And it begins.
Can you believe it?
Football! Sweet, nourishing football begins in earnest Monday at select times and practice fields near you. Teams that didn’t run spring practices begin a five-day conditioning week. Their first official practice in pads will be Saturday, August 24.
Teams that held spring practice won’t begin their conditioning week until August 23. Their first official practices can begin August 29.
The season kicks off on Thursday, Sept. 12.
Overall, 101 teams opted for extra days in the fall — the most ever — while 39 opted for spring practice.
Here are the 101 programs that will begin fall practices on Monday, according to the CIAC.
- CCC (24): Avon, Berlin, Bloomfield, Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern, E.O. Smith, East Catholic, East Hartford, Enfield, Glastonbury, Hall, Hartford Public, Lewis Mills, Middletown, New Britain, Newington, Northwest Catholic, Platt, RHAM, Rocky Hill, Simsbury, South Windsor, Tolland, Wethersfield.
- CTC (9): Abbott Tech/Immaculate, Cheney Tech, MWC United, O’Brien Tech, Platt Tech, Quinebaug Valley, Thames River, Vinal Tech/Goodwin/Whitney, Wilcox Tech.
- ECC (11): Bacon Academy, East Lyme, Griswold/Wheeler, Killingly, Ledyard, Montville, New London, Norwich Free Academy, Plainfield, Stonington, Waterford,
- FCIAC (8): New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, St. Joseph, Stamford, Staples, Trinity Catholic/Wright Tech, Wilton.
- NVL (12): Crosby, Derby, Holy Cross, Kennedy, Oxford, Sacred Heart/Kaynor Tech, Seymour, Watertown, WCA, Wilby, Wolcott, Woodland.
- Pequot (14): Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton, Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial, Cromwell/Portland, Gilbert/Northwestern, Granby/Canton, Haddam-Killingworth, Morgan, North Branford, Old Saybrook/Westbrook, Rockville, SMSA/University/Classical, Stafford/Somers/East Windsor, Valley Regional/Old Lyme, Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby.
- SCC (12): Bassick, Branford, Cheshire, Hand, Fairfield Prep, Foran, Guilford, Hamden, Law, North Haven, Notre Dame-West Haven, Sheehan.
- SWC (8): Brookfield, Joel Barlow, Masuk, Newtown, Notre Dame-Fairfield, Pomperaug, Stratford, Weston.
- Independent (3): Capital Prep/AF, CREC Co-Op, Woodstock Academy.
Important dates for the 2019 season:
- First practice (teams that didn’t run spring football):
Conditioning August 19. First Practice August 24. First allowable scrimmage August 28.
- First practice (spring football teams):
Conditioning August 24. First practice August 29. First allowable scrimmage September 2.
- Last date to schedule: September 12, 3 p.m.
- First contest: September 12.
- Last day to count: November 28 (Thanksgiving). Games may be made up between Friday, Nov. 29 – Saturday, Nov. 30.
2019 Playoff Schedule
- Quarterfinals: Tuesday, December 3 at site of higher-ranked team.
- Semifinals: Sunday, December 8 at site of higher-ranked team.
- Championships: Saturday, December 14 at TBD (ppd. date, December 15).
So, with that out of the way, let’s get everyone caught up on what happened over the last nine months and what to keep in mind as we begin another great season of high school football…
This year’s playoff divisions continue to employ the success modifier for “schools of choice,” implemented last year. St. Joseph, Killingly and Berlin were the programs affected. St. Joseph and Berlin, last year’s Class M finalists, were both bumped to Class L. Killingly’s enrollment dropped it to Class S, but the success modifier moved it back to Class M.
Here were the other moves:
CLASS LL: The three new schools in this division are Crosby, Harding and Naugatuck, who were bumped up from Class L. New Canaan, last year’s runner-up, Newington and South Windsor dropped to Class L.
CLASS L: This division gained Berlin, Hillhouse, St. Joseph and Stratford from Class M and New Canaan, Newington and South Windsor from Class LL.
CLASS M: Both of last year’s finalists — St. Joseph and Berlin — are gone. Joining Class M this year are Avon, Platt and RHAM from Class L, Valley Regional/Old Lyme and new co-ops Granby/Canton and Griswold/Wheeler from Class S.
CLASS S: This division gained Bacon Academy, Coginchaug/Hale Ray/East Hampton, Ledyard and Sheehan from Class M. It also saw the addition of the Trinity Catholic/Wright Tech Co-op.
Quite easily, this is the most significant change to regular-season schedules in Connecticut since… well, at least in the 43-year old CIAC era.
Expanded this year to include the FCIAC and the Central Connecticut Conference, the Connecticut High School Football Scheduling Alliance has created all kinds of non-conference matchups which is designed to match schools (as close as possible) with similar-sized opponents.
All told there are 98 interleague crossover games amid the five leagues, up from 80 last year. A majority of them will be played over four weeks — Week 2 (Sept. 20), Week 3 (Sept. 27), Week 6 (Oct. 18) and Week 7 (Oct. 25), with a handful of matchups played during other weeks due to league scheduling conflicts.
