Over the next 10 weeks, I will present a Top 10 list for a variety of topics pertaining to high school football, leading up to the preseason Top 10 poll Sept. 16.
The kickoff starts this week with the Top 10 Games to Watch.
It’s never too early to start talking high school football, and we want to hear from you. So feel free to send us games you're looking forward to watching, or any questions you have regarding high school football and I will do my best to answer.
Check back every Tuesday for the latest Top 10 topics.1. Hamden at Hand, Sept. 17., 7 p.m.
Hamden, which went 9-3 and advanced to the state playoffs for the first time since 1998 last season, could potentially enter this season as the No. 1 team in the Register preseason poll.
Quarterback Jason Lassiter, wide receivers Geoff Kiarie and Tevin Moye, and defensive lineman Jo-Von Ladson return, so the Green Dragons will be dangerous in several key positions. However, earning a victory at the Surf Club is never an easy task.
Hand should improve on last season’s 7-4 record, and the Tigers should find themselves again in the hunt for a Class MM playoff berth. Senior Nick Merullo will be one of the state’s best quarterbacks.2. Ansonia vs. Hillhouse, Sept. 18, 6 p.m. at Southern Connecticut’s Jess Dow Field
The game that everyone wanted to see — last season. Last year, both teams qualified for the state playoffs, and a meeting in 2008 could’ve been a classic.
But, finally, the Naugatuck Valley League decided to allow out-of-conference games this year. Smart move. Although Ansonia and Hillhouse, who are second and third, respectively, in career victories in the state, both suffered heavy graduation losses, this one should be competitive, and played in front of a playoff-like atmosphere.3. Greenwich at Stamford, Sept. 25, 6 p.m.
It’s expected that Stamford will be better than its 6-5 record from a year ago. The Black Knights have perhaps the state’s best returning player in outside linebacker Khairi Fortt, a 6-foot-3, 225 pound senior who’s being recruited by Boston College, Notre Dame and Penn. St., among others. Senior Jalen Holmes will likely takeover the quarterback duties this season, and Holmes is already being touted as a top prospect.
However, if Stamford anticipates to move into the upper echelon of the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, it will need to defeat teams such as Greenwich, which is traditionally one of the league’s most dominant programs.4. New Britain at Southington, Oct. 9, 7 p.m.
This contest could determine the Central Connecticut Conference Division I title. The CCC still consists of four divisions, mainly based on school size after the addition of several teams from the now-defunct Nutmeg League.
Although Southington lost some talent to graduation, the Blue Knights have been one of the state’s most consistent teams the past several seasons. New Britain has strength in the receiving corps with the return of seniors Tebucky Jones and Tarik Hightower.5. Wilbur Cross at Ridgefield, Oct. 9. 7 p.m.
An intriguing non-conference match up. Ridgefield went 8-3 last season, and just missed a playoff berth. The Tigers are traditionally strong in the FCIAC, and this year should be no exception.
Wilbur Cross, out of the Southern Connecticut Conference, has several skill players returning, including quarterback Dontay Long, running back James Ward and receiver Maurice Morrison.6. New Canaan at Seymour, Oct. 16, 7 p.m.
Another interesting non-conference tilt between teams that have combined to win 11 CIAC state titles. New Canaan, from the FCIAC, finished last season ranked No. 1 in the final Register Poll.
The Rams lost a bunch to graduation, but should still be one of the top teams in the league. Seymour begins life without veteran coach Paul Sponheimer, who retired. Tom Lennon takes over the reigns for the Wildcats, who should contend in the NVL.7. Xavier at Hamden, Oct. 23, 7 p.m.
Xavier handed Hamden its first loss, 21-14, on Oct. 24 last season. The Falcons return running back/defensive back Julian Hayes, who was a Register All-Area selection as a junior, and quarterback Alex Pace.
This one, a SCC Division I West contest, should be one of the league’s more competitive games this season.8. Ansonia at Derby/O’Brien Tech, Oct. 30, 7 p.m.
This rivalry, which was once one of the state’s best, especially during the 1970s and 1980s, resumes after a five-year absence. Ansonia won the last meeting, 48-0, in 2003. Derby begins play in the NVL, after moving over from the SCC.
The Red Raiders will struggle with numbers again, and it still remains to be seen if Derby will fare any better in a new league. Ansonia, depsite graduation losses, will still be one of the league’s best.9. Bunnell at Masuk, Nov. 13, 7 p.m.
Masuk is the defending Class L champion. Bunnell was the 2006 and 2007 champion. Both belong to the South-West Conference.
Despite graduation not being too kind to either, this game has been one of the most anticipated in the state the last several seasons. If you like offense, do not miss this one.10. North Branford at Hyde, Nov. 26, 10:30 a.m.
Although this rivalry hasn’t existed as long as others in the state, this game is usually highly competitive, and often decides the Pequot Conference champion. Usually played on Wednesday night, this game will be contested on Thanksgiving morning this year.
For a complete schedule of this year's games click here.
Labels: Ansonia, Bunnell, Hamden, Hand, Hillhouse, Hyde, Masuk, New Britain, New Canaan, North Branford, Seymour, Southington, Stamford, Wilbur Cross, Xavier