One league: Three huge games with state playoff implications.
It’s a virtual win-or-stay-home Week 9 in the good ol’ Southern Connecticut Conference. No other league in Week 9 has anything close to what will be going down in Middletown, North Haven and West Haven.
The slate includes a pair of defending state champions whose 2013 hopes are on life support. Another loss, and Hand or Xavier could be sitting home for the first time in years.
On the other side of the coin are four playoff and title-starved teams like Foran and North Haven, who will face off at Vanacore Field, West Haven, whose senior class is determined to make this their year, and Shelton, which still has high hopes of reaching its first postseason since 2007.
So lace up and strap in. It’s Elimination Weekend in the SCC.
Elsewhere, McMahon wants to prove its for real when it plays the first of two big games that will determine whether they’re championship material. The Senators travel up to Tiger Hollow to face Ridgefield, which still has hopes of reaching the Class LL field.
Finally, Middletown is in dream season mode and takes on a suddenly resurgent New London team.
WHEN — Friday, 7
WHERE — Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Hand: Soph. QB Nick van Dell (1,538 yards, 15 TDs passing); Sr. NG Ian Dieli; Sr. LB Pat Rogers; Sr. RB Conor Dowd (745 yards, 7 TD rushing); Sr. WR Josh DeMartino (403 yards, 2 TD receiving); Sr. WR Jake Mirando (315 yards, 3 TD receiving). West Haven: Sr. RB/DB Ervin Philips; Sr. QB/DB Duane Gary; Sr. LB/G Jesse Ridgway; Jr. RB/DB Marshont Little QB/DB; Sr. G/DL Eli Gaskins
OUTLOOK — This is it for the defending Class L champions. Either find a way to stop Erv Philips, Duane Gary and the Westie express, or start calling Thanksgiving vs. Guilford your “state championship game.” Even at its best, Hand needed a dropped 2-point conversion by Philips to defeat West Haven last year. No doubt the Westies remember how close they came and want to return the favor in a game that promises them a treasure chest of Class LL playoff points. Key is Hand’s defense, which has had its issues this year and let Xavier run all over it a week ago. West Haven excels in that department. Creating turnovers and frustrating its star players should be the Tigers’ focus. West Haven’s won seven straight since its perplexing FCIAC-SCC Challenge loss to Greenwich. That means the Westies have yet to lose an SCC game this season.
WHEN — Friday, 7
WHERE — Palmer Field, Middletown
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Shelton: Sr. QB Mark Piccirillo (1,352 yards, 14 TD passing; 13 TD rushing); Sr. RB/LB Jason Thompson (1,064 yards, 9 TD); Sr. WR/DL Kyle Drost; Sr. WR Mike Pingree (10 TDs); Sr. DL Christian Federici; Jr. DB Troy Vasilescu. Xavier: Sr. QB Joe Carbone; Sr. RB/DB Andrew Meoli; Sr. OL/LB Will Garrity; Jr. OL/DL Chidi Broderick.
OUTLOOK — One loss and Shelton looks cooked in Class LL. Same goes for Xavier, which has just two games remaining. Welcome to the ‘Life Support Bowl,’ as in the winner gets to stay on it for another week. The loser can start dwelling on what went wrong for an entire year (or the rest of their lives). Yeah. This one’s a state playoff elimination game. Xavier comes in with one less arrow in its quiver. Star receiver/defensive back Nate Gonzalez was hit with two questionable personal foul calls in the team’s win vs. Hand and will watch his senior day from the sidelines. Xavier will try to ground through the Gaels defense with Carbone and Meoli. The Gaels must stop the Xavier ground game and force it to pass. The Gaels offense, meanwhile, has to play its best game of the season (i.e. no turnovers), if it wants to beat Xavier for the first time since 2007. Incidentally, that was the last time Shelton qualified for the state playoffs. Xavier’s been to four straight playoffs since 2009 and has won three consecutive LL titles since 2010. This game is as big as it gets.
WHEN — Friday, 7 p.m.
WHERE — Vanacore Field, North Haven
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Foran: Jr. QB Jake Kasuba (2,362 yards, 23 TDs passing); Sr. WR Nick Weissenauer (58 catches, 830 yards, 5 TD rec); Sean Deegan (27 catches, 701 yards, 9 TD rec); Sr. DL/LB Jesse Aldredge; Sr. OL Zach Hubler; Sr. DL Andrew Melendez. North Haven: Sr. RB/LB Ethan Suraci (696 yards, 13 TD rushing); Sr. QB/LB Mike Halloran (573 yards, 10 TD rushing); Sr. RB/LB Patrick Mikos; Sr. OL/DL Mike Siwek; Sr. OL/DL Austin Mahon.
OUTLOOK — The ultimate clash of styles converge at Vanacore Field in the biggest game of the SCC Division II season. On one side, Ethan Suraci and North Haven’s ground-n-pound single wing vs. Jake Kasuba and Foran’s high-flying spread attack. So, with offenses in mine, we turn our focus to the two defenses. Statistically, they are the best in SCC Division II. North Haven’s allowed just 145 points, including a shutout of Hillhouse last week. Foran’s allowed 185, but half of it (92 points worth) of it came in just two losses to SCC D1 teams West Haven and Shelton. North Haven can actually count an SCC D1 win on its resume and is ranked in the Register poll. But Foran’s been playing much better since losing to Shelton and is a worthy adversary. This is shaping up to be the best team of Jeff Bevino’s seven-year tenure in Milford. North Haven has little room for error in the Class L race. Foran has more wiggle room in Class M, but a win will have the Lions truly thinking playoffs for the first time in 12 years. Whoever plays D, wins.