All 21 SCC teams, 12 from the SWC and seven from the ECC are participating. Most of those schools have been given three or four non-conference crossover games, which, if you’ve been around long enough, is insane.
So Xavier, for example, plays its first three games of the season vs. ECC clubs NFA, Fitch and New London. Hand, meanwhile, plays Middletown, Wethersfield out of the CCC, Norwalk (FCIAC) and East Lyme (ECC).
Newtown plays Fairfield Prep (SCC), Shelton (SCC) and Danbury (FCIAC).
NFA, which has always had trouble getting games from its own league, features a 2019 schedule that includes just as many non-conference games (Xavier, Glastonbury, Shelton, West Haven, Fairfield Prep) as it does vs the ECC!
Insanity, like we said. But cool as hell.
The pairings were determined by several factors, including CIAC playoff classification, enrollment, roster size and program success over five years.
It’s not a perfect setup, SCC commissioner and Alliance architect Al Carbone admits. The FCIAC and CCC weren’t able to commit fully. The commissioners also had to make concessions to make it all fit.
But it is a major step forward in the alliance’s stated goal of creating equitable schedules for everybody in the state.
At last count, 24 coaching positions changed hands across high school and prep programs in Connecticut this offseason — 20 at CIAC schools.
The biggest news, of course, was Class LL champion and consensus 2018 Coach of the Year John Marinelli’s departure from Greenwich to take an assistant gig at the University of Arizona. Greenwich alum Anthony Morello was named his replacement in July.
Elsewhere in the FCIAC, Phil Treglia resigned at Staples after one season. He was quickly replaced by Adam Behrends, an assistant from IMG Academy (Fla.)
Mark Fritz resigned as Rocky Hill’s football coach after five seasons, including a trip to the Class S final in 2016. Assistant coach Rich Dance takes over.
John Campaniello retired at Wethersfield after 14 seasons, assistant Matt McKinnon takes over.
Tony Bonito left Coventry Co-Op after 13 seasons and a couple of state playoff berths to take a vacant job at Prince Tech. RHAM’s Tom Hammond replaces him.
Other first-year coaches taking over after a one-year stint from their predecessors: Desmond Lymon at Bassick (for Bill Mella), Chris Theriault at Wolcott (for Matt Hove); Sean Murray at New Milford (for Chuck Lynch); and Anthony Salvati at Guilford (for Anthony Avallone).
Seymour, which spent last season with interim coach Steve George, hired a full-time coach in Michael Kearns, a fellow Newtown alum who spent last year as defensive coordinator.
Connecticut also saw its first female football coach, Jennifer Stango Garzone, hired to take over MCW United from Jamie Coty.
In the NEPSAC, Jeff Moore made a splash by leaving St. Thomas More for Loomis Chaffee in Windsor. Capital Prep/AF’s Jason Manson took Moore’s old job at STM and his assistant, Garrick Milledge, takes over at Capital Prep/AF.
Below are all the coaching moves we’ve collected over the last eight months. If we’ve missed any, let us know:
COACHING CHANGES 2019
Updated Monday, Aug. 19, 1 p.m.
SCHOOL — New Coach <— Old Coach
- BARLOW — T.J. Cavaliere <— Rob Tynan
- BASSICK — Desmond Lymon <— Bill Mella
- BROOKFIELD — Bryan Muller <— Rich Angarano
- BRUNSWICK — Michael Hannigan <— Jarrett Shine
- BUNNELL — Tywan Jenkins <– Sean Mignone
- CAPITAL PREP/AF — Garrick Milledge <— Jason Manson
- CROSBY — Mike Scott <— David Jurewicz
- GLASTONBURY — Eric Hennessy <— Scott Daniels
- GREENWICH — Anthony Morello <— John Marinelli
- GUILFORD — Anthony Salvati <— Anthony Avallone
- COVENTRY/WINDHAM TECH/BOLTON/LYMAN MEMORIAL — Tom Hammond <— Tony Bonito
- KINGSWOOD OXFORD — J.B. Wells <— Jason Martinez
- LOOMIS CHAFEE — Jeff Moore <— Elliott Dial
- MCW UNITED — Jenn Stango Garzone <— Jamie Coty
- NEW MILFORD — Sean Murray <— Chuck Lynch
- O’BRIEN TECH — Tim Nixon <— Nick Aprea
- PLATT TECH —Vin Camera <— Jimmy Benjamin
- PRINCE TECH — Tony Bonito <— Michael Scott
- RHAM — Mike Masse (interim) <— Robert Rubin
- ROCKY HILL — Rich Dance <— Mark Fritz
- SEYMOUR — Mike Kearns <— Steve George (interim) <— Tom Lennon
- STAPLES — Adam Behrends <— Phil Treglia
- ST. THOMAS MORE — Jason Manson <— Jeff Moore
- TRINITY CATHOLIC/WRIGHT TECH — Thomas Broschardt <— Donny Panapada
- WETHERSFIELD — Matt McKinnon <— John Campaniello
- WOLCOTT — Chris Theriault <— Matt Hove.
The Southern Connecticut Conference has realigned its tier divisions based off results from the past two years. Four schools have new addresses.
