Not since 2008 has Wilbur Cross been in position to qualify for the state playoffs this late into a season.
The Governors are 6-2 headed into their showdown with red-hot Notre Dame (6-2), which has won five in a row. Kickoff is set for Thursday night at 8 at Jess Dow Field on the campus of Southern Connecticut State University.
Cross is currently ranked ninth in the Class L playoff ratings. The top eight teams advance to the quarterfinals.
“It’s a big game,” Governors coach John Acquavita said. “Notre Dame is on a pretty good roll. They’re big up front. We have to come ready to play.”
A victory over the Green Knights would be meaningful for another reason, though. Cross will attempt to win seven games for the first time since 1991.
“The kids are excited,” Acquavita said. “They want to go to the playoffs, that’s all they talk about, and who doesn’t want to do that? But, I’m a realist. Give me one more win to do something we haven’t done in a long time. That’s a pretty big accomplishment.”
The veteran Acquavita, who led Hyde to three state titles before moving over to Cross, his alma mater in 2007, knows that reaching the postseason is difficult, especially playing a competitive schedule is in the Southern Connecticut Conference Division I.
Cross is the only Division I team to have never reached the playoffs as a league member. The Governors have not qualified for the postseason since they won the Class L title in 1984.
In 2008, Cross started 6-1 but lost its last four games, a stretch that Acquavita called the “four most gut-wrenching losses of my career”.
Last week, the Governors earned a thrilling 38-36 victory over West Haven. It was Cross’ first win over the Westies since 2007, and just the second victory against West Haven since 1984.
“West Haven was a big stage,” Acquavita said. “They are a little young in the secondary, and we were able to capitalize a little in the secondary. It was nice for our kids to win one like that.”
Senior quarterback A.J. Consiglio completed 16 of 28 passes for 231 yards and one touchdown, and he also ran for a score, against West Haven.
Consiglio saw action as a freshman, but then broke his collarbone and missed most of his sophomore season. Consiglio recovered and took over as the team’s starting quarterback midway through last season.
“When he came in as a freshman, the one quality I always said A.J. had, through the ups and the downs, is that he has good leadership qualities,” Acquavita said. “The kids like him.”
Consiglio has completed 122 of 196 passes (62 percent) for 1,708 yards and 16 touchdowns against just five interceptions this season.
“He’s listening to his coaches, Chris Roberts, the quarterbacks coach, and Paul Morrell, the offensive coordinator,” Acquavita said. “He’s buying in to what they are telling him. When he does what he’s told, he’s a pretty good quarterback. He’s been everything we could have expected this year.”
Senior Wali McKelvey leads the team with 34 receptions for 544 yards and eight touchdowns. Tyvon Bradley (23 catches, 210 yards, two touchdowns) and Kobe Hartman (17-315-2) give Consiglio two other options in the open field.
Cross, though, is fairly balanced offensively. Senior Stevie Swinson has rushed 138 times for 786 yards and nine touchdowns.
Seniors Rob Turcio, Zach Washington and Mi-Cha-El West have all made 59 tackles. West has also made two sacks and recovered three fumbles, while Washington has made three sacks. Junior Jason Atterberry has added 51 tackles, while Bradley has made a team-high five sacks.
Turcio missed last week’s game while recovering from a concussion, but he’s expected to play against Notre Dame.
“It has the makings of a pretty exciting game written all over it,” Acquavita said.
Hopkins hopes to finish strong
For the first time in 33 seasons under Tom Parr, Hopkins is running the spread offense.
It’s taken some time for both coach and players to adapt.
“It’s a big adjustment for all of us,” Parr said. “We have some receivers. We don’t have a lot of linemen or running backs, so we did what we had to do to utilize the personnel we have.”
The Hilltoppers (1-6) have scored just under 20 points per game this season. In a particularly strong season for the Fairchester League, the Hilltoppers lost to such powers as St. Luke’s and Kingswood-Oxford.
