DEEP RIVER >> This is the weekend before the storm – maybe literally – of the Thanksgiving climax to the high school football regular season. There are three area games this weekend, all of which carry playoff implications for at least one of the teams involved.
There are also games around the state that will impact the playoff chances of local teams.
Gilbert/NW Regional (8-1) at Valley Regional/Old Lyme (9-0), Blythe Field, Deep River, Tonight at 6:30 p.m.
This is the headline game of the night. It pits two Class M playoff contenders, one of which is already in the playoffs, and the other a team that needs a win to guarantee a spot.
No. 1 Valley/Old Lyme is in. The Warriors have also clinched a home game in the opening round of the playoffs on Dec. 3. Gilbert/NW is ranked No. 4 in the CIAC playoff point system and a win would clinch a spot. But a loss to Valley would muddle the picture, even though Gilbert has a guaranteed win next week as Housatonic, its scheduled final opponent, has forfeited its season.
Gilbert/NW’s only loss was a 42-35 decision to North Branford.
“Gilbert has very talented kids,” said Valley coach Tim King. “They have a good running back, their quarterback is a dual threat in that he can both run and throw, they have good receivers and their defense gets to the ball.”
Valley’s only close game was a 21-18 win over Avon, otherwise the Warriors have danced through their schedule. Quarterback Phil Cohen has thrown for over 1,200 yards and 22 touchdowns. He has been intercepted only twice.
Running back Justin Cheverier has 14 touchdowns and Evan Smith has caught 12 touchdown passes and has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. Chris Jean-Pierre also has caught nine TD passes. Dave Peck has 10 scores and also has two interceptions returned for TDs, Peck leads the team in interceptions.
“We’re a pretty good team,” said King. “We are much more balanced than we’ve been. We’ve been run-orientated in the past, but we have three very good receivers this year.”
King looked down the road and said that there are some very good teams in Class M.
“St. Joseph is very good; we’ve seen them,” he said. “Brookfield and Bethel are very good and Ledyard is in the mix, too. But right now we are taking it one step at a time. Tonight we have Gilbert, then we have Haddam-Killingworth and that’s a big game in which records can be thrown out the window.
“I have a great bunch of kids and we’re having fun.”
The pick: Valley Regional/Old Lyme
Cromwell (4-5) at North Branford (5-4), Colafati Field, Tonight at 6:30 p.m.
Both teams have struggled in the second half of the season. After jumping off to a 4-1 start, Cromwell has lost four in a row to take it out of postseason contention.
North Branford has had a similar season. The Thunderbirds got off to a 4-0 start, but have lost four of their last five, the latest a 48-20 decision to streaking Coginchaug last week. Still, North Branford is still alive for a playoff spot, but from its 14th place standing it would not only have to win its final two games, but have a whole series of other games to break exactly right for the T-Birds to have a chance.
Still, as of the moment, the Thunderbirds are breathing.
For Cromwell, the goal has to be to finish above .500. To do that, the Panthers would have to not only win tonight, but also to upset Coginchaug on Thanksgiving. Looks like a close game tonight.
The pick: North Branford
Haddam-Killingworth (0-8) at Coginchaug (7-2), Wally Camp Athletic Facility, Durham, Saturday at 1 p.m.
From a 1-2 start, Coginchaug has transformed its season into a magical one. The Blue Devils currently hold down the No. 8 – and last – spot in the CIAC Class S playoff standings.
John Bozzi’s team has won six in a row and is heavily favored to make it seven Saturday. But since Coginchaug can only gain 100 points from a win over H-K, it will be looking to see if teams it has defeated this season can win this weekend to add to its point total.
If SMSA/University, Lewis Mills, Old Saybrook/Westbrook, Hyde Leadership, Granby and North Branford get wins, that will bolster Coginchaug’s chances of making the playoffs as each win by the above teams will give the Devils 10 bonus points.
Then on Thanksgiving, the game with Cromwell will be enormous.
The pick: Coginchaug
In other games of interest on what is otherwise a quiet weekend, Hall of West Hartford can clinch a Class LL playoff spot with a win over city rival Conard tonight at 6:30.
Middletown could get 10 bonus points if Simsbury upsets Class LL playoff team Glastonbury, but don’t hold your breath on that one. And in the Constitution State Conference, unbeaten Capitol/Classical/Achievement, currently No. 1 in the CIAC Class S standings at 10-0 – including a win over New London in the second week of the season – takes on No. 3 Prince Tech (9-1) at Moriarty Field in Hartford. Both teams have clinched playoff spots.
The picks: Hall, Glastonbury And Capital Prep
Last week, 4-2, season record, 54-16.