The season started for West Haven with a crushing loss to Greenwich, in which they made the long trip through traffic on a Thursday afternoon, held a dominating position before a combination of a missed field goal being run back for a touchdown (prior to Auburn making it cool I might add), intentionally taking a safety, and a ridiculous catch on fourth down left West Haven coming down I-95 for a second time wondering how in the world they let that one get away.
Hand probably would have liked a lightning storm the night before that game when they were a few miles away in New Canaan. Not to delay things so they could mount a Greenwich-like comeback the next day, just to put them out of their misery. They were beaten up so badly by New Canaan that it looked for a time that the Tigers’ 26-game win streak might end with the Rams taking knees to avoid dreaded 50-point troubles. Surely, Hand was going to have a difficult season.
A week later, Fairfield Prep attempted to one-up West Haven in the brutal loss department when it stormed back to take the lead over long dormant rival St. Joseph, only to have the Cadets beat them on a Hail Mary-ish type prayer on the game’s final play. Even they might have thought that moment might be the one they would be looking back on in disgust while eating their Thanksgiving dinner a couple of months later.
Finally, North Haven’s moment with the FCIAC came just two weeks ago. The Indians (like Prep) had won their opener against the conference to the west against Bridgeport Central, but eventually could not cool off a red-hot Darien team at Vanacore Field. It left North Haven not only needing to beat Amity on Thanksgiving, but having to dust off its abacus to try to make sure it finished in the top eight of Class L even if they did.
The worry (or dread in some circles) with the SCC-FCIAC Challenge this season was that the added difficult games would limit the playoff teams the already-underrepresented SCC will get come late November. Well, as it turned out, all four SCC teams that advanced to the postseason suffered a loss to the FCIAC (and credit to the FCIAC for that as well: St. Joseph, New Canaan, and Darien all also qualified). But all survived. Yes, they will all be on the road and might have had home games, but they’re all at the party.
And usually when the SCC teams get an invite, they have a tendency to steal the show.
Without further ado, my awards for the 2013 season. These are not an exact science, and are just opinions.
2013 CURREN AWARDS
Offensive Player of the Year
Winner) Colton Smith, Fairfield Prep — Smith got better as the season progressed and it was no coincidence his team did as well. His running was solid all season, but once he started to attempt more passes, he became virtually unstoppable.
2) Ervin Philips, West Haven — His stats actually weren’t that gaudy, but 1,500 yards and 24 touchdowns is nothing to sneeze at, and when West Haven needed big plays (a couple even on defense), he was there.
3) Jake Kasuba, Foran — Perhaps the opposite of Philips, we didn’t hear Kasuba’s name as much this year, perhaps because the Lions’ defense was improved, but he still threw for nearly 3,000 yards and 25 touchdowns while throwing just six interceptions, and that’s quite a season.
Defensive Player of the Year
Winner) Ethan Suraci, North Haven — The Indians’ offense gets plenty of publicity for its unorthodox style, but its defense is the reason why it’s back in the postseason. Suraci is the biggest piece of many key cogs, a tackling machine in the middle.
2) Dan Rogers, Hand — Rogers plays a very similar role to Suraci, and although Hand’s defense had some tough days, Rogers helped to keep the undersized defense together.
3) Nick Crowle, Fairfield Prep — The Jesuits had enough size without even taking into account Crowle, who can move very well for his size, and rarely missed when he got in the vicinity of a ball-carrier.
Coach of the Year
Winner) Steve Filippone, Hand — Even Filippone said repeatedly how young his team was this season and how many injuries they had to overcome. And yet, the smallest school in Division I played what the computers spat out at the toughest schedule in the state and found a way to get back into the Class L playoffs, even after an utter beating in the season’s first week.
2) Tom Shea, Fairfield Prep — For a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs in a while, the Jesuits could have faded away after their second loss, a disappointing effort against Hand. Instead, they regrouped, took a little bit of the leash off of Colton Smith, and defeated Xavier and West Haven back-to-back to clinch a playoff berth. It was not inevitable at all.
3) Ed McCarthy, West Haven — He’s now the state’s all-time wins leader, and although the Westies finished the season with a couple of losses, there were moments were things could have gone wrong for the Blue Devils, yet they’re safely in the playoffs anyway.
Stories of the Year
Winner) Ed McCarthy all-time wins leader — Time often passes so quickly that we don’t stop to remember how things were. But you look back at some of those pictures from the early 1980s, and that was a long time ago. Yet McCarthy soldiers on, looking for another shot at a state championship.
2) North Haven plays for Matthew Jacques — Everyone would obviously give all the national publicity the story got to have young Matthew back with us, but his inspiration now stretches far beyond the North Haven borders, and hopefully will continue to grow.
3) Xavier’s run as champs ends — They didn’t go down without a struggle, but the quest for an unprecedented fourth-straight Class LL title finally came to a mathematical end on Thanksgiving.
Team of the Year
Winner) Fairfield Prep — Without playoff experience, it looked like the big games might see the Jesuits come up short again, but not this year.
