MIDDLETOWN >> There are only five football games involving area teams this weekend as three clubs have byes. But three of those games are big ones.
The headliner tonight is undefeated Shelton at Xavier in a rematch of the Class LL-Small state championship game of last December. Middletown looks to move up in the Class L playoff race at Farmington.
Cromwell/Portland (4-1) played SMSA/University (1-4) Thursday night — Cromwell/Portland was the easy pick — and Coginchaug travels to Canton Saturday.
Haddam-Killingworth, Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech and Valley Regional/Old Lyme all have the week off.
Shelton (5-0) vs. Xavier (3-3), Palmer Field, 7 p.m.
The death of the Xavier Falcons has been greatly exaggerated.
Xavier coach Sean Marinan said two weeks ago that he thought three losses would almost certainly keep his club out of the playoffs. He isn’t saying that now and with good reason.
Class LL is wide open. While Xavier is 18th in the Class LL playoff point system — the top eight qualify — the fact is the Falcons are not far behind a playoff spot as a ton of LL teams have two and three losses. A win tonight would give the Falcons 150 points (100 for the win, 10 points for each Shelton win) and the Falcons would leapfrog several teams.
Then, if Xavier were to beat Hand — currently unbeaten at 5-0 — next week, it doesn’t take a math major to figure the Falcons would be in the thick of the playoff race.
But Xavier absolutely, without a doubt, must win tonight against a team that is a significant favorite. History is on Xavier’s side. Over the past nine meetings, the Falcons hold an 8-1 edge over Shelton.
The only loss was during the regular season last year, but the Falcons atoned for that with that overtime win for the ages against previously unbeaten Shelton in the LL-Small title game to end 2014.
But this is a different year.
“Shelton has very good team speed,” Marinan said. “It’s maybe the fastest team we’ve played thus far. Their quarterback is pretty good, they have two very fast receivers in Chris Kanios and Kevin Robinson, they execute very well on offense and defense and their linebackers can fly. It’s a very good team.”
Xavier is coming off an 18-6 win over Norwich Free Academy, a game in which both teams played without injured starters. In fact, NFA played without its top two quarterbacks and without its best running back.
“Our defense played well,” said Marinan. “We need to do that again and our tackling was better than against Notre Dame two weeks ago.”
Marinan said that his No. 1 quarterback, Will Levis, will play. Levis saw some action against NFA after being out since the first week of the season with an injury.
“He will play,” said Marinan. “Hopefully, he will be the only quarterback we will have to use. He still needs to shake the rust off.”
Marinan said he thought that Collin McCarthy will not play as he aggravated his ankle sprain against NFA. The winner of tonight’s game will win its Division of the Southern Connecticut Conference.
Shelton has wins over Cross (49-14), Fairfield Prep (35-27), Guilford (56-7), Notre Dame (17-7, but ND played without quarterback Christian Lupoli) and West Haven (48-27).
The two common opponents are West Haven and Notre Dame. Xavier lost to those teams 35-27 and 32-7 respectively, but lost to ND without its top two quarterbacks and with McCarthy operating well below 100 percent.
It says here this will be a competitive game. Shelton will likely have last year’s title game on its mind, but the Falcons should have enormous motivation. Can that motivation, the return of Levis, the fact that historically the Falcons have beaten Shelton like a drum and home field translate into an upset win?
“It’s why we play the game,” Marinan said.
The Gaels are supposed to win and logic says they will. But sometimes logic goes out the window. XAVIER, which will have to play very well, will shake up the polls, the rankings, logic and win.
Middletown (4-1) at Farmington (2-3), 7 p.m.
Middletown comes into the game a little bit banged up.
Running back Hunter Belzo is out as are linemen Zalan Mumtaz and Peyton White. Blue Dragons coach Sal Morello said that perhaps one or two of them could play, but he decided to hold them out for one more week.
Farmington has wins over Hartford Public (14-7) and Bristol Eastern (38-20) and has lost to E.O. Smith (27-20, Wethersfield (33-0) and Windsor (47-0).
“Farmington has won the games it was supposed to,” Morello said. “They are always well-coached and they’re pretty good. Everybody has lost to Wethersfield and Windsor so far.
“For us, the question is: Can we play better? We want to continue to improve each week. I am concerned with how we play. I want to see us play better, to reduce the penalties, to put together drives. Our goal is improve. We do that and things will take care of themselves.”
Middletown is currently 9th in the Class L playoff ratings. Farmington is Class LL and with a win, Middletown would pick up valuable playoff points. A loss would be a stunning upset and would virtually end the Blue Dragons’ playoff hopes.
MIDDLETOWN to win.
Coginchaug (2-3) at Canton (0-5), 1 p.m.
This looks like a mismatch. Coginchaug running back Parker Tregoning ought to have a field day as he and his mates reach the .500 mark and tune up for their date with Ellington next week.
COGINCHAUG to win.
There are big games all over the state with playoff implications. In a Class LL game, look for Southington to remain undefeated at 4-1 Conard, Class S Ansonia to knock off Class L Torrington in a battle of unbeatens, Granby to hold off Ellington in a Class S unbeaten matchup, Class LL West Haven to beat undefeated Class M Foran in a high-scoring game, Class M Berlin to win a close one with Class L Avon to stay undefeated and Class L Notre Dame to give unbeaten Class L Hand its first loss.
Last week 5-2. Season’s record 30-10.