Ray Curren’s Inside the SCC: Prep powers past Xavier in playoff push

Objects that are already in motion tend to stay in motion, Isaac Newton told us four centuries ago in his First Law of Motion. Since then, guys like Albert Einstein have poked a few small holes in Newton’s theory, but— for the most part — his hypothesis has generally held on through the test of time.

And whether we like it or not, we tend to apply Newton’s First Law in other areas of our life as well. For instance, sports, and more specifically, how we view teams.

Traditional powers are always given more respect because of pure name recognition alone in many cases, the same reason why — despite the constant whining of the populous between election periods — incumbents win their Congressional seats back 95 percent of the time.

So when Xavier traveled to Fairfield Prep Saturday night, history pointed toward the three-time state champions, who were desperate to win, doing so against a Jesuits squad that had shown flashes of being dominant, but they were Fairfield Prep and Xavier was Xavier. Some 561 yards of total offense later, Prep had stomped the Falcons 46-27.

Xavier coach Sean Marinan blamed himself for a fourth-and-1 call from his Own 21, which — when it failed — basically exacerbated the finale (really, I don’t blame him for taking a risk there, or even throwing a pass for the surprise factor, but a pass in the flat? Eh.). However, it shouldn’t mask the fact that the Jesuits were dominant.

“It’s euphoria,” Prep’s Nick Crowle said to the New Haven Register. “I’m at a loss for words. Xavier’s a great team. We came out and played the game of our lives. I’m speechless.”

In retrospect, even great teams like Xavier can’t stay dominant forever. Even at 7-3 (which they are now finished with no Thanksgiving game this season), the Falcons had a good year with some solid victories.

Judged against most others, a stunning comeback win against Shelton and a victory at the Surf Club would stand out above the others. However, looked at through the lens of what dominant Xavier teams of the past have done, it’s not so easy.

“We knew their quarterback was a very good runner,” Marinan said. “But we weren’t prepared for him to be their offense. We were over pursuing and we couldn’t stop him. Prep has a very good team. I thought we were coming back, but then I blew it.”

Xavier gave up at least 35 points in each of its three losses, 133 in total. In the end, if the Falcons don’t qualify for the postseason, they just weren’t good enough.

Meanwhile, Fairfield Prep still has one more giant hurdle to climb to return to the postseason. As we’ve reported plenty of times here, it was just four years ago that the Jesuit were 0-10 and in shambles, but they had plenty of great moments under Rich Magdon before his retirement.

However, Prep, Amity, and Wilbur Cross are the only three Division I teams not to appear in a state final as a member of the SCC (interestingly, the longest drought of the other seven belongs to West Haven, by the way).
Will that change next month? We’ll have to wait and see.

Newton’s Third Law of Motion indicates that when an object applies a force to another body, that body exerts a force back, and the two have to be equal. Kind of sounds like the SCC this season.

Playoff math, last time
We unfortunately now have a scenario where West Haven (which has already clinched) could hypothetically be the only SCC team representing the conference in the postseason. Which would probably send people scrambling, screaming for schedule changes, a new playoff system, or both.

Two things, though: a) It’s not terribly representative of a typical season. Yes, the SCC probably gets fewer berths than it should every season because of the schedule, especially in Division I, but it’s usually more than one. And it so happened that the top Division II teams played the top Division I squads this season, which hurt them as well.
b) Sometimes you have to look in the mirror. If Fairfield Prep misses out on the playoffs, it lost to St. Joseph on a Hail Mary on the game’s final play. Obviously, no one’s blaming Hand for losing to top-ranked New Canaan, but that defeat had nothing to do with the SCC Division I schedule. North Haven lost to Darien out-of-conference this week. Are those teams likely better than teams that might replace them in the playoffs? Absolutely. But they also could have taken care of business out of conference as well.

Hopefully, this is a false alarm, everything will go the SCC’s way and we’ll have four teams playing for state titles in December. But it remains to be seen. A quick look on where we are:

Class LL
West Haven has clinched a playoff berth (the only one in the SCC), and will likely be the No. 2 seed by beating Fairfield Prep. In fact, might want to keep it on the down low, but the Thanksgiving game means little to the Westies, who have clinched a quarterfinal home game and would probably finish No. 4 in LL with a loss.

