By Jim Bransfield
MIDDLETOWN >> Two of the state’s biggest high school games involve local teams. The North Haven versus Xavier game at Palmer Field and the Middletown at Wethersfield game both carry season-long implications.
North Haven whacked Xavier last season 42-28, one of the three losses that kept the Falcons out of the playoffs.
Wethersfield lost to Middletown 28-0 last year, but forgotten in the Blue Dragons 11-win season is that this was a very competitive game despite the score, and that the Eagles shut out Middletown in the second half.
This year, Wethersfield is touted as a contender in both Class L and the Central Connecticut Conference.
On Saturday, Wesleyan opens the local collegiate season at Middlebury with very high hopes.
No question, a big weekend.
North Haven (1-0) vs. Xavier (1-0)
Palmer Field, Middletown
Tonight at 7 p.m.
Nothing new from North Haven. “They run the single-wing,” said Xavier coach Sean Marinan. “It’s a difficult offense to defend if you don’t read the keys and last year we didn’t. Our ability to do that is what concerns me.”
Marinan was happy with his defense in the 3-0 season-opening win over Staples last week, but he said his offense made too many mistakes.
“The kids played hard the whole game,” said Marinan. “But I was not real happy with the mistakes we made on offense. We have to get that fixed for North Haven. I hope a lot of it was first-game mistakes, but I worry about it really being because of lack of experience. This game will tell us a lot. It is a very important game.
“If we win, it sets us up for the rest of the season,. If we don’t, it could be a very long season. We have to show a lot of improvement.”
If the coach says it’s a huge game, it’s a huge game. Question: How many huge games has Xavier lost in the last four or five years? You’re right: very few. I picked against the Falcons last week. Not doing that again.
XAVIER to win.
Middletown (1-0) vs. Wethersfield (1-0)
Cottone Field, Wethersfield
Tonight at 7 p.m.
There were times last week that Middletown looked terrific. Then there were times the Blue Dragons looked very ordinary. So which is it?
“It will be interesting to see how we improved, how the adjustments we made work,” said Blue Dragons coach Sal Morello. “We need to get better and this game is a big challenge for us.”
Wethersfield has a blue-chip veteran quarterback in Matt Sanzaro. But he’s not the whole show.
“He’s a very good quarterback,” said Morello. “He’s one of the better quarterbacks we will see all year; one of the better quarterbacks in the state.. He’s a running threat, but he can also pass very well. More than that, Wethersfield is very big up front which will be a challenge for us. Their linebackers are very active and they get to the ball.”
Morello said he is hopeful that his team can reduce its week one mistakes. “This is a better opponent and we will need the big plays that we showed we can do if we want to win,” he said.
He also said that he plans to use Dario Highsmtih more than he did in the game with East Lyme. “Dario has been coming along and he looks more like Dario,” said Morello.
A good game? Yes. A close game? Yes.
MIDDLETOWN to win.
Vinal/East Hampton/Goodwin (0-1) vs. Wolcott Tech (1-0)
Wolcott Tech, Torrington
Saturday at noon
This looks to be a much more level playing field that the mismatch that was the Prince Tech game last week.
“We’re very optimistic going in,” said Vinal coach Joe Cefaratti. “Prince had just too much speed for us, but this looks like a team we can play with. We saw their win over Wilcox Tech (29-22) and we can play with both of them.”
Cefaratti said his team is banged up a bit, but not at the skill positions.
VT/EH/GT to win.
Morgan (1-0) vs. Cromwell (0-1)
Pierson Park, Cromwell
Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
The injuries keep on coming for Cromwell. The latest is key lineman Nate Palambiano who is lost for the season,. That comes on top of a ton of injuries that have already decimated the numbers-poor Panthers.
“We’re actually in worse shape than in week one,” said Cromwell coach Chris Eckert.
But hope springs eternal.
“The kids are buying into the system,” said Eckert. “They realize they were a couple of plays away from making last week’s game competitive. We are hoping we can make this week’s game much more competitive and a much closer contest.”
Eckert described Morgan as “very good” and said that the Huskies are the biggest team in the conference with good running backs.
MORGAN to win.
VALLEY REGIONAL should romp over Lewis Mills of Burlington Saturday at 1 p.m. at Muzzy Field in Bristol … NORTH BRANFORD should beat Haddam-Killingworth Saturday at 7 p.m. at H-K High … and in an interesting game, look for COGINCHAUG to beat Hyde Leadership Saturday at noon at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven.
Last week: 5-2.