2) West Haven — The last loss to Prep will have only a minor sting, and may be completely forgotten by Saturday if they get a rematch.
3) North Haven — Like Prep, it wasn’t long ago that the Indians were so far away from playoff discussions that they couldn’t even see them on their tippy toes.
Games of the Year
Winner) West Haven 36, Xavier 35 (OT), Week 6 — It was Ervin Philips, who had a few big defensive plays that made the huge stop that allowed the Blue Devils to hang on in a game that went back and forth. Small margins.
2) North Haven 42, Xavier 28, Week 2 — We shouldn’t have underestimated the Indians, especially at Vanacore Field, but few thought Xavier’s first loss ever against a Division II team would come here. They figured wrong.
3) Hand 44, Shelton 41, Week 7 — The defenses took most of the night off, but the Tigers made a big stop late and ended up hanging on by defending a pass on the game’s final play. One of a couple tough losses for the Gaels.
Best Teams to Start 2014
Winner) Hand — We mentioned how young they are, starting with sophomore quarterback Nick van Dell. The other young kids gained a ton of experience this season.
2) Fairfield Prep — Colton Smith will also return next year for the Jesuits, who will have to replace people in other spots, but should be extremely competitive.
3) Foran — Keeping with the quarterback theme, Jake Kasuba will finally be a senior next season, and that’s bad news for the rest of Division II (and some of Division I as well).
Hillhouse beat Wilbur Cross, but the game was marred by a brawl that saw at least part of both benches clear. In a similar situation with North Branford three years ago, the officials called the game a double forfeit. It ended a difficult season for the Acs, who finished at 5-6… East Haven not only won its first SCC game since last year’s opener, but also helped clinch my first ever picks title with their victory. so thanks guys… Sheehan quietly finished the season with a winning record after routing Lyman Hall, let’s see if they can build on that for next season… No real upsets to speak of anywhere else, as most of the games went as they were supposed to without major incident… If you haven’t yet, follow me on Twitter at currenscc.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Mike DeMarco, East Haven — The numbers weren’t striking, except for the 30 carries, but DeMarco and the other Eastie seniors picked up their first SCC victory in nearly two years in their final game as they beat Branford for the first time in seven tries, 21-0.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Number of games Xavier played this season. Had they been able to scramble together a Thanksgiving contest and won (or played Middletown), they likely would have qualified for the postseason again.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Space Intentionally Left Blank — I would love to see a West Haven-Fairfield Prep rematch on Saturday afternoon, but I don’t want to jinx anything or give any disrespect to their opponents. Both the Blue Devils and Jesuits are going on the road, so anything can happen.
FINAL POWER RANKINGS
- 1. Fairfield Prep (9-2; Last Week 2)—In the end, every SCC team had at least two losses, but Prep best right now.
- 2. West Haven (9-2; LW 1)—Disappointing to lose big lead, but that would be forgotten quickly with Tuesday victory.
- 3. North Haven (9-2; LW 5)—Didn’t have as much trouble with Amity as some had feared, too strong up front.
- 4. Hand (8-3; LW 6)—Beat out a pair of 9-2 teams by 10 points for final Class L playoff spot. Thanks, schedule.
- 5. Shelton (7-4; LW 3)—Another season where the Gaels’ Thanksgiving game had no playoff implications.
- 6. Xavier (7-3; LW 4)—Falcons only SCC team that didn’t have a game last week, and that’s a giant shame.
- 7. Notre Dame (5-6; LW 7)—One of the few teams that probably wished they could keep playing, hot at the end.
- 8. Foran (8-3; LW 8)—Didn’t get enough points in the end, but still Lions have come a long way in a few years.
- 9. Amity (5-6; LW 9)—Schedule got the most of them in the end, as it has a few times since the divisions split.
- 10. Guilford (5-6; LW 11)—Indians finish season with division championship, also had trouble with tough schedule.
- 11. Hillhouse (5-6; LW 12)—Harold Cooper overshadowed all year by something, in final game by a fight.
- 12. Wilbur Cross (4-7; LW 10)—Will have to try to bottle that Cheshire win and try to go from there next year.
- 13. Cheshire (4-7; LW 13)—Put up a decent fight against Southington, but won’t be too many happy with seven losses.
- 14. Sheehan (6-5; LW 14)—Didn’t have many “quality” wins, but a winning reason is reason to celebrate for Titans.
- 15. Hamden (3-8; LW 15)—In the end, finished the season without a Division I victory again this season.
- 16. Jonathan Law (4-7; LW 16)—Did get a win against Plainfield before what’s become annual defeat to Foran.
- 17. Lyman Hall (2-9; LW 17)—Baby steps, will hope to make more strides next season to be in Division II hunt.
- 18. East Haven (2-9; LW 18)—Baby steps here as well, will be interesting to see how far they can come in ‘14.
- 19. Branford (0-11; LW 19)—Well, that was a rough season for the Hornets, wasn’t it? Can’t get much worse anyway.