All games at 2 p.m.
No. 8 RIDGEFIELD (10-2) vs. No. 4 SOUTHINGTON (10-1)
- Where: Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven
- On the Air: NFHS Network | Audio: Hersam-Acorn radio
- Players to watch: Ridgefield: Andrew Chuma, Sr., WR/SS; Ryan Dunn, Jr., QB/DB; Will Bonaparte, Sr., RB/DB; Southington: Stephen Barmore, Sr., QB; Alex Jamele, Jr., WR; Zach Maxwell, Sr., WR/DE.; Tyler Hyde, Sr. RB
You should know: Ridgefield was one of two No. 8 seeds that advanced to the semifinals (Bloomfield, in Class S, is the other). The Tigers knocked off No. 1 seed, and previously unbeaten, Newtown 35-33 in the quarterfinals. It marks the first time since the playoff format expanded to 32 teams that Ridgefield has made the final four.The Tigers will attempt to reach their first state title game since they won Class L in 2002.
Bonaparte ran for 226 yards on 36 carries and scored twice in the victory over Newtown. Bonaparte has rushed 251 times for 1,750 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. The Tigers, though, are balanced. Dunn threw two touchdown passes and ran for another in the quarterfinals. The Dunn-Bonaparte combination should give the Southington defense fits.
Speaking of defense, Ridgefield needs to contain the Blue Knights’ potent passing attack in order to advance. Barmore, who will attend Yale next fall, passed for 168 yards and three touchdowns in his team’s 52-14 victory over NFA in the quarterfinals. Barmore has completed 157 of 243 passes for 2,550 yards and 35 touchdowns against just five interceptions this season.
Even if Ridgefield limits Barmore, the Tigers must also worry about Southington’s ground game, which was highly successful against NFA. Senior Tyler Hyde (pictured, scoring the winning TD vs. Glastonbury) carried 14 times for 156 yards and four scores in that win.
Southington is seeking its first state title game appearance since 2006.
- Pooch’s pick: Southington.
- SPB’s Pick: Southington 34-17
No. 7 FAIRFIELD PREP (10-2) vs. No. 6 WEST HAVEN (10-2)
- Where: McDougall Stadium, Trumbull
- On The Air: WELI 960-AM
- Players to watch: Fairfield Prep: Nick Crowle, Sr., RB/LB; Colton Smith, Jr., QB/DB; John DelliSanti, Jr., WR/S; West Haven: Ervin Philips, Sr., RB; Duane Gary, Sr., QB; Marshont Little, Jr., RB.
You should know: They meet again. Fairfield Prep and West Haven will face off for the second time in a little over a week. Fairfield Prep earned a 29-20 win over the Westies on Thanksgiving, snapping West Haven’s nine-game winning streak. The Jesuits enter having won their last six.
Fairfield Prep has not reached a state final since winning the Class LL title in 1988.Smith, perhaps the state’s most underrated player, has factored heavily into Fairfield Prep’s late-season surge. Smith rushed for 266 yards and four touchdowns in a 33-23 victory over Glastonbury in the quarterfinals.
Smith has now rushed 157 times for 1,649 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. He’s also passed for 1,513 yards and nine touchdowns. DelliSanti has been Smith’s top target. DelliSanti has made 35 catches for 774 yards and eight touchdowns. Crowle (pictured, scoring the clinching touchdown vs. West Haven on Thanksgiving), has become the main force at tailback. While the Fairfield Prep defense is big and physical up front, the Jesuits may have to make some adjustments in the secondary. Glastonbury’s Jalen Ollie completed 23 of 42 passes for 376 yards and three touchdowns.
The only good news in that regard is that West Haven is a run-first time, although Gary is capable of leading the Westies down field through the air.Gary can also run, and he and Philips make for a formidable duo in the backfield. Philips, one of the state’s best running backs, rushed for 144 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-26 victory over Hall in the quarterfinals. Gary threw for 122 yards in the win.
West Haven scored 30 points in the third quarter to a erase a 14-13 deficit against Hall. Like Prep against Glastonbury, the Westies allowed Hall to move the ball effectively through the air, with Hall quarterback Tom Honyotski throwing for 407 yards.
This game, though, will likely be decided on the ground, and should feature a lot of Smith, Gary and Philips running all over the turf at McDougall Stadium. West Haven has not reached a state final since 2003.
- Pooch’s pick: West Haven.
- SPB’s Pick: West Haven 32-28