That rumbling sound you heard between nine and 10 o’clock Friday night was the sound of undefeated football teams crashing. West Haven, South Windsor, Southington and Cromwell/Portland all lost.
Not that they lost to bad teams. East Hartford, which is 6-1 and has been ignored by the pollsters all season — I’m guilty as charged — knocked off No. 2-ranked Southington 27-20, Shelton went into West Haven and beat the No. 3 Blue Devils, 38-28, Conard upended South Windsor 33-28 and in a big Class S game, Valley Regional/Old Lyme beat Cromwell/Portland 34-28 in overtime.
Among the big boys, No. 9-ranked Middletown remained unbeaten with an easy 34-7 win over Newington, No. 6 Windsor walloped one-win Wethersfield 39-0, No. 1 Darien waltzed past outclassed Trumbull and Class S Ansonia continued to beat up on the awful Naugatuck Valley League, hammering poor Seymour by about 1,000 points.
We forget, I think, how hard it is to go undefeated. Ansonia does it just about every year in the regular season, but with its schedule it can hardly help itself. Berlin, in what is widely regarded as not the best year for Class M teams, is unbeaten, but the Redcoats have three toughies coming up with Class S Bloomfield (6-1), Class S Rocky Hill (7-0) and Class LL New Britain.
Thing that gets me about Berlin — and here is the CCC at work again — is that it is a Class M team playing a bunch of Class S schools. I get they shouldn’t be playing L and LL schools. I remember when Middletown and Berlin was a rivalry, but Middletown has gone way past the level at which Berlin plays. But at least the Redcoats should play more M schools.
Oh, and E.O. Smith, which was pulverized by MHS 55-7 last week? The Panthers rose up and smacked four-win Platt 21-14. Welcome to Halloween.
Cromwell/Portland vs. Valley/Old Lyme thoughts
If you get in a game with Valley Regional/Old Lyme and the Warriors have a shot, watch out because Valley coach Tim King is a master at what he does. “I thought he was the best coach in the league when I was at Cromwell,” said Middletown High coach Sal Morello Friday night.
The 34-28 overtime win by Valley was, in a word, magnificent. Oh, the game was marred by penalties as the officials threw more flags than you’ll find at the United Nations. C/P was incredibly sloppy, as it was penalized 11 times for 114 yards while Valley got seven flags for 60.
Also, the Cromwell PA announcer put on an awful cheerleading, utterly unprofessional “performance” exhorting C/P fans to cheer for the home team, virtually ignoring the Valley kids and infuriating Valley fans. Besides having silly nicknames for C/P kids, he actually called the officials “zebras” on the PA. Embarrassing.
But that childishness aside, even with all the flags, the game was terrific. Cromwell/Portland was on the verge of getting blown out late in the half, but a blocked field goal was returned 89 yards for a touchdown — Valley screamed, with justification it appeared, that C/P was offsides — and C/P trailed just 14-12 at the half instead of 17-7.
C/P is hurt by not having a good kicking game. It consistently gave up good field position and its inability to kick extra points hurts, although on this night two, two-point conversions enabled it to force overtime.
The stars of the game were Valley/OL quarterback Mike Cullina, who threw for 241 yards on a 10-for-20 performance. Do the math and you can see he was a big-play QB as his average pass was 24.1 yards. The second big star was receiver Ernest Jean-Pierre, who caught four passes for 143 yards. That kid — whom C/P simply couldn’t cover — can play for anybody.
Not that C/P is without weapons. Its running game picked up 164 yards and the quarterback, Bryce Karstetter, is very good. He didn’t have the greatest of nights (10-for-27, 132 yards) but make no mistake, the kid can play.
The win propelled Valley into the top eight in the Class S playoff race and the schedule the rest of the way is favorable. The loss put C/P’s playoff chances in doubt. The Panthers have two almost guaranteed wins coming up, but its game on Thanksgiving Eve with Rocky Hill may well be for a playoff spot.
And Xavier thoughts
That 50-49 North Haven win over Xavier in overtime Saturday night was one of the most amazing and dramatic high school games I have ever seen. On top of that, the second half performance by Xavier quarterback Will Levis was as brilliant as one could hope to see.
I know, from a local perspective, it was not a good outcome. Not only were Xavier fans rooting for a win, but so were Middletown High fans who would have liked to see North Haven get knocked out of the CIAC Class L playoffs.
But that aside, from a neutral point of view it was high school athletics at its best. It was a wonderful game and either Levis or Mark Montano, the heart and soul of North Haven, can play for my team any time.
Kids in college
With the help of area ADs and coaches, here are how some former area high school stars are doing at the collegiate level.
Former Middletown High running back sophomore Hunter Belzo is having a big year for undefeated (8-0) Division II Springfield College. He has 504 yards on 54 carries and seven touchdowns.
Xavier alum Tim Boyle is the starting quarterback for Eastern Kentucky (3-5). He is 147-for-241 for 1,639 yards with nine TDs. Junior Matt Dagenais, an MHS All-American swimmer, holds the UConn school record in the 200 individual medley (1:47.78), MHS alums Dan Kinney is a leading diver for the UConn men and Monica Marcello was second in the AAC Championships in 1-meter diving and in the NCAA Zone A was 11th in the 1-meter and 13th in the 3-meter for the UConn women.
The Huskies are off to a 2-0 start with wins over St. Bonaventure and Fordham.
