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ECC football divisions, scheduling set

It wasn't too long ago that football scheduling in the Eastern Connecticut Conference was as contentious as siblings fighting over who gets to sit in the front seat of their family car with mom or dad. It nearly led to the conference disintegrating in 2015.

Those days are in the past as the ECC has become more cohesive when it comes to scheduling and divisional alignments.

"Absolutely," said Ledyard athletic director/assistant principal Jim Buonocore, who also serves as the ECC football chairperson. "It's not even close. ... The cooperation just among our league athletic directors, has been outstanding. Obviously, the benefactors are our student-athletes and that's why we do what we do.

"We haven't let the sport of football take the league down."

The ECC will have a 14-team, three-division format this fall. It had three, five-team divisions in 2019 with the addition of CREC, but the latter left to join the Pequot Conference. The league had planned to add the Capitol Prep/Achievement First cooperative program in 2020 prior to the pandemic but opted to go back to 14 teams once CREC decided to leave.

The alignment is as follows:

DIVISION I: East Lyme, Fitch, New London and NFA.

DIVISION II: Bacon Academy, Ledyard, Waterford, Windham and Woodstock.

DIVISION III: Griswold/Wheeler, Killingly, Montville, Plainfield and Stonington.

The divisions were based on enrollment with one exception — New London requested to be in Division I instead of II, so it swapped places with Woodstock.

The Division I schools will get two crossover games against Division II schools and one versus a Division III school.

The Division II schools will play two crossovers against both Division I and III programs.

"There's no doubt in my mind there are two things that saved the ECC," Buonocore said. "One was we all agreed that we were going to align on a yearly basis across the board in all sports in each gender. Boys' and girls' basketball teams weren't necessarily going to be in the same division (anymore). Your baseball and softball teams weren't necessarily going to be in the same division.

"You could have (in the past) a powerhouse softball team and a bad baseball team, and your baseball team is playing in Division I. We weren't going to do that anymore. We were going to do yearly sports-specific evaluations and realign."

Buonocore said that the Connecticut High School Football Alliance has been the other thing that's saved the conference. The Alliance is comprised of five of the league's eight conferences — the Central Connecticut Conference, the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, the Southern Connecticut Conference, the South-West Conference and the ECC.

The Alliance came about because of the number of programs statewide who didn't want to play the bigger and/or better teams in their respective leagues. Few ECC teams are willing to play NFA because the Wildcats are vastly larger than any other team in the league (982 boys, the eighth largest boys' enrollment in the state).

Fitch, which has the league's second-largest boys' enrollment (579) and NFA will both play four games against non-ECC competition this fall.

"The Alliance has been a savior for the Eastern Connecticut Conference," Buonocore said. "It's kept us together.

"Those two things (the Alliance and enrollment/success based divisions) I think have put the ECC back to where we can call ourselves one of the top leagues in the state of Connecticut with the way we do scheduling; the way we make 19 schools work across the board in multiple different sports.

"I think the cherry on top is our basketball tournaments. What other league in the state of Connecticut holds their boys' and girls' basketball championships at one of the greatest arenas (Mohegan Sun Arena) in the United States of America? No one else can say that. So I think we've done some good things. The Alliance has certainly been the backbone of us pushing forward as a league."

Football teams begin organized team practice activities next week (Aug. 12). The regular season begins on Thursday, Sept. 9.

The one notable change in the ECC's football alignment is that Killingly dropped from Division I to III. Buonocore said there is a great benefit to that because it is willing to play NFA.

"We have a program in Killingly that's very strong that's had a ton of success," Buonocore said. "They became the Division III-I matchup with NFA. That solves the problem. ... We want to be fair to NFA as well as make sure we give them as many league games as we can."

n.griffen@theday.com

2021 ECC FOOTBALL DIVISIONS

DIV. I: East Lyme, Fitch, New London and NFA.

DIV. II: Bacon, Ledyard, Waterford, Windham and Woodstock.

