To reach the state playoffs for the first time since 2006, all Fairfield Prep has to do is defeat Xavier and West Haven.
In what has been a wild and crazy season, anything is possible.
The Jesuits (7-2) host the Falcons, also 7-2 and fighting for a Class LL playoff berth of their own, on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Alumni Field in Fairfield. Fairfield University, where the Jesuits play their home games, has an event scheduled for Friday so the game against Xavier was moved to Saturday.
“They’re an excellent team,” Fairfield Prep coach Tom Shea said about Xavier. “This is a year where you have a lot of teams with similar records. We hope to win this game to help get us into the playoffs. It would be a very big victory for us.”
Fairfield Prep currently sits in 12th place in the Class LL playoff ratings (Xavier is seventh). If the Jesuits can defeat both the Falcons and Westies, they’ll punch their ticket to the postseason. A split would get Fairfield Prep close to qualifying but it likely won’t be good enough. Two losses to close the season? Better luck next year.
The Jesuits haven’t defeated Xavier since 2008 and last earned a victory over West Haven in 2007.
The Jesuits seemed destined for the postseason last year after winning five of their first six games. Fairfield Prep then dropped three of its last four to finish at 6-4. That proved to be a learning experience for this year’s squad.
“They are physically and mentality tougher this year,” Shea said. “They know what they have to do, and they’re up to the challenge of playing two outstanding teams.”
If not for a few plays that went against the Jesuits, Fairfield Prep might be unbeaten. The Jesuits lost on a Hail Mary to St. Joseph and rallied from a 22-point deficit against Hand before falling short 35-27.
“The guys have been great,” Shea said. “We’re where we thought we could be and now they have an opportunity to do something special.”
Fairfield Prep returned a slew of talented skill players, including junior quarterback Colton Smith and junior wide receiver John DelliSanti, in addition to a big offensive line and such defensive stalwarts as linebacker Nick Crowle and lineman Tony Fox.
Smith, a dual-threat, has completed 73 of 110 passes (66 percent) for 1,020 yards and six touchdowns. He has also rushed 78 times for 768 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“The quarterback is always the most important position,” Shea said. “He has bene superb. He can get it done with both his arm and his feet. He has the complete skill set that a quarterback has to have, and he’s been a great leader.”
The 6-foot-2, 190 pound DelliSanti has made a team-high 24 catches for 419 yards and five touchdowns and has also rushed for three scores.
“He’s a big, strong kid who is deceptively fast,” Shea said. “He has made a lot of plays where he has gotten the ball and just ran away from people. He’s a big-strike ability that is nice to have.”
The Fairfield Prep defense is allowing just under 18 points per game. Fox (34 tackles, four sacks), senior Max Trudeau (69 tackles, six sacks) and senior Anthony Johnson (56 tackles) have been standouts defensively.
Crowle a 6-3, 245-pound senior who is also used as a fullback, has made 55 tackles, one sack and has recovered one fumble. Crowle has also rushed 72 times for 429 yards and eight touchdowns. He will attend Yale next year.
“We’re really excited for him,” Shea said. “The level of athletic ability in the Ivy League is tremendous. Yale has great young kids, but Nick is going to do well there.
“He’s a great athlete. He’s still a young guy. He’s a big kid, but he just turned 17. He’s still growing. He’s been phenomenal in the weight room. He’s phenomenally strong.”
Falcons hope to soar back into playoffs
Speaking of Xavier, the Falcons will qualify for the Class LL field with a victory over Fairfield Prep in its final regular season game. Xavier plays just 10 games, but it’s strength of schedule (wins over Staples, Hand and Shelton) has helped its cause.
“We would like to have a little leeway, but it is what it is,” Xavier coach Sean Marinan said.
The Falcons have lost to North Haven and West Haven, but a recent three-game winning streak, including victories over Hand and Shelton, have propelled Xavier back into the playoff hunt. The Falcons are the three-time defending Class LL champion.
“It’s a credit to the coaches and kids obviously,” Marinan said. “When we don’t make mental mistakes, we’re a pretty good football team. But we’ve been a Jekyll and Hyde, we’ve been very inconsistent.”
After losing in overtime to West Haven on Oct. 18, the Falcons crushed Notre Dame-West Haven 54-13 and then earned a hard-fought 28-14 victory over Hand in Madison. It was the first time since 2009 that a team defeated the Tigers on their home field.
“That was huge going into Hand and winning at the Surf Club,” Marinan said. “The kids were pumped up going in and we didn’t make a lot of mental mistakes. We have to play like that again (against Fairfield Prep).”
This past week, the Falcons scored 15 points in the fourth quarter in a 15-12 win over Shelton. Xavier drove 98 yards on the Falcons’ final possession. Senior quarterback Joe Carbone scored on a 3rd-and-goal from the nine for the winning touchdown. Carbone then connected with Andrew Meoli on the successful two-point conversion.
Now, the Falcons have the unenviable task of trying to stop a dangerous Fairfield Prep squad.
“Obviously it’s a huge challenge,” Marinan said. “No pun intended, but they’re as big as I’ve seen up front. They have a quarterback who is a dual threat who can hurt you with his feet when he gets out of the pocket, and they have tall receivers who are pretty fast. They’re a good football team.”
Should the Falcons advance to the postseason by defeating Fairfield Prep, Xavier will have more than two weeks off between its last regular season game and the quarterfinals, which will be contested on Dec. 3.
Marinan says Xavier has contacted St. Paul about playing a scrimmage against each other on Nov. 27 but details are still being finalized.
“It’s not really a game, just a scrimmage,” Marinan said. “It will be a structured situation just to get some work in if we are fortunate to get in (to the playoffs).”
- The Week 10 GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 Poll
- Week 10 football schedule
- Mike Pucci: Fairfield Prep embraces challenge of reaching LL playoffs
- Ray Curren’s Inside the SCC: Not everything’s a zero-sum game
- Sean Patrick Bowley: Thrill of victory/agony of defeat on Armageddon weekend
- FCIAC playoff picture
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