Ansonia’s Arkeel Newsome, the best tailback in Connecticut, isn’t known for theatrics.
In his four years as a Charger, the state’s best tailback has stayed quiet, almost to the point of silence, and humble and unassuming. He rarely says more than a sentence, even as a veteran of hundreds of media interviews. On game day, he doesn’t say much to his teammates, either.
“He’s never been a rah-rah guy,” Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said a few weeks ago. “He’s just one of those kids who leads by example.”
Then who was this kid pounding his chest and barking at the Masuk sidelines after scoring yet another touchdown Thursday night? Who was this guy, beaming evil death-stares at those who tried to tackle him? Who was this man whose singular mindset was, “dominate”?
Who was this guy, and what had he done to Arkeel Newsome?
“I heard a lot of trash talk,” said Newsome, who ran for a whopping 398 yards and six touchdowns and became the state’s all-time leading rusher against Masuk. “That just got me even more amped up.”
Every season, Ansonia and its true worth as a football program is perhaps the ultimate hot-button topic in Connecticut football. Its entire existence is an anomaly. It’s one of the smallest schools in the state, but its football program has the state’s greatest pedigree: 18 state championships and counting.
The question, in varying forms is this: Yeah, they’re a great small-school program, but they play in a ‘weak’ league (the NVL) and would get bludgeoned if forced to compete in, say, the SCC or FCIAC.
Typically, the public response from Ansonia camp is: Yeah? And? So? What?
But against Masuk, a typically strong program which has won three state titles over the last 15 years, the Chargers’ true feelings came to light after a 56-21 victory — their 34th straight.
Ansonia is sick of your gripes. It’s sick of the criticism. When it comes time to line up and play, they say they’re as good as anyone. And they deliver practically every time.
“The biggest part of this game is, when you’re Ansonia you’re under fire,” coach Tom Brockett said. “We hear it all the time, we’d get worn out playing a two-platoon, Class L… We don’t feel like we have anything to prove to anybody but the critics are waiting. They’re waiting and we know they’re waiting and I thought our kids did a great job coming out and representing Ansonia football.”
In other words, the criticism will never dissipate unless the school actually packs up and moves to SCC Division I West. In the meantime, Ansonia can do nothing but dominate every team it plays if it’s going to keep its side of the never-ending argument.
So while their remaining schedule isn’t fraught with Xaviers, Hands, West Havens or St. Josephs or New Canaans, their greatest opponent is the only one in the state that can’t be defeated.
All that’s done is ticked off the Chargers and, worse, motivate them to rout the rest of their opponents and become the first Connecticut football team to go 15-0. They’re well on track. Hell hath no fury like a proud football program perpetually scorned.
The Story So Far…
In the beginning, Bill Mignault stood alone atop the all-time win list with 321.
Now, West Haven coach Ed McCarthy has tied the former Ledyard coach atop the leaderboard. McCarthy will stand alone with one more victory.
Former Ansonia great Alex Thomas stood atop the all-time rushing list and held the single-game rushing record of 518 yards. As of Thursday night, Newsome stands alone on the all-time list with 8,393 and counting. Jeremiah Crowley stands as the new single-game record holder.
In the beginning, there were approximately 30 new coaches in the state. Jack Cochran’s presence in Fairfield County at Harding was spreading fear in the FCIAC. Masuk was bickering with itself and its current coach Dave Brennan as it headed into a year-long anticipated clash with its former coach, John Murphy at New Milford. Naugatuck was excited to see what former Bunnell coach Craig Bruno could do at Bunnell. Everyone was curious to see what 20-something coaches like Jordan Panucci at Fitch and John Limone at Branford would do.
Cochran had Bridgeport and the state abuzz when Harding won its first two games. Now, he’s disappeared after telling his bosses he needed to take care of personal health issues. Harding, unfortunately, hasn’t won a game since.
Masuk hammered Murphy New Milford, 71-35 in Week 1. They were 4-0 and ranked until Pomperaug stunned them, 35-32, in Week 5 and Ansonia blitzed them, 56-21 last week.
Of the 30-or-so new coaches around connecticut, Bruno’s having the best season at 5-1. His latest victory was a 39-0 thrashing of Bunnell, his former team. East Lyme’s Rudy Bagos is 4-1. Ludlowe’s Vin Camera, Avon’s Jim Caouette, Manchester’s Clayton Hillyer and Masuk’s Brennan are all 4-2.