DIV. III: Griswold/Wheeler, Killingly, Montville, Plainfield and Stonington.

LOCAL SCHEDULES

(All games 6:30 p.m. unless noted. Subject to change)

ECC DIVISION I

EAST LYME: Sept. 10 at Montville, 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 vs. Killingly, Sept. 24 at NFA; Oct. 1 vs. Windham; Oct. 8 at Guilford, 7 p.m.; Oct. 22 vs. Hand; Oct. 29 vs. Woodstock; Nov. 5 vs. New London; Nov. 12 at Fitch; Nov. 25 at Waterford, 10 a.m.

FITCH: Sept. 10 vs. Stonington; Sept. 24 at New London, 6 p.m.; Oct. 1 vs. Bacon; Oct. 8 vs. New Fairfield; Oct. 22 at Fairfield Prep, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Stratford; Nov. 5 at NFA; Nov. 12 vs. East Lyme; Nov. 19 vs. Capital Prep/Achievement; Nov. 25 at Ledyard, 10 a.m.

NEW LONDON: Sept. 17 vs. Guilford, 6 p.m.; Sept. 24 vs. Fitch, 6 p.m.; Oct. 1 at Griswold/Wheeler; Oct. 8 at Ledyard, 6 p.m.; Oct. 22 vs. Waterford, 6 p.m.; Oct. 30 at Bacon Academy, noon; Nov. 5 at East Lyme; Nov. 12 vs. Windham, 6 p.m.; Nov. 19 at Wilbur Cross, 7 p.m.; Nov. 25 vs. NFA, 10 a.m.

NFA: Sept. 10 at Xavier, 7 p.m.; Sept. 18 at Woodstock, noon; Sept. 24 vs. East Lyme; Oct. 1 vs. Darien; Oct. 16 vs. Waterford, 1 p.m.; Oct. 22 vs. Shelton; Oct. 29 at Cheshire, 7 p.m.; Nov. 5 vs. Fitch; Nov. 12 at Killingly; Nov. 25 at New London, 10 a.m.

ECC DIVISION II

BACON ACADEMY: Sept. 10 at Plainfield, 6 p.m.; Sept. 18 vs. Ledyard, noon; Sept. 24 at Stonington; Oct. 1 at Fitch; Oct. 16 vs. Windham, 11 a.m.; Oct. 23 vs. Woodstock, noon; Oct. 30 vs. New London, noon; Nov. 5 at Waterford, 6 p.m.; Nov. 13 vs. Griswold/Wheeler, noon; Nov. 25 at RHAM, 10 a.m.

LEDYARD: Sept. 10 vs. Griswold/Wheeler, 6 p.m.; Sept. 18 at Bacon, noon; Sept. 24 vs. Waterford, 6 p.m.; Oct. 1 at Lyman Hall; Oct. 8 vs. New London, 6 p.m.; Oct. 22 at Stonington; Oct. 29 at Windham, 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 vs. Montville, 6 p.m.; Nov. 13 at Woodstock, noon; Nov. 25 vs. Fitch, 10 a.m.

WATERFORD: Sept. 10 vs. Killingly, 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 vs Windham, 6 p.m.; Sept. 24 at Ledyard, 6 p.m.; Oct. 2 at Woodstock, noon; Oct. 16 at NFA, 1 p.m.; Oct. 22 at New London, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Stonington, 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 vs. Bacon, 6 p.m.; Nov. 12 at Montville, 6 p.m.; Nov. 25 vs. East Lyme, 10 a.m.

WINDHAM: Sept. 10 vs. Woodstock, 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 at Waterford, 6 p.m.; Sept. 24 vs. Tolland, 7 p.m.; Oct. 1 at East Lyme, 6:30 p.m.; Oct. 16 at Bacon, 11 a.m.; Oct. 22 vs. Griswold/Wheeler, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Ledyard, 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 vs. Stonington, 6 p.m.; Nov. 12 at New London, 6 p.m.; Nov. 25 at Montville, 10:30 a.m.

