No question the New Canaan at Middletown Class L quarterfinal round game in the CIAC football playoffs Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Rosek-Skubel Stadium is one of state’s premier attractions.
The story line is simple. New Canaan began the season as the consensus No. 1 team in the state — after all the Rams won the last four Class L state championships — but lost to St. Joseph of Trumbull 38-35 in its opener. Later in the season the Rams lost to Greenwich 36-21, setting up a must win Thanksgiving Day game game with Darien.
Fate intervened — or perhaps better said, stupidity intervened — and three players from Darien High, including the quarterback, were arrested before Thanksgiving for allegedly assaulting a minor. They didn’t play and New Canaan rolled 27-0.
On the other side, Middletown turned its its first undefeated regular season since 1985. MHS was undefeated in 1984, including its state championship win over Ledyard, but after its unbeaten regular season in 1985, it was upset by Lyman Hall in the Class M title game.
In those days, life was simple: the top two teams in each class played for the championship — no quarterfinals, no semifinals — No. 1 vs. No. 2.
Middletown capped its unbeaten season with a convincing 24-7 win over Windsor as the Blue Dragons’ defense held Windsor to under 100 yards for the game and gave up no points — the TD was a 12-yard interception return — while scoring three TDs and getting a field goal from Mike Aresco.
If Middletown wins it will play at home on Sunday, Dec. 3, at 12:30 p.m. against the winner of the Hand vs. Fitch game. If New Canaan wins, it will go on the road to ether Hand or Fitch.
The weather is supposed to be terrific for this time of year. Get there early.
The other area team in the playoffs is Valley Regional/Old Lyme, which will play at undefeated Rocky Hill in the Class S event Tuesday. Valley’s (9-1) signature win was an overtime victory at Cromwell-Portland, while Rocky Hill dismantled C/P on Thanksgiving Eve. Rocky Hill went to the championship game in Class S in 2016 and lost to Ansonia.
The winner of this game plays the winner of the O’Brien Tech vs. St. Joseph game. If St. Joseph doesn’t win the game with O’Brien Tech there should be an investigation.
They also played
Congratulations to Haddam-Killingworth (6-4), Coginchaug/Hale-Ray (6-4) and Cromwell/Portland (8-2) all of whom had solid seasons. In most years, C/P would be in the playoffs, but Class S had a lot of teams with gaudy records.
On the flip side, in Class M, Jonathan Law of Milford, at 6-4, qualified in Class M.
The CIAC rating system can be a little daunting, but simply put a team gets 100 points for beating a team in its own class, 110 for a class up, 90 for a class down and so forth. Then it gets 10 points for each win a defeated opponent has.
That’s how Middletown vaulted from No. 4 to No. 1 in Class L. It beat Windsor so it got 100 points, plus Windsor had nine wins so it got 90 more points. New Canaan’s win over Darien did the same thing for it. New Canaan was on the outside looking in, but got all those points from its win to move into the eighth spot in L.
The idea of the rating system is, of course, to reward the top-ranked teams with supposedly lesser teams. That’s why 1 plays 8, 2 plays 7 and so on. Only, in high school with teams playing in difference leagues, that idea goes out the window. So don’t pay a whole lot of attention to the “rankings” in the playoffs.
The system clearly needs some improving as teams get no reward for playing good teams unless they win. In New Jersey, a team that plays a team in a higher class, automatically gets some points, win or lose. Makes sense.
Legion baseball in November
The Middletown Legion held its annual awards dinner Friday evening. With some 135 in attendance, the following awards were given out. For the 15 and under team, Rookie of the Year Jackson Salafia; MVP Nico Kulpik; Most Improved Griffin Biro; Offensive Player of the Year T.J. Isleib.
For the 17 and under team, Tenth Man Award, Jake Famiglietti; MVP Maguire O’Sullivan; Most Improved Spencer Higgs; Coaches’ Award Zach Reimer; Rookie of the Year Ryan Conklin.
The 19 and under varsity team, Dana Bransfield Award Ryan Famiglietti; MVP Scott Marks and Luke Garofalo; Hibernian Citizen of Tomorrow Award Keith LaChance; Tenth Man Award, Sebby Amenta; Most Improved Sean Lenehan; Hustle Award Tim Dixon; William A. Vasiliou Rookies of the Year Chris Cardi and Cal Pitruzzello.
Here and there
The local Internet radio station, WCNXRadio.com will carry the Middletown vs. New Canaan game Tuesday … the station reported that 942 devices logged on to the broadcast of the Rocky Hill vs. Cromwell/Portland game last Wednesday … “We were very pleased with those numbers,” said co-owner John Clark.
Middletown High cheer coach Sharon Riley reported that three alums are cheering in college … they are Alyssa Salafia at CCSU, Kristy Kiniry at Stonehill and Alexis Collins at the University of West Florida.
The atmosphere at the Middletown at Windsor game last Wednesday was tremendous … crowds are hard to estimate, but 1,500 to 1,800 is probably about right and it was maybe 60-40 Middletown … the Middletown and Windsor bands played and fans lined the fences around the field … pretty cool.
In the football playoffs I’m not picking any winners, but I think the best teams in Class LL are Greenwich and Shelton … and Darien if the banished players play, which would be a disgrace … in Class L, Middletown, New Canaan, Hand and Windsor might be the best … in Class M — this year’s anybody can win division — Killingly or Sheehan might be tops … and in Class S it’s the Ansonia/St. Joseph Invitational, with maybe Rocky Hill having a shot.
In any case, fans should remember the postseason is a bonus, a reward for a job well done.