Note: This article was originally published June 25, 2018. It has been repurposed for the start of the 2018 CIAC Football Season.
Tournament success — a popular modifier several CIAC tournament committees have employed in an attempt to balance the ongoing private/choice vs. public school debates in their state tournaments — has, at last, come to the state’s most popular high school sport.
The success modifier will be applied tp the 2018 football playoff divisions.
Schools defined as those of ‘choice’ by the CIAC will now be bumped up to one higher class if they’ve reached at least the state semifinals two years in a row.
The modifier is limited, however. Teams will not be bumped up more than one class higher than their school’s official boys enrollment.
Under this new rule — which is in place for a one-year trial — two ‘choice’ schools have been elevated in class due to their recent tournament success:
St. Joseph, the FCIAC Catholic school power which played in back-to-back state championship games and won last year’s Class S title. The other is Killingly, which has appeared in three straight state semifinals and won last year’s Class M title.
St. Joseph has moved up from Class S to Class M. Meanwhile, Killingly’s enrollment would have dropped it into Class S, but its tournament success modifier will keep it in Class M.
CIAC defines a “school of choice” as one that brings in more than 25 gender-specific students from out of district. There are approximately 70 schools that fall under this designation for football.
Killingly’s status as a choice school, while curious on its face, derives from its open vo-ag program, which serves an array of towns beyond its borders, as far north as Woodstock and Thompson, and as far south as Griswold and the surrounding areas.
Football committee chairman Leroy Williams said while the committee was exploring the use of success modifiers, they were “amazed” at how many programs were designated choice schools. And that, overall, factored into the decision.
“There are a lot of things going on in the state, with charter schools and magnet schools and kids are going to a lot of schools for different reasons,” Williams said. “In the climate we’re in now, more and more kids are choosing schools based on athletics and we wanted to account for that.”
St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia, a member of the football committee whose program was ultimately the only one forced to move up in class, voted against adding the success modifier. He fundamentally disagrees with the CIAC’s using ‘school of choice’ as a designation.
“Every school is a school of choice, in my opinion,” he said. “Kids go to different schools for many different reasons. Some kids go because of sports, some for religious reasons, academic reasons… They choose by where they’ve chosen to live. Some kids want to live in certain towns because the sports are so good. They’re choosing where they want to go. It happens everywhere.
“How come New Canaan and Ansonia and Hand are always good? For one, they’re great programs with great coaches, great commitment. And kids and families want to be a part of those programs. People move into those towns to be a part of that. To me, this just opens another can of worms.”
Overall, everyone agreed the modifier didn’t change the divisions, significantly.
“I don’t care where we play, Class S, Class M … doesn’t matter. To me, I just feel you’re singling us out for being successful.”
New Canaan joins Darien in Class LL
As for the rest of the divisions, at total of 14 schools are switching classes. The biggest news is that New Canaan — with three high-profile commits on its roster — has joined the Class LL field alongside border nemesis and three-time defending class champion Darien.
Altogether now: Ooooooh!
New Canaan, with 679 boys enrollment, sneaked in right at the cutoff.
Asked about the move, New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli had jokes. “Do I have a choice?” he said with a laugh. “We have a chance to play Darien twice, maybe Greenwich twice… I actually think it’s good for high school football.”
The last time Darien and New Canaan shared the same division was back in 2014. New Canaan won 2013 and 2014 titles against their Thanksgiving Day rivals. “They’d always beat us on Thanksgiving, but then we’d get them in the state championship,” Marinelli said. “It’ll be nice to do that again.”
That wasn’t the only earth-shattering change. Xavier has been bumped down to Class L for the first time in, like, ages it seems.
Other notable division movement includes Naugatuck dropping back to Class L, Hillhouse and East Haven dropping back to Class M. Coginchaug Co-Op‘s addition of East Hampton to its co-op has bumped it up to Class M. Ledyard joins St. Joseph in moving up to Class M.
Overall, Class LL remained at 35 teams, with two schools dropping and two added.
Both Class L and Class M each gained a team in aggregate. Both added six while losing five.
Class S took the biggest hit, losing four teams while gaining one.
Below are the 2018 football playoff divisions. We’ll have more on this later.
CIAC Football Playoff Classes
Promotions indicated in blue; Demotions indicated in red. Enrollment figures via CIAC.
Enrollments: 679 and over (35 teams)
Gains: New Canaan, Newington; Losses: Naugatuck, Xavier.