Fairfield Prep can mathematically qualify with a loss on Thanksgiving, but that’s some really fuzzy math. The biggest West Haven fans on Turkey Day might be the team Prep just vanquished, Xavier. The Falcons would then have more points (or at least a better average) than the Jesuits. Of course, there is also a mathematical scenario that keeps Prep out of the playoffs with a win over West Haven, but that’s the same voodoo math we started with. They’ll be in with a win, out with a loss.

As previously mentioned, Xavier needs West Haven to beat Fairfield Prep, first and foremost. After that, they could use some help from their FCIAC friends. Then two of Ridgefield, Staples, and Trumbull falling should do the trick, and would likely see the Falcons go to Newtown for the Class LL quarterfinals. It’s not terribly likely, but not unfathomable, either.

Class L
Hand now sits ninth in Class L, and obviously must take care of Guilford on the night before Thanksgiving, which won’t be easy. At that point, things look fairly decent for the Tigers. They will pass New London if it loses to NFA, and will be in a very tight race with Naugatuck unless it tops the longest winning streak in the state against Ansonia on Thanksgiving. In a perfect world, they’d like to pass them both and finish seventh, playing at Platt in the Class L quarterfinals. No disrespect to Platt, but Hand has seen New Canaan before this season. The only team that can catch Hand from behind is…

North Haven
. The Indians are 10 points behind (despite a record a game better), and will have to fend off Amity before entertaining any playoff scenarios. If indeed New London and Naugatuck lose, it appears to be a three-team race for two spots. The winner of that race would go to Platt, second place gets to go to New Canaan, and the loser can grab some popcorn and watch. It will probably go down to the wee hours of the early afternoon on Thanksgiving. Thankfully, with technology, no further than that. All these teams can also root for Plainville to beat Farmington and Bristol Central to upset Bristol Eastern as well, which would do the trick.

Class M
Foran is still alive in the same way that I’m mathematically alive to hit the lottery, but Ledyard losing twice is the Lions’ best shot. Although I’d think they’d sign up for a playoff game for the last spot with Putnam if someone would let them.

Extra points
Foran’s defense continued to be their big story this season as they shut down Guilford 34-13, with only six of those points coming in the final 45 minutes of the game. Joe Nault had just 40 yards rushing for the Indians… Notre Dame stormed back against Hand to cut a 21-7 lead to 21-20 with only seconds left. The Green Knights chose to go for the win, but ran play-action to Cameran Tucker and ended with an incomplete pass. Hey, if it worked, they would have been geniuses, I guess. Someone else in another league play ND’s schedule and let me know how you do, OK? Thanks… Shelton was also very feisty against West Haven, even without Jason Thompson, but Marshont Little had two big interceptions to let the Westies hold off the Gaels 35-26, eliminating Shelton from postseason contention… Harold Cooper needed only 15 carries to amass 330 yards and four touchdowns in Hillhouse’s rout of Branford, putting Cooper fourth all-time in Connecticut in rushing yards. The Acs were up 47-7 at the half of the 53-16 win. The Branford-East Haven Thanksgiving matchup will give one of those teams their first SCC win of the season… If you haven’t yet, follow me on Twitter at currenscc.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Colton Smith, Fairfield Prep — Putting up 433 all-purpose yards will do the trick, as the junior rushed for 303 yards and added another 130 through the air in Prep’s 46-27 win over Xavier. Smith was 7-for-9 throwing the ball and had thrown for 300 yards last week, which is a pretty impressive double in back-to-back weeks.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS
3

Number of SCC teams in the 2008 postseason, the last time the SCC did not win a state title. Somewhat ironically, none of those three squads (Cheshire, Hillhouse, Hamden) may finish with winning records this season. So things do change over time, even if we forget sometimes. Cheshire beat Hamden in the Class LL semifinals, but lost to Glastonbury in the finals before winning it the next year over Staples in overtime.

GAME OF THE WEEK

West Haven at Fairfield Prep, Thanksgiving, 10 a.m. — As I mentioned before, it’s a little bit of an odd dynamic here where the Blue Devils really have little to play for, having virtually clinched a home game in the Class LL quarterfinals already. But can Prep come back with the same kind of energy it had against Xavier, and can it stop Ervin Philips. Or at least slow him down.