Eight new coaches have yet to win their first games: Bridgeport Central’s Brian Gordon, Branford’s Limone, Trinity’s Donny Panapada, Woodstock’s Clay Killingsworth, Lewis Mills’ Jose Santana, Notre Dame-Fairfield’s Ted Boynton, Stamford’s Jamar Green and Torrington’s Gaitan Rodriguez.
In the beginning, our eyes were focused on the state’s top running backs. They were Newsome, West Haven’s Ervin Philips, Hillhouse’s Harold Cooper, NFA’s Marcus Outlow, Notre Dame-West Haven’s Cameran Tucker, Rocky Hill’s Chris Young and Farmington’s Ivan Guadalupe. Nobody had heard of Tyzhan Leatherwood.
Now we have. The tailback is on a Newome-like pace with 1,430 yards and 18 touchdowns for unbeaten Platt.
In the beginning, we were anxious to find out — once and for all? — which league was the best: The SCC or the FCIAC. The NVL or the SWC.
Xavier was supposed to crush Staples, but had to hang on to win. Shelton destroyed Trumbull. New Canaan and Hand were supposed to engage in an epic battle, but the Rams made sure it was over at kickoff. Austin Longi and Greenwich stunned West Haven. The FCIAC won the Week 1 challenge, 9-8. In the subsequent weeks, the FCIAC has upped the record to 12-9.
The SWC and NVL duked it out last week and the SWC emerged with an 8-6 advantage. All three major NVL contenders — Ansonia, Naugatuck and Woodland — all won. With the exception of Masuk, so did most of the SWC’s major contenders — Newtown, Barlow and Brookfield.
In the beginning, there was Xavier and Ansonia atop the state polls.
Now, Xavier has lost twice and is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2008. Ansonia jumped to No. 1 and has remained there ever since, though New Canaan is making a strong argument.
St. Joseph is having a season for the ages, winning in a schedule fraught with big-time opponents and incredible victories. Middletown, not Xavier, is the toast of its town. The Blue Dragons are having their best season in two decades. (Someone should organize a game between these two… Wait. Oh.)
So where do we stand, halfway though the 2013 season?
A lot’s changed around here. Let’s take
a quick an extensive look back before we delve into the season’s second half.
5 Games that were…
St. Joseph 36, Fairfield Prep 33, Week 2 — Down 30-14 in the first meeting of these proud Catholic schools since 1993, Fairfield Prep rallied to take a 34-30 lead with under a minute left.
With the St. Joseph student section reciting the Holy Mother’s prayer at Alumni Field, Jordan Vazzano uncorked a 42-yard bomb to the corner of the end zone. The Prep defender fell (some still are screaming about pass interference) and St. Joseph receiver Lars Pedersen found himself himself wide open. He caught the ball and fell backward into the end zone. Cue bedlam in Fairfield County.
It was — and still is — the play that defines the 2013 season.
Wolcott 48, Seymour 41, Week 3 — A week after losing 42-36 in overtime to Naugatuck, Wolcott was in deep, deep trouble just a few days later. Seymour was destroying Wolcott in the first half, riding back Joey Salemme to a 34-6 lead deep into the second quarter. Only three times in state history had teams come back to win down 28 points.
Wolcott made it four.
In just his third varsity start, Vincent Gambino led the Eagles all the way back. They scored at the end of the first half to make it 34-13 and then poured it on in the second, pulling within 41-27 after three quarters and then 41-41 with two minutes left. Wolcott got the ball back, Gambino ran for a big first down and then, with a defender in his face, leaped and hit a wide-open Jay Pelletier in the end zone for the winning score with 11 seconds left (right).
Derby 49, St. Paul 45, Week 1 — St. Paul’s Logan Marchi was a wizard in the game’s first three quarters, staking the Falcons to an 18-point lead with 8 minutes remaining. Derby hung tough until it lost Jordan LaRue to an injury and then Tyrae Small to an ejection. Dejection was beginning to sink in on the Red Raiders sideline.
