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A look at high school football throughout the state

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Everybody ready? Let's Play the SCC/FCIAC Challenge

Wednesday kicks off the greatest Connecticut high school football schedule ever devised.

And much of its greatness can be derived mostly from Week 1.

That's because Week 1 will involve a countywide fight between two leagues that have dominated the state for almost 20 year, two leagues who endlessly debate over which is the biggest, toughest, baddest strongest group of high school football teams in the state.

On one side of the Housatonic River, hugging the glitz and glamor of New York City, is the Fairfield Interscholastic Athletic Conference: the fancy old school Fairfield County league which began in 1961 whose claim to fame is its popular league championship game and alumni like Steve Young, Bobby Valentine, Pete Demmerle and John Sullivan.

On the other side of the Housatonic (plus Shelton), is the Southern Connecticut Conference: a confederation of football powers formed in 1994 from the merger of the Housatonic League, the District League, the Coastal Conference and the All-Connecticut Conference.

It's well off in spots (Amity, Cheshire, Fairfield Prep, Guilford, Madison), but mostly considered the blue-collared, lunch pail league thanks to towns like Wallingford, West Haven, New Haven, East Haven and Milford. It's notable alumni include Dan Orlovsky, Rob Jackson, Amarie Spievey and Antaj Hawthorne.

Since the SCC  formed, its members and fans have refuted the FCIAC's longstanding claim as the best league in Connecticut. The two powers have battled in the state playoffs and fought for state championships. Typically, the league with the most medals gets bragging rights for the year. In the mid-to-late 2000s, the FCIAC could puff out its chest.

In the early 2010s, it's been all SCC. The SCC won three of the four state titles last year.

But until this year, these battles have only been confined to the state playoffs.

Until this year, the fights on the field have been reserved only for the top programs.

That's all about to change.

With the addition of an 11th week, leaders from both sides came together and agreed to stage a league-wide 
showdown. After settling hassles over matchups and the non-participation of a few schools, we finally got a schedule.

A year later, we're finally getting our matchups.

Buckle up. Batten down the hatches. Hold on to your hats.

Ladies and gentlemen, your matchups:

Here's a look at each individual game, including history (if any) and the game's top story line. Amity and Branford will not participate. Neither will Westhill and Norwalk.

Due to bye weeks, the league will also be crossing over throughout the season. They're not officially part of the 'SCC-FCIAC Challenge,' but make no mistake, we will be keeping score and they will be counted.

Since the SCC's schools hold a 23-16 overall record against the FCIAC since 1994, including a 16-12 edge in the postseason.

(All town figures taken from the 2010 U.S. Census).

Here we go:


Law at Harding

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Kennedy Stadium, Bridgeport (Central High School).
League -- Law (SCC); Harding (FCIAC)
Class/School type -- Law: M (Public); Harding: M (Public)
Towns -- Law: Milford (Population: 52,859; Median Household Income: $57,655); Harding: Bridgeport (Pop: 144,229; Median household income: $41,047).
Player to watch -- Law: QB Tim Maher; Harding: Sr. RB Reggie David.
The Storyline -- Eight-time state championship coach Jack Cochran kicks off his inaugural game at the long-dormant Bridgeport program. Harding has gone 8-81 over the last nine seasons. Law hasn't had a winning season since 2007. This used to be a regular series. Harding leads Law 5-4-1 in 10 meetings from 1962 to 1971.
SPB's Pick -- Law

Fairfield Warde at Foran

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Vito DeVito Sports Complex, Milford
League -- Warde: FCIAC; Foran: SCC
Class/School Type: -- Warde: L (Public); Foran: M (Public)
Towns -- Warde: Fairfield (Pop: 59,404; Median household income: $113,248); Foran: Milford (Pop: 52,859; Median household income: $57,655)
Player to watch -- Warde: Jr. QB Brandon Bisack; Foran: Jr. QB Jake Kasuba
The Storyline -- These two schools have shared assistant coaches over the years. Former Foran head coach Ken Walker, who died earlier this year, assisted coach at Warde. Warde defensive coordinator Cliff Bugyi was, until recently, a Milford administrator.
SPB's Pick -- Foran