“We’ve had a tough schedule,” Parr said. “We knew what the rest of the league had. We’re pretty down; not much depth, and we’re not very big. We knew we were going to be undermanned. It’s been difficult — a real tough season.”
Hopkins, though, snapped a six-game losing streak to start the year with a 42-35 victory over Long Island Lutheran on Oct. 25.
“It’s certainly better to win than lose,” Parr said. “They (Lutheran) are actually a pretty good team, so we felt it was a good win for us.”
The Hilltoppers are coming off a bye and visit rival Hamden Hall on Saturday night at 6:30. Hopkins then concludes the regular season at home against Suffield Academy on Nov. 12.
One promising sign has been the performance of quarterback Nick Bailey, an eighth grader from Cheshire. Bailey entered in the second series of the Lutheran game and capped the drive with a touchdown pass. He finished completing 13 of 25 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns.
“Against Lutheran he really gave us a lift,” Parr said. “He’s good. He can throw the ball well, he can read things well. He did a really good job the other game. We had an idea he was pretty good, and we thought he could do it.”
Bailey has played in almost game. Parr said Bailey is just the third eighth grader to play during Parr’s tenure at Hopkins.
Sophomore Jake Moscarelli rushed for 323 yards and three touchdowns against Lutheran.
“In the spread, he’s had to learn how to be more patient of a runner,” Parr said.
GameTimeCT’s Week 8 Game Balls
OFFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
- NFA’s Jawaun Johnson and Kalheed Exum-Strong: Both ran for 300 yards and combined for 10 touchdowns in NFA’s 74-38 victory over Bacon Academy. Johnson had 345 rush yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries. Exum-Strong finished with 319 yards and seven touchdowns on 22 carries.
- Bacon Academy’s Sean Kelly: Completed 35 passes (fifth all-time) in 60 attempts (seventh all-time) for a school-record 530 yards and five touchdowns in the 74-38 loss to NFA.
- Derby’s Michael Kreiger: Completed 12-of-18 passes for 323 yards and three touchdowns in a 62-44 win over Seymour.
- Hamden Hall’s Kyle Smith: Completed 16 of 22 passes for 370 yards and four touchdowns in a 47-38 win over Kennedy.
- Law’s Max German: Rushed 36 times for 302 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-27 win over Guilford.
- Notre Dame-West Haven’s Nico Ragaini: Caught 10 passes for 192 yards and three touchdowns in a 38-21 win over Cheshire.
- St. Paul’s Eli Parks: Rushed 27 times for 367 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-20 victory over Torrington. Parks also scored on a 96-yard kickoff return.
- Bethel’s Jared Piatnik: Completed 20 of 35 passes for 254 yards and four touchdowns to really Bethel from a 17-point deficit to defeat Masuk 40-36.
- Khalil Patterson, Hartford Publis: Ran for 357 yards and four touchdowns on 16 carries in a 39-0 victory over Bulkeley/HMTCA.
- H-K’s Alex Segaline: Completed 11 of 18 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns (all in the first half) as the Cougars defeated Old Saybrook/Westbrook 43-13 for their fourth-consecutive victory.
DEFENSIVE PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
- Danbury’s Pierre Moudourou: Scored on a 54-yard fumble return in a 19-0 win over Westhill.
- Hyde’s Carlton Tillery: Had an interception and scored on a 30-yard fumble recovery in a 34-0 win over Nonnewaug.
- Valley Regional/Old Lyme’s Dan Figuenick: Made two interceptions in a 6-0 win over Morgan.
- Capital Prep’s Jahkai Gill: Returned an interception 99 yards for a touchdown in a 25-0 victory over Platt Tech.
- Glastonbury’s Jared Nelson: Recovered three fumbles, one he returned 40 yards to the 3 to set up a field goal, and had seven tackles in a 31-21 victory over Conard.
- New Canaan’s Zach Allen: Led a defense with two sacks and 11 total tackles, including three for a loss in St. Joseph’s 41-14 victory over St. Joseph. He also caught a touchdown pass from Alex LaPolice.
