Let’s begin by congratulating the fans, cheerleaders, bands, dance teams who showed up on Frigid Friday night to support their football teams. It was no fun in that cold, particularly in wind-tunnel places such as Rosek-Skubel Stadium at Middletown High and Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven, where Xavier played.
At MHS, there were perhaps 800 or so — including the 200-member band — at the start of the Senior Night game. By game’s end, there were maybe 200 survivors. That Middletown jumped out to a 28-6 halftime lead made folks’ decision to leave early an easy one — the band left after its usual terrific halftime show — but those that did missed Mike Aresco’s record-breaking field goal.
Aresco kicked one 43 yards — with plenty of room to spare — to give him 22 for his high school career, one better than the all-time state record.
He is the best placekicker in the city’s history and he helps the Blue Dragons in so many ways. Not only is he a very accurate kicker, he kicks for distance.
Friday night he put several kickoffs into the end zone, forcing Platt to start from its 20-yard line and other times was called on to squib kick into the wind. And no, Middletown was not kicking onside late in the game. Those were intentional squibs.
As for the game, Middletown took care of business, winning 51-20 over Platt and in the process, clinched a Class L postseason berth.
The game at Windsor on Thanksgiving Eve will determine whether Middletown gets a home quarterfinal round game or will have to hit the road. The winner gets a home game on Nov. 28, the loser almost certainly goes on the road. Windsor (8-0) has an interesting game at home against Norwich Free Academy (5-3) this Thursday at 6:30.
Across town things are different. Xavier (4-5) was walloped 45-7 by West Haven on Friday. The Falcons finish with Greenwich (8-0) Thursday at West Haven’s Strong Stadium — no, I have no idea why it’s being played there — and a Xavier win would be a staggering upset.
There was optimism before the season. Coach Andy Guyon was quoted as saying he expected his team to challenge for the Class LL title. But it became apparent early on that was an overreach. The Falcons got beat by better teams with better personnel. It happens.
Down the road, Haddam-Killingworth handed Valley Regional/Old Lyme a gift when it stunned Old Saybrook/Westbrook 14-7 Friday. That helped put Valley into the top eight in the Class S playoff race. But here’s the bad news for Valley: It has to play H-K this Friday night in Haddam and the Cougars have demonstrated that will be no walk in the park.
Cromwell/Portland has to take a sober look at Rocky Hill’s 26-10 win over previously unbeaten Berlin. That Thanksgiving Eve game with Rocky Hill may well mean playoffs-or-bust for C/P and, right now, Rocky Hill (9-0) is the favorite.
In Class LL, Naugatuck, Darien, Shelton, and West Haven are in. In Class L, Masuk, Windsor, Hand and Middletown have qualified. In Class M, Killingly, the Coventry co-op, Berlin, Sheehan, Watertown, and the SMSA co-op made it. In Class S — a.k.a. the St. Joseph/Ansonia Invitational — St. Joe, after playing an L and LL schedule, Ansonia and Rocky Hill are in.
No question that Classes LL and L are loaded.
Everybody else, including Valley/Old Lyme and Cromwell/Portland, had better win and hope their defeated opponents also win, thereby handing them precious bonus points. Those already in will be jockeying for home games, so for them, it’s also win, baby, win.
Some clarity will come this week, but for most, it will be Thanksgiving Eve and Thanksgiving Day before everything is known.
Way To Go Award
Hands-down winner is the Xavier High cross country team which won its sixth New England championship Saturday in Belfast, Me. The Falcons, the State Open champions, won the crown for the first time in 20 years.
Coach Chris Stonier’s team was led by Dillon Selfors, who finished 12th, and Own Curran who was right behind at No. 13.
The Falcons were second in the Class LL race to Staples of Westport, but a Xavier runner fell in that race which likely affected the result. Xavier won the Open crown, then easily outdistanced runner-up Staples in the New Englands Saturday.
Xavier cross country: Way To Go.
There are three area games this week. Xavier plays Greenwich at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven. The Falcons give up an average of 31 points per game. Tough to win that way.
Quarterback Will Levis is a terrific player, but he can’t do it alone. GREENWICH to win.
The big game is the Valley Regional/Old Lyme (8-1) at Haddam-Killingworth game (6-3) Friday at 6:30 p.m. Valley needs the game to qualify for the Class S playoffs — a.k.a. the St. Joseph/Ansonia Invitational — and H-K, coming off its stunning upset of Old Saybrook/Westbrook, would love to knock the Warriors out of the postseason.