Staples at No. 1 Xavier

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Palmer Field, Middletown
League -- Staples: FCIAC; Xavier: SCC
Class/School type: -- Staples: LL (public); Xavier: LL (Private-Xavierian Brothers; Tuition $11,450)
Town -- Staples: Westport (Pop: 26,391; Median household income: $150,000) ; Xavier: Middletown.
Player to watch -- Staples: Sr. QB Jack Massie; Xavier: Sr. QB Joe Carbone.
The Storyline -- Xavier is the three-time Class LL champion. Staples has been trying to win its first state title since 2005. Xavier hammered the Wreckers in the 2011 LL final and the teams seem destined to meet in last year's final before the Wreckers were upset by NFA. Both teams were gutted by graduation in the offseason, so this matchup might be a year late. Still, it should have huge ramifications in the 2013 Class LL picture. Xavier is still loaded with plenty of stars primed to make a run at a fourth-straight title. Staples' top RB Pat Lesch won't be available due to a lingering shoulder injury.
SPB's Pick -- Xavier

No. 10 Hand at No. 3 New Canaan

When -- 6:30 p.m.
Where -- Dunning Field, New Canaan
League -- Hand: SCC; New Canaan: FCIAC
Class/School type: -- Hand: L (Public); New Canaan: L (Public)
Towns -- Hand: Madison (Pop: 18,269; Median household income: $108,175); New Canaan: New Canaan (Pop: 19,738; Median household income: $141,788).
Player to watch -- Hand: Sr. RB/LB Dan Rodgers; New Canaan: Sr. LB Cole Harris.
The Storyline -- The coaches aren't just two of the best in Connecticut, they're also good friends. New Canaan's Lou Marinelli has beaten Hand's Steve Filippone three out of four times. Filippone finally got his first victory in the 2011 Class L championship. Originally scheduled for the Surf Club, the game was moved to New Canaan when Madison couldn't complete its field in time. Hand is the two-time defending Class L champion. New Canaan has been to six state championships in the previous seven years, winning four straight from 2006-2009. New Canaan will be wearing commemorative, 9/11 anniversary helmets for the game.
SPB's Pick -- New Canaan.

Thursday, September 12

Hillhouse at Darien

When -- 4 p.m.
Where -- Darien High School
League -- Hillhouse: SCC; Darien: FCIAC
Class/School type -- Hillhouse: M (Public); Darien: L (Public)
Towns -- Hillhouse: New Haven (Pop: 129,779; Median household income: $38,963); Darien: Darien (Pop: 20,732; Median household income: $160,274)
Player to watch -- Hillhouse: Sr. RB/DB Harold Cooper; Darien: Sr. FB/LB Nick Lombardo
The storyline -- These programs famously met in the 2008 Class MM semifinals, with Darien winning a shootout 35-32. Both teams suffered massive graduation from last season, but both return their top backs. This is the inaugural game for new Hillhouse coach Reggie Lytle.
SPB's Pick -- Darien.

Bassick at East Haven

When -- 6 p.m.
Where -- Crisafi Field, East Haven
League -- Bassick: FCIAC; East Haven: SCC
Class/School type -- Bassick: L (Public); East Haven: M (Public)
Towns -- Bassick: Bridgeport (Pop: 144,229; Median household income: $41,047); East Haven: East Haven (Pop: 29,257; Median household income: $59,918)
Player to watch -- Bassick: Sr. QB Vochan Fowler; East Haven: Sr. RB Dom Dellacamera.
The story lines -- Both programs had the dubious distinction of holding the state's longest losing streak at one time over the past 10 years. Bassick is coached by West Haven alum and Southern Connecticut State all-American Derrick Lewis. East Haven is coached by Anthony Lucibello, who is in his first year after spending two decades as an assistant at a variety of programs.
SPB's Pick -- Bassick

