No. 4 Cheney Tech at No. 1 Berlin
- WHERE/WHEN — Sage Park, Berlin, 2 p.m.
- RECORDS — Cheney Tech 8-3, Berlin 10-1
- PLAYERS TO WATCH — Cheney Tech: Rafael Lebron Jr., QB; Travon Holder, Sr., RB/LB; Steven Martinez-Pereyra, Jr., WR/LB; Shawn Grant, Sr., DE; Ramon Gracia, Jr., CB. Berlin: Alec Norton, Sr., QB; Anthony Sisti, Sr., RB; Owen Taylor, Jr., LB/RB; Eric Garcia, Sr., RB; Jeremy Eliades, Sr., RB.
- YOU SHOULD KNOW — This is Berlin’s 16th playoff appearance in school history. …The Redcoats have one Class M state championship (2009). …Berlin has qualified for the playoffs in five of the last six seasons. …The last time Berlin and Cheney Tech met in the playoffs was 2011, the Redcoats won, 28-14. …Cheney Tech is making its second playoff appearance since 2011, the only two appearances as a solo program. …The Beavers went 1-1 vs. playoff teams in the regular season, win over Bullard Havens Tech (22-20) and loss to Capital Prep/Achievement First (32-18). …Berlin beat one playoff team during the regular season, Northwest Catholic (27-8).
- OUTLOOK — Berlin had its perfect season ripped from it the same way it has been holding opponents back: with defense. Now the Redcoats will have to get back on the winning track if they want to win their second state championship in school history. …Berlin’s defense had been the story all year, with three shutouts and never allowing more than a touchdown in each of 11 games, the Redcoats gave up an average of just over five points per game. …The defense is led by junior Owen Taylor (82 tackles, 15 for a loss) and senior Jeremy Eliades (70, 18), who also leads the team with nine sacks. …On the other side, Norton has manage an efficient offense, throwing for over 1,200 yards and 11 TDs. Taylor and Sisti each have over 100 carries. …Cheney Tech battled through the Constitution State Conference with the likes of Capital Prep and Bullard Havens to earn a playoffs spot. The Beavers lost by two touchdown’s to the Trailblazers, who have become the class of the CSC in recent years. …Lebron leads the Cheney Tech offense with almost 1,800 yards passing and 23 touchdown’s and Holder can get it done on the ground. The senior is just shy of 1,000 yards rushing and went over 100 yards five times this season. They key will be to keep this one low scoring, if Cheney Tech can hold Berlin to one score, it will have a chance.
DT’s Pick — Berlin 24, Cheney Tech 6
SPB’s Pick — Berlin 42, Cheney Tech 0
Pooch’s Pick — Berlin
Who will win the Class M quarterfinal Cheney Tech at Killingly?
Total Response: 205 Votes
No. 3 New London at No. 2 Brookfield
- WHERE/WHEN — Brookfield Athletic Complex, 2 p.m.
- RECORDS — New London 7-3; Brookfield 10-2
- PLAYERS TO WATCH — New London: Sr. QB Danny Maranda (1,909 yards, 19 TD, 7 INT); Sr. WR/DB Jelani Lucas (44 catches, 712 yards, 12 TD; 7 INT); Sr. RB Kevin Shaw (359 yards, 7 TD); Sr. WR/DB Troy Gray (534 all-purpose yards; 7 INT); Sr. LB Robert Thomas; Sr. DE J. Hunter Roman (5.9 tackles/game; 11 TFL); Sr. OL Bryan Cespedes (6-foot-7, 260); Brookfield: Jr. RB/LB Bobby Drysdale (1,262 yards, 21 TDs; 57 tackles); Jr. LB/FB Austin Reich (458 yards, 5 TDs; 70 tackles); Sr. RB/DB Danny Jackson; Jr. DE Nick Seis; Sr. WR/DB Gabe Pompette (63 tackles); Sr. DB Hafeez Yussuf (7 INT), Jr. DE/LB Matt Melby (71 tackles); Jr. LB Pete Manesis (5 sacks); Jr. C Nick Acquanita (6-0, 265)
- YOU SHOULD KNOW — This is a match up of playoff veteran programs. It is New London’s eighth state playoff appearance since 2005 and seventh in the last eight years. The Whalers, who played in the Class L tournament in 2011 and 2013, are back in M for the first time since reaching the state final in 2010. …Brookfield is making back-to-back appearances in the state playoffs. This is its ninth appearance overall. Neither team has won a state title since 2008. …Brookfield’s only losses have been to Newtown, 21-14 in the regular season and 42-0 in the SWC Championship. Brookfield is 6-0 at home. …New London’s three losses have come vs. Plainfield, Ledyard and NFA on Thanksgiving.
- OUTLOOK — Banged up at midseason, Brookfield is finally getting healthy. The Bobcats saw the return of back Bobby Drysdale and Danny Jackson running the ball in the Thanksgiving victory over Bethel. The roster is as close to being complete as it has all year. Brookfield is most effective when all-staters Drysdale, Reich and the senior Jackson run equally strong out of the team’s double wing. Brookfield has also featured a pistol formation with QB Rosigno capable, but likely won’t use it here with Lucas and Gray roaming the defensive backfield. No, the Bobcats figure to stick to the ground game the way NFA did vs. the Whalers on Thanksgiving. New London boasts at least two Division I football players on its roster. J. Hunter Roman is committed to Yale and OL Bryan Cespedes committed to UConn. Yet, New London has underachieved to a point this season. The Whalers were stunned by Plainfield early in the year and were manhandled by Ledyard and NFA. …Statistically, New London has been somewhat one-dimensional on offense. But Maranda, the son of coach Duane Maranda, and the receivers, including an all-league and (perhaps) all-state talent in Lucas, can be scary on offense. Brookfield’s defense has been strongest against the run, with Drysdale and Reich ruling the middle at LB. DBs Yussuf and Pompette, and a good pass rush with Seis, are key keep the Whalers’ high-flying O at bay and make a return to the state final for the second consecutive year.
—SEAN PATRICK BOWLEY
SPB’s Pick — Brookfield 31, New London 17
Pooch’s Pick — Brookfield
Who will win the Class M quarterfinal Rockville at St. Joseph?
Total Response: 303 Votes