But Mike Kreiger and coach George French went to the bag of tricks. Derby recovered two onside kicks, though one eventually produced no points, and Kreiger rallied Derby to a 49-45 victory with 22 points in eight minutes. He capped it with an 8-yard touchdown run (right) and Brian Eliasson picked off Marchi to seal it.
Avon 42, North Branford 38, Week 5— Avon trailed 38-28 with just 30 seconds remaining. But led by the immeasurable talents of Jimmy Murphy, the Falcons rallied with two touchdowns in less than 12 seconds.
Murphy caught an 8-yard pass from Noah Hahn to pull Avon within 38-33. Murphy picked up the onside kick, then put Avon into position with a 20-yard catch down to the 24. Hahn did the rest, dropping a perfect pass into the arms of Justin Reichler who streaked into the end zone with 11.4 remaining (right).
West Haven 35, Xavier 34 (OT), Week 6 — Back-and-forth, back-and-forth these two SCC heavyweights slugged it out for four quarters with no winner. Ervin Philips, Duane Gary and Marshont Little played Joe Carbone and Andrew Meoli to a standstill, with both defenses making key stops in the final 11 minutes of regulation.
In overtime, Ervin Philips raced nine yards for a score and Tayvon Gibbs knuckleballed the extra point over the crossbar. Again, Carbone and Xavier countered with a short TD and Xavier coach Sean Marinan decided his team would go for the 2-point conversion and victory. But Philips, in the defensive play of the year, took on Carbone one-on-one. He stuffed the quarterback inches short of pay dirt and the Westies celebrated their first win over Xavier in years and coach Ed McCarthy’s record-tying 321st victory.
Honorable mention: Ludlowe 35, Harding 32 — In its first game playing without coach Jack Cochran, Harding rallied to take a 32-28 lead on Jhazaari Mullins’ blocked punt return touchdown. But Ludlowe’s Mike Arman made THE play of the year, when he caught a three-times ricocheted ball and scored on a 66-yard TD pass from Matt White with minutes remaining. …Trumbull 50, Greenwich 44 — Greenwich’s Austin Longi (330 yards rushing) and Trumbull’s Nick Roberts (371 yards passing) duke it out for four quarters. M.J. Cesare won it for Trumbull on a 10-yard run with 1:49 remaining. …Naugatuck 42, Wolcott 36 (OT) — In a wild, back-and-forth affair on the new turf at Veterans Field, Naugatuck stops Wolcott in OT and Jason Bradley wins it on a 5-yard run. …Canton 28, Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton 27 — With just a minute left, Canton’s Sebastian Gumbs threw a halfback option touchdown to Jake Wood. Coventry countered with Vincenzo Marciano’s bruising 5-yard TD run with seconds left, but the extra point snap was bad and Canton escaped. …Southington 16, Glastonbury 9 — This opening-week defensive struggle finally got offensive late in the fourth quarter. Jalen Ollie hit Anthony Anisimov with a 76-yard touchdown pass. But Southington’s Tyler Hyde bolted 57 yards for the winning score with 5:04 left.
New Canaan 50, Hand 21 — This was never a game. Beginning with Cole Harris’ first-quarter safety and interception return for a touchdown, the Rams blitzed the two-time defending Class L champions with a 36-0 halftime lead and a 43-0 second-half lead before calling off the pitbulls.
The game signaled a possible changing of the guard in the Class L playoff division. New Canaan’s 66-20 victory over Greenwich a few weeks later only cemented the sentiment and gave the Rams a strong case for No. 1.
North Haven 42, Xavier 28, Week 2 — Three-time defending Class LL champion Xavier had just lost once in three years. They’d never lost to an SCC Division II team. That all changed on a crazy night at Vanacore Field when the tone of the 2013 season was changed.
The Indians pounded Xavier at the lines, picked off Joe Carbone three times and never trailed. It was 21-21 when Mike Halloran hit Zach Kastenbuber with the 51-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. Ethan Suraci’s 39-yard touchdown run with four minutes left sealed it.
Glastonbury 6, NFA 0, Week 4 — It was the biggest statewide interconference matchup on the other side of the SCC/FCIAC and NVL/SWC challenges. Norwich Free Academy and its cadre of stars, including Marcus Outlow and Tuzar Skipper, finally got a primetime regular season matchup vs. a fellow Class LL school.
