Archive for October, 2006

And Now This Message From The Department Of Inspiration
October 26, 2006

If you’re looking for a little inspiration look no further than these 3 Connecticut High School football players.

New Britain Junior Luis “B.J.” Aponte:

As a young kid the standout running back for New Britain High could not walk without a limp, a very noticeable limp. He was the target of ridicule because of foot and ankle problems that made him limp. B.J. never stopped wanting to play sports like other kids could. People who’ve known him for years are shocked that he’s now doing what he is….tearing up opposing defenses with touchdown runs. It is a testament to his hard work and will power.

Holy Cross Senior Mike Croce:

The Crusaders Quarterback is drawing both Division 1A and 1AA interest from recruiters. Rather remarkable considering that his freshman year, while playing for the Junior Varsity in a game at Torrington, he suffered severe spleen and kidney injuries. The kidney injury was much like the one recently suffered by Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Chris Simms. Croce was originally taken to Waterbury hospital before being airlifted to Hartford due to the serious nature of his injuries. He was told that should kidney removal be necessary, he’d never play again. Luckily it wasn’t. Croce returned to non contact action in the spring and late in his sophomore season that fall he became the starting varsity quarterback. Ever since the Crusaders have been one of the winningest teams in the state. We’ll be profiling Mike’s story this week on Friday Night Football.

Branford Senior Greg Barron:

Shortly after the Hornets won the Class MM State Championship last season with a win over East Lyme, Senior center to be Greg Barron got the news. He was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia. Doctors tell him it’s likely he played with the disease in his body for the final 4 games of the season. Barron now receives chemotherapy treatment though a port implanted in the side of his body. Amazingly he’s been strong enough to see the field for the Hornets this season, kicking extra points on occasion. One day he’s at practice, the next he’s getting chemo, the next he’s kicking an extra point. Inspired yet? His teammates were. Enough to urge Coach Gary Gravina to make Greg a special team captain this season.

And Then There Was One…….Plus 13 Others

Heading into Week 7, 14 teams across the state have an undefeated (and untied) record. What are the chances that each finishes the regular season that way? Here are my best guesses:

Class LL

Southington – Very good. Biggest test will be a November 10th collision with New Britain on the road.

Greenwich – Very good. 37-6 win last week over a good Bridgeport Central team served notice about how talented the Cardinals are. Thanksgiving brings a meeting with Staples of Westport but I think Greenwich wins that rivalry game to head into the playoffs at (10-0)

Naugatuck – Not good. The Greyhounds have yet to play the iron of the NVL. Remaining games with Seymour, Holy Cross, Woodland and Ansonia suggest that an (8-2) finish is much more likely than (10-0)

Class L

West Haven – Very good. With a televised game versus Xavier behind them, the Blue Devils have a serious chance at being undefeated. They just can’t look past Fairfield Prep at home on Turkey Day.

Bunnell – Good. City rival Stratford (5-1 and currently third in the Class S Playoff Standings) provides the biggest road block the night before Thanksgiving.

Staples – 50/50. I like Greenwich to beat the Wreckers on Thanksgiving.

Masuk – 50/50. A couple close wins for the Monroe school have me thinking they may stumble in a November 10th home game with Stratford. Stay tuned.

Class MM

No undefeated teams.

Class M

Windham – Good. Make no mistake about it, the Whippets will be tested. They have 5 games left including Norwich Free Academy, East Lyme and a November 11th trip to New London. It won’t be easy but I say they do it and hand the Whalers their first loss in the process.

Hillhouse – Very Good. A win this Friday afternoon over visiting Shelton and I feel the Academics will go on to a second consecutive undefeated regular season.

Class SS

Holy Cross – Very Good. Naugy will provide some resistance next Friday night but the Crusaders won’t be truly tested until a likely November 16th NVL Championship game with Ansonia. For the record I’m not counting that game as part of the regular season.

Class S

Cromwell – Good. Would be very good except the Panthers face a serious test from fellow undefeated North Branford two weeks from Saturday.

North Branford – Not good. Gotta beat Cromwell at their place to do it and then take out Hyde Leadership 6 days later. The Howling Wolves have lost exactly once in their last 30 games – last week to Cromwell!

New London – Not good. The Whalers are off this week but return to face Ledyard and undefeated Windham after that. If they do stay perfect I’d be dually impressed!

Ansonia – Very good. Not sure if Alex Thomas and the Chargers will lose another game anytime before Thomas and the talented Junior class graduate.

