All games 2 p.m.
No. 4 MIDDLETOWN (11-1) vs. No. 1 DARIEN (11-1)
- Where: Pomperaug High, Southbury
- On the air: NFHS Network (subscription required)
- Players to watch: Middletown: Dario Highsmith, Jr., QB; Anthony Bednarz, Sr., DL; Cody Carrillo, Sr., WR/LB; Darien: Silas Wyper, Sr., QB; Nick Lombardo, Sr., WR/SS; Griffin Ross, Jr., WR.
- You should know: After defeating New London in the quarterfinals, Middletown has reached the semifinals for the first time under the current playoff format. The win over the Whalers marked the first time the Blue Dragons won a home playoff game in school history. Middletown has won 11 games for the third time in school history. The Blue Dragons have not reached a state final since winning the Class M title in 1992.
Middletown rushed 55 times for 375 yards in the win over New London. Expect more of the same against Darien, although just how successful the Blue Dragons can be against a stout Blue Wave defense remains to be seen. Working in Middletown’s favor is Highsmith, the Gatorade state player of the year (pictured at right). Highsmith ran 29 times for 206 yards and three touchdowns, and passed for another, against New London.
This season, Highsmith (at right) has rushed for 2,565 yards and 27 touchdown and has thrown for 895 yards and nine scores. Darien earned a spot in the semifinals with a thrilling 31-29 victory over Hand when Daly Hebert kicked an 18-yard field goal as time expired. Hebert made two other field goals in the game and his leg may be an asset in this contest. The Blue Wave are balanced.
Wyper is a threat to both run and pass, and has weapons in Lombardo and Ross to distribute the ball to. Jay Harrison is a solid running back who gained considerable yardage on Darien’s winning drive against Hand. Defensively, Darien’s front seven has been as dominant as any in the state. Mark Evanchick, a sophomore, and junior George Reed, both ends, are particularly difficult to block and both should be impact players in this game. Darien has not reached a state final since losing in Class MM in 2008.
- Pooch’s pick: Darien.
- SPB’s Pick: Darien 24-21
No. 7 NORTH HAVEN (9-2) vs. No. 3 NEW CANAAN (12-1)
- Where: Law High, Milford
- On the air: CPTVSports (TV only – check local listings) | NFHS Network
- Players to watch: North Haven: Ethan Suraci, Sr., RB/LB; Mike Halloran, Sr., QB/LB; Pat Mikos, Sr., RB/LB; New Canaan: Cole Harris, Sr., RB/LB; Connor Buck, Sr., DL; Nick Cascione, Sr., QB.
- You should know: It’s already been a historic postseason for North Haven. The Indians earned their first ever playoff victory after defeating No. 2 Platt 35-0 in the quarterfinals.
Now, North Haven is on the verge of reaching its initial state championship game. But to do so, the Indians must defeat perhaps the state’s most complete team in New Canaan.In order to advance, North Haven must continue to control the line of scrimmage and the clock. It’s no secret that the Indians rarely throw and like to run on almost every down, even on 3rd-and-long. Even still, opponents have had trouble stopping the potent North Haven ground game, which has rushed for 4,041 yards and 54 touchdowns this season. Suraci leads the team with 164 carries for 1,131 yards and 22 touchdowns. Halloran has added 154 carries for 814 yards and 11 scores.
Defensively, North Haven is led by Mikos (136 tackles), Zach Kastenhuber (13 sacks) and Fred Sanchez (five interceptions). The Indians’ defense will be severely tested by New Canaan’s potent spread offense. Cascione has completed 146 of 248 passes for 2,308 yards and 30 touchdowns against just five interceptions. Jack Gilio and Cole Turpin have each caught 35 passes and have combined for 15 touchdowns.
Harris (at right, scoring a safety vs. Hand)), is arguably the state’s top defensive player with four sacks and three interceptions. Buck (54 tackles, 7.5 sacks) and Zach Allen (62 tackles, 10 sacks) have also excelled on defense for the Rams this season.
New Canaan has reached at least the semifinals for the ninth straight season.
- Pooch’s pick: New Canaan.
- SPB’s Pick: New Canaan 31-14