The Lonesome Polecat: CIAC finals previews, statewide stories, and the Lonesome Podcat for YOU
Believe us when we say that everyone here at Polecat Worldwide tries very hard not to be so gloomy in life, most especially the older staffers who have slowly realized that it’s an unhealthy way to go through life.
Meditation. Mindfulness. Peaceful easy feeling.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way....
... the CIAC state finals are Saturday, and we don’t expect them to be close.
We’re not the only ones who believe that, either, having yapped with folks around the state.
The talk among coaches and media during the preseason was that Hand (Class L), St. Joseph (Class M) and Bloomfield (Class S) were favorites to win their division.
Greenwich was most certainly in the discussion for Class LL as it returned much of its roster from last season’s runner-up.
Greenwich and Hand haven’t so much met expectations this fall as they’ve been apex predators, savaging nearly everyone they’ve played. Greenwich already thumped New Canaan, Saturday’s opponent, 42-14 in Week 5.
St. Joseph, last year's S champion, has a combination of talent, experience and depth that no one else in Class M can match. And, oh yeah, it opened the season by routing New Canaan, 28-0.
Bloomfield, too, has a combination of talent and experience that no one can match in S. Ansonia could match the Warhawks’ talent, but Bloomfield beat the Chargers on Sunday to end its eight-year home winning streak and prevent it from reaching a ninth straight final.
Don’t misconstrue what is being written here — New Canaan, Maloney, Berlin and Haddam-Killingworth are all good teams.
New Canaan, from the FCIAC, became the defacto SCC Tier I champion after going on the road and beating Shelton (42-34) and Fairfield Prep (28-21) in the LL quarters and semis, respectively.
Maloney has a behemoth offensive line that would make Nick Saban weep tears of joy, Victor Marquez (one of the state’s top receivers), and it beat blood rival Platt on Sunday (16-6) to reach the final.
Berlin has really impressed us this season, in particular on offense as it has developed a dangerous passing game. It also went to Bloomfield on Nov. 2 and was thrashed, 37-0.
Haddam-Killingworth first fought off rival Valley Regional/Old Lyme and on Thanksgrabbing Week and beat it for the first time in six years to earn a playoff berth. It edged previously unbeaten Stafford/East Windsor/Somers in overtime in Sunday’s semifinals, 21-14. And it’s a team after our own hearts because it runs GOD’S OFFENSE.
Greenwich, Hand, St. Joseph and Bloomfield are nontheless heavy favorites.
We honestly want all of the underdogs to make all four finals awesome and electrifying, though. Really.
Please, someone(s) prove us wrong.
Let’s stop being a killjoy for a moment and take a quick look at how the muckrakers (and computer) have done with their playoff picks, as well as the conference tote board.
PLAYOFF PICKS TOTE BOARD
SEAN PATRICK STAR: 20-4 (he done smote us all).
PETEY P: 17-7.
Not certain, but this could be the Polecat’s WORST. POSTSEASON. EVER for picks.
CONFERENCE TOTE BOARD
CCC (eight teams): 8-5 (that includes hot CCC-on-CCC action between Maloney and Middletown, and then Maloney vs. Platt)
CTC (two): 0-2
ECC (two): 1-2
FCIAC (four): 6-1
NVL (four): 1-4
PEQUOT (four): 3-3 (that includes hot Pequot-on-Pequot action between Stafford/East Windsor/Somers and Cromwell/Portland, and then Haddam-Killingworth vs. S/EW/S)
SCC (five): 4-4
SWC (three): 1-3
The CCC and FCIAC each have three finalists (the FCIAC has done more with less), and the Pequot and SCC each have one.
Before we get to the previews, you are encouraged to follow all of Saturday’s action at the Twit at #cthsfb even if you attend the games. You may also watch the finals online, for a nominal fee, at the NFHS Network.
And now, the previews (or whatever you’d call them).
• • • •
WHERE/WHEN: Boyle Stadium, Stamford, 10 a.m. (too dang early for us nocturnal creatures).
RECORDS: Greenwich 12-0; New Canaan 10-2.
CHAMPIONSHIP RECORDS: Greenwich (7-8) — 1981 LL, 1983 LL, 1990 LL, 1991 LL, 1999 LL, 2006 LL, 2007 LL; New Canaan (12-4) — 1982 L, 1993 M, 2001 M, 2002 M, 2006 MM, 2007 MM, 2008 MM, 2009 MM, 2013 L, 2014 L-Large, 2015 L, 2016 L.