The results were stunning. Glastonbury’s defense held the state’s scariest offense to ZERO points, including a missed field goal and a touchdown pass from Ryan Beaudreault to Ramel Williams that was called back for an illegal formation. Scoreless in the fourth quarter, Glastonbury finally embarked on an 80-play drive and scored on a six-yard touchdown pass from Jalen Ollie, the son of UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie, to Kyran McKinney-Crudden, the grandson of Windham football coach Brian Crudden. Ethan Ericson picked off NFA quarterback Ryan Beaudreault with under a minute left.
Hall 49, Southington 37, Week 6 — Hall opened the season with a tough loss vs. Glastonbury. It blew a 14-point lead to lose 35-28. The Warriors remained unspoken in state circles until Saturday afternoon. They rallied by as much as 21 points down and from 16 down in the fourth quarter with three unanswered touchdowns. Tom Honyotski threw for 399 yards and three touchdowns, including the eventual winner, a 12-yard touchdown to Neil Kelly with 43 seconds left. Kelly then squashed Southington’s attempt at a rally by picking off Stephen Barmore and taking the ball 67 yards the other way.
Platt 47, Rocky Hill 14, Week 5 — This was supposed to be one of the best games of the year in the CCC. It pitted Chris Young and the Terriers vs. sensation Tyzhan Leatherwood and Platt.
But Young, who bullied Platt the year before, didn’t even break 100 yards while Platt’s Leatherwood followed blocks by 300-pound lineman Erlin Colon and ran wild for 347 yards, including a 92-yard touchdown. Platt quarterback Andrew McBride chipped in with a few sweet touchdown strikes. The Panthers barely broke sweat and strutted off Falcon field with a stunning rout that cemented their status as a Class L contender.
Honorable Mention: Greenwich 22, West Haven 21 — The Westies would do anything to get this game back. They lost thanks to a 95-yard missed field goal return, a fumble return and then an intentional safety strategy backfired when Austin Longi’s short TD run with seconds left. … Pomperaug 35, Masuk 32 — Wade Prajer completes 38 of 56 passes for 401 yards and rallies Pomperaug from 14 points down to stun then-unbeaten Masuk. Steven Croce catches the 10-yard winner with seconds left. …Canton 16, Avon 13 — Not only had Canton never beaten Avon in nine tries, the program never even scored a point in five games. This time it rallied back twice and Terrence Brophy’s 6-yard touchdown run won it with no time remaining. …Capital Prep/Classical/Achieve 53, New London 14 — Bennie Fulse and Mike Jones go wild in this stunning CSC team’s rout over the ECC’s New London in Week 2 that made the state take notice of Cap Prep’s potential. …Farmington 13, Windsor 7 — The offensive shootout never happened and Farmington struck a major chord as a Class L playoff contender with the victory.
Top 5 memorable performances
Jeremiah Crowley, Montville (526 yards rushing vs. Stonington, above), Week 3 — Troubled by a bum knee all night, the Montville senior had a night for the ages in his first full game of the season. He ran 36 times for 526 yards and scored all seven of his team’s touchdowns in a 49-37 victory over Montville. The performance broke the Connecticut’s single-game rushing record once held by former Ansonia great Alex Thomas, who had 518 yards vs. Woodland on Sept. 27, 2007 — to the day, six years before Crowley’s feat.
Adding further to the drama of his historical feat, Crowley had been suspended for Montville’s first game due to a preseason “emotional outburst,” and he didn’t play much in the Indians’ blowout loss to NFA.
Proving it was no fluke, Crowley has gone well over 1,000 yards rushing with his latest effort, a 27-carry, 346-yard, six touchdown performance in a 41-37 win over Waterford.
Arkeel Newsome, Ansonia (398 yards rushing vs Masuk, Week 6) — Newsome broke the state’s all-time scoring record last year. He shattered the all-time state record with a 398-yard, six touchdown night vs. Masuk. Newsome now owns Connecticut’s career marks for touchdowns, point and rushing yardage.
Jimmy Murphy, Avon (Possessed in Falcons’ comeback) — Days after the death of his uncle, former Avon player Michael Murphy, the sparkplug senior had a tremendous game to lead Avon back against North Branford. He scored three touchdowns, had a sack, a tackle for a loss, made a touchdown-saving tackle and recovered the onside kick that set up Avon’s winning drive. Oh, and he caught a key pass from Noah Hahn with 20 seconds left to set up the winning touchdown.