Nothing Happening At Fermi

6 games for the Fermi Falcons and zero points. The Enfield school can’t be having a lot of fun this season. Count me among those rooting hard for Fermi to score and win! There’s apparently been some very close calls. A fumble inside the 5 following a long interception perhaps topping the list. For the record, the running score is Opponents: 244 Fermi: 0

Some Quick Week 7 Thoughts:

Games We’ll Be Watching:

Naugatuck at Seymour (Are the (6-0) Greyhounds for real? We’ll start to find out with this DeBarber field matchup)

Maloney at Bristol Eastern (How will the Spartans respond after suffering their first loss last week to Bristol Central? Coincidentally it came at the same location at this week’s game, Bristol’s Muzzy Field)

Northwest Catholic at Middletown (Saturday, 1:30pm – It’s a big challenge on Homecoming for the Blue Dragons. An even bigger challenge may be playing this game on Saturday due to the rain. Look for it (and others across the state) to be postponed until Sunday or beyond)

Things We’ll Be Wondering:

Why weren’t Holy Cross and Ansonia scheduled to play in the regular season?

Why do we have to set the clocks back? I hate it when it gets dark earlier. With all due respect to school kids and farmers, who else is in favor of morning daylight at the expense of late afternoon daylight?

Could former State Player of the Year (at Bristol Central) and UConn Quarterback D.J. Hernandez’ skills be utilized somewhere other than at QB? He’s such a great athlete I think Randy Edsall should give it serious thought.

Completely Unrelated Thought Of The Week:

I’ve figured out what the worst job in America is. You know when your computer crashes and it asks whether or not you want to send an error report? Who’s the guy who gets all those reports? Does he wear a Captain Complaints name tag?

See you Friday at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

Advertisements

No Doubting Thomas
October 20, 2006

The Week 5 effort from Ansonia Junior running back Alex Thomas is worth noting before we look ahead to what should be a very interesting Week 6 schedule.

Last Thursday night versus Seymour (in a battle of undefeated teams) Thomas ran for a staggering 345 yards and 5 touchdowns on just 13 carries. That’s an amazing 26 plus yards a carry! Thomas is only 5 foot 9 but still a dominating force. What’s impressed me even more is what others have to say about Alex’s character. Seymour Coach Paul Sponheimer and Watertown standout running back Ryan Culbertson are two voices I’ve read in print commending Thomas on both his ability and his character. I’ve yet to meet Alex Thomas in person…….I look forward to the opportunity.

Edsall No Fan of Friday

UConn Head Coach Randy Edsall and his Huskies play Friday night hosting 4th ranked West Virginia and Edsall wishes the game was being played Saturday instead. Not because the extra day of preparation would make much difference versus the heavily favored Mountaineers but rather because Edsall believes that Friday should be exclusively for high school football, Saturday for college football. He acknowledges that the money infusion from television dictates when most schools will play. The notable exceptions being the Pac 10 and the Big Ten that have the clout to dictate Saturday only games in their television contracts.

It disappointed me last season when UConn hosted Louisville on High School Championship Saturday in early December opposite 3 nighttime state title games. The two teams will meet again this year on the same day but this time in Kentucky. Here’s hoping UConn is wise enough to avoid scheduling future home dates that conflict with State Championship Saturday. Better yet leaving Rentschler Field open that day allows for the possibility that Connecticut’s premier outdoor venue could host some of the high school title games.

Lamont & Lieberman? No, Birdseye & WELI!

While the latest poll for the Connecticut Senate race is of some interest in this corner, I’m much more intrigued by all the state High School Football Polls. The Day of New London’s Coaches Poll (Ansonia the new #1 this week) and the New Haven Register’s Media Poll (West Haven holding strong at #1) aren’t the only polls worth checking on. The Hartford Courant runs its’ weekly rankings on Thursday while the home of the great Coach George DeMaio, Newstalk 960 WELI, posts a weekly Top Ten and our FNF partner Birdseye Sports boasts the Big 60 Poll.

WELI Link

Birdseye Top 60

Friday Night Lights

I’d be interested to hear reader comments on the new NBC show Friday Night Lights based on the best selling H.G. Bissinger book and movie. I’ve watched a couple of episodes. Never knew high school football could be so dramatic. Then again, I’ve never lived in Texas.

One thing that does bother me? The way television sportscasters are portrayed on TV dramas and sitcoms. We’re not that obnoxious.

Also, ever wonder why television characters watching themselves on a local TV news report turn off the TV so quickly? Who does that? Are you getting me on this one?