GREENWICH DUDES: So. WR-FS A.J. Barber (21 catches, 288 yards, 7 TDs); Sr. WR Stephen Bennett (28 catches, 459 yards, 7 TDs); Sr. DE Mozi Bici (6-foot-2, 200 pounds; 77 tackles, 16 1/2 sacks); Sr. DE Emilio Camou (6-3, 222; 62 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks); Sr. RB Tysen Comizio (110 carries, 642 yards, 14 TDs; 13 catches, 248 yards, 1 TD); Sr. MLB Jack Feda (119 tackles, 5 ½ sacks, 3 INTs); Jr. C-DT Eddy Iuteri (48 tackles, 8 sacks); Sr. G-DT Joe Kraninger (6-3, 263, 50 tackles, 7 ½ sacks); Sr. WR Lance Large (33 catches, 537 yards, 7 TDs); Sr. G-DT Jack McBreairty; Sr. QB Gavin Muir (147-of-255 passing, 2,215 yards, 28 TDs, 6 INTs; 54 carries, 238 yards, 7 TDs); Sr. CB Ryan Raybuck (45 tackles, 5 INTs); Jr. OLB Evan Weigold (60 tackles, 4 INTs).
NEW CANAAN DUDES: Sr. OLB Garrett Braden (6-2, 230; 53 tackles, 6 1/2 tackles); So. Chris Canet DB-WR (65 tackles); Sr. T-DT Jack Conley (6-8, 290; 21 tackles); Jr. RB-DB Drew Guida (49 tackles, 6 INTs); Sr. CB-WR Zach LaPolice (26 catches, 396 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. RB-CB J.R. Moore (49 carries, 383 yards, 3 TDs over the last three games); Sr. WR Quintin O’Connell (83 catches, 1,1,115 yards, 14 TDs; 36 carries, 224 yards, 5 TDs); Jr. QB Drew Pyne (188-of-284 passing, 2,484 yards, 29 TDs, 3 INTs); Sr. T-DT Jack Stewart (6-5, 275; 44 tackles); Sr. WR-CB Wyatt Wilson (35 catches, 583 yards, 6 TDs).
WORDS: Sean made us feel slightly more optimistic that New Canaan will keep this game closer than the first one while talking with him Thursday on Joel Cookson’s CIACcast (cheap plug). The Rams have been playing their best of late knocking off Darien, Shelton and Prep in succession. Moore has helped them establish an effective run game. The defense was sensational against Prep. The Jesuits have run very well this season with a monster back in Doug Harrison. New Canaan held Prep to five yards on 18 carries. Head coach Lou Marinelli has coached a CIAC-record 12 state champions.
An example of how well Greenwich has played — CalPreps.com has a pretty accurate computer model that rates high school football teams in every state and predicts scores. It has tracked Connecticut since 2003. Only 2015 Darien and 2011 Xavier, respectively, have a higher rating than the Cardinals.
Greenwich has allowed a state-low 54 points, ridiculously few for anyone who plays in a power conference such as the FCIAC and in the LL playoffs. Bici and Camou lead a pass rush that’s paced Greenwich to 53 sacks (4.4 per game). Muir has thrown for 537 yards and seven TDs in the playoffs alone and scored on two runs. Comizio, who missed three weeks to a broken hand, was all-state last season.
Greenwich is the top-ranked team in both The Day's state coaches’ and GameTimeCT/New Haven Register media polls. It has never finished No. 1 in either. That’s about to change.
CALPREPS SEZ: Greenwich, 31-17.
SEAN PATRICK STAR’S PICK: Greenwich.
PETE P’S PICK: Greenwich.
POLECAT SEZ: Greenwich.
• • • •
WHERE/WHEN: Veterans Stadium Willow Brook Park, New Britain, 2 p.m.
LOOK/LISTEN: NFHS Network.
RECORDS: Hand 12-0; Maloney 10-2.
CHAMPIONSHIP RECORDS: Hand (12-6) — 1976 M, 1977 M, 1982 M, 1984 MM, 1989 MM, 1997 L, 2003 M, 2004 M, 2005 M, 2011 L, 2012 L, 2017 L; Maloney (0-2).
