Let’s get this out of the way: Ansonia is expected to trounce the Class S playoff field en route to its third-straight state championship, 19th overall, and fill its chest of trophies to 19.
Ansonia, now ranked No. 1 what with New Canaan losing, goes into its state quarterfinal as a heavy favorite against Coginchaug. And, barring something crazy (Arkeel Newsome being abducted by Aliens, perhaps?) the Chargers will be heavy favorites the rest of the tournament.
Heck, look what Ansonia did to fellow Class S and NVL rival Woodland in the NVL championship game.
But, Ansonia aside, the remaining four Class S games (three quarters, one semifinal) have a chance to be pretty darn good.
The most intriguing of which is Morgan-Woodland. The Huskies come to Beacon Falls bringing one of the state’s better backs in Jake Ward and good size on the lines. The Hawks counter with Tanner Kingsley and an array of weapons including sophomore back Sean McAllen.
Capital Prep/Classical/Achievement (Cap Prep Co-Op) has everybody, if not frightened, then at least considerably concerned. Armed with backs Mike Jones and Bennie Fulse III, the Trailblazers hammered New London, a Class L playoff team that just took down NFA on Thanksgiving. They take on traditional state playoff power Bloomfield in the first round.
The game’s at Bloomfield since Hartford’s Dillon Stadium is unplayable. And Bloomfield, which has a UMass-comitted talent in Norvell Stewart, is no slouch. The Warhawks figure to be playing with heavy emotions since the arrest of one of their captains for murder. It’s a sad case, which was chronicled by the Hartford Courant today.
Down the bracket, back Chris Young and Rocky Hill didn’t make it out of last year’s quarterfinals. They were taken down by Hyde in a thriller. The Terriers, whose coach Dave Coyne will retire at season’s send, would love to advance this time around. They take on Prince Tech, an upstart from the CSC, which won some
Whatever happens in the quarterfinals, or the semifinals, or in the finals — and lots of people are curious about a potential Chargers-Trailblazers final — this is the Ansonia Invitational. Anything different would be the upset of the century.
–SEAN PATRICK BOWLEY
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Capsules compiled and written by Mike Pucci.
No. 8 BLOOMFIELD (9-2)
at No. 1 CAPITAL PREP/CLASSICAL MAGNET/ACHIEVEMENT FIRST (11-0)
• Where: Bloomfield High School
• Players to watch: Bloomfield: Norvel Stewart, Sr., QB/S; Travis Thompson, Sr., RB/DB; Branden Callender, Sr., LB; Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achievement First: Mike Jones, Sr., RB/LB; Bennie Fulse, So., RB/DB; Dequan Reese, Sr., OL/DE.
• You should know: Capital Prep has reached the postseason for the third straight year but are in search of its first playoff victory in school history.
Although they play in the Constitution State Conference, filled with vo-tech schools, the Trailblazers have size, speed and talent on both sides of the ball. Capital Prep owns a 53-14 victory over Class L quarterfinalist New London. The Trailblazers have also defeated Quinebaug Valley and Prince Tech, both of which qualified for postseason play.
The Trailblazers are a run-first team, although sophomore quarterback Rayshawan Phillips has thrown for 1,310 yards and 15 touchdowns. Fulse (104 carries, 1,359, 16 touchdowns) and Jones (43-569-15) are a formidable duo in the backfield.
Capital Prep has shut out its last four opponents. Jones has made 81 tackles and 3.5 sacks, while Reese leads the team with 8.5 sacks.
Bloomfield’s offense features two 1,000-yard rushers in Stewart (1,001 yards, 15 touchdowns) and Thompson (114 carries, 1,101 yards, six touchdowns). Stewart has also thrown for 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns. Callender has made 90 tackles and 4.5 sacks.
The Warhawks have lost only to playoff teams Platt (Class L) and Rocky Hill (Class S). The Bloomfield defense has pitched four shutouts, including two straight to end the season.
The game was changed to Bloomfield due to unplayable conditions at Capital Prep’s home field of Dillon Stadium in Hartford.
- Pooch’s pick: Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achievement First
- SPB’s Pick: Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achieve First 38-36
No. 7 COGINCHAUG (9-2) at No. 2 ANSONIA (12-0)
• Where: Jarvis Stadium, Ansonia
• Players to watch: Coginchaug: Tyler Meeker, Sr., QB/DB; Jake Ober, Jr., RB/LB; Jack Granger, Sr., RB/LB; Ansonia: Arkeel Newsome, Sr., RB/DB; Matt Simon, Sr., OL/DL; Ryan Hovan, Sr., OL/DL.
