Archive for November, 2007

Championship Dreams
November 30, 2007

The Best Saturday of The Year

What started in the swelter of August ends in the chill of December. Six state champs get crowned, 2 games get shown live on CPTV (Class S @ 1:30pm & Class L @ 6:30pm) and we promise the most fun (and memorable) 15 minutes in Connecticut television that night with FNF on Channel 3 – Are you ready?

A Buffet Of Interviews

On Wednesday the CIAC hosted its annual pre-finals football luncheon in Cheshire. All 12 head coaches and captains from each team were invited to attend. It made for a delicious buffet of interviews but not enough time for yours truly to grab anything from the actual lunch buffet itself. Never thought of that diet before, get so busy with work — you have no time to eat. It was a great event and a very productive one for all media members who attended — appearing to me that the media attended in record numbers.

Here are some thoughts on each of the 6 state title matchups:

Class LL – Greenwich vs. Shelton – 7pm – SCSU – New Haven

Take away a week 6 home loss to Hand in which tailback Andre Henderson was injured and did not play and the Gaels come into this game undefeated. Greenwich has the one loss to Florida’s #1 ranked team – Naples – and by all accounts seems better off and more confident due to its’ trip to the Sunshine State. I was thoroughly impressed with Cardinals star running back Jonathan Meyers upon meeting and speaking with him for the first time on Wednesday.

Too much been there, done that from Greenwich for Shelton to overcome:

Greenwich 27 Shelton 14

Click here to hear my podcast with Shelton Head Coach Jeff Roy)



Class L – Bunnell vs. Masuk – 7pm – West Haven – (CPTV)

LIVE coverage on CPTV with Joe “Bonnie Bernstein” Zone roaming the sidelines. Of course that nickname has a long way to go to match UConn wide receiver recruit Mike Easley’s – “The Easy Button” . Beating Masuk for a third time this season won’t be easy for Bunnell but it does happen:

Bunnell 24 Masuk 20

P.S. If Bunnell wins and Ansonia and Greenwich happen to lose, could the Bulldogs finish #1 in the final Poll?

Class MM – Daniel Hand vs. New Canaan – 2pm – Trumbull

New Canaan goes for back to back Class M championships. Hand shoots for a second title in three seasons and tenth overall. All this on the line and a 15 year old will be the difference? Yes. Hand sophomore quarterback Nick Merullo stepped in for the Tigers in Week 6 and has become so good so quickly coach Steve Filippone tells me he expects Merullo to go down as one of the best ever in Madison before he graduates.

For more on Merullo and his dad, Matt, who played catcher in the big leagues, click here.

Hand 31 New Canaan 22

Class M – Ledyard vs. Berlin – 2pm – CCSU – New Britain

Will he or won’t he? Will legendary Ledyard head coach Bill Mignault coach his last game Saturday? He says he hasn’t decided. A win will help make the decision for him. Berlin plays it tight in its’ first ever State Finals appearance but the Grandfather – Bill – and his quarterback playing grandson – Marc go out together on top.

Ledyard 38 Berlin 34

Ledyard Bill Mignault

Click here to hear my podcast interviews with both Bill Mignault

Berlin Jim Connelly

Click here to hear my podcast interview with Berlin’s 3 year starter at Quarterback Jim Connelly

Class SS – Seymour vs. Tolland – 7pm – Trumbull

Before Tuesday’s state semifinal with NVL rival (and Thanksgiving opponent) Woodland – Seymour head coach Paul Sponheimer declared that that game was for the SS Championship. It’s a proclamation that quickly ended up as bulletin board material for the underdog Eagles from Tolland. Trust me when I say players, coaches and parents alike feel Tolland is getting the short shrift despite their recent success. Look for them to gain some motivation from that perceived disrespect.

Coach is right though. The SS Championship was won Tuesday night for Seymour.

Seymour 42 Tolland 7

Class S – Ansonia vs. New London – 2pm – West Haven (CPTV)

The Grandaddy of ’em all – and I’m not talking about Bill Mignault. This is by the far the most hyped and most highly anticipated game of the day. Mighty Ansonia vs. Jack Cochran and his Whalers. Can New London slow down Chargers running back and Gatorade State Player of the Year Alex Thomas? Will Ansonia put up more than the 7.2 points New London is allowing opponents this season?

