All Games 2 p.m.
No. 5 BROOKFIELD (10-3) vs. No. 1 VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME (12-0)
- Where: Maclary Complex, Cheshire
- On the Air: NFHS Network (subscription required)
- Players to watch: Brookfield: Brad Westmark, Sr., QB; Bobby Drysdale, So., RB/LB; Justin Lyons, Sr., RB/NG; Valley Regional/Old Lyme: Phil Cohen, Sr., QB; Justin Cheverier, Jr., RB/LB; Chris Jean-Pierre, Jr., WR/DB.
You should know: Valley Regional/Old Lyme has advanced to the semifinals for the third time in four season. The Warriors, though, have never reached a state final.
Valley/OL crushed Quinebaug Valley 48-3 in the quarterfinals. In that contest, Cohen completed 13 of 19 passes for 214 yards. Cohen has completed 120 of 176 passes for 1,774 yards and 27 touchdowns against just four interceptions this season.
Cohen has a slew of receivers to distribute the ball to, including Jean-Pierre (37 catches, 430 yards, six touchdowns), Dave Peck (27-574-12) and Evan Smith (21-314-6, pictured scoring at right). Cheverier has been the co-op’s top rushing threat all season but he injured his shoulder in the first quarter against Quinebaug and did not return. Cheverier, who is also one of this team’s top defenders, will likely play here but he may be limited. Dan Figuenick (113 tackles) and Tyler Cheverier (111 tackles, 5.5 sacks) have also contributed on defense for the Warriors.
Valley/OL will put its unbeaten record on the line against Brookfield, the SWC runner-up, which snapped a two-game losing streak with a 22-21 victory over Bethel in the quarterfinals. The Bobcats, who avenged a 20-0 loss to Bethel on Thanksgiving, are in the semifinals for the first time since 2009. In the quarterfinals, Drysdale scored the winning touchdown with 38 seconds remaining.
Drysdale has been a revelation this season. The sophomore, who is one of several sophomore stars (including Austin Reich) rushed 192 times for 1,829 yards and 25 touchdowns this year as the Bobcats have gone back to the Wing-T after several years running a spread offense. The Bobcats, who are a run-first team, have rushed for 3,791 yards and 49 touchdowns this season.
Sophomore Nick Seis has made nine sacks, while Lyons has recorded eight. The stout Brookfield defense has tallied 31 sacks and 14 interceptions this year.
- Pooch’s pick: Valley Regional/Old Lyme.
- SPB’s Pick: Brookfield, 34-24
No. 3 BARLOW (10-2) at No. 2 ST. JOSEPH (11-2)
- Where: Bunnell High, Stratford
- Players to watch: Barlow: Jack Shaban, Sr., QB/DB; Harry Wilson, Jr., RB/SS; Alex Gallaer, Sr., OL/DL; St. Joseph: Jordan Vazzano, Sr., QB; Lars Pedersen, Jr., WR/S; Steve Hashemi, Sr., OL/DL.
You should know: Barlow has never been to the semifinals. The Falcons earned their first ever playoff victory (in their first ever postseason appearance) with a 54-27 victory over Gilbert/Northwestern in the quarterfinals.
Shaban, one of the state’s most exciting players, rushed 17 times for 208 yards and four touchdowns in that win as Barlow rushed for 550 yards and eight touchdowns. Shaban has season totals of 221 carries for 2,049 yards and 36 touchdowns. Barlow has other weapons besides Shaban including junior Bryan Gallaer (43 carries, 500 yards, five touchdowns) and Wilson (77-951-12), On the season, the Falcons have rushed for 4,849 yards and 64 touchdowns.
In contrast, the Hogs are normally a pass-heavy squad led by Vazzano. However, in an 84-49 win over Ledyard 84-49 in the quarterfinals, the Hogs rushed for 630 yards and 10 touchdowns. Junior Mufasha Abdul Basir led the way with 22 carries for 324 yards and five scores. St. Joseph’s balance offensively has been difficult for most opponents to contain. The Hogs lost twice this season, both times to New Canaan.
On the season, Vazzano has completed 171 of 327 passes for 2,746 yards and 35 touchdowns. Pedersen (54 receptions, 967 yards, 14 touchdowns) has been Vazzano’s main target, while senior Shane Miller has chipped in with 45 catches for 881 yards and 11 scores. Abdul-Basir leads the Hogs with 245 carries for 2,268 yards and 28 touchdowns.
St. Joseph, which reached the quarterfinals last season, last made the semifinals in 2010 en route to the Class S title.
The two teams scrimmaged at the start of the 2013 preseason (see video at right).
- Pooch’s pick: St. Joseph.
- SPB’s Pick: St. Joseph 55-33