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Monday, December 10, 2012

Hand is No. 1

Class L champion Hand finished as the No. 1 team in the final Top 10 Poll.

Hand (13-0), which has won a school-best 26 straight games, is No. 1 for the third time (also in 1997 and 2004).

The Tigers took over in the top spot following a Week 5 victory over then No. 1 Xavier on Oct. 12. Hand emerged with a 40-20 win in that contest.

The Tigers defeated several of the state's top teams to maintain the top spot and finish the season unbeaten. Hand defeated West Haven and North Haven in successive weeks after Xavier, and then rolled past Platt, Masuk and Windsor to capture its second straight Class L title. The Tigers also defeated Class M champion Hillhouse earlier this season. Xavier went on to capture the Class LL title.

"I think there was a lot of pressure on us, as coaches, because we knew teams were going to play their best game against us and we knew one stumble is all it takes and you're done," Hand coach Steve Filippone said. "You might still go on to win a state championship; you might go on to be a Top 10 team, which is tremendous, but you're probably not going to go on and be the No. 1 team."

While the goal was to win another state championship, finishing at No. 1 is rewarding to the Hand players.

"It's pretty meaningful," Hand senior Pete Gerson said. "Our goal was a state championship; we did that. We knew with our schedule and all the teams that we played, if we went all the way, didn't fall down anywhere, won all our games - I'm not going to say guaranteed - but, most likely, we're going to come out on top. It means a lot for us and the team to have that ranking and go out as the top team in Connecticut. We couldn't be anymore happy with it."

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