Some Quick Week 6 Thoughts:

Games We’ll Be Watching

Maloney at Bristol Central (The undefeated Spartans and the Wing T offense will get the stiffest test of their season to date versus a one loss Rams team)

Xavier at West Haven (Once beaten Falcons can answer their critics in a serious road test that’ll be televised LIVE Friday night at 7pm by the Comcast Network – CN8)

Northwest Catholic at Berlin (Sage Park off the Berlin Turnpike is the place to be for what could be Friday’s most competitive big game battle)

Things We’ll Be Wondering

Was the one game portable lights experiment at New London last Friday night a precursor to permanent nocturnal illumination in the Whaling City?

What’s the latest with 2004 state Player of the Year Willie Harriott from Hyde Leadership in New Haven? (I actually know the answer and will share it with you on FNF this week during our Connecticut Collegians segment)

Has a Connecticut high school football game ever been broadcast LIVE to such a big audience as Comcast will give the West Haven – Xavier game? What a thrill for the Blue Devils and Falcons.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week:

Why is it that every office has one of them? The one guy who hits REPLY TO ALL instead of just REPLY when responding to a group email – Inevitably revealing something way too personal in his mass reply.

See you Friday at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

The Quest To Be Everywhere
October 18, 2006

Few things or people can be Everywhere. Dunkin’ Donuts being the notable exception.

Coincidentally, our ambitious motto at Eyewitness News is “Everywhere” and more than most we live up to it. On Friday Night Football, e gladly accept a little assistance in this department.

How do we do our best to cover the scene weekly from Putnam to Greenwich, Torrington to Stonington? We do it thanks to official and unofficial partners like News 12 Connecticut, Birdseye Sports and viewers like you.

Yeah, you! Last week, that “you” happened to be Richard Matt of Naugatuck who, after capturing a magical moment on tape, sent us a copy. We tabbed it The Run and shared it with our viewers across the state last Friday night. http://www.wfsb.com/hsfootball/10075066/detail.html

The beauty of the age we live in is that a lot of you own video cameras. Anything and everything from Everywhere can now gain a wide audience thanks to the World Wide Web (see YouTube). It’s a wonderful time to be alive, isn’t it?

Consider this a formal invitation to share your high school football video with us. Let me know about it. We’ll share it, we’ll show it, we’ll give you credit. E-mails to john.holt@wfsb.com

Cool or Creepy?
October 12, 2006

If you’re reading this Blog chances are you like high school football. I’d also venture to say many of you are part of an NFL Fantasy Football League. I am – why else would my Sunday afternoon get ruined because some guy named Vernand Morency was losing carries to his Packer teammate – the equally anonymous Noah Herron?

What would you think of combining the two? Not Morency & Herron – who still wouldn’t be as good as one healthy Ahman Green – I’m talking about combing Fantasy Football and high school players. Who would you draft #1 from the ranks of Connecticut High Schools? Bristol Central’s Aaron Hernandez? Ansonia’s Alex Thomas? This is actually being done by writers at the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minneapolis.

http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/sports/high_school/15401835.htm

Cool or Creepy? Not nearly as penetrating a question as a Mandel-esque “Deal of No Deal?”, but still thought provoking. I say creepy. There’s enough pressure in the teenage years. Who needs to be part of some guy’s fantasy team when the only fantasy you should be worried about is whether that cute girl in English class will be your prom date?

We take Friday Night Football seriously on Channel 3. Still, I approach our presentation in a careful manner. For example, as a rule, when showing an interception by the defense I’ll never directly mention (on the air) the quarterback’s name who threw the errant pass. Unless it’s crucial to the storyline there’s no need for it. The players we put the spotlight on every Friday night are kids, sometimes heroic , sometimes not. What they’re certainly not are commodities to be drafted in a Fantasy Football League.

New Addition To The Family

You’ll notice something different on the Friday Night Football set and I don’t mean a new tie Joe Zone has been planning to debut. We had a brand new Channel 3 football helmet delivered to us this week by Jim Tonelli, the local rep for the Riddell Company.

http://www.riddell.com/

It’s bigger and bolder than it’s predecessor and we thank Jim for his thoughtfulness. Another Thank You goes to WFSB Director Kevin Amenta who had painstakingly refurbished and painted the helmet that appeared on set the first 4 weeks of FNF this season. It’s since been transferred to our sister station, WFSB Classic.

Scheduling Outside The Box

Due to scheduling restraints and conference commitments it’s not often you see teams from different parts of the state meet each other in non conference games . It’s happening this week though as New Canaan hosts Bristol Eastern on Friday night. It shapes up as an intriguing matchup of two teams off to (3-1) starts. I’d like to see it happen more often. Imagine regular season matchups between New Britain and Greenwich or Ansonia and Cromwell? Why do we have to wait to the playoffs?

