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Zach Davis finished his 2016 season with another record-breaking performance on Thanksgiving, running for what previously seemed like an unfathomable 543 yards on 26 carries and seven touchdowns in a 58-22 win over Lyman Hall. It only wasn’t headline news because Davis broke his own record and now holds three of the top five individual performances in state history.
Let me repeat that: Zach Davis now has the top two and three of the top five rushing games (and top four in the SCC) in the history of Connecticut football, which has been played for a long time.
He rushed for 3,588 yards this season, beating the SCC record by more than 1,000 and slotting in at fourth all-time behind three Ansonia players who had all played at least three or more games than he did. He rushed for 50 touchdowns, third all-time behind those same Ansonia players (Arkeel Newsome and Alex Thomas) and set a state record for points (60) and touchdowns in a game (10) that even they couldn’t touch.
By any account, it was one of the greatest individual seasons in Connecticut high school history and will be celebrated far and wide.
Or will it?
Here are the criticisms of Davis I have heard in the last few weeks:
A) He played no one.
While it’s true, Sheehan played just one Division I team this season (Cheshire), he did line up against nine other varsity football teams, most of them keying on him. Other than Lyman Hall, every other SCC team he played against had at least three victories. And it’s not like anyone else was putting up numbers that were even remotely close, in this season or any other season.
And I’m not sure how it’s his fault who the opponents (set by the league) are. And Sheehan is one of the smallest schools in the SCC, they should be playing other small schools, and not Cheshire, Fairfield Prep, etc.
Which leads us to…
B) He got most of his yards with the game already decided
Not really. There were a couple of second-half touchdowns in which Sheehan held a large lead, but Davis was eventually removed from most of lopsided victories. And the way scores are these days (we had a 72-70 game in the state this season), removing people early — especially at a program like Sheehan which does not have a deep roster (see aforementioned point) — can be dangerous if it’s done before the game is decided. Against Lyman Hall on Thanksgiving, Davis had 450 yards by halftime and surely could have put up an enormous number (700 yards? More?) against a team that apparently was playing for a lame duck coach, and would have gotten national headlines if coach John Ferrazzi wanted to. Sheehan didn’t.
C) Sheehan should have spread the ball around more, giving Davis the ball that many times was selfish.
While it’s entirely true that the Titans’ offensive line deserves a lot more credit than they get (us sportswriters are lazy), and I am truly sorry about that, Sheehan won six of its last seven games, won the Division III championship and posted its best record since 2008. The Titans scored 394 points, second-most in the SCC, just 12 behind West Haven, who I heard had a decent season. So, why you would mess with something (in a varsity football game, mind you) that was working?
Unfortunately, most it smells of petty jealousy in my eyes, and it’s part of a negativity that has too much of the discussion in current high school sports. It’s why coaches leave prematurely, it’s difficult to find referees, and sportsmanship gets thrown to the curb in place of winning.
So, as we move forward, remember — as always — that it’s primarily about having fun and learning lessons that will be used for the rest of life.
Without further ado, the 2016 Curren Awards. As always, these are not an exact science, and are just my opinions…
The 2016 Curren Awards
Offensive Player of the Year
(Winner) Zach Davis, Sheehan
One of the most remarkable things about Davis’ season is that he was mostly a receiver last year, catching 55 passes while having only 54 carries until last Thanksgiving. It’s a role he might reprise in college.
2) Anthony Godfrey, West Haven
When the Westies needed a big play, they went to Godfrey. He is explosive as anyone the SCC has ever seen, including Erv Phillips, who is now at Syracuse. Can he help bring an elusive state title to West Haven?
3) Brett Huber, Foran
All Huber did was set a state record for most receptions in state history, and he fell from second to third on this list. It was that kind of year in the SCC.
Defensive Player of the Year
(Winner) Brian Weyrauch, Cheshire
Wasn’t always easy in Division I, but Weyrauch was in the middle of everything for the Rams’ defense, which had some pretty impressive performances this season.
2) Frank Longley, Notre Dame
The Green Knights actually had several candidates here but Longley gets the nod for perhaps the best defense in the league.
3) Niam Coward, East Haven
Coward was a fixture for four years on the Yellowjackets’ defense, which finished off a very good season with a shutout of Branford on Thanksgiving.
Coach of the Year
(Winner) Tom Marcucci, Notre Dame
The Green Knights could have let up at 0-2, and going through Division I was going to be extremely difficult, but ND survived and now enters the playoffs as a dangerous Class L team.
2) Rich Boshea, West Haven
He’ll have to share the honor with the most experienced coaching staff in the league and the Westies were obviously loaded with talent, but going 10-0 with the schedule the Blue Devils played is far from easy.
3) Steve Filippone, Hand
Yes, he went 2-8, but he had a heck of a 27-year career. He kept a positive attitude even when his team posted the worst record in any of those, proving, even with seven state championships, it’s not all about winning.
Stories of the Year
Winner) Division I scheduling
North Haven and Hand were good football teams that could have won many more games in another league, yet finished 4-6 and 2-8, respectively. It says something when 0ther leagues, like the FCIAC, are now considering realigning to follow this model. The SCC-SWC-ECC crossover agreement follows in the same footsteps.
While it looks like Hand will drop to Division II, the rest will stay. It will be a heck of a show, I’ll give it that.
2) Zach Davis
The marks he put in the state record books may stay a while, which maybe will show just how good they were.
3) Back to Bowen Field
Random note: Tuesday’s Class M quarterfinal will not be the first CIAC playoff game at Bowen. The 1978 Class LL title contest between Ansonia and Amity was actually played before a capacity crowd there.