POWER RANKINGS

  • 1. West Haven (9-1; Last Week 1)—Defense hasn’t been immaculate, which might give Prep some hope.
  • 2. Fairfield Prep (8-2; LW 4)—Battle of No. 1 against No. 2 on Thanksgiving. Just like old times in the SCC.
  • 3. Shelton (6-4; LW 5)—Showed a lot of guts on Friday night, and was a big play or two from pulling it off.
  • 4. Xavier (7-3; LW 2)—With no Thanksgiving game, just have to sit, crunch the numbers, and do some praying.
  • 5. North Haven (8-2; LW 3)—Looked really good in the first half and then things just got away from them.
  • 6. Hand (7-3; LW 6)—Could be 3-7 if not for late heroics in four games. Toughest schedule in state, no doubt.
  • 7. Notre Dame (4-6; LW 7)—If Hand has toughest schedule, ND probably has the second toughest. Geez.
  • 8. Foran (7-3; LW 8)—Lions need Fitch and Waterford (Ledyard’s opponents) to come up big next week.
  • 9. Amity (5-5; LW 11)—Will now have to beat North Haven if Spartans want to finish with a winning record.
  • 10. Wilbur Cross (4-6; LW 14)—Most shocking result of season in blowing out Cheshire. And unpredictable.
  • 11. Guilford (5-5; LW 10)—Have to like their chances against Hand better than in some other years at least.
  • 12. Hillhouse (4-6; LW 12)—Wonder how many times Cooper hasn’t had to play in the second half in career, too?
  • 13. Cheshire (4-6; LW 9)—Not scaring Southington any when they’re getting blown out by Wilbur Cross, are they?
  • 14. Sheehan (4-5; LW 13)—Have to beat Branford and Lyman Hall to finish with a winning record.
  • 15. Hamden (3-7; LW 15)—Started out well this season, but barring upset, 2 SCC wins and zero in Division I.
  • 16. Jonathan Law (3-6; LW 16)—Took care of business against Lyman Hall, would like to give Foran a run.
  • 17. Lyman Hall (2-8; LW 17)—All eyes focused on Sheehan now, probably better shot than had last year.
  • 18. East Haven (1-9; LW 18)—Will be much longer offseason for loser of Thanksgiving game with Branford.
  • 19. Branford (0-9; LW 19)—Will be much longer offseason for loser of Thanksgiving game with East Haven.

Comments

  1. UBilly says

    Ray – 6-4 Shelton above No. Haven, Hand and Xavier? It’s nice they “have showed a lot of guts on Friday night”, but they have done that in games against both Hand and Xavier and lost both. Really?

  2. jeb says

    Nice job Ray…Even though the FCIAC had a better record against the SCC this year I much prefer the way the SCC schedules its games. Great games each and every week. Would like to see a rematch for Hand against New Canaan…I am a New Canaan fan but an admirer of the Hand program.

  3. ACL says

    The Lions D played a spectacular game Friday night. Guilford came out swinging on their first possession but the Lions took their opening shot and punched right back, doing an awesome job of covering the pitch and not giving their QB room to breath.

    The offense looked much better with their starting RB (Longley) coming back after missing the last two games with a concussion. Their ability to run between the tackles softened up the Guilford D enough to where Kasuba was able to spread the ball around to his receivers (Weissauer, Deegan, and White) and they could run Cadrin to the outside.

    Its a shame that the Lions have such slim hopes on making the playoffs because I believe that they could make some noise in class M, especially with the emergence of their defense. I’m not saying they could hang with St Joe’s (I don’t think anyone can) but I would put them up against anyone else.

    I know you said that the Lions best chance to get in would be Ledyard losing twice but what if Putnam loses and the Lions win on Thanksgiving? Doesn’t that give them a shot as well? It doesn’t seem that realistic that Ledyard loses twice to close out the season so I’m looking for any other combination that might give them a glimmer of hope.

    • UBilly says

      I don’t know if it would have made the difference but Guilford was playing without Duke Knapp, their leading running back who is also a difference maker on defense. I am not taking anything away from the Foran win, as injuries are part of the game, but depth is a problem Guilford is always battling, and this injury along with the loss of KC Horton for the entire season really does effect the Indians.

      • ACL says

        Fair enough because injuries are always a factor, especially this time of year. Foran not having their #1 runner against NH definitely made a difference in the 2nd half of that game so I understand your point. Not saying that Foran would have won the game, just saying it made a difference.