Jack Pinho wins inaugural George Pinho Trophy, Week 4 — The Woodland and Naugatuck communities were shattered when George Pinho died unexpectedly in January. He was a Naugatuck graduate and a longtime youth coach in town before shifting his focus to his boys playing Woodland athletics. He was an assistant coach there when he died. So the two bitter rivals created the Pinho Memorial trophy to honor him. And in the first game with the trophy at stake, Woodland rallied back to beat Naugatuck 25-22. Pinho’s son, Jack, caught a touchdown pass early in the game, and then lofted the trophy in the air amid a jubilant postgame celebration.
Mike Kreiger’s comeback vs. St. Paul, Week 1 — Wolcott’s 28-point comeback was 10 points more impressive, but QB Mike Kreiger and Derby made their 18-point comeback in the game’s final eight minutes… without their two best backs, while recovering two onside kicks, failing to convert a fourth down at the end zone after one of them, vs. one of the state’s most prolific quarterbacks.
5 best midseason teamsAnsonia — Nobody — nobody — can stop Arkeel Newsome — so much, quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight has yet to be unleashed. The defense is tough with Saiheed Sanders plugging up holes, though it has been prone to giving up early scores. With Newsome on the Chargers’ side, it hardly matters.
New Canaan — Defense. Offense. Special teams. Cole Harris. Cole Harris. Cole Harris. (Feels like there’s a hundred of him out there, doesn’t it?) The Rams have the complete package.
St. Joseph — Right now, unless Staples shows up this week, the Hogs look like New Canaan’s only peer in the FCIAC. Game on Nov. 1.
Middletown — Dario Highsmith is a wrecking ball. Twin linemen David and Anthony Bednarz do the swinging.
Someone in the SCC — West Haven, Hand, North Haven, Shelton, Prep, Xavier… they’re too busy bludgeoning each other to worry about rankings. But one, if not all, of these teams can make a good case. After getting humbled by New Canaan in Week 1, Hand is looking like the league’s best team. It hasn’t lost a league game and has a pair of signature wins over North Haven and Fairfield Prep. The big question is, will the SCC ultimately eat itself alive before the playoffs arrive?
Look out for: Newtown (6-0), Platt (6-0), Glastonbury (5-1).
5 (or 7) most underrated midseason teams
Hall — The Warriors haven’t been on anybody’s radar, but they’ve quietly built up an impressive resume. They took Glastonbury to the wire and have rattled off four straight victories, including last week’s stunning 49-37 victory over Southington.
Woodland — The recent emergence of sophomore Sean McAllen as a running threat gives the Hawks another dimension to go with Kingsley, who’s been perfect (25 TDs, 3 INTs).
Barlow — Barlow… Barlow? Look, if you haven’t seen Jack Shaban play football, you — dear sirs and madams — are missing out. If the Falcons can get past Brookfield in a few weeks, get ready to watch the Falcons fly in the state playoffs.
Valley Regional/Old Lyme OR Morgan — Phil Cohen and Justin Cheverier lead one of the Pequot’s most impressive teams, both offensively and defensively. The Warriors have won in blowouts and in squeakers. Well, now Valley plays unbeaten Morgan on Friday night for Pequot supremacy. The Huskies were 5-5 a year ago, but have won 10 straight, riding the Pequot’s best back, junior Jake Ward, to an unbeaten start. Whoever wins gets the ‘most underrated’ award.
Trumbull OR McMahon — Like Hand, Trumbull got obliterated by Shelton in Week 1 and have since rolled off four straight victories, the latest a wild win over Greenwich. QB Nick Roberts has been putting up insane numbers recently, but they’ve been getting no love in the polls. McMahon is 6-0 and getting the least respect out of all the state’s remaining unbeaten teams, but have still won with senior captain Trevon Forney done for the season with a broken arm. One of these teams will wind up surprising someone down the stretch. We just can’t figure out who.
Top storylines to watch
Who’s No. 1? Ansonia (6-0) or New Canaan (6-0) or…?
