Jim Bransfield’s greater Middletown football preview: Defending champs Xavier, Hillhouse tangle again

MIDDLETOWN >> Reigning Class LL champion Xavier versus reigning Class M champion Hillhouse tonight, and undefeated Wesleyan University versus Colby at Andrus Field Saturday, highlight week No. 4 in area football.

In other interesting matchups, improving Cromwell is home Saturday, while Valley Regional looks to go to 3-0 tonight.

Hillhouse (1-2) vs. Xavier (2-1)

Palmer Field, Middletown, Tonight at 7

Hillhouse, despite the continued presence of star running back Harold Cooper, is off to an uncharacteristic 1-2 start. But Xavier coach Sean Marinan is more than a little bit wary.

“Hillhouse has good size, and they’re getting better,” Marinan said. “Cooper is one of the best around and they are reducing their mistakes. They have a lot of athletes and they run the option. If you don’t defend that well, they can kill you with it.”

Xavier’s season turned on last year’s game with Hillhouse. The Falcons scored four touchdowns in the final 10 minutes to come from behind and win 50-49 at Bowen Field. After that, Xavier was unbeatable.

“We have to play better than we have and we have to keep their offense off the field,” said Marinan. “We played better against Hamden [a 33-0 win] last week, but we still made mistakes and missed scoring opportunities. Our offense needs to play better.”

Hillhouse lost to unbeaten Darien and Hand, then clobbered Jonathan Law last week.

The Pick: Xavier

Middletown (3-0) at Fermi (0-3)

Fermi High, Enfield, Tonight at 7

Middletown coach Sal Morello knows his job this week is to guard against a letdown. Fermi hasn’t won a game and has been a Central Connecticut Conference doormat.

“Our focus all week has been how we can play better,” said Morello. “We haven’t talked about Fermi very much. We know they have a young team. We have talked all week about what we need to do to get better.”

Middletown will be buoyed by the return of starter London Highsmith and the Blue Dragons are looking down the road to the return of linebacker Cody Carrillo. Neither has played a down this season.

The Pick: Middletown

Avon (2-1) vs. Valley Regional (2-0)

Valley Regional High, Deep River, Friday at 6:30

Avon is a Class L school and this is Valley Regional’s first foray into Class M, but forget that. In this case, classes don’t mean much. The folks in Deep River think their team is a legitimate playoff contender. They’re right.

The Pick: Valley Regional

Granby (0-3) vs. Haddam-Killingworth (0-3)

H-K High School, Friday at 5 p.m.

These are tough games to call. When two struggling teams meet, no question both think that this is their chance to break through. Granby, while winless, has been putting points on the board. H-K has had trouble scoring.

Still, in games like this, the home team usually has an edge. Toss a coin.

The Pick: Granby

Stafford/East Windsor (0-3) vs. Cromwell (2-1)

Pierson Park, Cromwell, Saturday at 2 p.m.

Cromwell is getting better and Stafford/East Windsor is struggling. Quarterback Mavric Pelletier, only a sophomore, has a chance to be the real deal. Looks like the perfect opponent for a team on the make.

The Pick: Cromwell

Whitney Tech (0-3) vs. Vinal Tech/East Hampton (1-2)

Palmer Field, Middletown, Saturday at 2 p.m.

Whitney Tech forfeited its game last week, but the CIAC reportedly said it was a one-time event. In any case, Vinal Tech/East Hampton comes in as favored to even its record at 2-2.

The Pick: Vinal Tech/East Hampton

Morgan (3-0) vs. Coginchaug (1-1)

Coginchaug Regional High School, Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

After wandering in the football wilderness for several years, The Morgan School has a solid club this season. The Huskies are averaging 43 points a game and while it doesn’t look like they will put 43 on the board against the Blue Devils, they ought to score enough.

Expect Coginchaug to make Morgan work.

The Pick: Morgan

Last Week: 5-1; Season’s Record: 12-8

Further Reading

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