MIDDLETOWN >> There was a playoff atmosphere at Palmer Field for the opening night of the high school football season. Even Xavier’s famous Black Hole student section, with their drum beating and inventive cheering, brought their ‘A’ game to the festivities as their beloved Falcons vanquished Staples.
Those things alone make the SCC-FCIAC challenge a tremendous success.
And when the No. 1 team in the state opens its season by banging heads against an opponent it usually doesn’t see until the playoffs, success is virtually guaranteed. It’s a matchup made for CPTV.
“It’s brought a whole new excitement to the beginning of the season,” said Bill O’Brien.
O’Brien, who watched Xavier’s 30-22 win against the Wreckers with his omnipresent camera in tow, was the Southern Connecticut Conference’s first commissioner.
O’Brien’s also a member of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame board of directors and the driving force behind the summer all-star game between the New Haven and Fairfield chapters. Like Sunday doubleheaders and the Friday night sitcom, the Hall of Fame Classic is no longer with us.
“That game served its purpose and we were very happy with it,” said O’Brien. “It provided scholarships for a number of kids over the years. We probably gave away 60-65 thousand dollars in scholarships. And it wasn’t just limited to two schools from the SCC and FCIAC. But now we are tied up with the Coaches Association (National Guard versus Marines game).”
Now, Xavier versus Staples, New Canaan versus Hand, Hillhouse versus Darien, West Haven versus Greenwich and the rest of the intriguing matchups between the two power conferences in Connecticut will have to suffice.
“To see the competition playing like this again on a regular basis for the next two years is really exciting,” O’Brien added. “I’m just happy to see that this game (Xavier-Staples) and all the other games that are being played over the next couple of days are taking place so that it can showcase the talent in both of the conferences.”
With Connecticut high school football teams having an 11-game schedule, as well as starting a week earlier, the SCC-FCIAC challenge was a no-brainer on paper. Seeing it live in front of 1,500 fans at Palmer Field merits kudos and a big thank you to SCC commissioner Al Carbone and the rest of the folks who made it happen.
“I think it’s good for football in Connecticut overall,” said Xavier coach Sean Marinan. “It creates competition and teams get to see each other before the playoffs. So all that is good.”
But Marinan tossed a wrinkle into the proceedings.
What if the Falcons began their quest for a fourth straight Class LL title against New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep? What if Hillhouse traveled to Massachusetts to play the Brockton Boxers, home of Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler?
How’s Notre Dame versus Rhode Island’s Bishop Hendricken sound? Or Hand versus Maine’s Scarborough Red Storm?
“My only thought was maybe we could get out and play other states in lieu of (the SCC-FCIAC challenge),” Marinan said. “And I mean everybody, not just us and Staples. We’ve got that extra week, let’s see if we can get Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey and get some respect for Connecticut football.”
Hey, I loved Xavier versus Staples.
But if the legendary Everett High Crimson Tide, winners of nine Massachusetts state championships since 1997, invaded Palmer Field Wednesday night, it might have had the Black Hole trembling.
Now that’s a challenge.