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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    H.S. football notes: Connecticut Football Alliance assures equity for everyone

    Thames River quarterback Justin Outlow (11) fights for extra yards before being tackled by Fitch’s Dylan Beebe (67) during Friday’s game at Grasso Tech. The season opener, played as part of the Connecticut Football Alliance, drew approximately 2,300 fans.(Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    There is no task assigned to a governing body more important than assimilating the concept of equity into its programs and guidelines. Equity: The practice of accounting for the differences in each individual’s starting point in pursuit of a goal or achievement — and working to remove barriers to equal opportunity.

    The opening weekend of the high school football season stood in tribute to equity’s arrival. A number of games created by the Connecticut Football Alliance provided balanced competition that produced a number of competitive games and allowed struggling programs to succeed.

    A primer: The state scheduling alliance consists of every league in Connecticut except the Naugatuck Valley League and the Pequot Conference. All other schools play programs from other conferences with similar enrollments, backgrounds and talent levels, based on the alliance’s formulas.

    The alliance, for example, gave Bacon Academy and Montville (both 1-9 a year ago and two programs that went more than 1,000 days from 2019 and 2022 between victories) to open with programs also finding their way. Bacon defeated Bethel (0-10 a year ago) 21-0 and Montville defeated Lewis Mills (1-9 a year ago) 26-6.

    “It was a good opponent to play for us,” Bacon coach Bill Chaffin said. “It allows us to play not only different competition, but competition that is right for us at the moment. I appreciate their work.”

    Montville coach Tanner Grove: “The alliance scheduling is a very good thing for the development of Connecticut high school football. The game is constantly evolving and scheduling games of like-sized, and competitively similar programs is key to the overall improvement of the game as a whole.”

    Also of note: Class LL programs Hamden (SCC) and Trumbull (FCIAC) played a 47-46 overtime game and traditional powers Shelton (SCC) and New Canaan (FCIAC) played to 26-23.

    League representatives (SCC, Al Carbone; ECC, Jim Buonocore; FCIAC, Dave Schultz; SWC, Mark Berkowitz; CCC, Trish Witkin) submit data for each league member school and then meet several times per year.

    “The process is pretty unique,” said Buonocore, Ledyard High’s assistant principal and athletic director. “We attempt to be as objective as possible. But there’s also the subjective piece that comes into play from each conference representative.”

    Buonocore said among the data points considered are 2022 final record (including playoffs), total roster size, graduating seniors and other factors.

    “Then we all meet in person and schedule games,” Buonocore said. “We do this collaboratively. We focus on data, but the human element plays a big part. We talk about coaching changes, transfers, strong freshman or sophomore classes coming up, things like that. Every league rep needs to know their teams. It takes time, but we find that the process works.”

    It has been suggested by coaches, administrators and media members that CIAC playoff divisions in all sports follow this model.

    “The alliance has produced competitive, exciting games across the state. It provides good games to good teams and competitive and winnable games to programs that are struggling,” Buonocore said. “Struggling programs are easy to identify. Now we can give them some hope. You don't always find that available within a league structured setting. Some programs never have a chance to come up for air.

    “The alliance also meets the needs of strong programs who get a chance to challenge themselves. With the expanded playoff format, one or two losses doesn’t not knock you out anymore. Playing competitive and challenging games is now a reward, not a detriment. You will be better for it.”

    Crowded houses

    Athletic directors across the ECC reported high attendance numbers for opening weekend.

    Fitch at Thames River drew 2,300 to Grasso Tech’s new turf field. Griswold athletic director Steve Cravinho said about 2,000 watched the first game on the new turf field, which the Wolverines christened by throttling East Catholic.

    “It looked like a Thanksgiving Day crowd,” Cravinho said.

    Buonocore said more than 1,500 watched Ledyard’s season opener against Sheehan at Bill Mignault Field and Killingly’s Jim Lackner said more than 1,000 attended the 2022 playoff rematch against Masuk.

    News and notes

    NFA traveled 97 miles to play at Stamford last week. Now the Wildcats get to stay home this week (Thursday night) as Hamden makes the 65.4 mile trip through traffic. … Two defensive ends to watch this season: New London’s Kyle Parkes (drawing interest from Bryant) and Bacon’s Mason Leak, a transfer from East Hartford who was very disruptive in Saturday's win over Bethel.

    Per the Weston High X (formerly Twitter) feed, Hakeem Nicks, a member of the New York Football Giants’ last Super Bowl championship team, attended Weston’s season opener against Weaver. Nicks posed for photos with the student section. … Small world: Nate Tyler is the coach of Stratford, New London’s opening week opponent. His college roommate: Bacon coach Bill Chaffin. … Tune in Friday for the renewal of the Fitch-New London rivalry, 6 p.m. on GameDay.


    Week 2 Local Schedule

    Thursday’s Games

    Granby/Canton at Valley/Old Lyme, 6:30 p.m.

    Hamden at NFA, 6:30 p.m.

    Friday’s Games

    Fitch at New London, 6 p.m.

    Ledyard at Weaver, 6 p.m.

    Montville at Waterford, 6 p.m.

    Woodstock at East Lyme, 6:30 p.m.

    Bacon Academy at Stonington, 6:30 p.m.

    Windham at Griswold/Wheeler, 6:30 p.m.

    Saturday’s Game

    Thames River at Wilcox/Kaynor, 6 p.m.

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