The most significant change was Hand’s anticipated return back to Tier I after winning all but one game (not to mention back-to-back Class L titles) during its two-year stint as a member of Tier II.
Cheshire, a Class LL school which went 9-11 over the last two seasons, was dropped to Tier II for the first time.
Sheehan, which has reached the state playoffs in back-to-back years, was moved up to Tier II from Tier III. Ironically, the Titans — the SCC’s smallest football-playing school — were dropped to Class S this season.
Finally, Foran has dropped from Tier II to Tier III to fill Sheehan’s spot.
For the uninitiated, the SCC’s Tier structure is less a divisional setup than it is a scheduling mechanism. It judges the strength and size of the schools, ranks the teams accordingly into three divisions and builds the league schedule around them.
The CCC expands (again)
Lewis Mills makes its leap from the Pequot League (and Berkshire in all other sports) to the mighty Central Connecticut Conference this season.
The school has a 372 male enrollment, which ties it with Plainville for second smallest in the league. Bloomfield — last year’s Class S champion — has the league’s smallest male enrollment with 287.
Lewis Mills will play in the Division III east division alongside Berlin, Tolland, Avon and Bulkeley Co-Op, and returns the CCC to 32 schools after losing Rockville two seasons ago.
The Spartans went 0-10 in the Pequot League last year. Best of luck, gentlemen.
The Pequot contracts/realigns (again)
With Lewis Mills taking a crack at the big time, Nonnewaug still in JV limbo and Canton merging with Granby, the now-15-team Pequot has been forced to reconfigure its divisions for the umpteenth year in a row.
This year, the Pequot is jettisoning the Sassacus and Uncas divisions. But instead of divvying the league up into three or four divisions, as it had done in the past, the league has merged its members into one division. It will crown one champion overall.
The ECC expands (!), realigns
Added August 21
The ECC, long the posterboys of membership discontent, actually expanded by two teams this year and will add a third for 2020.
Let’s start with Woodstock Academy, which flirted with going the prep school route a few years back. The Centaurs were welcomed back into the league as a Division II member alongside Bacon Academy, Stonington, Waterford and Ledyard. But Woodstock is the only Division II team not to receive crossover games vs. the Division I schools (instead Stonington and Ledyard picked up extra Division I games).
CREC Co-Op is joining the ECC as a football-only member beginning this season. The program, which has only been around for a few years and played as an independent, will play in ECC Division III with Griswold/Wheeler, Plainfield, Windham and Montville.
And, finally, Capital Prep/Achievement first, which was jettisoned from the old Constitution State Conference two years ago, will join the ECC as a football-only member in 2020.
The complete realignment for 2019 is as follows:
D1: East Lyme, Fitch, New London, NFA, Killingly
D2: Bacon Academy, Stonington, Waterford, Ledyard, Woodstock Academy
D3: Griswold, Plainfield, Windham, Montville, CREC
Though its football program has had success, reaching the state playoffs twice over the last decade, Trinity Catholic’s overall numbers have been in a decline. Already the smallest school in the FCIAC, a few of its athletic programs have struggled to field teams of late. Coach Donny Panapada resigned and there were rumors the whole football program might fold. But the school showed it was committed when it hired Thomas Broschardt as coach and then teamed up with nearby Wright Tech (which re-opened as a school in 2014 after a five-year closure) to form its first cooperative. It’s the first co-operative program in FCIAC football history.
Canton’s revival as a program in 2007 following a 47-year absence saw some early success, highlighted by a 2014 state-playoff run. But since then the school has struggled to field a team, with numbers getting dangerously low as the season progressed, like around the 20 mark. Predictably, the team has won just one game in each of the last two years. Noting that player safety was becoming an issue, the school district agreed to form a cooperative with Granby Memorial, which has been a healthier program since its inception in 2010. Both schools are near the CIAC’s cut-off of 32 “available” players (although this number is actually difficult to quantify) to form a co-op, so this agreement — only for one year — is fragile.
Despite being one of the ECC’s smallest schools, Griswold has managed to consistently field a competitive football program, one that seems to bite the likes of Norwich Free Academy every so often and doesn’t shy away from playing top programs like Trumbull. Numbers remain a concern, however. Last year’s team went 6-4, but wrapped up the season with a roster of 28, and saw few incoming freshmen. So the school agreed to form a co-op with nearby Wheeler, which doesn’t offer football due to its tiny, 107-boys enrollment. The co-op will play in Class M.
Among some of the new rules released by the NFHS is a new, 40-second play clock which will begin at the whistle signaling the end of the previous play from scrimmage, rather than a 25-second play clock which began when the referee blew a whistle to indicate the ball was set. The rule is designed to create a better flow of the game.
The 25-second clock will remain for certain play stoppages, including after penalties, the end of a quarter, for point-after tries and coming out of time outs. Read more about the new play clock here.
That’s all we can think of for now. Happy football season!
Update, Aug. 19: Add that Tony Bonito was hired as the head coach at Prince Tech in the offseason. RHAM’s Tom Hammond replaced him as coach at Coventry Co-Op.
Update, Aug. 21: Guilford was inadvertently left off the teams starting early in the fall and has been added back, making it 101 teams starting early in the fall.