WOODSTOCK: Sept. 10 at Windham, 6 p.m.; Sept. 18 vs. NFA, noon; Sept. 25 vs. Plainfield, noon; Oct. 2 vs. Waterford, noon; Oct. 8 at Montville, 6 p.m.; Oct. 23 at Bacon, noon; Oct. 29 at East Lyme; Nov. 6 vs. Griswold/Wheeler, noon; Nov. 13 vs. Ledyard, noon; Nov. 25 at Killingly.

ECC DIVISION III

GRISWOLD/WHEELER: Sept. 10 at Ledyard, 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 vs. Stonington; Oct. 1 vs. New London; Oct. 15 vs. Bassick; Oct. 22 at Windham, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Killingly; Nov. 6 at Woodstock, noon; Nov. 13 at Bacon, noon; Nov. 19 vs. Montville; Nov. 25 at Plainfield, 10 a.m.

KILLINGLY: Sept. 10 at Waterford, 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 at East Lyme; Sept. 24 vs. Lewis Mills; Oct. 1 vs. East Haven; Oct. 15 at Stonington; Oct. 22 at Montville, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 at Griswold/Wheeler; Nov. 5 vs. Plainfield; Nov. 12 vs. NFA; Nov. 25 vs. Woodstock.

PLAINFIELD: Sept. 10 vs. Bacon, 6 p.m.; Sept. 17 at Capital Prep/Achievement, 6 p.m.; Sept. 25 at Woodstock, noon; Oct. 15 vs. Capital Prep/Achievement, 6 p.m.; Oct. 22 vs. Smithfield (R.I.), 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Montville, 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 at Killingly; Nov. 12 at Stonington; Nov. 25 vs. Griswold/Wheeler, 10 a.m.

MONTVILLE: Sept. 10 East Lyme, 6 p.m.; Sept. 24 at East Catholic; Oct. 1 at Stonington; Oct. 8 vs. Woodstock, 6 p.m.; Oct. 22 vs. Killingly, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 at Plainfield, 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 at Ledyard, 6 p.m.; Nov. 12 vs. Waterford, 6 p.m.; Nov. 19 at Griswold/Wheeler; Nov. 25 vs. Windham, 10:30 a.m.

STONINGTON: Sept. 10 at Fitch; Sept. 17 at Griswold/Wheeler; Sept. 24 vs. Bacon; Oct. 1 vs. Montville; Oct. 15 vs. Killingly; Oct 22 vs. Ledyard; Oct. 29 at Waterford, 6 p.m.; Nov. 5 at Windham, 6 p.m.; Nov. 12 vs. Plainfield; Nov. 25 at Westerly, 10 a.m.

OTHERS

THAMES RIVER: Sept. 11 at O'Brien Tech, 11 a.m.; Sept. 18 vs. Bullard-Havens/Kolbe Cathedral, 6 p.m.; Sept. 25 at Prince Tech, 10:30 a.m.; Oct. 2 vs. Northwest United, 4 p.m.; Oct. 16 vs. Vinal Tech/Goodwin Tech, 6 p.m.; Oct. 23 vs. Platt Tech, 6 p.m.; Oct. 29 at Cheney Tech, 6 p.m.; Nov. 13 at Wilcox Tech/Kaynor Tech, 6 p.m.; Nov. 20 vs. Abbott Tech/Immaculate, 6 p.m.; Nov. 24 at Quinebaug Valley, 5 p.m.

VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME: Sept. 10 vs. North Branford; Sept. 18 at Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton, 1 p.m.; Oct. 1 at Morgan; Oct. 8 vs. Cromwell/Portland; Oct. 23 at CREC, 11 a.m.; Oct. 29 vs. Stafford/East Windsor/Somers; Nov. 5 vs. Granby/Canton; Nov. 13 at Old Saybrook/Westbrook, 11 a.m.; Nov. 18 at Rockville; Nov. 23 vs. Haddam-Killingworth.

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