By Jim Bransfield
MIDDLETOWN >> The 2014 high school football season gets underway tonight. There are all kinds of questions. Can Middletown High replicate or better its 2013 season? Can Xavier get back to the Class LL playoffs? Can Valley Regional make another playoff run?
Can Vinal/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech climb over .500? Can H-K prosper under new coach Mike Baklik? Can Cromwell bounce back from a rare losing 2013 season?
Can Coginchaug turn in another winning season?
The answers start coming in tonight.
Middletown vs. East Lyme
East Lyme Turf Field
Tonight at 6:30
For all the hype leading up to this season, there are some questions with this year’s edition of the Blue Dragons and coach Sal Morello doesn’t yet have the answers.
“I don’t know what kind of team we’re going to be,” said Morello. “I have a lot of guys making their first varsity start, especially on offense. Preseason is preseason. Now the lights are on and I wonder what we’ll get.”
One of the questions revolves around Dario Highsmith. He hasn’t played much in the preseason and how much he plays tonight will be a game-time decision, said Morello. “We need to gradually build him up,” said the coach.
Morello said that East Lyme likes to grind it out, but also said that the Vikings throw the ball effectively. “East Lyme has a scrappy bunch of kids,” said Morello.
It may not be pretty win, but MIDDLETOWN is the pick.
Xavier vs. Staples
Staples Stadium, Westport
Tonight at 7 p.m.
Xavier coach Sean Marinan was to the point: “We’re a work in progress.”
“We’re trying to get our feet under us,” said Marinan. “We have a lot of inexperience and we need to eliminate mistakes.”
In his team’s last scrimmage with Montville, the Falcons had two fumbles, two interceptions and had a number of bad snaps. “It was a sloppy game,” said the coach.
Marinan said that Staples is a typical Staples team in that they run the option and he pointed out that to defend that offense, his defense has to be in the right places at the right time. “They’re well-coached,” said Marinan.
This is the second year of the SCC/FCIAC challenge and it would be an enormous win for Xavier. Marinan said as much, saying that a win would be a big step for his team.
Bet that Xavier gives the Wreckers a good game, but this looks like a STAPLES win.
Vinal/East Hampton/Goodwin vs. Prince Tech
Palmer Field, Middletown
Tonight at 7:30 p.m.
Joe Cefarattis’ team broke even last year at 5-5 and is looking to take the next step. But in Prince Tech, the Bellhawks are taking on what Cefaratti called one of the Constitution State Conference’s best teams.
“They have a good line, they have size and speed,” said Cefaratti.
The Bellhawks are led by seniors and have a 2-year starter in Austin Mann at quarterback. Cefaratti said that he’s been pleased with the defense his team has shown in the preseason but that his offense “needs to mesh.”
Prince is favored, but maybe this is a VT/EH/GT win.
Cromwell vs. North Branford
Colafati Field, North Branford
Tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Cromwell is banged up.
Coach Chris Eckert said that he has 17 players with some sort of injury and that nine of them are definitely out and the other eight will be game-time decisions. Since there are only 32 in the program in grades 9-12, that’s a problem.
“If we had more depth, we might be able to deal with it,” said Eckert.
North Branford returns a veteran team. “They have a very big offensive line and their skill players are very good,” said Eckert. “This is a hard start for our season, but if we can pull an upset it would be big.”
NORTH BRANFORD to win.
Haddam-Killingworth vs. Morgan
Peters Complex, Clinton
Tonight at 6:30 p.m.
New H-K coach Mike Baklik is optimistic.
“We’ve come a long way,” said the rookie coach. “”With a mostly new coaching staff, there are a lot of new faces for the kids we’re working with. We’ve had a good effort in the off season and we are progressing every day.”
The Cougars have been bolstered by the addition of new players Joe Parmelee (OL/DL) and Xavier transfer Trevor Brochu (ILB). “We had some kids who didn’t come out, so they have helped,” said Baklik.
Morgan is expected to be very good this time around.
“They are coming off a great year and they expect good things of themselves,” said Baklik. “We’re going to go down there and do what we can do to make things best for us.”
MORGAN to win.
Valley Regional/Old Lyme at Nonnewaug
Nonnewaug High, Woodbury
Saturday at noon
Valley had to rebuild its line and according to coach Tim King, that task has gone well. “They’re starting to come together,” said King. “I’m pretty pleased with how the line has started to jell.”
Valley returns key skill players, among these are running back Justin Cheverier and receiver-now-quarterback Chris Jean-Pierre.
“We haven’t played Nonnewaug in a number of years,” said King. “So we don’t know much about them and the unknown worries me.”
VALLEY to win.
Old Saybrook/Westbrook vs. Coginchaug
CRHS Stadium, Durham
Saturday at 1 p.m.
Coginchaug got off to a slow start last season, then came on like gangbusters down the stretch. Look for John Bozzi’s team not to start badly two years in a row.
COGINCHAUG to win.