The CIAC on Monday dropped high school sports fans something to look forward to: schedules for fall sports, including football (as well as playoff classes). They’re incomplete (say hey, Bullard-Havens), but there’s enough there to start penciling in the day planners for the autumn. Here are 20 games that caught our eye. (There were more, but 37’s a weird number.)
Times, dates and sites subject to change. Weather, site availability, mosquitoes, pandemics and whatever else 2020 might bring permitting.
Hand at Fairfield Prep, Sept. 11, 6 p.m.: Hand’s bid for a threepeat in Class L was thwarted by threepeating St. Joseph, which has dropped back to Class M. The Tigers’ run toward another final appearance, at least, begins at Rafferty Stadium with a different but familiar coach: Dave Mastroianni resigned in February and was replaced by former Tigers boss Steve Filippone.
Trumbull at Staples, Sept. 11, 7 p.m.: Another game with a little coaching intrigue as longtime Staples coach Marce Petroccio, in his third year at Trumbull, returns to Westport for the first time. They’re two storied programs who both had losing records last season.
Danbury at St. Joseph, Sept. 12, 1:30 p.m.: Danbury seems to be building something, and there’s nothing like opening the season on a Saturday afternoon … at one of the previous year’s CIAC champions for the second year in a row. Last year, it was a visit to Greenwich, which was coming off a Class LL title. This time, it’s the Cadets, the No. 1 team in last year’s final GameTimeCT poll. The Hatters will try to flip last year’s 49-3 loss at Greenwich.
Greenwich at Shelton, Sept. 25, 7 p.m.: Speaking of the Cardinals, they may be one of the favorites this season. They open at Westhill and versus Ridgefield before this trip to Finn Stadium. The Gaels just missed last year’s Class LL playoffs for the first time in six years and will have a new coach after Jeff Roy stepped down in the winter.
Weston at Sheehan, Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m.: Even if some of the stars of last year’s shows are graduating this month, this will still be a matchup of two defending CIAC champions: Class M’s Weston, coming off its first championship, and Class S’s Sheehan, champ for the first time since 1985.
Southington at Simsbury, Oct. 9, 6:30 p.m.: The only two blemishes on Southington’s record last year were two defensive struggles against Darien, the second in the Class LL semifinals. Until a semifinal loss to eventual champion Newtown, Simsbury’s only loss was to Southington.
Hand at Shelton, Oct. 16, 7 p.m.: This was the preseason game of the year last year, and it lived up to the hype at the Surf Club. Two perennially solid programs meet again.
Greenwich at St. Joseph, Oct. 17, 1:30 p.m.: Tweaks to the FCIAC schedule mean that these two programs will meet for the first time since 2010, St. Joseph’s only win in a nine-game all-time series.
Shelton at Norwich Free Academy, Oct. 23, 6:30 p.m.: Not often do you get a game with this much revenge potential … from the team that won the last meeting. Shelton beat NFA last year, but though the teams both finished 7-3, the Wildcats earned the last Class LL playoff spot on points. Just a hunch, but that might come up on the bus ride. Or before.
Hand at Bloomfield, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.: We waited for that big test for Bloomfield last year until the last day, when Sheehan ran by the Warhawks in the second half of the Class S championship game. We’ll see if this has the same kind of cachet it might have had last year. Bloomfield will be coming off a bye week.
Cheshire at Newtown, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.: The Nighthawks’ magical, miracle finish in the Class LL title game drew national attention and more mundanely was their first championship since 1992. This year’s team comes in winners of 21 straight regular-season games and has an interesting little schedule, with Southington and Ridgefield in the first half and Cheshire for its sixth game. The Rams made the playoffs last year for the first time in a decade and move back to SCC Tier I this year.
Rockville at Stafford/East Windsor/Somers, 6:30 p.m.: Coach Erick Knickerbocker’s Rams played to a perfect regular season last season and won their first CIAC playoff game since 1995, a fine step on along the way of their “Restore the Rock” motto. The Bulldogs co-op has been a Class S playoff team four years in a row.
Newtown at Shelton, Oct. 30, 7 p.m.: Last year’s Nighthawks had an early-season gauntlet in the state’s scheduling alliance that set them against Fairfield Prep, West Haven and Shelton. They passed all three, including a 34-24 win at Finn Stadium on Oct. 11. They’ll return a little later in this year’s season.
Darien at St. Joseph, Oct. 31, 1:30 p.m.: After a year off, the teams meet again, two teams often at the top of the FCIAC slog and battling for state titles. Darien, which has won the past five meetings, has a new coach this year, Mike Forget, after Rob Trifone stepped down following last season’s trip to the Class LL final.
New Canaan at Greenwich, Oct. 31, 3 p.m.: It may not be the Marinelli Bowl anymore, like when they met for the 2018 Class LL title, with former Greenwich coach John off to Arizona a year ago, but legendary Lou is still running the Rams. A.J. Barber is still in Greenwich, though, and it’ll still be two perennially talented FCIAC teams.
Ansonia at Woodland, Nov. 6, 6:30 p.m.: No NVL team has defeated Ansonia in almost a decade. The Hawks last year came close as anyone at Nolan Field has come, with the Chargers scoring a late touchdown to win. This one will be up in Beacon Falls.
Newtown at Weston, Nov. 6, 7 p.m.: What, Weston couldn’t get St. Joe’s? The other champ-versus-champ game pits the SWC rivals for the first time since 2014.
Norwich Free Academy at Killingly, Nov. 7, 6:30 p.m.: Two of the ECC’s best played a wild game last year that was decided on the final play, and both went on to the playoffs.
Cheshire at Southington, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.: And then there was the regular-season finale last year, in which Southington beat Cheshire in double overtime to clinch the second seed in the Class LL playoffs. The Blue Knights have won eight years in a row.
Darien at New Canaan, Nov. 26, 10 a.m.: New Canaan has won the past three Thanksgiving-rivalry meetings, each time denying Darien an unbeaten regular season. They’re in different playoff classes for the second year in a row, too, so this is definitely it.