MIDDLETOWN >> The high school football season opens tonight and all the area teams are in action.
If there is a theme involving the three city teams, it’s concern about the offensive line. Xavier’s Sean Marinan, Middletown’s Sal Morello, and Vinal’s Joe Cefaratti all expressed concern about the guys up front.
In all cases, it’s inexperience, but in Middletown’s case it’s also injury. It is, after all, a violent game.
Platt vs. Middletown, Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown High School, 7 p.m. >> Middletown coach Sal Morello is concerned.
“We’re going to have to play very well,” Morello said. “Platt is very athletic. The teams are very much mirror-images of each other. I like their quarterback as he can both pass and run. He’s their best offensive player. Our defense will face a huge challenge and this will be a good, close game.”
Morello said two offensive linemen will be out, with the sole returnee, Zalan Mumtaz, out for some weeks. The other injured offensive lineman is James Johnson.
A defensive lineman, Lorenzo Gaudet, was injured in an automobile accident and he, too, will not play.
The game will mark the debut of Tyshaun James at quarterback and look for Middletown’s offense to be much more diversified than in recent seasons. Whether it will be anywhere near as prolific is another question.
MHS is 26-8 over the past three years with three consecutive Class L playoff appearances. Platt made the Class L playoffs in 2013 and just missed last season.
MIDDLETOWN is the pick to win a close one.
Xavier at West Haven, Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven High School, 7 p.m. >> Add Xavier coach Sean Marinan to the list of worriers.
Normally Xavier has a number of pre-season scrimmages under its belt, but not this year. The Falcons have had just one scrimmage — with New Britain — and a lot of things are undecided for the Falcons, who lost a significant number of players to graduation.
One concern is the offensive line, which has been rebuilt. Marinan conceded that “is a worry.” Another is the Blue Devils’ overall speed.
“West Haven is very fast on defense; they run to the ball very well,” said Marinan. “They have some size up front, but I like our matchups there. Their team speed scares me.”
Marinan also said that quarterback Tim McCarthy, a junior who is the son of retired Westie coach Ed McCarthy, is “pretty good.” Last year, West Haven started an all-underclassmen backfield and all are back.
Marinan said that lineman Alex Bates is out this week with an injury.
The game looks like a pick ‘em kind of game, but picking against Xavier — even given that it’s a West Haven home game — isn’t smart.
XAVIER to win another close game.
Abbott Tech/Immaculate vs. Vinal/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech, Palmer Field, Middletown, 7 p.m. >> Unfortunately for the Vinal/EH/Goodwin Bellhawks, they have to open against the team that most figure is the best in the Constitution State Conference.
“Abbott is a very good, very well-coached, veteran team,” said Vinal coach Joe Cefaratti. “Pretty much their whole team is back.”
The visitors are led by running back Dominique Rogers and star linebacker Steve Bowling.
“Their linebacking corps is excellent,” said Cefaratti. “Rogers is a terrific back. No doubt this team is the new Capital Prep of our league. They run the triple option offense very well and the two schools have put together a phenomenal program.”
The Bellhawks are inexperienced. “We’re healthy, we have great numbers in the program [over 70], but we lack varsity game experience,” Cefaratti added.
They will get some of that tonight.
ABBOTT/IMMACULATE to win.
Old Saybrook/Westbrook at Haddam-Killingworth, H-K High School, 3 p.m. >> Old Saybrook/Westbrook is coming off a rough year.
“They have a new coach, so we’re not sure what to expect,” Haddam-Killingworth coach Mike Baklik said. “They have low numbers and I think we’ll match up pretty well.”
The Cougars come in with three starters banged up, but Baklik said he’s looking for others “to step up.”
H-K to win.
Cromwell/Portland at Coginchaug, Wally Camp Athletic Complex, Coginchaug High School, Durham, 1 p.m. >> This is an interesting games for all kinds of reasons.
First its one of those neighborhood games and they are always fun.
Second, Cromwell will be coached by assistant John Bozzi, the former Coginchaug coach. Bozzi is coaching in place of suspended coach Chris Eckert, who will return next week.
Third, it will be interesting to watch how Cromwell reacts after all the controversy surrounding the hazing incident.
Fourth, it’s the first game of the cooperative program between schools that have been ancient rivals, Portland and Cromwell.
Given everything, the pick is COGINCHAUG.
Valley Regional/Old Lyme vs. Hyde/Career/Whitney Tech, Wilbur Cross Athletic Complex, New Haven, noon >> Like Middletown and Xavier, this is another playoff team of 2014 that has a lot of questions in 2015. Gone are the great skilled position players that fueled the Warriors’ state title run, but coach Tim King has built a program here, not a one or two-year wonder.
Hyde, now a three-team cooperative, has been down for a couple of years.
VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME to win.