MIDDLETOWN >> The high school football season gets underway tonight with a blockbuster attraction. Staples, long a power in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference visits three-time Class LL champion Xavier at Palmer Field at 6:30 p.m.
The top-level attractions continue Thursday as Middletown, a team with great expectations, hosts East Lyme at Rosek-Skubel Stadium at MHS at 7:00 p.m.
All the other area clubs open up over the next three days while Wesleyan joins the fray next week.
Staples vs. Xavier
Tonight at 6:30
Xavier coach Sean Marinan doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. But even the coach of the three-time LL champions has concerns.
“We are very much a work in progress,” said Marinan. “But I’m happy with where we are. We have to improve, we know that, and we’re going to have to play well to win tonight.”
Marinan said his team is inexperienced, pointing out that his club graduated its entire offensive line. “That’s a concern,” he said.
But he also said that in Andrew Meoli he has a “very good” running back and that quarterback Joe Carbone, is playing “very, very well,” but pointed out he has an entirely new receiving corps to which to throw.
Staples, which Xaver beat in the LL title game in 2011, is a club that runs the option and throws out of the shotgun.
“All of that makes them difficult to defend,” said Marinan. “They have skilled position players back from last year and their quarterback is a four-year player. They are very diversified offensively which has given us a lot to prepare for. They have decent size, are well-coached and are good at the fundamentals.
“We’ll have our hands full.”
Maybe so, but taking on Xavier at Palmer Field in front of a big crowd is a different kind of animal than what the Wreckers might be used to.
XAVIER to win.
East Lyme vs. Middletown
Middletown High School
Thursday at 7 p.m.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding this year’s edition of the Blue Dragons. But coach Sal Morello is worried, and not just about the hype.
“Right now, I’m not sure where we are,” said Morello. “We’ve had a lot of injuries and we’ve held some kids completely out of our scrimmages. We’re getting healthier now, but I don’t know what to expect.”
Cody Carrillo is out, and may be out for the season. London Highsmith, Isiah Thompkins and Yamaal Jackson — the last two two-way starters, and both are running backs — have also been out of action.
“Thompkins and Jackson will play on defense, but I don’t know how much on offense we’ll see them,” said Morello. “I think we have a good team, but I haven’t seen the whole team yet.”
East Lyme is a solid program coming off a down year and Morello is as much at a loss with the visitors as he is with his own team.
“I don’t know much about them and that’s a worry,” he said. “I do know that offensively they want to control the ball. They run a double wing and run it very well. What we’ll have to do is play very good defense on first and second down to force them into third and long.”
Middletown might not be at full strength, but it looks from here like the Blue Dragons have too much speed, too much talent and too much at stake to stumble on opening night.
MIDDLETOWN to win.
Abbott Tech vs. Vinal/East Hampton
Friday at 7 p.m.
There is good news and bad news coming out of the Vinal/East Hampton camp.
The good news is the Hawks are unquestionably better than last season. The not so good news is that quarterback Austin Mann is injured and may not play.
“The plan is to go with C.J. Lemere right now,” said coach Joe Cefaratti.
The Hawks find themselves in the Constitution State Conference this year, a league that will provide a much more level playing field than the Pequot did. That should translate into much more competitive games, and more W’s for the Hawks.
“I think this will be a pretty good game,” said Cefaratti. “We saw their scrimmage against Immaculate and they did some good things and we also saw some things we might be able to take advantage of. I talked with their coach and he pretty much said the same things about us. They have a good pair of running backs and they will be tough.”
Cefaratti said that other than the quarterback position, his club is healthy.
This looks like a home field advantage kind of game. VINAL/EAST HAMPTON to win.
OTHER AREA GAMES
Cromwell takes on Gilbert/Northwestern Regional Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Pierson Park in Cromwell. The Panthers are young and inexperienced, but CROMWELL should have enough to win.
Valley Regional plays Hyde Leadership at Wilbur Cross High in New Haven Thursday at 4:30 p.m. Valley is loaded; Hyde isn’t. VALLEY to win.
SMSA/University is at Coginchaug Regional Thursday at 4:45 p.m. COGINCHAUG to win.
Haddam-Killingworth travels to North Branford Thursday at 6:30 p.m. and that’s never a fun time for anyone. But rumor has it that the Thunderbirds, after a playoff run last year, might be down a little bit this season. HADDAM-KILLINGWORTH to win.