With Masuk properly subdued, the Chargers can get to back on their NVL and state championship course. If all goes according to form, Newsome and the Chargers could be playing an unprecedented 15 games when it’s all over. But so could New Canaan, which has back-to-back tests vs. Staples and No. 3 St. Joseph and, later, Darien. Plus, Class L is shaping up as the strongest playoff division. When it’s all over, if the Rams are holding FCIAC and Class L titles, they’ll have a much stronger case for No. 1. …Or, if St. Joseph somehow subdues the Rams and goes unbeaten, could the Hogs actually earn the No. 1 ranking? …It’s not far-fetched.
West Haven (5-1): ‘We’re going to go 10-1″West Haven lost to Greenwich 22-21 in a head-scratcher that Ed McCarthy called ‘the worst loss in the history of football.’ The Westies surrendered touchdowns on a missed field goal (yes) and a sack-turned-desperate-pass-into-fumble-touchdown. Then, McCarthy took a safety while 7 points ahead paid dearly. Greenwich’s Austin Longi scored on a short run to hand the Westies a gutwrenching 22-21 loss.
But the Westies have found their groove. With their 35-34 OT win over Xavier, they’re back in dream season mode. McCarthy should eclipse Bill Mignault to become the all-time coaching wins leader. West Haven finishes with Hamden, Cross, Shelton, Hand and Fairfield Prep to finish off the year.
“We vowed, after (the Greenwich) game that we were going to win the rest of our games and go to the playoffs at 10-1,” McCarthy said. “We have five big ones left, but we’re going to do it.”
Here come the Hand Tigers (5-1)
Two-time defending Class L champion Hand was written off after its 52-20 loss to New Canaan. The Tigers were down big against Hillhouse the following week, then switched to sophomore Nick van Dell at quarterback, rallied to beat Hillhouse and have run off five straight victories, including wins over North Haven and Prep. They’re not nearly out of the woods yet. Their real season is just beginning: at Shelton, vs. Xavier, at West Haven, vs. Notre Dame-WH, at Guilford.
Viva la SCC.
Harding (2-4): Cochran giveth, then goesth away
For two sweet weeks, Harding was the toast of Connecticut. Under new coach Jack Cochran, the downtrodden program had won back-to-back games for the first time since 1996 and, looking at the schedule, was a good bet to win several more games.
Then Cochran told Bridgeport he was dealing with health issues and he hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Bridgeport is still in ‘wait-and-see’ mode but, really, its looking more and more like the championship caliber coach won’t return.
Hall’s victory over Southington really mucked up the works in this division. There are now TWO unbeaten teams — McMahon (6-0) and Newtown (6-0)… huh? — remaining, then a mess of NINE 1-loss teams and FIVE 2-loss teams — including three-time defending champion Xavier.
The Falcons are in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Their remaining schedule reads like this: Notre Dame-WH, Hand, Shelton, Fairfield Prep. Win them all and Xavier, which plays just 10 games, will be staring at scoreboards and chewing its fingers instead of turkey on Thanksgiving.
As for the division’s top contender? It’s be to just put on a blind fold and throw a dart right now.
The favorite remains New Canaan (6-0) until further notice. But, woah, this is shaping up to be one mother of a playoff division.
To wit, your midseason CIAC Class L rankings: 1. New Canaan, 2. Middletown (6-0), 3. Farmington (6-0), 4. Platt (6-0), 5. Hand (5-1), 6. Windsor (5-1), 7. Bristol Eastern (5-1), 8. Darien (5-1), 9. Cheney Tech (5-1), 10. Naugatuck (5-1), 11. North Haven (5-1), 12. East Lyme (4-1), 13. Masuk (4-2).
The favorite remains St. Joseph (6-0) until further notice. By a mile.
Though we’d love to see what Valley Regional/Old Lyme (6-0), Barlow (5-1), Brookfield (5-1), Ledyard (5-1), Gilbert/Northwestern (5-1), Bethel (4-2) or Wolcott (4-2) can do.
Yes, even at 3-3 Harold Cooper and the defending champion Academics still have a shot to get in. They’ll just have to run the table vs. Foran, North Haven, Guilford, Branford and Cross. (Oof).
[This space intentionally left blank].
Will the FCIAC championship be a rematch?