• You should know: Ansonia is a heavy favorite against Coginchaug, out of the Pequot Conference. The Chargers are in search of their third straight state title and second in a row in this class. Ansonia has won 40 straight games.
Newsome, arguably the state’s best running back, is primed for another huge performance here. Newsome has rushed 239 times for 2,863 yards and 48 touchdowns this season. He’s just 329 yards shy of 10,000 yards in his career. Newsome has the benefit of running behind perhaps the best offensive line in the state led by Simon and Hovan.
The one question mark is the status of junior quarterback Jai’Quan McKnight, who injured his ankle in a victory over Naugatuck on Thanksgiving. McKnight left the game for a few series’ in that game but later returned. McKnight, though, was limited when he did reenter the game. Ansonia coach Tom Brockett said McKnight was going to attempt to practice Monday but is not sure of McKnight’s status for the game. McKnight will likely be a game-time decision. Ansonia ran Newsome out of the wildcat formation when McKnight was on the sideline, to much success.
Even without McKnight, the Chargers have enough weapons, including junior Witold Gul and sophomores Tajik Bagley and Tyler Bailey, to win comfortably here.
After starting the season at 1-2, Coginchaug won eight games in a row to reach the postseason for the first time since 2009. The Blue Devils are balanced offensively and have athletes in Meeker, Granger and Ober. Meeker has a strong and accurate arm and the running game is solid, but it remains to be see how it fares against Ansonia’s defense.
It doesn’t appear that Coginchaug has the type of athletes that can be a threat to the Chargers. Coginchaug gave up 123 points in losses to Valley Regional/Old Lyme and Morgan, although both of those teams also reached the postseason.
- Pooch’s pick: Ansonia.
- SPB’s Pick: Ansonia 49-7
No. 6 PRINCE TECH (9-2) at No. 3 ROCKY HILL (10-1)
• Where: Rocky Hill High
• Players to watch: Prince Tech: Vernon McAlmont, So., RB/LB; Victor Ortiz, Sr., OL/DE; Roekwan Holmes, Sr., FB/LB; Rocky Hill: Chris Young, Sr., RB/LB; Andrew Jenkelunas, Sr., QB/S; Nick Carducci, Sr., OL/LB.
• You should know: Prince Tech reached the postseason for the second straight year. The Falcons lost only to Windham (7-4) and Capital Prep/Classical Magnet/Achievement First. McAlmont is the featured running back on a team that thrives on running the ball. Holmes and Ortiz lead a defense that has allowed just 17 points per game.
Rocky Hill has also made the playoffs for the second straight season and also has an effective running game. Young is one of the state’s top backs. He has rushed 166 times for 1,737 yards and 30 touchdowns.
Jenkelunas does a solid job of directing the offense, and he’s also one of the team’s top defenders having made 56 tackles. Carducci has made 90 tackles and 3.5 sacks.
The Terriers have lost only to Class L participant Platt and defeated fellow Class S quarterfinalist Bloomfield.
- Pooch’s pick: Rocky Hill
- SPB’s pick: Rocky Hill 35-8
No. 5 MORGAN (10-1) at No. 4 WOODLAND (10-2)
• Where: Woodland High, Beacon Falls
• Players to watch: Morgan: Jake Ward, Jr., RB/SS; Alex Lipka, Sr., QB; Mark Zumpano, Sr., WR/CB; Woodland: Tanner Kingsley, Sr., QB; Levi Fancher, Sr., TE/LB; Jack Pinho, Sr., WR/DB.
• You should know: Morgan, which lost only to unbeaten Valley Regional/Old Lyme, has reached the postseason for the first time since 2000.
The Huskies are big and physical up front. That unit includes senior Riley Cronin (6-3, 245) and juniors Jake Teuner (6-6, 220), Jace Garcia (6-3, 350), Greg Lee (5-10, 205), Eric Peterson (6-3, 280) and Chris Seales (6-2, 260). That line has allowed Ward run wild this season. Ward has rushed 271 times for 2,494 yards and 41 touchdowns. Lipka does an effective job of directing the offense, and he can lead the team down field through the air when necessary. Lipka has thrown for 996 yards and eight touchdowns.
The Hawks, who lost only to Holy Cross and NVL champion Ansonia, are balanced offensively. Kingsley has completed 192 of 305 passes for 2,950 yards and 40 touchdowns. He has targets in Pino, junior Mike Kenney (49 receptions, 920 yards, 15 touchdowns) and senior Taylor Tucciarone (40-618-12). Sophomore Sean McAllen has rushed 152 times for 1,420 yards and 14 scores. Fancher anchors the defense.
- Pooch’s pick: Woodland.
- SPB’s pick: Woodland 34-23