Football Preview: Championship games full of intriguing matchups, but bad weather forecasts forces CIAC to move all but Class LL title game to Monday

Published on Friday, 8 December 2017 22:26
Written by DAN ORENCOLE

STAFF WRITER

In state championship football games legacies are cemented, programs are spotlighted and seniors take the field for one last time looking to accomplish the common goal that all teams set in the preseason - winning a title.

The four state championship games all have a different story behind them. Some teams have been there before and some teams are in a new position. While true, each team took different paths to get this far and each will play in the biggest game of their season, with many looking on.

Although all four classes - S, M, L and LL - were scheduled to take place today, due to back weather forecasts, all but three have been rescheduled.

Class LL (No. 1 Greenwich against No. 3 Darien) will be the only state title game played today. The two teams will meet at 10 a.m. at Boyle Stadium in Stamford.

The Class L game between No. 2 Daniel Hand and No. 5 Masuk, which was to be played at Veterans Stadium in New Britain today, was moved to Trumbull High School Monday night at 6:30 p.m.

Veterans Stadium will still host the Class M title game (No. 1 Killingly against No. 6 Joel Barlow), but that game has also been moved to Monday night at 6:30 p.m.

The Class S game between No. 1 Ansonia and No. 2 St. Joseph will also be played Monday night at 6:30 p.m. The game will be at Cheshire High School.

Below is a breakdown of the four state championship games:

Class LL Title Game (Boyle Stadium): No. 1 Greenwich vs. No. 3 Darien

The Cardinals enter the game unbeaten with a 12-0 record while the Blue Wave have lost just one game all season - their Thanksgiving Day game against New Canaan - culminating in an 11-1 record.

In title games, Greenwich is 7-7 all time with the most recent championship coming in 2007. Darien isn’t long off its most recent state championship, having won the last two LL titles.

This should be an interesting game between the two schools, who have met as recently as last season during the first round of the playoffs no less. Darien beat the Cardinals 29-3, ending their playoff run.

The matchup between the two will be a battle of one of the top offenses in the state against one of the elite defenses.

Greenwich averages 44 points per game offensively and has scored 63 points in two playoff wins over No. 8 Fairfield Prep (27-6) and No. 4 South Windsor (36-7)

For the Blue Wave in the playoffs defensively, they have given up 23 points total but have also scored 57 points on the offensive side of the ball in the two wins over No. 6 East Hartford (30-10) and No. 7 West Haven (27-13).

It won’t be easy against Cardinals junior quarterback Gavin Muir, who comes into the championship game with 2,621yards passing with 31 touchdown passes on the season including four in the playoffs.

But while Muir is a threat, Greenwich also has a strong running back in Tysen Comizio, who ran for 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the semifinal win over South Windsor.

Look for Blue Wave defensive end Drew Evanchick to have a big game if Darien comes away with the victory. In the semifinal win over West Haven, Evanchick had 2.5 sacks and will need to pressure Muir, forcing him to make quick decisions.

Class L Title Game (Trumbull HS): No. 2 Daniel Hand vs. No. 5 Masuk

In order to reach the title game, the fifth-seeded Panthers (11-1) beat No. 4 Fitch 43-7 in the quarterfinals and then No. 8 New Canaan 28-14.

For the second-ranked Tigers (11-1), their two wins to get to the championship game were a 35-13 win over No. 7 North Haven in the quarterfinals followed up by a 31-6 win over No. 3 Windsor in the semifinals.

Daniel Hand hasn’t won a state championship since 2012 while Masuk hasn’t won one since 2010. Both programs have had different results in the title games. The Panthers are 3-6 while the Tigers have been successful with an 11-6 championship record.

The player to watch will be Masuk senior quarterback Matt Hersch. His 2,946 passing yards rank third in the state and he has a pair of go-to receivers in seniors Ryan Shaw (45 catches, 813 yards, 10 touchdowns) and Nick Lorusso (32 catches, 676 yards, 10 scores).

Daniel Hand has a balanced offensive attack with a less experienced quarterback in sophomore Phoenix Billings.

While inexperienced, Billings has been a threat this season both through the air with 1,538 passing yards and on the ground and another 580 on the ground. Overall, he has a 28 total touchdowns on the season.

Billings has been carrying the load with the absence of Delvantae Hutton who has been out with an injury after playing eight games this season.

Brian Casagrande has also been picking up some offensive slack but his true presence is on defense at middle linebacker as he comes into the game with 115 total tackles on the season.

Class M Title Game (Veterans Stadium): No.1 Killingly vs. No. 6 Joel Barlow

This championship game will be between two programs, which find themselves in an unfamiliar position.

The Killingly Redmen (12-0) come into the title game with a 2-1 all-time record in title games, with their last championship win coming in 1996. The Falcons (9-3), meanwhile, will be in a familiar role as underdog, but will be playing in their first ever state championship contest and are the lowest seeded team to make the title game this year.

In order to get to the Class M championship, the Redmen won their quarterfinal matchup over No. 8 Jonathan Law 57-21 and then beat No. 4 Berlin 49-7 in the semifinals.

Joel Barowl beat No. 3 Sheehan 47-34 in the quarterfinals and then topped No. 7 SMSA/University/Class 53-14 in its semifinal matchup.

Both teams offensive game plan will be no secret, as there is no shortage of running talent in this contest.

Killingly brings the state’s best tailback in Spencer Lockwood, who has over 3,000 rushing yards on the season and 42 touchdowns to go with it. The senior leads Connecticut in both those categories and rushed for 317 yards and four touchdowns against the Redcoats.

For Joel Barlow, quarterback Trevor Furrer may not be listed as a tailback but he’s one of the most dangerous runners the state has to offer as he comes in ranked fifth in Connecticut in rushing yards with 1,731 on the season to go with 13 touchdowns. Furrer has run for 476 yards and three touchdowns in the postseason.

Class S Title Game (Cheshire HS): No. 1 Ansonia vs. No. 2 St. Joseph

This has the makings to be a highly competitive and formidable game between the top two ranked teams in Class S in Ansonia (12-0) and St. Joseph (11-1).

Both programs have seen great success in title games.

The Chargers hold a 20-10 state championship record and come in as the defending champions and winners of four of their last six championship game appearances. This will be their eighth consecutive season playing in a title game

The Cadets, meanwhile, won their last state championship in 2014 after losing the Class M title to Hillhouse 42-21 last season.

Both teams made easy work of their first two opponents in the playoffs.

Ansonia beat No. 8 Seymour 51-16 in the quarterfinals and then won 52-19 over No. 5 Stafford/East Windsor/Somers in the semifinals.

St. Joseph showed off their high powered offense with a 62-0 win in the quarterfinal matchup with No. 7 O’Brien Tech and a 49-20 semifinal win over No. 3 Rocky Hill.

There will also be no shortage of talent on the field in this one despite the Chargers and Cadets will play different styles of offense.

Markell Dobbs from Ansonia is the state’s third leading rusher while St. Joseph’s quarterback David Summers can shred opposing secondaries as he comes in second in the state with 2,962 passing yards. Summers 44 touchdown passes ranks first.

This game will likely come down to whether or not Dobbs and Ansonia can limit the time Summers has to work the field.

Dan Orencole can be reached at 860-973-1811 or  dorencole@bristolpress.com

On Twitter: @OrencoleDan



Posted in Newington Town Crier, General Sports, on Friday, 8 December 2017 22:26. Updated: Friday, 8 December 2017 22:28.