MIDDLETOWN >> The biggest Middletown High regular season game in years and a Xavier do-or-die game highlight week eight of the area football season.
In addition to the three big ones, Cromwell faces a must-win game, Valley Regional/Old Lyme looks to build on its undefeated season and Vinal Tech/East Hampton looks for an upset of an undefeated opponent.
Farmington (7-0) vs. Middletown (7-0), Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown High School, Tonight at 7 >> This is one of the state’s headline games. Among Farmington’s win is a 13-7 decision over Windsor. Among common opponents, both Farmington and Middletown have wins over Bristol Central, Maloney and Wethersfield. Farmington is No. 3 in the CIAC Class L playoff standings while the Bue Dragons are No. 2.
“Farmington is the best team we’ve played this year,” said Middletown coach Sal Morello. “They’re athletic, fundamentally sound and they don’t beat themselves. They’re physical and very sound defensively. They have two dangerous running backs [Ivan Guadalupe is the featured back] and their quarterback does a great job of running the game. They don’t make mistakes.”
For the first time this season, Morello will be able to put his entire team on the field. Projected starters London Highsmith and Cody Carrillo, neither of whom have played a down, will play. Linebacker/running back Isaiah Thompkins, who was injured in the Bristol Central game and missed last week’s Maloney game, will also play.
“We’ve had a very good week of practice,” said Morello. “The kids have done a great job of preparing. We need to play solid, smart football with no turnovers and no silly penalties.”
The winner will take a big step not only towards a playoff spot, but towards getting a home game on Dec. 3, the first round of the playoffs. The loser will not be knocked out of the playoffs, but will be under pressure to win out.
The pick: Middletown
Xavier (5-2) vs. Hand (6-1), The Surf Club, Madison, Tonight at 7 >> This is desperation time for Xavier and while maybe not desperation for Hand, an enormous game nonetheless.
If Xavier wants to go to the Class LL playoffs with a chance to defend its championship, it has to win. Currently No. 10 in LL, a loss would makes a playoff run improbable as Xavier is playing a 10-game schedule, not the 11 games most are playing. But a win gives Xavier 160 playoff points and would thrust the Falcons right back into the playoff race.
For Hand, a club which was hammered by New Canaan opening day, this is a chance to cement its hold on a Class L playoff spot. The Tigers, No. 5 in the Class L playoff standings, have won six in a row, including a 44-41 win over Shelton last week.
“Hand made a change to a sophomore quarterback [Nick van Dell] and they have been very good ever since,” said Xavier coach Sean Marinan. “He has a good arm and is probably better than the kid they had last year. They spread you out and make you cover the whole field. They also can run the ball.”
Marinan said he felt his team can score on Hand, but that his club would have to play well to win. As usual, the double threat of quarterback Joe Carbone running and passing, plus star running back Andrew Meoli will be the keys to the Falcons’ fortunes.
“I hope we play like we did against Notre Dame [a 54-13 win] last week,” Marinan said.
Playing at the Surf Club hard by the beach in Madison is historically a tough place to play as Marinan acknowledged. But all the intangibles – the loss to Hand last year, the motivation of a playoff berth – might well be on Xavier’s side.
The pick: Xavier
Prince Tech (7-0) vs. Vinal Tech/East Hampton (4-3), Palmer Field, Middletown, Tonight at 6:30 >> Vinal Tech/East Hampton has more than held its own when the playing field has been level. But Prince Tech is a step up.
Both teams have shutout wins over O’Brien Tech and both have wins over Wolcott Tech. But while Vinal Tech was defeated by Bullard Havens, Prince waltzed past Bullard-Havens 25-0.
Still, playing on its home field ought to give the Bellhawks a bit of an edge and help to make this competitive.
The pick: Prince Tech
Cromwell (4-2) vs. Enfield (3-3), Enfield High School, Tonight at 7 >> Cromwell is coming off a dreadful loss to SMSA/University in Hartford Last Saturday. Coach Chris Eckert didn’t spare anyone in his tongue-lashing of his team’s performance and effort. The question is: Can the Panthers rebound and save their season?
Cromwell, currently No. 9 in the Class S playoff standings, must win to stay alive tonight. It may not be easy as Enfield beat Hyde 13-9 last week. But the road ahead includes Valley Regional, Avon, North Branford and Coginchaug.
For Cromwell to win, its defense must play better than last week.
The pick: CROMWELL
Ellington/Somers (4-3) vs. Valley Regional (6-0), Blythe Field, Deep River, Tonight at 6:30 >> Valley steamrolled previously unbeaten Morgan last week and currently is No. 1 in the CIAC Class M playoff standings. The Warriors look like a legitimate Class M state championship contender. This game is a mismatch.
The pick: Valley Regional
Haddam-Killingworth (0-7) vs. Canton (4-2), Canton High School, Saturday at 1 >> It looks like another character-building day for the Cougars. Canton is building its program and among others, holds a signature upset win over Avon this season.
The pick: Canton
The Coginchaug at Housatonic game has been forfeited to Coginchaug, 1-0. Housy simply cannot field enough players to be competitive, according to reports. That gives Coginchaug a 5-2 season mark and jumps the Blue Devils to 12th in the CIAC Class S playoffs rankings.
With a reasonably favorable schedule coming up – Granby, North Branford, H-K, and Cromwell – coach John Bozzi’s Blue Devils have a shot. Maybe a long one, but a shot.
Last week: 7-1. Season’s record 39-11.