Team of the Year
Winner) West Haven
If you go undefeated playing a Division I schedule playing the teams that the Westies had to play, you deserve to be on top.
Taking Zach Davis out of the equation, the Titans had their best record since 2008, even after an 0-3 start where they couldn’t seem to figure out what was working best for them.
3) Notre Dame
Another team that rebounded for a shaky start to have a successful campaign.
Games of the Year
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) November 12, 2016
Winner) West Haven 59, Shelton 52, Week 10
The crazy ending saw the Westies with a 14-point lead late only to see the Gaels tie it and the Westies win it in the final seconds.
2) Shelton 35, North Haven 34, Week 7
One of several tough losses for the Indians, but it turned out to be a huge win for the Gaels, who needed it to make the Class LL playoffs.
3) Jonathan Law 26, East Haven 21, Week 2
Before a large crowd in Milford, the Lawmen completed a big comeback that Erik Larka hopes will provide some momentum all the way to 2017 and beyond.
Best Teams to Start 2017
(actually got this right last year for once)
They’ll need to find someone to carry the ball, but Will Levis should return and it’s been a couple of years since the Falcons have returned to the playoffs, so it’s probably about time
2) West Haven
Kyle Godfrey and Chris Chance should be back to go with some pretty talented youngsters, though the losses in the trenches may be tough to replace.
3) Wilbur Cross
Lots of skill players return, and the Division II schedule is just a little more forgiving than what they formerly had to play.
Not many surprises as the Thanksgiving schedule has not been great the last few seasons … Anthony Godfrey did not play for West Haven (minor injury), but the Westies were still able to eliminate Fairfield Prep 28-21. They could play Shelton (again) in the semifinals a week from Monday if they both win … The Gaels beat Derby for the 14th straight time, but more impressive, Notre Dame defeated Hamden for the 11th consecutive year on Thanksgiving … East Haven got to 5-5 with a 14-0 win over Branford, marking the first time since 2000-2001 that the Yellowjackets finished back-to-back seasons without a losing record … After some pregame shenanigans — in which Southington’s captains refused to shake Cheshire’s captain Brian Weyrauch’s hand at the coin toss, leading Weyrauch to give them a Cam Newtown dab in response — he and Cheshire fought valiantly but eventually lost to Southington 47-20 to be eliminated from playoff contention … Foran beat Law, but there are signs that the rivalry may be a little more competitive going forward … Steve Filippone won his final game in charge of Hand, routing Guilford 44-0, and now the focus moves to who will replace him as the Tigers look to rebound next season … North Haven got an impressive win over Amity despite not having Tom Dodge or Mike Montano for much of the contest (injury).
Player of the Week
Zach Davis, Sheehan
I mean, the kid set the state record for rushing yards in a game. I know it was his own, but c’mon.
Inside the Numbers
4Number of teams that qualified for the postseason (West Haven, Shelton, Notre Dame, Hillhouse). I think that number may rise in the future with Division III teams playing less crossovers. It stands to reason the winner next season might be playoff bound.
Game of the Week
Notre Dame at New London, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
The Whalers lost to NFA on Thanksgiving, and the way the Green Knights are playing, it would not be much of a shock to see them prevail here, even if New London handled Wilbur Cross easily just a couple of weeks back.
Power Rankings (Final, 2016)
- 1) West Haven (10-0; Last Week 1) — Winning without Godfrey impressive, Shelton might await in semifinals.
- 2) Notre Dame (7-3; LW 2) — Would be a tough, tough road to a Class L title, but not like schedule hasn’t been rough.
- 3) Shelton (8-2; LW 3) — Probably not a terrible draw for the Gaels, hopefully got a little healthier against Derby.
- 4) Cheshire (6-4; LW 5) — Fought hard against Southington, but Division I just a little too tough this season.
- 5) Fairfield Prep (6-4; LW 4) — Will be interesting to see where Prep goes from here, might be factor in 2017.
- 6) Xavier (6-4; LW 6) — Finished up with a nice win, but definitely a what could have been kind of campaign.
- 7) Hillhouse (9-1; LW 7) — Have seemed to have a way with Class M field in past, new New Fairifeld is tough.
- 8) North Haven (4-6; LW 8) — Would be interesting to know what kind of record Indians would have with ‘15 schedule.
- 9) Hand (2-8; LW 9) — Won two games by a combined 79-0 score this season, so Division II should definitely help.
- 10) Foran (7-3; LW 10) — Had another good run this season, showing everything shoudn’t be about playoffs.
- 11) Sheehan (6-4; LW 11) — Titans won six of seven and will be another interesting team to watch next season.
- 12) Amity (3-7; LW 12) — Thought they might be able to play North Haven a little tougher, but not to be.
- 13) Wilbur Cross (5-5; LW 13) — Had some chances against Hillhouse, but made some mistakes late in first half.
- 14) East Haven (5-5; LW 15) — Impressive finish to campaign, really could have been 7-3 with a couple of breaks.
- 15) Hamden (2-8; LW 16) — Tom Dyer now knows what he’s up against to succeed with the Dragons now.
- 16) Creed (3-7; LW 18) — Little rougher than in Pequot, but Howling Wolves showed they could compete.
- 17) Branford (4-6; LW 17) — Did not have ending to season they would have liked, we’ll see how 2017 develops.
- 18) Jonathan Law (4-6; LW 14) — East Lyme game was a tough loss, but played decently against Foran.
- 19) Guilford (3-7; LW 19) — Have not had a whole lot of fun against Hand lately. Or for much of history.
- 20) Lyman Hall (1-9; LW 20) — Going to take a while for Trojans to become more competitive, I think.