Notre Dame-West Haven coach Joe DeCaprio teased that we should’ve given him a call last week, before a loss to Xavier on Friday.
Still, the big picture for the Green Knights is that they had won four in a row before that game after the least enviable start imaginable to a Connecticut football schedule: No. 1 Hand in Week 1 at the Surf Club in Madison, and No. 2 St. Joseph in Trumbull a week later.
Notre Dame was in an 0-2 hole before it got a chance to get cranking.
“I’m proud of our kids, the way they responded,” DeCaprio said. “I thought we were pretty good going into the season. We talked, and our goal was to try to make the playoffs. After those two weeks, we had a team meeting and said we’ve got to go 1-0 every week. Don’t look further ahead than that.”
Four 1-0 weeks brought them to Xavier, whose late red-zone stop preserved a 28-21 win for the Falcons. That leaves the Green Knights 15th in the Class L playoff standings with three games to go.
The first of those is a Friday-night visit to rival Fairfield Prep, matching up 4-3 teams with rough schedules (CalPreps’ computer rankings have both teams’ schedules among the five toughest in the CIAC right now) and higher hopes than .500.
DeCaprio knows no one is crying for him, and he knows other teams are in the same boat (hey, wait a note), but the Green Knights have lost some key players to injuries.
“We’re on our third left tackle,” DeCaprio said. “Our center (Jack Ahearn), our three-year captain, is out.”
Senior Mark Altieri moved from tight end to tailback to fill an injury void there. Senior quarterback Jackson Zalinsky and junior split end Tom Candelora have connected well the past few weeks, and Aiden Stankiewicz has stood out at cornerback and in the slot. Jake Cascio and Jackson Paulishen have been important factors on the line.
WAR OF ATTRITION
Derby co-captain Julian Delarosa apologized to begin an interview just after the Red Raiders’ 14-0 home loss to Seymour on Friday night: He was out of breath.
Who could blame him?
His team went into the night with 19 players healthy and suited up out of 35 on the roster. A host of key players were out, a few on the sideline, a couple on crutches.
“We know we’re really down on men. We barely have substitutes. At practice, I just tell my guys, just stick together,” said Delarosa, who ran 19 times, took some snaps, threw three passes, had an interception on defense.
“At the end, at least we’re family. We build a brotherhood. We’ve got great chemistry. We fight hard. I know we don’t have substitutes like that. All of the guys are gassed out, but at least we keep pushing through.”
Across the way, Seymour had over 40 players dressed. (Granted, not all played.)
How do you manage a team in modern football, in the NVL, playing potential state playoff teams, with 19 players? Very carefully, coach George French said.
“We had to make sure we had plenty of time for ice baths, plenty of time for rehab,” French said. “You don’t stop working out. You don’t stop lifting. You’ve got to make sure the kids are built for four quarters. We actually tell them we’ve got to be built for eight quarters.”
The Red Raiders hung in Friday, down just 7-0 until the last couple of minutes. It appeared they got through the night without adding to the injured list, though when Delarosa was slow to get up after a carry on the first play from scrimmage, it was hard not to wonder how many more the team could afford.
Junior back Zerion Montgomery, an all-state defensive player last season, is among at least three starters out for the year. In some cases, Derby has lost the replacement for a player it’d lost. Delarosa is among several who’ve been banged up but still able to play.
“We’ve got a couple of kids we’re hoping to get back,” French said. “It’s week-to-week. Our trainer does a great job getting our kids back. The doctors will tell us when they’re cleared, and we’ll go from there.”
ROCKY HILL FORFEITS
Plainville received a victory Friday night when Rocky Hill forfeited their game. The Hartford Courant reported that police are investigating an incident involving members of the Rocky Hill team.
The Terriers, 2-5, are scheduled to visit Tolland on Friday night.
The playoff picture will come into focus over the next four weeks, with three games remaining for most teams.
There’s one apparent win-and-you’re-in scenario upcoming this weekend: Bullard-Havens picks up enough guaranteed bonus points with a win over Wilcox Tech to secure a fourth consecutive Class S tournament berth. It’d be the Tigers’ eighth playoff spot since 2007.