Cheshire at Ridgefield

When -- 6 p.m.
Where -- Lancaster Field at Tiger Hollow, Ridgefield
League -- Cheshire: SCC; Ridgefield: FCIAC
Class/School type -- Cheshire: LL (Public); Ridgefield: LL (Public)
Towns -- Cheshire: Cheshire (Pop: 29,261; Median household income: $107,936); Ridgefield: (Pop: 24,638; Median household income: $132,907)
Player to watch -- Cheshire: Jr. WR/DB Jack Cunningham; Ridgefield: Jr. QB Ryan Dunn.
The story lines -- Two similar towns face off in a game that will have Class LL playoff ramifications. Just how much remains to be seen. Ridgefield has been to the state playoffs more recently, in 2011. Cheshire is trying to get back to its first since 2009 when it won the state LL title.
SPB's Pick -- Ridgefield

Fairfield Ludlowe at Lyman Hall

When -- 6 p.m.
Where -- Fitzgerald Field, Wallingford
League -- Ludlowe: FCIAC; Lyman Hall: SCC
Class -- Ludlowe: LL (Public); Lyman Hall: M (Public)
Towns -- Ludlowe: Fairfield (Pop: 59,404; Median household income: $113,248); Lyman Hall: Wallingford (Pop: 45,135; Median household income: $71,317).
Player to watch -- Ludlowe: Sr. TE Stephan Zadravec; Lyman Hall: Jr. QB Kyle Smith
The story lines -- Neither coach has won a game at the school yet. Ludlowe's Vincent Camera was hired this summer. Lyman Hall's Rob Marone was hired a year ago. He was 0-10 in his first season. The two teams are relatively young, but each have promising QBs.
SPB's Pick -- Fairfield Ludlowe.

North Haven at Bridgeport Central

When -- 6 p.m.
Where -- Kennedy Stadium, Bridgeport
League -- North Haven: SCC; Central: FCIAC
Class/School type -- North Haven: L (Public); Central: LL (Public)
Towns -- North Haven (Pop: 24,093; Median household income: $83,588); Central: Bridgeport (Pop: 144,229; Median household income: $41,047).
Player to watch -- North Haven: Sr. FB Ethan Suraci; Central: Jr. QB Mykel Morris.
The story lines -- North Haven and its vaunted single-wing offense kicks off a new era without Jalon White, its star tailback from the previous three seasons. Central kicks off a new regime with coach Brian Gordon, who's taken the Hilltoppers from a Wing-T "Jet" offense to the spread. These teams met in 2011, with North Haven hammering Central 53-28 en route to the Class L playoffs.
SPB's Pick -- North Haven.

No. 5 West Haven at Greenwich

When -- 6 p.m.
Where -- Cardinal Stadium, Greenwich
League -- West Haven: SCC; Greenwich: FCIAC
Class/School type -- West Haven: LL (Public); Greenwich: LL (Public)
Towns -- West Haven: (Pop: 55,564; Median household income: $51,854); Greenwich: 61,171;  Median household income: $124,958)
Player to watch -- West Haven: Sr. RB/DB Ervin Philips; Greenwich: Sr. DL Jack Wynne
The storylines -- When last these teams met, West Haven celebrated its last-minute 20-13 Class LL championship victory over John Sullivan and the Cardinals at Kennedy Stadium in 2002. Greenwich screamed over multiple calls and then-assistant Donny Panapada (now the head coach at Trinity Catholic) drop-kicked the runner-up trophy. Greenwich went on to win two titles in 2006 and 2007. West Haven is still looking for one final title for longtime coach Ed McCarthy, who's six wins from becoming the state's all-time coaching leader. This game could be one of the series' best, with future Division I athletes in West Haven's Philips (Syracuse), and Greenwich's Wynne (UMass). Also: Be on the lookout for Greenwich sophomore Scooter Harrington, the brother of talented DE Jack Harrington. Boston College has already offered young Scooter a scholarship.
SPB's PICK -- West Haven