HAND DUDES: Sr. WR-CB Chris Bartosic (25 catches, 566 yards, 8 TDs); Jr. QB Phoenix Billings (83-of-126 passing, 1,661 yards, 20 TDs, 4 INTs; 37 carries, 557 yards, 10 TDs); Sr. WR-CB Ian Butler (19 catches, 408 yards, 3 TDs; 34 tackles, 4 INTs); Jr. T-DE Ben Corniello (48 tackles, 9 ½ sacks); Sr. DE-G Jack Flanagan (58 tackles, 9 1/2 sacks); Jr. RB-OLB Colin McCabe (116 carries, 1,220 yards, 31 TDs; 37 tackles, 5 sacks); Sr. OL-DT Macken McDonald (24 tackles); Jr. FS-K Isaiah McNeilley (4 INTs, 35-38 XPs); Jr. MLB-FB Shane Reiner (43 tackles).
MALONEY DUDES: Sr. WR-DB Maurice Brackett (44 catches, 631 yards, 7 TDs; 4 INTs); Sr. QB Elliot Good (170-of-281 passing, 2,418 yards, 30 TDs, 7 INTs; 40 carries, 213 yards, 1 TD); Jr. RB Freddy Hidalgo (101 carries, 567 yards, 11 TDs); Sr. WR-DB Victor Marquez (68 catches, 1,110 yards, 16 TDs; 87 tackles, 3 INTs); Sr. C Ryan Martel (6-5, 330); Jr. WR-DB Sergio Muniz (6 INTs); Sr. TE-LB Jaylon Nixon (97 tackles, 2 sacks); Sr. OL D.J. Posey (6-4, 290); Jr. OT-DT Trevor Santiago (6-5, 300; 59 tackles); Jr. TE-LB Kody Tolento (109 tackles, 3 sacks); So. RB-DB James Tarver (189 carries, 1,121 yards, 15 TDs). (Thanks to Beautiful Bryant Carpenter of the Meriden Record-Journal for the stats).
WORDS: How can the Spartans beat Hand? Danged if we know.
The defending champion Tigers have outscored opponents more than anyone in the state, 599-92. That’s a 507 point difference. That’s also madness.
One thing Maloney has going for it is its offensive line. It’s huge and experienced. Those are two good traits to have when facing a Hand front that’s been as ferocious as Greenwich’s and has more brawn. Marquez has been special, too.
And then there’s the Tigers' offense, which would have gaudier numbers if the starters weren’t getting yanked early leading elebenty-100-to-2 ever week.
Teams evolve and (generally) get better as the season goes on. The Spartans scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter to beat Windsor, 26-20, in their season opener (Sept. 7).
Hand led Windsor by 22 points during Sunday’s semifinal. In the first four minutes.
CALPREPS SEZ: Hand, 48-21.
PETE P’S PICK: Hand.
POLECAT SEZ: Hand.
• • • •
WHERE: Finn Stadium, Shelton High School, 2 p.m.
RECORDS: St. Joseph 11-1; Berlin 11-1.
CHAMPIONSHIP RECORDS: St. Joseph (13-3) — 1980 S, 1981 SS, 1982 SS, 1983 SS, 1984 SS, 1988 M, 1989 M, 1990 M, 2009 SS, 2010 S, 2013 M, 2014 M-Small, 2017 S; Berlin (1-7) — 2009 M.
ST. JOSEPH DUDES: Sr. WR Jesse Bike (29 catches, 450 yards, 8 TDs); Jr. LB Cole DaSilva (63 tackles, 6 sacks); Jr. WR Will Diamantis (39 catches, 871 yards, 13 TDs); Sr. LB Jesse Lawson (79 tackles); Sr. DB-WR Ace Luzietti; Jr. DE Michael Morrissey (58 tackles, 9 sacks); Jr. LB Alex Pagliarnini (81 tackles, 7 ½ sacks); Jr. RB Jaden Shirden (177 carries, 1,211 yards, 23 TDs; 22 catches, 239 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. QB David Summers (137-of-249 passing, 2,264 yards, 33 TDs, 10 INTs; 69 carries, 223 yards, 4 TDs); Jr. NG Jermaine Williams (5-11, 303, 33 tackles, 4 ½ sacks).
