MIDDLETOWN >> One game away.
That’s how far away Middletown High and Valley Regional/Old Lyme are from playing for state football championships. No. 4 Middletown (11-1) will take on Darien (11-1), who is ranked No. 1 in the CIAC playoff point system, at Pomperaug High School in Southbury today at 2 p.m.
Valley Regional, 12-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class M by the CIAC, plays No. 5 Brookfield (10-3) at Cheshire High School at 2 p.m.
Darien, from the highly-regarded Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) has won its last three games in dramatic fashion. The Blue Wave held off fellow Class L semifinalist North Haven 36-27, stopped New Canaan with a last second goal-line stand to win 28-24 on Thanksgiving, then beat Hand 31-29 with a field goal as the clock ran out in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs Tuesday.
Darien holds a 42-21 win over Greenwich and a 19-14 win over Class LL semifinalist Ridgefield. It’s lone loss was a 28-14 decision to Class M semifinalist St. Joseph of Trumbull.
“Darien is a team with no glaring weaknesses,” said Middletown coach Sal Morello. “They probably have the best passing attack we will see, but are very well-balanced on offense. Their quarterback [Silas Wyper] is very good and their receivers run great routes,”
Against Hand, Wyper was 3-for-4 on the Blue Wave’s game-winning drive for 26 yards, while running back Jay Harrison carried the ball four times for 25 yards, setting up the game-winning field goal. Wyper also threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Nick Lombardo.
Middletown is coming off a 49-14 quarterfinal win over New London. The Blue Dragons are led by quarterback Dario Highsmith, who has run for over 2,500 yards and thrown for over 800 more for a total of 36 touchdowns.
In the win against New London, back Isaiah Thompkins ran for nearly 80 yards and a touchdown and Highsmith ran for three scores and threw a 33-yard TD to Cody Carrillo.
Morello said his team is healthy and that linebacker/running back Yaamal Jackson, who sat out the New London game with bumps and bruises, will play.
Including Woodrow Wilson High before the merger, Middletown has made nine playoff appearances. Wilson went to two title games, losing to Ansonia and St. Joseph. The Blue Dragons have made seven playoff appearances and won three state titles, defeating Ledyard in 1984, Bristol Central in 1987 and Berlin in 1992.
MHS lost in the first round in 2007 and 2012 before winning the quarterfinal round game against New London this year.
The strength of schedule nod goes to Darien, but this ought to be a good one.
The pick: Middletown
Who will win the Class LL baseball championship?
No. 4 Cheshire (20-5)
No. 3 Ridgefield (20-5)
Total Response: 219 Votes
Class M Semifinal
Brookfield (10-3) vs. Valley Regional/Old Lyme (12-0)
Cheshire High School
Today at 2 p.m.
Brookfield has three losses, but two of them were to Class LL Newtown, once during the regular season and in the South West Conference championship game. Its third loss was to rival Bethel, 20-0, on Thanksgiving. But Brookfield avenged that loss with a thrilling last minute win over Bethel 22-21 in the Class M quarterfinals.
In that game, Brookfield drove 77 yards in the last two minutes and 20 seconds to win. Quarterback Brad Westmark converted two fourth-down plays on the drive and Bobby Drysdale scored on a 4-yard run with 38 seconds left to send Brookfield into today’s game.
“Brookfield is a tough, physical team,” said Valley coach Tim King. “They run the wing-T, the double wing and they spread you out, too. They come right at you and their quarterback throws a nice ball and he has good receivers.
“They’re not especially big, but they have great team speed. In practice, we’ve put our receivers on defense to try emulate their speed against our offensive line.”
The Warriors are statistically one of the state’s best defensive teams, giving up only a touchdown per game.
This is a game in which the strength of schedule favors Brookfield, but King said that his club played the toughest schedule it could.
“We had league crossover games against the best teams in the Pequot,” said King. “Playing quality opponents is very important and we tried to do that. I think the game is going to be a battle and I think we have a size advantage up front, but they are very fast.”
Valley has twice advanced to the Class S semifinal round, losing to St. Joseph in 2010 and Holy Cross in 2011.
With quarterback Phil Cohen and running back Justin Cheverier, plus a number of skilled players, Valley is not an ordinary Pequot League team in that the Warriors had just one close game, a 21-18 win over Avon, a game in which Avon scored late to make it close.
A competitive game.
The pick: Valley Regional/Old Lyme
Who will win the 2018 Class S Baseball Championship?
No. 6 Notre Dame-Fairfield (19-7)
No. 5 Coventry (20-6)
Total Response: 160 Votes
In other games around the state, I’ll pick in Class LL Southington over Ridgefield, West Haven over Fairfield Prep; in Class L, New Canaan over North Haven; in Class M St. Joseph over Joel Barlow; in Class S, Woodland over Bloomfield, and Ansonia over Rocky Hill.
The state championship games will be held Friday and Saturday at Arute Field on the campus of Central Connecticut State University.
Last week, 3-0. Season’s record, 74-18.