Danbury at Hamden

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Hamden Field
League -- Danbury: FCIAC; Hamden: SCC
Class/School type -- Danbury: LL (Public); Hamden: LL (Public)
Towns -- Danbury (Pop: 80,893; Median household income: $65,275); Hamden: (Pop: 60,960; Median household income: $79,943).
Player to watch -- Danbury: Sr. QB Anfernee Ith; Hamden: Sr. LB/TE Aaron Green
The story lines -- These teams actually met a year ago and Hamden had the advantage late before a safety led to a Hatters 15-14 victory. Both programs are two of the state's largest, but haven't had much success to show for it recently. They were both 2-8 a season ago. 
Update: A wrinkle was added when Hamden  announced that coach Tony Martone had stepped down in favor of assistant Todd Dowty. Though the school confirmed the change just a day before the season opener, it appears as if the change had been in the works for weeks, if not months. Weird.
SPB's Pick -- Danbury

Fairfield Prep at Stamford

When -- 7 p.m. 6 p.m.
Where -- Robustelli Field at Boyle Stadium, Stamford
League -- Fairfield Prep: SCC; Stamford: FCIAC
Class/School type -- Fairfield Prep: LL (Private-Jesuit; Tuition $17,500); Stamford: LL (public)
Towns -- Fairfield Prep: Fairfield (draws primarily from both NH and Fairfield County); Stamford: (Pop: 125,109; Median household income: $72,315)
Player to watch -- Fairfield Prep: Jr. OL/DL Anthony Palozzo; Stamford: Sr. RB Cameron Webb
The story lines -- After a late-collapse in 2012, Fairfield Prep is rallying behind a motto: "Start fast, finish strong." They have a starting cast of several massive college-bound linemen, particularly Nick Crowle (Yale), Tony Fox (Forham) and Palazzo, a beast who already has the attention of a handful of colleges. Conversely, Stamford's undersized and hopes its speed can carry it in new coach Jamar Greene's first game. These old schools used to meet regularly from 1942-1977. Stamford leads the series 16-14-3.
SPB's Pick -- Fairfield Prep

Trinity Catholic at Sheehan

When -- 7 p.m.
Where  -- Riccitelli Field, Wallingford
League -- Trinity Catholic: FCIAC; Sheehan: SCC
Class/School type -- Trinity Catholic: Private-Catholic (Tuition: $11,500): S; Sheehan: M (Public)
Towns -- Trinity: Stamford (draws from Stamford, Fairfield County); Sheehan: Wallingford (Pop: 45,135; Median household income: $71,317)
Player to watch -- Trinity Catholic: Sr. DB Nino Merritt; Sheehan: Sr. ATH Jeremy Gannon.
The story lines -- Trinity is coming off its first state playoff appearance in 20 years, but has a new coach in Donny Panapada and almost a brand-new starting lineup. Sheehan would love to break a hex that dates back to 1995. Though few are picking it to improve much on last year's 4-6 campaign, the team at least has some stars to rally behind.
SPB's Pick -- Trinity Catholic

Trumbull at Shelton

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Finn Stadium, Shelton
League -- Trumbull: FCIAC; Shelton: SCC
Class/School type -- Trumbull: LL (public); Shelton: LL (public)
Towns -- Trumbull: (Pop: 36,018; Median household income: $102,059); Shelton: (Pop: 39,559; Median household income: $80,656).
Player to watch -- Trumbull: Sr. QB Nick Roberts; Shelton: Sr. LB/RB Jason Thompson
The story lines -- Behold the twain of the SCC-FCIAC rivalry. These two towns share history across a long border in Fairfield County, but rarely play each other. The last time was the 1995 state championship which pitted Shelton coach Joe Benanto vs. Trumbull's Jerry McDougall. Benanto and Shelton prevailed 14-7. Both McDougall's and Benanto's proteges will be on opposite sidelines: Shelton's Jeff Roy and Trumbull's Bob Maffei. "I think this will be one of the most competitive games on the schedule," Maffei said.
SPB's Pick -- Shelton.