This ought to be a good one. The pick — and it’s a shaky one — is VALLEY/OLD LYME.
Finally, Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech (1-8) will wind up a frustrating season at Palmer Field Friday with Cheney Tech (3-6) at 6:30 p.m. Comparative scores indicate a pretty even match. The pick is VT/EC/GT to win.
Three area teams — other than football — will be looking for state titles this week.
The East Hampton girls soccer team qualified for the Class S semifinals for the first time. The Bellringers beat Litchfield Saturday 2-1 on a penalty kick by Whitney Dixon with six minutes to play. They will play Holy Cross of Waterbury at Windsor High Tuesday at 7:15 p.m. for the right to play for a state title.
In volleyball, Haddam-Killingworth will play St. Joseph in the Class M semifinal round Tuesday at 5 p.m. at Jonathan Law High in Milford and in Class S, Coginchaug will take on Lyman Memorial Tuesday at 5 p.m. at SMSA High in Hartford.
Stars of the week
No question, Middletown High’s Mike Aresco is the star of the week. His 43-yard field goal Friday against Platt set a state career record of 22 field goals. His career long, set last year, is 52 yards and his four field goals against Farmington last season tied the state single-game mark.
Other stars include MHS receiver DeAaron Lawrence, who caught nine passes for 148 yards including a spectacular, full-body diving catch for one of his two touchdowns, Coginchaug/Hale-Ray’s Eli Rivera, who threw five touchdown passes in his team’s 42-21 win over Morgan, and Jake Frith, who ran for 91 tough yards on 13 carries and a touchdown in H-K’s 14-7 upset of Old Saybrook/Westbrook.
The final star goes to Valley/Old Lyme QB Mike Cullina who was 13-for-19 for 287 yards and three TDs in Valley’s 35-3 romp over Lewis Mills.
Here and there
The crowd at the Middletown girls soccer tourney game with Newington last week numbered 300 … plus a deer … the animal appeared early in the game on the hill that frames the stadium on the west side, watched for a bit, then bounded away in search of … well, it’s mating season.
It was a big weekend for WCNXradio.com, the local Internet station … some 910 devices logged on to the MHS game Friday … and a whopping 1,530 tuned in for South Windsor’s overtime win over Southington Saturday .. its next broadcast will be Cromwell/Portland’s game with Rocky Hill Thanksgiving Eve.
There will be a Class M soccer semifinal game this week at MHS Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with Lewis Mills playing Berlin … the high school will host two state championship games Saturday at Rosek-Skubel Stadium … the state girls Class LL swim meet will be Tuesday at Wesleyan at 7 p.m and the Class L meet will be Wednesday at Wes at 7 p.m. … the State Open diving will be at Middletown High Thursday at 6 p.m.
My criticism of the Central Connecticut Conference a couple of weeks back had nothing to do with the quality of teams in the league …. It’s the organization plus the annual shifting schedules that drive me and some others nuts … in every sport, the CCC is one very good league … the quality of play is great … the coaches — and out-of-town CCC principal — I talked with love the competition, they just wish the CCC was run better.
MHS diver Cassie More finished 12th in the Class L diving competition.
Ready for basketball? … Middletown’s boys open at East Catholic Dec.16, then open at home with Bristol Central Dec. 19 … Xavier opens at West Haven Dec. 22, then opens at home with the Art Kohs Christmas Tournament with Ledyard Dec. 27 … the Vinal Tech boys home opener is Dec.18 with O’Brien Tech.
Mercy opens at home Dec. 12 with Notre Dame of Fairfield … the Tigers no longer play Capital Prep … the Middletown girls home opener is with Rocky Hill Dec. 11 and the Vinal girls open at Whitney Tech in New Haven Dec. 12.
As usual, MHS AD Elisha De Jesus ran a tight ship Friday night … a fan sitting on the Platt side of the field made a spectacle of himself … the walkie-talkies crackled into action and MHS security person Duke Speller, assistant principal Jason Serra, De Jesus and a Middletown police officer showed the “gentleman” the gate.
Middletown High’s annual Powder Puff game between the junior and senior girls — and yes, they take it very seriously — will be Monday, Nov. 20 with proceeds going to charity.
Best thing about local football/soccer? The press boxes at MHS and Palmer Field are heated. We media folk are grateful.