London and NFA could all pick each another off in Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I play. NFA-East Lyme is the only division game that has been played yet between those four.

The odds aren’t in Fitch or NFA’s favor to qualify, either, because both are 3-3. It’s rare for a three-loss team to qualify for states, and only one four-loss team has ever qualified (Law, 2017).

On paper, Waterford has the best chance among the locals to make the playoffs based on its record (5-1) and schedule. The Lancers are currently ranked sixth in Class M (the top eight teams qualify in each of the CIAC’s four divisions).

They host Griswold/Wheeler on Friday. The co-op is 4-2, but hasn’t beaten a winning team. Waterford also hosts Ledyard (1-5) on Friday, Nov. 8, plays at Woodstock Academy on Nov. 16 and ends its regular season on Thanksgiving morning at rival East Lyme.

Woodstock (5-1) has already set a program record for wins, but the Centaurs haven't beaten a team with more than one win.

Thames River (5-1) is ninth in Class M but still has games remaining against three of the top teams in the Connecticut Technical Conference — vs. Cheney Tech (4-2) on Saturday, at Abbott Tech/Immaculate (4-1) on Saturday, Nov. 23, and vs. Quinebaug Valley (4-2) on Thanksgiving.

Abbott Tech/Immaculate might be the second-best team in the CTC. Its only loss was to unbeaten Bullard-Havens (39-20), which is the top-rated team in Class S.

Thames also hosts Wilcox Tech (1-5) on Saturday, Nov. 16.

Here’s a look at the other three divisions:

CLASS LL: NFA is ranked 15th, and only five three-loss teams have qualified for the LL playoffs since the CIAC since went to a four-division, eight-team playoff format in 2010 (an eight division, four-team format was used in 2014).

All of the Wildcats’ remaining games are against teams .500-or-better. It plays at Fitch (3-3) on Friday, hosts Killingly (6-0) on Friday, Nov. 8, plays at Bacon Academy (4-2) on Saturday, Nov. 16, and hosts New London (3-2) on Thanksgiving Eve (Nov. 27).

CLASS L: East Lyme (4-2) is 12th, New London (3-2) 17th and Fitch (3-3) 18th. They will all get their shot at one another over the final five weeks of the regular season.

History dictates that East Lyme and New London must win out because, just like Class LL, only five three-loss teams have qualified for Class L since 2010.

East Lyme and the Whalers also haven’t beaten a team with more than two wins this season, and virtually every opponent each has left has a winning record.

East Lyme plays at New London on Friday, hosts Fitch on Nov. 8, plays at Killingly on Nov. 15, and ends with Waterford.

New London plays at Capital Prep/Achievement (1-5) on Thursday, Nov. 7. It closes with three straight road games against ECC Division I competition — Fitch (Nov. 15), Killingly (Nov. 22) and at NFA.

Fitch hosts Ledyard (1-5) on Thanksgiving.

CLASS S: Griswold/Wheeler is 11th in the rankings. It hosts Windham (1-5) on Nov. 8, plays at CREC (4-2) on Nov. 15, and hosts Plainfield (5-1) on Thanksgiving.

n.griffen@theday.com

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