Wilbur Cross at McMahon

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Casagrande Field, Norwalk
League -- Cross: SCC; McMahon: FCIAC
Class/School type -- Cross: L (Public); McMahon: LL (Public)
Towns -- Cross: New Haven (Pop: 129,779; Median household income: $38,963); McMahon: Norwalk (Pop: 85,603; Median household income: $76,161)
Player to watch -- Cross: Sr. RB/LB Jaylin Fuller; McMahon: Sr. RB Trevon Forney.
The story lines -- History lesson: Both schools are named after prominent Connecticut politicians and Yale graduates (McMahon from Yale Law) whose careers crossed paths in the mid 20th Century. Wilbur Cross served as Governor in the 1930s and appointed a young McMahon as a Norwalk city judge. That kicked off McMahon's career which ultimately led to the U.S. Senate. McMahon was a force behind the creation of the Atomic Energy Commission He called the detonation of the first atomic bomb, "the most important thing in history since the birth of Jesus Christ," but campaigned for a peaceful application. ...Yeah, so anyway, Wilbur Cross and Brien McMahon are now playing football. There will be no peaceful applications of the game. These programs are desperate to have winning seasons.
SPB's Pick -- McMahon

Wilton at Guilford

When -- 7 p.m.
Where -- Kavanaugh Field, Guilford
League -- Wilton: FCIAC; Guilford: SCC
Class/School Type: Wilton: L (public); Guilford: L (public)
Towns -- Wilton (Pop: 18,062; Median household income: $153,770); Guilford: (Pop: 10,389; Median household income: $98,411)
Player to watch -- Wilton: Sr. QB Brett Phillips; Guilford: Sr. QB Joey Nault.
The story lines -- With Nault at the controls and a strong backfield, Guilford is a favorite in SCC Division II, Wilton is just trying to move up the FCIAC ladder. At QB, Wilton features Brett Phillips, who is the son of former Mets GM Steve Phillips) and Wilton usually has big linemen to help the team gain chunks of yardage. This could be one of the better games on the SCC-FCIAC slate. It's certainly key for Guilford's Class L playoff hopes.
SPB's Pick -- Guilford.


Notre Dame-West Haven at St. Joseph

When -- 1:30 p.m.
Where -- Dalling Sports Complex, Trumbull
League -- Notre Dame: SCC; St. Joseph: FCIAC
Class/School type: Notre Dame: L (Private-Catholic; Tuition: $10,200); St. Joseph: M (Private-Catholic; Tuition $13,300)
Towns -- Notre Dame: West Haven (draws from NH County); St. Joseph: Trumbull (draws from Fairfield, NH Counties)
Player to watch -- Notre Dame: Sr. RB Cameran Tucker; St. Joseph: Sr. QB Jordan Vazzano
The story lines -- The two Catholic programs met nine times from 1985 to 1993 and were members of the short-lived All Catholic Conference. They haven't played since ND joined the newly-formed SCC and St. Joseph the FCIAC in 1994. St. Joseph is supposed to be a state championship contender in Class M. Notre Dame last won a state title in 2009.
SPB's Pick -- St. Joseph

Awright, who do you got? List who you think will win in the comments.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's my picks:

September 11, 2013 at 8:52 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

did i miss it, or is there NO write up in today's NH Reg. newstand ?

September 11, 2013 at 9:01 AM 
Blogger oxy mule said...

SPB after seeing Shelton you honestly think Trumbull is better? I don't doubt you so please fill me in on the Eagles, because I think Shelton will maul them

September 11, 2013 at 9:15 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great preview, should be some exciting football.

September 11, 2013 at 9:49 AM 
Blogger Sean Patrick Bowley said...

@CIACFollower - You missed it. NHR paper had a big blowout story yesterday to go with the state poll.

Also: Sorry Trumbull fans, TYPO. I'm picking Shelton.

September 11, 2013 at 9:56 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your income figures are wrong. As examples... Milford is wrong. For Trumbull you are using 2010 Family data but for Shelton you are using 2000 household data. Different metrics from completely different years. Maybe under reporting SCC financials helps with your lunch pale theme.

September 12, 2013 at 10:57 AM 
Blogger Sean Patrick Bowley said...

Dammit. You're going to make me go through and proof read this thing again?

I have a list, the household and family are listed side-by-side and my eyes tend to skip between the two.

I wasn't using the figures to make my point, because perception is reality. They were just facts.

September 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM 
Blogger Sean Patrick Bowley said...

Yea, damn I was way off on Shelton/Trumbull. I think Shelton's figure was from 2000 census, the MHHI is 80K and Trumbull's is more like 100k

September 12, 2013 at 11:37 AM 

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