Portland High alums doing well include Madison Leary (starts at midfield for ECSU women’s soccer), Emma Ruppert (soccer, Belmont Abbey, N.C.), Mikayla Stefanski (soccer) AIC in Springfield, Andrew Geres (soccer) UConn and Nolan Reimondo (soccer) at Mt. Ida.
MHS alums Jayson DeFrance (butterfly) and Tahj Mitchell-Westberry (diving) are on the roster at SCSU and Tyshaun James is on the football roster — and has gotten into five games — at CCSU. All are freshmen.
As we find out more, we’ll share.
Stars of the week
There were some great individual performances from area athletes this weekend, but none can compare with what Xavier QB Will Levis did. Look at this. He was 24-for-37 for 467 yards. He was 16-for-18 in the second half, single-handedly bring Xavier back from 27-0 down. Xavier had 534 yards of offense — Levis had 512 of those. You’ll never see a better performance. Yeah, Xavier lost, but it wasn’t Levis’ fault.
Other stars were Valley QB Mike Cullina and receiver Ernest Jean-Pierre, Middletown High linebacker Mike Souza, who had four solo tackles and three assists, and H-K’s Dalton Modehn ran for 151 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns as H-K climbed above .500 with a 35-12 win over North Branford.
Gold Key winners
The Connecticut Sports Writers’ Alliance announced that PGA pro Dennis Coscina, retired Granby Memorial High field hockey coach Dot Johnson, New Canaan High School football coach Lou Marinelli, UConn women’s soccer coach Len Tsantiris and Olympic ice hockey Gold Medalist Gretchen Uliann-Silverman will receive Gold Keys at the 77th annual dinner on April 29.
The CSWA will also be announcing its Good Sports, high school athletes of the year, overall state athletes of the year, coaches of the year and courage award winners in the coming weeks.
Legion Baseball: status quo
Legion Baseball Director Dave Greenleaf reported that the state baseball commission voted to keep the current format for its postseason for another year, pending a review by coaches and other team officials.
That’s one year too long. A two-week, multi-site, 32-team, war-of-attrition is cumbersome and, frankly, boring. It’s hard to maintain interest during a marathon. People, it seems to me, like events.
No one except friends and family go to the first three games of the high school baseball tourney. But when it becomes an event and there are four championship games at Palmer Field, 5,000 show up.
The Legion used to have that, a one- or two-site five-day event. People knew the teams, they knew the games were at one place, it had excellent teams and, in short was an event that drew people. The current format is widely ignored.
Here’s a hope that the Legion goes back to holding a truly championship event, at one or two sites, no more than 16 teams and, for heaven’s sake, playing nine-inning games.
Here and there
Congratulations to Vinal/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech on its first win … I’m not supposed to cheer, but here’s hoping the kids win a few more.
Middletown used both starting QB Stone Belzo and second-string Jonta’e Dempsey in its easy win over Newington Friday … Belzo twisted his ankle a bit during a practice session, hence Dempsey saw action, said Morello … “The field was wet and muddy,” he said. “Once we got up 14-0 and were in control of the game, I didn’t use him very much. He’s fine [Belzo threw a touchdown pass to DeAaron Lawrence after Dempsey threw one to Cameron Wynn] and will be good to go this weekend.”
This weekend’s game is interesting … Middletown will travel to New Jersey to play Hudson Catholic.
Coginchaug/Hale-Ray will host its first night game on Nov. 11 against The Morgan School …it will be Senior Night, but will also be Veterans Night … all vets will be admitted free and will receive a voucher for concession stand goodies … very cool.
Middletown High will host state championship soccer games on Nov. 18 and semifinal games earlier that week … the school will also host the Class L diving championships on Nov. 9 and the State Open diving championships on Nov. 17.
MHS diver Cassie More set a school girls diving record for her 226.3 point-performance against Bristol Central last week … MHS won the CCC-South regular season championship … the division’s championship meet is this Saturday at Platt High in Meriden.
At the Sports Writers’ Alliance meeting with the CIAC, the state officials bemoaned what’s happened in Florida … the Florida legislature — all are in danger when that nut-house meets — decided to stick its nose into high school athletics and erased all rules about recruiting and transfers … so in Florida it’s open-season on any high school athlete … kids are recruited and can change schools at whim … the trafficking in teenage boys and girls goes on at warp speed … no wonder Florida public schools are widely regarded — although they get stiff competition from other southern states — as just about the worst in the country.
The CIAC may do some puzzling things, but so far it has prevented Connecticut’s kids from that ugliness … let’s hope our legislature, which made producing a budget akin to moving a mountain — stays away from high school sports and lets the CIAC run the show.
Best stat person around? … Middletown High’s A.J. Calabro … he produces a complete electronic game summary, offensive and defensive stats, penalties, fumbles, return yardage — name it, he has it — and it’s available instantly after every game … tremendous job.
The Xavier fans Saturday night were great … the noise and enthusiasm were over the top … good for them.
Wesleyan and Trinity will hold their annual pregame luncheon on Nov. 8 at the Hartford Club in Hartford … the voice of UConn football and basketball, Joe D’Ambrosio, will MC … the coaches and captains will be honored guests … tickets are $50 and may be purchased — and tables may be reserved — by contacting Karen Whalen at email@example.com.
Bulletin: The seasonal hot dog competition includes Middletown, Haddam-Killingworth, Portland and new entry Cromwell. The excitement builds.