BERLIN DUDES: Sr. QB Kevin Dunn (119-of-192 passing, 2,053 yards, 27 TDs, 2 INTs; 35 carries, 250 yards, 3 TDs); Sr. Alex Halkias (111 carries, 937 yards, 14 TDs; 23 catches, 481 yards, 5 TDs; 64 tackles, 3 INTs); Jr. RB-DL Zach Hrubiec (55 carries, 355 yards, 4 TDs; 20 catches, 267 yards, 4 TDs; 93 tackles; 6 sacks); Jr. RB-LB Larry St. Pierre (39 carries, 353 yards, 4 TDs; 24 catches, 503 yards, 7 TDs; 68 tackles); Sr. G-LB Domenic Scarano (92 tackles); So. Marco Scarano (38 carries, 387 yards, 6 TDs; 10 catches, 144 yards, 2 TDs; 129 tackles, 3 INTs); Sr. LB-OL Tyler Tralli (80 tackles); Sr. WR-K Giancarlo Tufano (27 catches, 472 yards, 7 TDs; 49-of-56 XPs, 4-of-6 FGs); Jr. CB-WR Tony Undercuffer (28 tackles, 4 INTs).
WORDS: Hunch is that this will be the closest final, whatever “closest” means this Saturday.
Berlin has more than enough receivers and running backs to spread out a defense, and Dunn has improved so much over a season. Can the offensive line give him time, though? The Redcoats' front is technically sound and tenacious but, for the most part, is undersized given the norm. Williams will be handful for them in the middle, Morrissey is no fun coming off the edge, and there’s also DaSilva and Pagliarnini flying in from hither-and-yon. As a group, the Cadets' defense has five shutouts while only given up more than seven points twice — to Darien in a 22-7 loss (Sept. 22), and to Staples in a 17-14 win (Nov. 2).
You should know by now that Summers is headed to Maryland. He’s thrown four touchdown passes in each of St. Joseph’s two playoff games and averaged 13.2 yards per attempt. Not 13.2 yards a completion — 13.2 per attempt. Shirden has run 21 times for 238 yards (11.3 average) during states with five TDs and added two catches for 85 yards and a score in Sunday’s 52-7 mauling of Killingly. A defense cannot stop both (like, duh).
CALPREPS SEZ: St. Joseph, 35-13.
SEAN PATRICK STAR’S PICK: St. Joseph.
PETE P’S PICK: St. Joseph.
POLECAT SEZ: St. Joseph.
• • • •
WHERE/TIME: Veterans Stadium Willow Brook Park, New Britain, 10 a.m.
LOOK/LISTEN: NFHS Network.
RECORDS: Bloomfield 11-1; H-K 11-1.
CHAMPIONSHIP RECORDS: Bloomfield (8-5) — 1982 MM, 1997 S, 1998 S, 1999 S, 2000 M, 2001 S, 2003 SS, 2015 S; H-K (0-1).
BLOOMFIELD DUDES: Jr. DE-OT Kyle Barrow (84 tackles, 10 sacks); So. QB Daron Bryden (107-of-172 passing, 2,110 yards, 34 TDs, 9 INTs); Sr. RB-LB Ky’juon Butler (222 carries, 2,197 yards, 22 TDs; 65 tackles, 3 sacks); Sr. Myles Davis (16 catches, 313 yards, 2 TDs); Jr. DL-OL Kyle Davis (52 tackles, 7 ½ sacks); Sr. RB-LB Caleb Goodison (66 tackles); Jr. OL-DL Moeth Gonzalez; Sr. OL-DL Chesaih Hill-Gore; Fr. LB Aaron Jones (75 tackles); Fr. WR Jayvon Massey (27 catches, 569 yards, 14 TDs); So. CB-WR Denzel Patrick (63 tackles, 3 sacks); Sr. WR David Robinson (27 catches, 464 yards, 7 TDs); Jr. WR-DB Anthony Simpson (13 catches, 400 yards, 6 TDs).
H-K DUDES: Sr. RB-MLB Tobey Callender (196 carries, 1,462 yards, 20 TDs; 80 tackles; 5 INTs); Jr. OL-DT Trey Callender (6-2, 285, 63 tackles, 7 sacks); Sr. C-MLB Colton Lavoie; Sr. Aiden Maher (6-5, 235, 44 tackles, 2 sacks); Jr. RB-CB Dalton Modehn (178 carries, 1,244 yards, 21 TDs; 57 tackles, 4 INTs); Sr. RB-LB Zach Kauffman (117 carries, 678 yards, 9 TD; 55 tackles, 1 INT).