Pulling Rank On The Writers (And The Coaches)

I understand that at the moment a spot in the top ten of the New Haven Register’s Media Poll and The Day of New London’s Coaches Poll (always scrolling on our High School Football homepage) seems to require an undefeated record. However, to not have Bristol Cental in the top ten is a mistake. The Rams’ one loss came to highly regarded Southington in a game that Bristol Central lead 22-14 at halftime. BC All American Aaron Hernandez gets most of the pub but he’s got some talented teammates including Quarterback Matt Coyne and Wide Receiver Chris Janczyk.

Union Man

Every week on FNF we catch up with a former Connecticut High School star who’s now excelling at the next level.

http://www.wfsb.com/hsfootball/9862245/detail.html

While most of these guys are playing at the D-I or D-IAA level there are countless other Connecticut kids making their mark in Division II and Division III. One who came to my attention this week is former Holy Cross of Waterbury standout Patrick Mulrooney. The older brother of Boston College bound Holy Cross senior Dan Mulrooney, Patrick is one of 4 senior captains at Union College in Schenectady, New York.

The Fighting Dutchmen are off to a (4-1) start following an (11-1) season a year ago that ended in a second round loss in the D-3 national playoffs. Patrick Mulrooney is a 6’2 defensive lineman for Union and by my count one of fifteen Connecticut players on the Union roster.

Speaking of things Mulrooney, Dan (the future Eagle) was to spend Thursday night at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill watching Boston College host Virginia Tech. His Holy Cross teammate and quarterback Mike Croce (future Eagle himself?) was to join him on the trip.

Some Quick Week 5 Thoughts:

Games We’ll Be Watching

Hall at Bloomfield (After outscoring opponents 142-13 in their first 4 games, (4-0) Hall gets a serious step up in competition with a road game against the Warhawks)

St. Bernard / Norwich Tech At New London (Not sure what’s more exicting: A game between the (3-0-1) visitors and the (4-0) hosts or the very idea of Friday Night football at New London. This is the first night game in the history of the program.)

Bridgeport Central at Staples (Saturday 2:00pm, A battle of unbeatens with both teams ranked in the Day Top Ten. )

Things We’ll Be Wondering:

When will Hartford’s Dillon Stadium be available for the city’s high schools to use again? What’s with the delay with the work being done at Dillon?

How cool is the occasional Naugatuck Valley League Thursday night game? Heck, this week it’s a battle between Ansonia and Seymour!

Have we seen the last of the challenges to the 50 Point Rule this season? I doubt it.

See you Friday Night at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

The Underexposed Top Ten
October 8, 2006

4 weeks. 40 games. 60 schools. Those are the latest numbers as we aim to be EVERYWHERE in giving attention to high school football across Connecticut. Of course, you’ll see a lot more schools featured on Friday Night Football before the playoffs arrive in December. In that spirit I’ve come up with a Top Ten of teams that have yet to get their due on Channel 3, yet to be highlighted. Do stay tuned.

1. Greenwich (4-0) – Coincidentally the Cardinals are #1 in The Day State Coaches Poll

2. Hall (4-0) – West Hartford Football is hot as Conard is off to a (3-1) start

3. Masuk (4-0) – The Panthers are undefeated and 5th in the Class L playoff point rankings

4. Maloney (4-0) – Matchup with Bristol Central on 10/20 will speak volumes

5. Weaver (3-0) – 3 Wins for the Beavers, 2 shutouts

6. Cromwell (4-0) – #1 In Class S, meeting with Hyde in 2 weeks will be huge

7. Hyde Leadership (4-0) – See Cromwell above

8. Darien (4-0) – Blue Wave opened eyes with Saturday’s 21-14 win over Ridgefield

9. Berlin (4-0) – Traditionally solid program worth watching

10. Northwest Catholic (3-1) – Only loss of the season came to unbeaten New London

Others Receiving Votes (Note: I’m the only voter)

New Canaan, Newtown, Haddam-Killingworth, St. Joseph, St. Bernard / Norwich Tech

—————————————————————————-

What school would you like to see on Friday Night Football?

Let me know with an email to john.holt@wfsb.com

On Point or Pointless?
October 5, 2006

Week 4 of Friday Night Football is upon us and it’s high time I weigh in on the CIAC’s controversial 50 Point Rule that suspends for one game the coach of any team that beats an opponent by 50 or more points.

I say controversial but infamous may soon be the adjective of choice. Plain and simple: The rule is not working. My colleague Joe Zone calls it the Stop Trying Rule. He’s got a point there, I’ve got some others.

