MIDDLETOWN >> It’s down to the Final Four in each of four classes of the state high school football championship playoffs.
The quarterfinal round demonstrated that a team’s schedule has a great deal to do with what happens in the postseason. There are some standout examples. Class L Platt of Meriden went 11-0, but played a schedule that had six Class S teams, four Class M teams and one Class L team, city rival Maloney which won one game.
That’s not Platt’s fault. It played the schedule it was given by the Central Connecticut Conference. But in the playoffs, it faced North Haven of the Southern Connecticut Conference and North Haven played an L and LL schedule. That North Haven won 35-0 was not a stunner.
Ditto Capital Prep/Classical Prep/Achievement of Hartford. That club was undefeated and in the season’s second game, beat New London before the Whalers righted themselves and went on an eight game winning streak.
But Capital Prep played all the rest of its games in the Constitution State Conference, a league of equally balanced teams, but not a league even its most ardent supporters would call elite.
It met Bloomfield of the CCC, a team that has not received any support in statewide polls but whose schedule was much more competitive – Platt, Rocky Hill, Berlin, Northwest Catholic – than Prep’s. Bloomfield won 27-3. Again, not a surprise.
Newtown was unbeaten and under the CIAC ranking system, was No. 1 in Class LL. But Newtown played a schedule of six Class M schools, three Class L schools, one Class S and only one Class LL school. Ridgefield, a two-loss team, played six LL schools. Ridgefield won 35-33 and yeah, it makes a difference.
The CIAC has classes for a reason and if you are going to play bigger boys in the postseason, you should play bigger boys in the regular season.
Middletown and Darien are L schools and both played appropriate schedules. The Blue Dragons played two LL schools, nine L schools and one M school. Darien, which beat New Canaan on Thanksgiving, then won a 31-29 thriller over Hand Tuesday, played three Class LL teams, six L teams and two M teams, Hillhouse and St. Joseph.
I don’t know who will win this game, but it won’t be because teams didn’t play appropriate caliber opponents. It will be because one team is just better than the other.
The other area team alive is Class M Valley Regional/Old Lyme, which will play Brookfield, which upset Bethel 22-21 after losing to the same team 20-0 on Thanksgiving. Valley is very good, a team many think that despite playing a mainly Class S schedule (plus one Class L team and two Class M teams) is a legitimate Class M level team.
In Brookfield, the Warriors will be meeting a team that played three Class LL teams, three Class L teams, four Class M teams and one Class S team. It will be interesting to see how this one comes out. Is this one is which the size of your opponents matters, which is usually the case, or is Valley just so good it transcends the rule?
The Final Four in Class L is loaded. The four teams expected to be there – North Haven of the SCC, Middletown of the CCC, Darien and New Canaan of the FCIAC – are there.
It’s possible that the L title game will be a rematch of the Thanksgiving Day game between New Canaan and Darien, which was won by Darien in a stunner. But my Fairfield County moles tell me that some key players for New Canaan didn’t play on Turkey Day, but I dunno for sure.
Or will Middletown win? After all, the Blue Dragons (11-1) were ranked ahead of Darien in the polls most of the season. But then, a lot of teams were ranked all over the place and a lot of them have to buy tickets to see playoff games.
Or will New Canaan, ranked No. 1 for most of the second half of the season in the polls, reclaim No. 1? Or will North Haven, losers only to Hand and Darien, demonstrate the strength of the SCC?
Fascinating Final Four in Class L.
In LL, Southington dispatched Norwich Free Academy, 52-14, making it a lost night for the Eastern Connecticut Conference as NFA, New London and Ledyard went down to resounding defeats. The Blue Knights will take on Ridgefield, while the other semifinal is a rematch of Fairfield Prep versus West Haven, won by Prep on Thanksgiving.
As expected, West Haven beat up on Hall, a team which had a tough time with Hartford Public in the regular season. Glastonbury gave Prep a tussle before bowing 33-23. Figure this one to be a beauty.
Then what is there left to say about St. Joseph-Trumbull? In what resembled a ping-pong match, St. Joe beat Ledyard 84-49. If there was any defense played in this one, no one saw it.
St. Joe is the prohibitive favorite to win Class M, but it gave up 49 points, for heaven’s sake. One sobering thought for Class L teams? St. Joe played New Canaan twice, once in the regular season and once in the FCIAC championship game.
New Canaan trounced the Hogs – they used to be called the Cadets – both times.
For area fans, it’s Middletown versus Darien at Pomperaug (Southbury) and Valley versus Brookfield at Cheshire at 2 p.m. Saturday. Both venues are easy to get to and both are good places to hold semifinal games.