North Branford played a thrill-a-minute game Friday. It could have a thrill-a-minute weekend coming up.
The Thunderbirds went back and forth with Morgan, scoring 40 in the second quarter, winning 72-32. They’re 6-2, a win away from their best record since they went 12-2 and went to the Class S final in 2014.
“At the start of the season, we had three or four guys who weren’t available to us for whatever reason,” coach Mark Basil said. “This last game, we actually had our full team. We survived against Ellington (13-7 on Nov. 2) still down three good players. Now, this past week, it felt great to have so much depth.”
In particular, the extra bodies let Tyler DiNapoli stay fresh at running back without having to play defense. Including kicking one extra point, DiNapoli scored 36 points Friday, running nine times for 197 yards.
“For a feature running back, (going both ways) is asking a lot, especially playing outside linebacker,” Basil said.
On Friday, the Thunderbirds only ran seven or eight second-half plays, Basil said. One was DiNapoli’s last touchdown. Their last score came on Aiden Ferrucci’s kickoff return.
“Morgan did a good job throwing the ball,” Basil said. “We felt at any point there could be a turnover. We went to halftime (up 60-26) not feeling comfortable.”
Basil said quarterback Brandon Fratta has grown mentally. Alex Clinton and Nate Raymond have been top targets for him, and they both play defensive back as well. Inside linebackers Xavior Cognata and Alex LeMere have stepped up, and teams are running away from tackle Stathi Gianniotis, Basil said.
Raymond and Cognata are seniors, but the rest of those players are juniors. It’s a junior-heavy team that sits 13th in the Class S playoff race right now.
With two home games remaining, though, including Friday against the Windsor Locks co-op, the Thunderbirds can gain ground if other teams lose. They can pick up up to 50 bonus points this weekend, too, if teams they beat win this week. The swing is so wild that North Branford could wake up Sunday morning in playoff position, at least in accumulated points, or could be eliminated.
“Are we a team that deserves to be in the playoffs? I guess if we get the wins we need, great,” Basil said. “If we get in, it’ll be a great experience.”
The boss warned not to get too deeply into playoff minutiae here. Disappointed, as playoff minutiae are among our favorite things, we push on with some of the (yes, unofficial) clinching possibilities in this limited-schedule Week 11 (and only Week 11’s possibilities here; we’ll revisit next week):
In Class LL, one simple scenario to start: Cheshire clinches its first playoff spot since 2009 with a win over Harding. The Rams could also lock it up if both Fairfield Prep and Hamden lose, which would secure Greenwich a spot, too.
Hall and Conard end their seasons against each other on Saturday. The winner will be clinging to playoff position but needing a lot of help next week to stay there. The loser is eliminated. Naugatuck and Shelton would also be eliminated with losses.
In Class L, Berlin clinches with a win over New Britain to end its season on Saturday. It’s still in decent shape with a loss, but it’ll have to sweat the bonuses — that is, the 10 points it’ll get for any wins this week and next by teams the Redcoats already defeated. Speaking of bonuses, it appears New Canaan can clinch a spot on a tiebreaker this week if New London beats Killingly.
There are a lot of games this weekend for Class M contenders, complicating things a bit.
Friday ends the season for two Class M contenders, Killingly and the SMSA co-op, and they both can clinch playoff spots with wins, Killingly against New London, SMSA against the Stafford co-op. Both could be sweating with a loss: Three teams on the outside right now have similar point ceilings to Killingly and SMSA with losses, but all three have two games remaining.
Those three teams, incidentally, are New Fairfield, Watertown and the Windsor Locks co-op. If no more than one of the three wins this weekend, Waterford clinches a spot.
ATI and Thames River are seventh and eighth in Class M in accumulated points. They meet Saturday in Danbury. The winner guarantees itself 180 points, which for ATI could be enough to clinch this weekend, depending on bonus points or losses by those three teams chasing. The loser is alive to Thanksgiving.
In Class S, Sheehan can get in with a win over Hamden and losses by both the Stafford co-op and North Branford. (As mentioned, North Branford has a slew of potential bonuses this week that could affect a few scenarios.) If both Stafford and North Branford lose, Woodland and Plainfield clinch.
The playoffs are based on CIAC points earned per game (with some limited exceptions: 100 points per win, 10 points for each game won by teams you beat, additional points for beating teams in bigger classes), which is simple for 10-game schedules with no tie games: Take the points earned, and drop the zero at the end. But, one heads-up: Class S Griswold/Wheeler is the one team still in contention that only has nine scheduled games. Divide accordingly.
(Would it be easier to think of the Wolverines’ having 833 points-with-an-asterisk now, earning a potential 200 more for a win over Plainfield on Thanksgiving, and getting 11 for each of four potential bonuses for a maximum of 1,078 points, to put them on even terms with the 10-gamers? No? Never mind.)
Capital Prep/Achievement First beat Windham 44-26 on Thursday behind six forced turnovers, four of which the Trailblazers took back for touchdowns.
Jamel Lawrence returned a fumble for a touchdown and was in on 18 tackles. Jahvon Olmstead had eight tackles, including a sack, forced a fumble, recovered three and took two of them for scores. And Kadeem McKnight forced two fumbles and returned a fumble 78 yards for a touchdown.
The second half of Greenwich’s 27-7 win over Ridgefield was even on the scoreboard, 7-7. Ridgefield ran 48 plays to Greenwich’s 19. It was 29-12 in plays when Cardinals lineman Ed Iuteri cramped up and left the game. Receiver/defensive back A.J. Barber had cramped and departed earlier.
Greenwich had a defensive touchdown in the second half, which might normally contribute to such a disparity, except that the Cardinals recovered the ensuing kickoff.
The game ended on the Greenwich 1-yard line with the 14th play of a Ridgefield drive.
Before Seymour’s game Thursday against Ansonia, it was announced that the school plans a monument next to the flagpole for town veterans, to be designed by Seymour students.
As seen on Instagram: Valley Regional/Old Lyme lineman Ben Conrad taking a snap and running for a touchdown in a 35-12 win over Old Saybrook/Westbrook.
CLICK ‘LIKE’ AGAIN
As seen on Twitter, Hand players did some yard work for coach Dave Mastroianni, recovering from cancer surgery, and his family.
— Hand Tigers Football (@HandTigersFB) November 18, 2019