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Monday, August 10, 2009

Top 10: Scrimmages

Below is our list of the Top 10 must-see scrimmages.
Times and dates are as listed on the CIAC website, and are subject to change.

1. Ansonia at Shelton, Sept. 11, 7 p.m.
This has the intensity of a regular season game, and it’s treated as such.
There may not be a bigger hotbed for high school football in the state than the Valley, so players, coaches and fans highly anticipate this preseason meeting. It’s the perfect way to kickoff the year.

As usual, both teams should field competitive teams. Ansonia, which is a member of the Naugatuck Valley League, lost a bunch to graduation, and junior running back Montrell Dobbs will be called upon to carry most of the offensive load.

Shelton, out of the Southern Connecticut Conference, returns quarterback Ray Pendegast, who saw spot duty last season, running back Joel Youd and Paul Piccirillo, who can play four positions.

2. Bunnell at Staples, Sept. 2, 4 p.m.
Two of the state’s best coaches, Bunnell’s Craig Bruno and Staples’ Marce Petroccio, square off here.

Bunnell, out of the South-West Conference, lost All-State quarterback Chris Sloat to graduation, in addition to several other talented starters from last season, when the Bulldogs went 9-2 but failed to qualify for a third straight playoff berth. It may be a rebuilding year for Bunnell.

Staples, from the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference, also failed to make the postseason. Bunnell defeated Staples for the Class L title in 2006, and again in the Class L semifinals in 2007.

The Wreckers, however, should improve on last season’s 6-5 mark, as the team had a large junior class.

3. Hyde at Hamden, Sept. 11. 6 p.m.
Hyde has only a short ride up Dixwell Ave. for this contest with the Green Dragons, out of the SCC.

The Howling Wolves, from the Pequot Conference, return senior quarterback Kendell Groom and wide receiver/linebacker DeShawn Murphy. Hyde went 9-3, and advanced to the Class S semifinals a year ago.

Hamden also advanced to the state semifinals, before losing to Cheshire in Class LL. The Green Dragons might return the most talent of any team in the state, including quarterback Jason Lassiter and two-way lineman Jo-Von Ladson.

4. Masuk at Darien, Sept. 11, 4:30 p.m.
The biggest off-season transaction was Casey Cochran transferring to Masuk.

Cochran, a sophomore quarterback, led New London to the Class SS state title last season after taking over the starting duties for the injured Jordan Reed at mid-season. Cochran is the son of former New London coach Jack Cochran, who was fired in the spring.

The Panthers are usually contenders in the South-West Conference, but with Casey Cochran’s arrival, Masuk may just repeat as Class L champions.

Darien went to the Class MM final before losing to fellow FCIAC member New Canaan. The Blue Wave suffered heavy graduation losses, but veteran coach Rob Trifone should have Darien in the mix again.

5. Ansonia at West Haven, Sept. 4, 6:30 p.m.
As mentioned above, Ansonia lost most of its skill players to graduation, but the Chargers should contend for the NVL title and a Class S playoff berth.

As with the Shelton scrimmage, this annual preseason tilt is usually just as exciting and competitive as a regular season game.

Fiery West Haven coach Ed McCarthy is an entertaining sideshow. The Westies have some talent returning, and should improve on last season’s 6-4 record.

6. Ridgefield at Ledyard, Sept. 12, 3 p.m.
This is a battle between two of the state’s most consistent programs.

Ledyard went 10-3 and advanced to the Class M state final in coach Jim Buonocore’s first season with the team. The Colonels lost quarterback J.J. Jablonski to graduation, but Ledyard should rebuild nicely.

Ridgefield, an FCIAC member, went 8-3 and just missed a playoff berth in 2008. The Tigers lost plenty of skill players, but coach Kevin Callahan and his staff have put together consistently good seasons recently despite a usually brutal schedule.

7. Cheshire at Windsor, Sept. 11, 7 p.m.
Cheshire must adjust to life without quarterback/defensive back Billy Ragone, the 2008 Register All-Area MVP.

But the Rams do return running back Dan Sweeney and wide receivers Brian Havlicek and Brian Debisschop, who should keep Cheshire’s spread offense chugging along.

The Rob Fleeting era begins at Windsor. Fleeting previously led Weaver to five playoff appearances in 10 seasons. The 1999 edition won the Class M state title.

Quarterback Pierre Narcisse, who threw for over 1,500 yards last year, returns for his senior season for the Warriors.

8. Stamford at Holy Cross, Sept. 5, 10 a.m.
The main reason to attend this scrimmage is to see Stamford linebacker Khairi Fortt in action. The 6-foot-3, 220 pound Fortt is the state’s top recruit on the website, and ranks No. 26 nationwide.

Among the interested schools are Georgia, Penn. State, North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan and USC.

Stamford, from the FCIAC, is looking to be better than last’s season 6-5 record.

Holy Cross, from the NVL, went 5-6 last year, but first-year coach Mike Giampetruzzi thinks the Crusaders could be one of the top five teams in the league. Senior running back Pat Cronin will lead the offense.

9. Seymour at Branford, Sept. 11, tba
Both teams have new coaches.

Mike Tracy takes over for Gary Gravina at Branford. Gravina led the Hornets to the 2005 Class MM title.

Branford went 7-4 last season, and returns a solid nucleus this year. Senior quarterback Andrew Luzzi is a threat to both run and pass the ball. He threw for 17 touchdowns and ran for 10 last season.

Tom Lennon inherits the Seymour reigns from legendary coach Paul Sponheimer, who retired with four state titles and over 200 victories.

Lennon was left in good hands. Quarterback Connor Shugrue, running back Taylor Searles and two-way lineman Jacob Drozd, who may be the best returning player in the NVL, return. The Wildcats are a legitimate contender for the NVL and Class SS titles.

10. Cromwell at Berlin, Sept. 11, 4 p.m.
Berlin moves from the Nutmeg League to the powerful Central Connecticut Conference. The Red Coats have qualified for the state playoffs in five of the last six years. They lost to Ledyard in the 2007 Class M final.

Berlin returns a solid nucleus from a young team that went 6-4 last year. However, a tough schedule that includes games with Weaver, Bristol Eastern and New Britain, will be challenging.

Cromwell is coming off a 12-1 record, which included winning the Class S state title, the school’s first. The Panthers, however, were a senior-laden team, but still look for Cromwell to compete in the Pequot Conference.

Which scrimmage are you looking forward too? Leave a comment below.

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