It is a chilly reward for a job well done.
The Abbott Tech/Immaculate co-op football team is happy to be still playing football in December as No. 4 seed ATI will battle No. 5 seed Weston in the Class M state quarterfinals Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. The contest will take place at Brookfield High School since the CIAC mandates all playoffs football games must be played at night on a field with lights.
The ATI-Weston winner Wednesday night will meet the No. 1 seed Rockville-No. 8 seed SMSA victor in Monday’s semifinals.
“I knew this group would be good. I felt we could qualify for the state playoffs,” said ATI’s seventh-year coach Rich Holmes, who said he will retire as coach at season’s end. “I challenged the players to live up to our high standards. I put the target on their backs. They have responded to all challenges this season.”
ATI enters at 9-1 overall, the lone loss (39-20) was to Class S qualifier Bullard Havens back on Oct. 19.
ATI has a six-game win streak and has scored 34 or more points in eight of its victories. This is ATI’s first state appearance since losing 35-6 to eventual Class M champ Brookfield in 2015.
While senior quarterback Chris (CJ) Cianfione (1,065 yards passing, 13 TDs, 4 INTs) directs the offense, senior running back Anthony Fraiser fills the stat sheet.
“Cianfiore is a three-year starter. I have a lot of trust in him,” Holmes said. “He makes great decisions on the field. He recently audibled into a play that turned into a touchdown.”
Fraiser has amassed 1,367 yards rushing on 163 carries along with 23 touchdowns. Fraiser has two more TDs receiving as well as a kickoff return and interception return, giving him 27 touchdowns overall.
“His 27 touchdowns leads Class M,” Holmes said. “Anthony can run over a defender or beat the defense around the end. He could play for any school in the state.”
Junior running back Tom Fahey is both a running (74 carries, 570 yards, 4 TDs) and receiving (25 receptions, 460 yards, 8 TDs) threat. ATI has converted 25 two-point conversions this season.
ATI understands it has its hands full battling Weston (9-1). The Trojans have scored 35 points or more in seven of their wins.
Weston’s lone loss (29-6) was to Class M qualifier New Fairfield back on Nov. 1. Goetz did not play in that contest. The Trojans’ last state appearance was a 21-7 loss to Berlin in the 2012 Class M semifinals.
“Weston is a heck of a team. It’s quarterback (senior James Goetz) is a three-year starter and dynamic,” Holmes said. “He can beat you with his arm, with his legs and with his decision making. He is the key. Goetz makes them go.”
Goetz has completed 37 of 69 passes for 752 yards with 11 TDs and 4 INTs. He has 360 yards rushing on 44 carries with four TDs. Weston’s four top runners (Goetz, Brendan Sawyer, Bradley Barcello and Tyler Bower) have collected 2,252 yards rushing on 336 carries with 28 TDs.
Senior Jack Sawyer has 32 receptions good for 697 yards and eight TDs.
“Weston’s offense is very disciplined. They are very precise on routes. They do the right things. They don’t beat themselves,” Holmes said. “Our defense is aggressive. Tom Fahey (10 interceptions last year, eight INTs this season) has been among the state leaders. We have ballhawks in our secondary. We put pressure on people. That’s our skill set. We can force mistakes in the Connecticut Technical Conference (CTC). We can’t count on that against Weston.”
Weston also has a punter/kickoff man/extra point specialist in senior Phoenix Parker (40 of 46 on conversion kicks).