Jim Bransfield’s Middletown predictions: Xavier, Middletown, Coginchaug fight for football playoff berths

MIDDLETOWN >> It’s week 10 of the high school football season and the stakes could not be bigger for Xavier, Middletown and Coginchaug Regional as all three battle for postseason berths.

Valley Regional looks to stay unbeaten and tighten its grip on the No. 1 spot in the Class M playoff ratings while Cromwell and Vinal Tech/East Hampton look to move towards .500 seasons.

  • Middletown (8-1) vs. Simsbury (2-6)
  • Simsbury High School
  • Tonight at 7

This is a game of enormous importance for Middletown. At first glance, a two-win team might appear to be a breather, but no such luck. Simsbury plays almost an exclusively Class LL schedule and has been in just about every game.

It has lost a 26-14 decision to Farmington, 14-7 in overtime to New Britain and a 28-21 loss to Newington last week. On top of that, Middletown, coming off the 23-21 upset loss to New London last week, goes into the game banged up with starters Cody Carrillo, Julian Carraway, Jordan Baker and Jeff Woodcock all out with injuries.

MHS is ranked No. 3 in Class L and a win would improve its chances for a home game the first round of the playoffs. But Middletown still has not yet clinched a spot in the playoffs, let alone a home game, so a win is critical.

“Everybody is banged up this time of year,” said MHS coach Sal Morello. “We don’t worry about that. No excuses and we move on. All season we have been preaching about depth and being ready when your time comes. That’s why it’s called a team.

“Simsbury has been very competitive in their games and I expect a game that will go to the fourth quarter. We have everything to play for – the playoffs, a home game in he playoffs and a division championship.”

Is there a hangover from the loss at New London?

“The kids have been awesome,” said Morello. “They are much more resilient that we adults are. The practice week has been great. Hey, in New London the kids were focused and gave great effort, it just didn’t work out.”

The pick: Middletown

  • Xavier (7-2) vs. Fairfield Prep (7-2)
  • Alumni Field, Fairfield University
  • Saturday at 7 p.m.

Three weeks ago Xavier had to win at Hand to save its season. The Falcons won. Last week, they had to beat Shelton to save their season. With two late touchdowns, they won 15-12. Is it asking to much to do it again?

It’s the same deal. Xavier is ranked No. 7 in Class LL with a rating of 114.44 points. Each rating is an average of points earned for a win, 100 +/- depending on class of opponent, plus 10 bonus points for each win a defeated opponent has, divided by the number of games played. Fairfield Prep is No. 12, with a rating of 103.33. A Prep win would be worth 170 points and would hurdle it past Xavier. And Prep has West Haven on Thanksgiving and a win there would certify a playoff berth.

Similarly, an Xavier win would give it 170 points and Xavier coach Sean Marinan said he believed that would give the Falcons a “better than 90 percent” guarantee of a playoff spot.

Xavier, even if it loses, would still have a mathematical chance to qualify, but it would have to depend on games involving Brien McMahon, Ridgefield, Staples and Trumbull right through Thanksgiving. The top eight teams qualify.

Prep crushed Hamden 40-7 last week. Its two losses were to Class M power St. Joseph 36-34 and at Hand 35-27. Its signature win thus far is a 38-28 decision over Shelton.

“Prep is very large, very big up front,” said Marinan. “Their quarterback is very good and he can run and throw and he’s very accurate. They’ve been playing different kids in the backfield and they have big, fast receivers. Prep is a very formidable team on offense.”

Prep has given up points, however. “They are tough to figure out defensively, they can get a little sloppy,” said Marinan.

Xavier has Jesse Bonner and Chris Anderson out with injuries. “But otherwise, we’re OK,” said Marinan.

Xavier will rely, as it has all year, on quarterback Joe Carbone and running back Andrew Meoli. Those were the only two players who touched the ball – not counting receivers – on offense for Xavier last week against Shelton and both ran for over 100 yards.