Here’s where the FCIAC stands at midseason: There are five unbeaten teams remaining in the league standings: St. Joseph, New Canaan, Trumbull, Staples and McMahon. All five teams play one or two of the others in the coming weeks, which should clear up the picture considerably.
Only two pairs of the five unbeaten teams — St. Joseph and Trumbull, Darien and New Canaan — play on Thanksgiving. So the odds are we’ll be getting our first non-Thanksgiving FCIAC championship since 2010.
The way the teams have been playing, it looks like the winner of Week 8’s mega St. Joseph-New Canaan game will be virtually assured of an FCIAC championship spot. Should both teams win their other games, there’s a good chance we’ll see both teams line up again a mere two weeks later at McDougall Stadium for the official FCIAC title.
We are, of course, a long way from figuring out the FCIAC participants. Two-time defending league champion Staples can throw its helmet into the ring by beating New Canaan and Trumbull. McMahon needs to run the table vs. Ludlowe, Ridgefield and St. Joseph to get into great position. Trumbull can, too, by running the table vs. Wilton, Staples, Danbury and Central. Odds are McMahon and Trumbull won’t win out, but if they do it’ll be a three-team bottleneck with New Canaan.
Our heads hurt, too. It’ll become much clearer over the next two weeks.
Worth noting while we’re here: Of the unbeaten FCIAC teams remaining, St. Joseph has never played for an FCIAC Championship. McMahon last played for an won an FCIAC title in 1995.
Who will Newtown play for the SWC championship? Masuk? Brookfield? …Barlow?!?:
The toughest part of its schedule behind, Newtown and its array of offensive and defensive weapons looks like it will roll to a fourth-straight SWC championship game and get to defend its title. But who will join the Hawks?
Though reeling of late, Masuk’s schedule is favorable until its Thanksgiving game vs. Newtown. This week’s game vs. Bethel is the only remaining opponent with a winning record. The Panthers also play Weston 3-3.
Brookfield is rolling since its 35-7 loss to Newtown. It has Oxford, Weston and New Milford over the next three weeks. So is Barlow, which took Newtown to the wire thanks to Jack Shaban before losing. The Falcons have Pomperaug, Oxford and Notre Dame-Fairfield next.
Should those two win out, it would set up the SWC’s biggest second-half game, Nov. 15 at WestConn in Week 9.
Neither Barlow nor Brookfield face Masuk in the regular season. So, should Masuk win out as well, the Barlow-Brookfield winner will be in a fight with Masuk for playoff points.
Brookfield last won an SWC title in 2008. Barlow has never been to the SWC championship, though it did play for a WCC title back in 1987.
Will anyone other than Ansonia and Woodland play for the NVL title?
Woodland already took care of Naugatuck and need only to beat Holy Cross to punch its ticket. Ansonia is, well, Ansonia.
A (slightly) better question: Can Woodland actually win an NVL title game vs. Ansonia?
The biggest games of the season’s second half:
Week 7: New Canaan at Staples,
Morgan at Valley Regional Valley Regional/Old Lyme at Morgan, Hand at Shelton, Hillhouse at Foran, Ridgefield at Darien.
Week 8: Staples at Trumbull, Berlin at Platt, Morgan at North Branford, St. Joseph at New Canaan, Oxford at Barlow, Xavier at Hand, Farmington at Middletown, Woodland at Holy Cross, North Haven at Hillhouse.
Week 9: Naugatuck at Holy Cross, McMahon at Ridgefield, Shelton at Xavier, Hand at West Haven, Foran at North Haven, Berlin at Rocky Hill.
Week 10: Derby at Woodland, St. Joseph at McMahon, Brookfield at Barlow, Shelton at West Haven, Foran at Guilford, Darien at North Haven, Glastonbury at Windsor, Xavier at Fairfield Prep.
Week 11: SWC Championship, FCIAC Championship, NVL Championship; Cromwell at North Branford, Hall at Conard.
Week 12: Middletown at Windsor, Newtown at Masuk, Greenwich at Staples, Brookfield at Bethel, West Haven at Fairfield Prep, Holy Cross at Wolcott, Trumbull at St. Joseph, Darien at New Canaan, Ansonia at Naugatuck.
Halftime’s over. Get out there and play.