When is another team running up the score to an unnecessary degree? It’s tough to put in words, much less a hard and fast rule. Some Potter Stewart wisdom may explain it best , “I know it when I see it”. I knew it when I saw New London’s 90-0 blow out of Griswold last year as well I knew it wasn’t the case in Bridgeport Central’s 56-0 win this year over Bassick. The problem is that schools with such disparate programs are scheduled to play each other. A defeat Friday night to Fairfield Warde and Bassick’s losing streak will reach 50.

The flaws of the 50 Point Rule have been evident in various ways over the first 3 weeks of the season.

** After calling off the horses and inserting JV players in a blowout win over Waterford, Windham Coach Brian Crudden was left in a difficult spot when Waterford’s first stringers started scoring and executing onside kicks.

** Leading Bulkeley 47-0 in the second half, Hartford city rival Weaver was forced to take a knee every time they had the ball over the final 6 minutes. That’s football?

** Standout New Britain running back Luis “B.J.” Aponte was on his way to a potentially record setting evening last Friday vs. Platt. However, once the Golden Hurricanes built a lead approaching 50 points, Aponte saw just 1 carry in the second half. His 11 rushes for 245 yards and four touchdowns stands as a special night but what was the harm in letting him make a run at the record?

I don’t condone what then New London Coach Jack Cochran did when he embarrassed Griswold 90-0 last season. But, have you noticed what’s grown from that embarrassing afternoon for the Wolverines? They’re off to a 3-0 start this year and no doubt on point thanks in some part to what happened in the fall of 2005.

You can express your opinion on the CIAC’s 50 Point Rule be weighing in as part of our discussion forum:

http://forums.ibsys.com/viewmessages.cfm?sitekey=hart&Forum=872&Topic=14492

Speaking of Jack Cochran, his former team , the New London Whalers visit Fitch on Saturday morning. The first time the 2 programs have met since Cochran allegedly punched Fitch coach Jim Buonocore, Jr. outside an ECC football preseason weightlifting event. This was originally supposed to be a Friday night game. Due to concerns over tensions between the two programs it was moved to Saturday morning. Here’s hoping for peace in Groton.

Rising Above The Negativity

After attending a Hillhouse practice last week I was impressed with what I heard from senior Terrell Wilks who is drawing Division 1 interest from UConn, Syracuse, Maryland and others. Wilks stressed to me his desire to stay on the straight and narrow despite attending school in a New Haven neighborhood that’s seen excessive violence in recent weeks. Look no futrher than the Hillhouse / Xavier game of two weeks ago to get a feel for the real threat of violence in the area. Police reports indicate after a melee in the stands was broken up, a 9 millimeter gun was retrieved. A 15 year old arrested in the fight was shot and hospitalized the following Tuesday. Frightening.

To hear some of the wise perspective Terrell Wilks shared with me click here:

http://www.wfsb.com/sports/9968425/detail.html

All American Boy

Congratulations to Bristol Central Senior Aaron Hernandez for being selected to play in the U.S. Army All American Bowl on national television in San Antonio this January.

Here’s More:

http://www.wfsb.com/video/9968552/index.html

Vault Ahead To A Vault Of Highlights

Through the first 3 weeks of the high school season, Channel 3 has shown you highlights of 30 different high school games featuring 48 (and counting) different schools. If you’re just joining us or want a second look check out our very cool FNF VAULT feature (indexed by week):

http://www.wfsb.com/sports/9865850/detail.html

Some Quick Week 4 Thoughts:

Games We’ll Be Watching:

Ledyard At Windham (A Friday night clash of unbeatens in Willimantic with early season ECC bragging rights on the line)

West Haven at Notre Dame West Haven (Two more unbeatens square off. Wouldn’t it be great if Chick’s Drive In agreed to feed the winning team free of charge?)

Putnam at St. Bernard / Norwich Tech (The (2-0) Clippers are doing something they haven’t done much in recent years – WIN! Friday night they get their first road test.)

Things We’ll Be Wondering:

Is Bristol Central’s use of Aaron Hernandez on offense, defense and special teams taking a toll on his body? Cramps reportedly forced him out late during last Saturday’s showdown loss to Southington.

Is drafting players for a high school fantasy football league cool or sick? More on this next week.

How much must East Hartford coach Dan Lawrence being fuming inside after school administrators failed to appeal his suspension for violating the 50 point rule?

Completely Unrelated Thought Of The Week:

Has former Yankee pitcher Kevin Brown moved to another planet? I know he was injured last season, but I haven’t heard a thing since. Is he officially retired? Is he planning a comeback? Has a 211 game winner ever fallen off the map quicker?

See you Friday Night at 11:15pm for FNF!

John