WHEN — Friday, 7
WHERE — Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow, Ridgefield
PLAYERS TO WATCH — McMahon: Jr. RB Timmy Hinton (563 yards, 7 TD rushing); Sr. RB/LB Kenny Keen; Sr. DT Matt Hargrove; Sr. TE/LB Allan Lenard (6 sacks). Ridgefield: Sr. RB Will Bonaparte (941 yards, 12 TD rushing); Sr. WR/SS Andrew Chuma; Sr. WR/DB Micky Carbone; Sr. WR/DB Aidan Mauro; Jr. QB Ryan Dunn (1,482 yards, 18 TDs passing).
OUTLOOK — After weeks of beating some of the FCIAC’s weaker teams, the Senators finally pick on someone their own caliber. This game will a huge say about who gets to play in the FCIAC championship game in two weeks. Are the Senators for real? Or are they a product of their schedule? A win and McMahon can take its dream season home to face St. Joseph in a winner-take-all fight for the league title berth alongside New Canaan. Lose and McMahon will have to regroup and set their sights on possibly qualifying for the Class LL playoffs. The game will match two strong running teams, McMahon features four different backs led by Hinton. Ridgefield counters with Bonaparte, but can also throw with Dunn. Led by it’s strong linebacking corps, McMahon is the best defensive team in the FCIAC, having allowed just 74 points (10.5/game). But their opponents are a combined 19-37. This is the first team the Senators will face with a winning record. If they’re tired of hearing it (and by all accounts, they are) McMahon can dispel the criticism once and for all… or at least until next week.
Middletown (8-0) at New London (5-2)
WHEN — Friday, 6:30
WHERE — Canamella Field, New London HS
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Middletown: Jr. QB Dario Highsmith; Sr. OL David Bednarz (6-7, 275), Sr. OL Anthony Bednarz (6-7, 250); Sr. LB Cody Carrillo; Jr. RB/LB Isaiah Thompkins; Sr. DL Sam Rivera (6-1, 280). New London: Sr. RB/DB Orinn Parke (841 yards, 10 TD rushing); Jr. QB Danny Miranda (1,170 yards, 17 TD passing) Sr. WR/DB Jose Garcia; Sr. TE/LB Ashi Harkness; Sr. DB/WR Nico Ramos; Jr. TE/DL J. Hunter Roman
OUTLOOK — Left for dead on the grass at Dillon Stadium and on the turf at Montville after consecutive losses to Capital Prep and Ledyard, respectively, the Whalers have righted the ship with four dominant victories in the ECC. But they haven’t navigated their way out of danger just yet. Their playoff lives depend on pulling off the biggest upset of the 2013 season. Thanks to its sterling junior quarterback Dario Highsmith, Middletown is having a dream season, the likes of which haven’t been seen since Highsmith’s uncles and brothers once roamed the fields and collected trophies over two decades ago. New London’s young roster will have to find a way to plug gaps that will be created by Middletown’s massive line while giving its playmakers a chance to do something few have: score on the Blue Dragons’ defense. Middletown has allowed a paltry 73 points this year.
Bristol Eastern (7-1) at Farmington (7-1)
WHEN — Friday, 7
WHERE — Farmington High School
PLAYERS TO WATCH — Bristol Eastern: Sr. QB Gerry Ouelette; Sr. WR Roderick Green; Sr. WR Kenny Smith. Farmington: Ivan Guadalupe (768 yards, 8 TDs rushing); Sr. QB Jeremy Buck (1,170 yards, 11 TDs passing); Sr. WR Kenny Jones, Sr. WR Anthony Carpenter; Jr. DL Dan Hardiman, 6-3, 235; Sr. DL Jayson Martin, 6-2, 210; Sr. DE Chaunsey Pilgrim, 5-10, 193; Sr. LB Collin Grattan, 5-10, 161.
OUTLOOK — Farmington limps home after its 21-7 loss to Middletown for this significant Class L playoff clash. Bristol Eastern has won five straight since its 40-0 loss to the Blue Dragons. The winner gets a huge Class L playoff boost, to where they can think about playing at home for the quarterfinals. The loser will have to stave off elimination against a pool of other contenders. Both teams have offensive stars and have scored equal points this season. Farmington’s defense, however, might be the key. It’s only allowed 88 points all year and held Dario Highsmith and Middletown to just three scores in last week’s loss.
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- Prep football: Hopkins hopes to finish on positive note vs. Hamden Hall
- Ansonia’s Brockett talks Chargers on national football show
- New Canaan’s Marinelli talks No. 1 Rams and an open division on WFSB
- Sean Patrick Bowley’s Audibles: Statewide guide to Week 9
- Pooch’s Picks: Predictions for Week 9
- No. 2 Ansonia survives Seymour’s upset bid
- GameTimeCT / Register Top 10 Poll: We have a new No. 1
- Regional football notebook: Guilford has sights on first division title
- Tuesday Morning Quarterback: Top Players, teams of Week 8; Look ahead to Week 9
- State Football beat: The Week 9 FCIAC, SWC, NVL championship scenarios
- The Day of New London previews, to broadcast New London-Middletown
- GameTimeCT Week 8 Plays of the Week
- Ray Curren’s Inside the SCC: The Week 8 running diary