- Amity (748)
- Bridgeport Central (819)
- Cheshire (715)
- Conard (757)
- Danbury (1,603)
- Darien (704)
- East Hartford (903)
- Enfield (796)
- Fairfield Ludlowe (736)
- Fairfield Prep (826)
- Fairfield Warde (756)
- Glastonbury (977)
- Greenwich (1,368)
- Hall (756)
- Hamden (906)
- Manchester (796)
- McMahon (871)
- New Britain (1,206)
- New Canaan (679) (+ up from Class L)
- New Milford (695)
- Newington (690) (+ up from Class L)
- Newtown (844)
- Norwalk (920)
- Norwich Free Academy (1,125)
- Ridgefield (834)
- Shelton (795)
- Simsbury (731)
- South Windsor (705)
- Southington (996)
- Stamford (833)
- Staples (991)
- Trumbull (1,063)
- West Haven (793)
- Westhill (999)
- Wilbur Cross (780)
Enrollments: 519-678 (35 teams)
Gains: Avon, Harding, Naugatuck, Platt Tech, Quinebaug Valley, Xavier; Losses: ATI, East Haven, Hillhouse, New Canaan, Newington.
- Avon (519) (+ from Class M)
- Bassick (553)
- Bristol Central (587)
- Bristol Eastern (568)
- Bunnell (596)
- Crosby (639)
- E.O. Smith (560)
- East Lyme (537)
- Farmington (617)
- Fitch (594)
- Guilford (548)
- Hand (567)
- Harding (538) (+ from Class M)
- Hartford Public (600)
- Kennedy (665)
- Maloney (609)
- Masuk (529)
- Middletown (634)
- Naugatuck (671) (- down from LL)
- New London (568)
- North Haven (557)
- Notre Dame-West Haven (574)
- Platt (532)
- Platt Tech (519) (+ up from Class M)
- Pomperaug (643)
- Quinebaug Valley (+ up from Class M)
Co-op: Ellis Tech (Host), Putnam and Tourtellotte
- RHAM (556)
- Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech
Co-op: Sacred Heart (Host) and Kaynor Tech
- Vinal/Goodwin/Whitney Tech
Co-op: Vinal Tech (Host), Goodwin Tech and Whitney Tech
- Wethersfield (556)
- Wilby (654)
- Wilton (672)
- Windsor (592)
- Woodstock Academy (528)
- Xavier (669) (- down from Class LL)
Enrollments: 378-518 (37 teams)
Gains: ATI, Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton, East Haven, Hillhouse, Ledyard, St. Joseph. Losses: Avon, Harding, Platt Tech, Quinebaug Valley, Creed Co-Op (disbanded).
- ATI (- from Class L)
Co-Op (Abbott Tech [Host] & Immaculate)
- Bacon Academy (410)
- Berlin (491)
- Bethel (504)
- Branford (441)
- Brookfield (415)
Co-op: Bulkeley (Host), HMTCA & Weaver
- Cheney Tech (482)
- Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton (+ from Class S)
Co-op: Coginchaug (Host), East Hampton and Hale Ray
- Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman
Co-op: Coventry (Host), Bolton, Lyman Memorial and Windham Tech
- CREC Coop
Co-op: Public Safety (Host), Aerospace and MLC
- East Haven (511) (- from Class L)
- Ellington (399)
- Foran (480)
Co-op: Gilbert (Host) and Northwestern
- Hillhouse (516) (- from Class L)
- Joel Barlow (484)
- Jonathan Law (430)
- Killingly (377)*
- Ledyard (383) (+ from Class S)
- Lyman Hall (505)
- MCW United
Co-op: Wolcott Tech (Host), Housatonic Regional and Wamogo
- New Fairfield (427)
- Rockville (415)
- Sheehan (379)
Co-op: SMSA (Host), Classical Magnet and University
- St. Joseph (372)* (+ from Class S)
- Stratford (500)
- Thames River
Co-op: Norwich Tech (Host), Grasso Tech and St. Bernard
- Tolland (393)
- Torrington (514)
- Waterford (428)
- Watertown (408)
- Weston (429)
- Wilcox Tech (435)
- Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby
Co-op: Windsor Locks (Host), East Granby and Suffield
- Wolcott (397)
Enrollments: Up to 377 (34 teams)
Gains: None. Losses: Ledyard, St. Joseph, Coginchaug/Hale Ray, Nonnewaug (JV).
- Ansonia (310)
- Bloomfield (283)
- Bullard Havens Tech (357)
- Canton (236)
Co-op: Capital Prep (Host) and Achievement First
Co-op: Cromwell (Host) and Portland
- Derby (210)
- East Catholic (314)
- Granby Memorial (342)
- Griswold (275)
- Haddam-Killingworth (339)
- Holy Cross (242)
- Lewis Mills (377)
- Montville (291)
- Morgan (283)
- North Branford (252)
- Northwest Catholic (273)
- Notre Dame-Fairfield (242)
- O’Brien Tech (342)
Co-op: Old Saybrook (Host) and Westbrook
- Oxford (280)
- Plainfield (329)
- Plainville (372)
- Prince Tech (363)
- Rocky Hill (361)
- Seymour (337)
- St. Paul Catholic (225)
- Stafford/East Windsor/Somers (189)
Co-op: Stafford (Host), East Windsor and Somers
- Stonington (373)
- Trinity Catholic (208)
- Valley Regional/Old Lyme
Co-op: Valley Regional (Host) and Old Lyme
- Waterbury Career Academy (346)
- Windham (342)
- Woodland (334)