“I expect a very competitive game,” said Marinan. “We both need to win.”

This looks like a pick ‘em game. Toss a coin. Home field vs. tradition.

The Pick: Xavier

  • Coginchaug (6-2) vs. North Branford (5-3)
  • North Branford High School
  • Tonight at 6:30

Coginchaug began the season 1-2 with blowout losses to Valley Regional and Morgan. Since then the Blue Devils have gotten off the deck and won five in a row and have projected themselves into the Class S playoff picture. A win tonight would be critical for their playoff hopes, but so is a win for North Branford, currently in tenth place.

Ranked No. 8 with 101.25 points, the Devils are locked in a battle with Northwest Catholic, North Branford, and Holy Cross of Waterbury for a spot.

This is another game that looks very close. North Branford also lost to Valley Regional (38-13) and Morgan (33-21). Just might be the home field is enough to tilt this one.

The pick: North Branford

  • Cromwell (4-4) vs. Avon (6-3)
  • Avon High School
  • Saturday at 1 p.m.

A month ago Cromwell looked to be on a roll, winning three in a row. Since then things have headed south for the Panthers. They have lost three straight and been outscored 105-28. Avon holds a 41-38 win over North Branford and is coming off a 41-24 win over Haddam-Killingworth that was nowhere near as close as the score indicates.

The Pick: Avon

  • Valley Regional (8-0) vs. Old Saybrook/Westbrook (4-4)
  • Old Saybrook High School
  • Saturday at noon

Valley is loaded and except for a 21-18 game with Avon, has blown out everyone else. Old Saybrook/Westbrook has played competitively much of the season, but the Warriors are a different breed of cat.

The pick: Valley Regional

  • Vinal Tech/East Hampton (4-5) vs. Wilcox Tech (1-8)
  • Falcon Field, Meriden
  • Saturday at 6 p.m.

Vinal Tech/East Hampton has a chance to finish at .500 in its first season in the Constitution State Conference. The Bellhawks have been competitive in most games and a break-even season would qualify as a significant step forward.

Wilcox Tech has but one win, but has played teams close. However, all the motivation looks to be on the Bellhawks’ side in their season finale.

The pick: Vinal Tech/East Hampton

Haddam-Killingworth has the week off.

Last week 5-2, season’s record 50-14.

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Comments

  1. JB says

    If Prep beats both Xavier and West Haven, it is not very likely Prep makes states given their average points and 3 likely 1-loss teams coming out of the CCC. Xavier for sure would be out. West Haven would squeak in. That to me is unbelievable – all 3 of those SCC teams should make states. The SCC / FCIAC challenge, while exciting, would actually end up diluting the LL state playoffs allowing all 3 CCC 1-loss teams to out point the SCC or FCIAC top teams. That would be a shame and IMO make the LL playoffs a bust.

  2. ACL says

    I have never seen Valley play so I can’t say if they’re loaded or not. I will say that their schedule is not a M division schedule. When all is said and done, 8 of their 11 games are against class S teams. 8 OUT OF 11! I would wager that most of the top M teams would have the same success if they played the same schedule.

    The only tight game they played was against Avon, a L team with six wins, which is a good win, on the surface. If you look at Avon’s wins, you will see that the combined won/loss record of their opponents is 13-38 and they haven’t played a L team (Avon’s schedule consists of 5 M teams and 6 S teams).

    I don’t know why the CIAC doesn’t have minimum schedule requirements in regards to how many games a team plays below their class. What I do know is that the point system is a sham when these teams play weak schedules, load up on points, and keep out teams that challenge themselves with tough games against teams at or above their own class. I hope people aren’t shocked when Valley loses in the first round against the 8 seed because the 8 seed (whoever it is) will be MUCH better prepared.

  3. JB says

    Sorry, my bad math … if Prep runs the table, they would out-point Ridgefield, Staples, Trumbull or McMahon under all likely scenarios.

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