- Ansonia’s secondary: Stopped three Wolcott drives into Ansonia territory in the second half, including an interception by Witold Gul. Later, Jai’Quan McKnight returned an interception 80 yards for a touchdown in the 48-27 victory.
- Notre Dame-WH’s defense: Held Cheshire’s Andrew Yamin to 34 yards in the second half and recorded a safety as ND held Cheshire scoreless in the second half to win its fifth-straight game, 38-21.
SPECIAL TEAMS PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
- Berlin’s Jeremy Eliades: Took his own team’s blocked field goal attempt for a 3-yard touchdown in Berlin’s 12-9 victory over Platt.
- Fairfield Warde’s Jack Whiting: Scored on a 97-yard kickoff return in a 14-7 win over Sheehan.
- North Haven’s Sabrina Fronte: Became the state’s all-time leader in scoring during the Indians’ 48-7 win over Hillhouse.
- Ridgefield’s Petros Papadopoulos: Kicked the game-winning 22-yard field goal as time expired in a 31-28 victory over Norwalk.
- Trinity Catholic’s Randy Polonia: Scored on a 70-yard punt return in a 44-12 win over Stamford.
- Xavier’s Andrew Verre: Kicked a 47-yard field goal in the Falcons’ 10-3 loss to Hand.
TEAMS OF THE WEEK
- Bethel: Rallied from a 17-point deficit with five consecutive scoring drives to defeat Masuk 40-36.
- Ledyard: JoJo Shumaker ran for 206 yards and five touchdowns on 27 carries in a 59-13 win over previously unbeaten Windham.
- Oxford: Defeated Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech 48-6 to earn its first victory as a member of the Naugatuck Valley League.
- Plainville: Dante Correa ran for 125 yards in a 20-18 triple-overtime victory over Rockville. Correa became just the sixth player in school history to surpass 1,000 career rushing yards.
- Ridgefield: Defeated Norwalk 31-28 to win its first game of the season.
- Valley Regional/Old Lyme: Shutout Morgan 6-0 to improve to 8-0.
PLAYS OF THE WEEK
Coming soon. Submit clips to firstname.lastname@example.org by Noon on Tuesday.
ON THE AIR
- Notre Dame-WH vs. Wilbur Cross (at SCSU), Thursday, 8 p.m.: GoGreenKnights.com
- Crosby at Holy Cross, Thursday, 6 p.m.: WATR 1320-AM
- Xavier at Shelton, Friday, 7 p.m.: WELI 960-AM
- Ansonia at Woodland, Friday, 7 p.m.: WATR 1320-AM
- Killingly at Griswold, Friday, 6:30 p.m.: WINY 1350-AM
- Bridgeport Central at Staples, Friday, 7 p.m.: WWPT 90.3-FM
- New London at Ledyard, Friday, 6:30 p.m.: WJJF 94.9-FM | CPTV Sports (live stream)
- Quinebaug Valley at Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech, Friday, 7 p.m.: WCNX 1710-AM
- Greenwich at Westhill, Saturday, 2 p.m.: WGCH 1490-AM
GET OUT AND GO
- Notre Dame-West Haven (6-2) vs. Wilbur Cross (6-2) Thursday at SCSU, 8 p.m.: The winner stays in contention for a state playoff berth.
- New Britain (6-2) at Glastonbury (6-2), Friday, 6 p.m.: New Britain still in the hunt for its first playoff berth since 2004.
- Ellington/Somers (7-1) at Morgan (6-2), Friday, 6:30 p.m.: Morgan playing for its postseason lives.
- New London (6-1) at Ledyard (8-0), Friday, 6:30 p.m.: New London’s had two weeks to prepare for the Colonels, who haven’t allowed an opponent to score more than 19 points in this season.
- Naugatuck (6-1) at Derby (6-1), Friday, 7 p.m.: Crunch time for Derby. It’s remaining four opponents are a combined 22-7.
- Xavier (6-2) at Shelton (8-0), Friday, 7 p.m.: Pretty sure Shelton hasn’t forgotten about Xavier’s 15-12 win last season.