10 Takewaways: Week 10
Ten weeks of high school football are behind us. Here are 10 of the top storylines from the Hearst Connecticut Media region.
1 WELCOME BACK: Some familiar faces clinched state playoff spots this weekend. State tournament regulars Darien, Newtown, New Canaan and Ansonia all locked up spots and home games in the quarterfinal round. St. Joseph is also back in the Class M field. Darien and New Canaan both won state titles a season ago with Ansonia losing in the championship game. Newtown has entered the LL tournament unbeaten the last few years but has yet to advance past the semifinals.
2 STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE: Shelton lost its second straight in an insane 59-52 game against West Haven but still sits in the No. 5 slot in the LL rankings. Why? Because the SCC Tier 1 schedule is so good. Fairfield Prep is currently No. 8 and Cheshire is No. 9, both with three losses while teams that played weaker schedules and have three losses are well back. It is a testament to the SCC having its best teams play each other every season. The FCIAC would be wise to follow suit and stop these weekly lopsided games.
3 STILL THE 1?: Darien has been ranked No. 1 in the state writers’ poll all season but had been sitting in the No. 2 spot in the LL standings until last night. By virtue of beating Staples, the Blue Wave jumped into first place with 141.11 points ahead of West Haven and Southington, both at 140. With Darien facing Class L’s New Canaan on Thanksgiving and Southington and West Haven both facing good LL teams in Cheshire and Fairfield Prep, the standings could flip even if all three win their final game.
4 RAMS ARE CHARGING: New Canaan is the top team in Class L and will stay there with a win over Darien in the Turkey Bowl. Staying in the top spot in Class L is imperative because it means avoiding New London and Windsor until the championship game. A Rams loss on Thanksgiving could send them on the road to one of those schools in the semifinals, meaning a long bus ride and a hostile crowd to deal with. New Canaan surely would rather play a semi in the cozy confines of Dunning Field.
5 HERE WE GO AGAIN: While there are several very good matchups on Thanksgiving around the state, none comes close to New Canaan and Darien again this season. The teams come in as the Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams in the state and are clearly the class of the FCIAC once again. New Canaan is bringing in extra bleachers for the game and will not be selling tickets at the gate, only presale. Get your tickets early and arrive a couple hours before kickoff if you want a seat for this one.
6 VALLEY DRAMA: Naugatuck and Ansonia on Thanksgiving does not need any more hype, but the game carries major playoff implications on top of the already hotly contested bragging rights. Ansonia is No. 2 in Class S right now but would shoot to the top spot with a win over Class L Naugatuck. Meanwhile, Naugatuck (7-2) is currently the No. 9 team in Class L, tied at 96.67 points with No. 8 Notre Dame-West Haven. Notre Dame will pick up more points beating LL Hamden on Thanksgiving so Naugy will need either a loss by Notre Dame or by another team they are looking up at to qualify for the tournament.
7 TIGERS ROAR: Ridgefield beat Greenwich 31-20 at Tiger Hollow Friday night in what was essentially a play-in game in LL. The Tigers are the No. 6 team in LL at 7-2 and will make the playoffs with a Thanksgiving win over Danbury. At three losses, Greenwich is not dead yet, but would need to beat Staples on Thanksgiving and get a lot of help from teams ahead of them losing to qualify at this point.
8 PREP’S PRAYER: Fairfield Prep’s season may have been saved by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Patrick Conte to Chris Duffy and Conte’s two-point conversion pass to Bobby Haskins with 25 seconds left Friday, giving the Jesuits a 43-42 win over North Haven. The win keeps Prep (6-3) in the thick of the LL playoff hunt with a huge game against 9-0 West Haven coming up on Thanksgiving. If not for the tilt in New Canaan, this game could be considered the game of the morning. It may be the highest scoring as both Prep and West Haven are capable of massive offensive games.
9 WRECKED: Picked by many as a team that could unseat Darien and New Canaan at the top of the FCIAC heap, Staples dropped its fourth game Friday against Darien. A season once filled with promise came unglued in a loss at NFA and Staples never really recovered. The Wreckers are still dangerous and would like nothing more than ending the season with a win over rival Greenwich on Thanksgiving. Snuffing out Greenwich’s faint playoff hopes would be gravy on the turkey for the Wreckers.
10 SMALL BALL: Class S has several local teams battling for a spot in the small school tournament. Ansonia is, of course, in. Seymour and Bullard-Havens are both in as of now but have to win out. Oxford and Trinity Catholic can both get spots with wins on Thanksgiving and losses from teams they are chasing. Trinity got a boost by beating LL Central Saturday and will get another bump if they knock off Class L Wilton on Thanksgiving. Oxford will receive no such bonus points playing fellow S opponent St. Paul’s.