WORDS: The H-K offensive line has paved the way for their backs to average 47.2 carries and 292.2 yards rushing a game with 59 touchdowns. They’re going to need to play one of their best games of the season to run on the WARHAWKS. No one in Connecticut loves GOD’S OFFENSE more than everyone here at Polecat Worldwide (apart from Mike Emery), which mostly relies on getting the mostest blockers to the point of attack to overwhelm the defense. H-K has some hosses up front, but we’re not sure if moving all those bodies in concert against Bloomfield will be enough. HATS OFF to the Cougars for only throwing it 35 times this season (which was 35 times too many), but they’ll probably have to do it Saturday and we’re not sure they can do it efficiently often enough to keep the Warhawks honest. Then there’s the matter of defending Bloomfield’s offense. It loves to have Bryden throw the deep ball, and there’s not many secondaries that can physically match up with Massey (6-2, 210), Robinson (6-3, 180), and Simpson (6-0, 185). H-K struggled to stop Cromwell/Portland’s active passing game in a 47-19 loss on Sept. 29 (Bryce Karstetter completed 21 of 29 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns), which does not bode well against Bloomfield. It’s not like H-K can drop 16 guys into pass coverage, either, because Butler is a mauler who, aided by his line, can make life hell for a defense even when there are seven in the box. Ansonia was the only team that could match the Warhawks' combination of speed, size and talent, and Bloomfield just knocked it off.
CALPREPS SEZ: Bloomfield, 35-21.
SEAN PATRICK STAR’S PICK: Bloomfield.
PETE P’S PICK: Bloomfield.
POLECAT SEZ: Bloomfield.
• • • •
Ned Freeman’s cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps: 1. Greenwich; 2. New Canaan; 3. Hand; 4. St. Joseph; 5. Newtown; 6. Darien; 7. Shelton; 8. New Britain; 9. Fairfield Prep; 10. Berlin.
Bloomfield is 13th, Maloney 14th, and 30th Haddam-Killingworth.
• • • •
Finally, some reading material for you from around the Innernets:
Paul Augeri, Middletown Press/ GameTimeCT/Hearst Monolith: Callenders the family within the Haddam-Killingworth football family.
Joel Cookson, Sean Patrick Star and some Polecat knucklebeak, CIACCast podcast: Finals preview.
“Beautiful” Bryant Carpenter, Meriden Record-Journal: For Maloney, No. 5 to No. 3 often adds up to 6, Maloney serves up an O-line big in size, skill & personality, and, For first time since ’06, Maloney takes its place alongside state’s elite.
George DeMaio and a Polecat flunkie: Strictly High School podcast.
David Fierro (not Pontiac Fiero), Greenwich Time/GameTimeCT/Hearst Monolith: Greenwich’s first-rate secondary makes it a point to shut down the big play, and, Clash of the QBs: Greenwich’s Muir, New Canaan’s Pyne square off in LL championship.
Michael “Pucks” Fornabaio, Connecticut Post/GameTimeCT/Hearst Monolith: St. Joseph receivers grow into key factor for Class M finalists.
David Glovach, New Britain Herald: Underrated Berlin quarterback Dunn has led Redcoats into state championship game (underrated? By who? Not this season he ain’t), and, Trust has been just as important as talent for Berlin football this season.
“Jabbering” Jeff Jacobs, New Haven Register/GameTimeCT/Hearst Monolith: Meriden’s Billings family unleashes Hand QB on Maloney in L final.
Sean Krofssik, Meriden Record-Journal: Not everyone in the Maloney camp is making a state finals debut, Hand quarterback certainly fits the Billings, Maloney (and one famous alum) send Spartans off in style, and, Though an underdog to an unbeaten juggernaut, Spartans driven to claim Meriden’s first state championship.
Shawn McFarland, Hartford Courant: Berlin looks to bring a state title back to a 'football town' for the first time since 2009, After countless blowout wins, Hand football still keeps its edge as it prepares to defend Class L title, and championship capsules.
Petey P, GameTimeCT/Hearst Monolith: A back injury almost ended Maloney quarterback Elliot Good’s career, and Class L and M previews.
Dave Ruden, his Report: Summers plans to finish career at St. Joseph on a high note, New Canaan’s improved defense and running game boosted by a pair of Jacks, Greenwich motivated by the memories from a year ago, and, Greenwich-New Canaan a final with no one to root against.
Dave Stewart, New Canaan Advertiser/GameTimeCT/Hearst Monolith: An emotional week of triumph, tragedy and family for Greenwich coach John Marinelli.
• • • •
Thanks for reading. More soon.