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:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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.