    • Kent says

      @ACL the lowest possible points total for Putnam is 10 points below Foran’s highest possible total, so you need Foran to get every bonus (which include Guilford vs Hand) and Putnam got none of the bonus, that’s even less likely then Ledyard losing twice.

  4. ciacfollower says

    Hand needs to focus 100% on beating Guilford on Thanksgiving Eve on the Indians home field. Guilford is gonna be fired up coming off a loss last week, knowing this is their best chance in years to take down the Tigers & spoil their post season plans.

  5. says

    Assuming the favorite wins in all games not yet played, this is how Class L should finish:

    Class L Record Pt. Avg. Op. W/T
    1 New Canaan (11-0)
    2 Platt (11-0)
    3 Middletown (10-1)
    4 Farmington (9-2) 121.82 86
    5 Darien (9-2) 121.82 84
    6 Bristol Eastern (9-2) 120.00 80
    7 North Haven (9-2) 120.00 78
    8 Daniel Hand (8-3) 118.18 84
    9 Naugatuck (9-2) 118.18 74
    10 New London (8-3) 112.73

  6. JB says

    pinstripe … that would be a cool outcome. Hand getting NC in round 1, coming off what should be a brutal week for NC with the FCIAC championship on the 22nd and a tough Darien squad on T-Day. Do I sense a wish-scenario from the Hand faithful? It would be your best shot at redemption.

    • says

      This point scenario includes the extra 10 points North Haven would earn with a Xavier win over St. Paul Catholic on 11/27 that was scheduled as a regular season game, but not yet added to the CIAC 2013 Football Point Rankings yet.

      • Not Ray Brown says

        The X game vs St Paul is only a scrimmage and won’t count towards playoff points. It was scheduled just in case X made playoffs so they wouldn’t be taking 3 weeks off between games.

  7. says

    This scenario has North Haven outpointing Hand and Naugatuck with or without the 10 points from a potential Xavier win over StPC but, they would then not end up tied with Bristol Eastern. Either way they’d still be a 7 seed.

  8. jeb says

    pinstripedcameraman….Daniel Hand will outpoint Bristol Eastern in the end if both teams win out. Bonus points of the other games will push Hand over the top of BC

    • says

      Not sure how you figure that out. Hand would earn 100 points for a win over Guilford, plus 10 bonus points for whoever wins Hillhouse/Cross, 10 points for a North Haven win over Amity, 10 points for a Shelton win over Derby, and 10 points for a ND win over Hamden. Total is 1260. Bristol Eastern will earn 140 for a win over Bristol Central and 10 bonus points for Berlin, Hartford Public, Bulkeley and E.O. Smith wins in their last games. That’s 1320 points. Add again. North Haven will earn 160 points for a win over Amity, 20 additional points for Sheehan’s next 2 wins, 10 guaranteed points for whoever wins Branford/East haven, 10 points for a Hillhouse win over Cross, and 10 points for a Foran win over Lyman Hall. That’s That’s a 1310 total. Bristol Central is 6, North haven 7, Hand 8. Obviously there can and will be upsets on the final day – but as I said, this is if all the favorites win.

  9. says

    I have Naugatuck getting to 1300 points even with a loss to Ansonia on T-Day – which ties hand for 8th, but Hand has opponents with far more wins and will get the 8th seed by tie break rule #2.

  10. Frank says

    Ray No love for the Tigers. Hand beats Prep, Shelton, and North Haven, and you have them all above Hand. Hand could be 3-7, but ND has the 2nd strongest schedule in SCC. Guilford has a best chance in years to beat Hand. How about this analysis. Hand graduated 29 Seniors, won two back to back titles, and won 29 straight at home, #1 in the State. The most State Titles in the SCC, and still have a great opportunity to make playoffs and could go to the title game. Another hater!

    • Westie says

      Nobody hates Hand. They are the best football program in the state. Will probably be the best team in the state next year.

  11. handfan says

    Not sure Hand is the best program in the state. Many other schools could claim that crown- New Canaan, Xavier, Ansonia. To be sure Hand has had a remarkable year considering their inexperience and strength of schedule. If they continue to improve should be an interesting 2 years. Also, freshman team was undefeated as of 10/24.

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