Yes. The Chargers will score 24. Thomas will rush for just under 200 yards and Joe Zone will get showered by Gatorade in the postgame celebration and need to rush out to pick up a new jacket before roaming the sidelines for the CPTV nightcap. Of course for a pledge of $150.00 Joe could get a UConn Women’s pullover from CPTV during halftime. The way Maya Moore and company are playing – it might be worth it!

Ansonia 24 New London 20

Ansonia Erik Kuraczea

Click here to hear my podcast chat with Ansonia senior lineman (and UConn bound) Erik Kuraczea



When it’s all said and done Saturday night, Channel 3 will have brought you highlights from north of 130 high school football games this season. It’s a team effort we’re very proud of.

Hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage. As always, we welcome your feedback.

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week:

Best Christmas song? Hands down, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Want to feel proud about what young Americans are doing for our country in Iraq and what impression one of them is making on a Connecticut high school football team?

Take 3 minutes to watch our FNF story on Justin Clough (click here)

Enjoy the games! See you Saturday night at 11:15pm for FNF.

John

The Magnificent Seven
November 16, 2007

With most schools playing either Thanksgiving Eve or Thanksgiving morning, there are only 7 games tonight followed by 8 more on Saturday. Look for FNF to get to 6 of tonight’s games and maybe the whole Magnificent Seven.

You Go Girl!

Despite all the testosterone that fuels FNF week in and week out, the fairer sex has played a very key role in recent weeks.

On our November 2nd show, Michelle Mace helped steal the show when at halftime she accepted the marriage proposal of New Britain Head Coach Paul Morrell (click here). Definitely one of the more memorable FNF moments in the show’s history.

That same night, Lavida Rodriguez appeared in our FNF show open (click here) as her alter ego — The Weaver Beaver. I got to know The Beav a little bit that day since our shoot at Weaver caused her to miss a bus to her job at the Buckland Hills. I ended up giving her a ride to Manchester after we both decided she should not wear the Beaver outfit in my car as to avoid stares at her in the passenger seat.

Last week, the North Branford Cheerleaders took over our Rocky Hill studios with a LIVE appearance on the show (click here for pictures | click here for video). Spelling F-N-F with their pom-poms was cool, chanting my name and Joe Zone’s name in a cheer — even cooler!

We won’t have any cheerleaders LIVE on FNF this week but we will have the Hillhouse High School Marching Band. I’m looking forward to some high energy at 333 Capital Boulevard!

Who has the best turkey………day football tradition in Connecticut?

Mashed potatoes and stuffing are not a factor with this question. It’s our Sports Sunday question of the week and your chance to weigh in on what is the best Thanksgiving Day high school football rivalry in the state. Early returns favor rivalries like Bristol Central-Bristol Eastern, NaugatuckAnsonia and the interstate border battle between Westerly, R.I. and Stonington.

Share your thoughts with an e-mail to sports3@wfsb.com

Helmets Off to The Chargers & Bulldogs

Congrats to Ansonia (NVL) and Bunnell (SWC) who both won their respective league championship games last night. Ansonia beat Woodland 41-0 at Municipal Stadium in Waterbury with both coaches agreeing to substitute JV players at the 11:56 mark of the Third Quarter. The great Bob Sagendorf (calling the game for WATR) wondered aloud whether Woodland was mailing it in last night and if that tainted the game. Great food for thought.

Man On A Mission

Tonight on FNF, we put the feature spotlight on the Kennedy Eagles out of Waterbury. Kennedy is lead by 3rd year head coach Chris Sarlo. Sarlo and his team are a fascinating story – a lot more fascinating than you might imagine a (2-7) team to be.

Podcast: Kennedy’s Chris Sarlo

Sarlo was the only applicant for the job 3 years ago. He would proceed to lead the Eagles to a victory that snapped a 43 game winless streak. Coach Sarlo is tireless, rising each morning at 4am to deliver newspapers before heading into Kennedy to teach social studies and then coach football. The football job at Kennedy is a challenging one with equipment issues, new City of Waterbury Board of Education academic eligibility issues to contend with, no practice or game day trainer provided by the city and a group of kids who are starving for direction and a male role model in their lives. You’ll want to tune in to hear Chris speak candidly and passionately about his hopes, frustrations and dreams for the Kennedy program. Chris is also my podcast interview guest this week (click here).

Games We’ll Be Watching

East Catholic at Berlin – Friday 7pm

The Redcoats are in the Class M playoffs with a win. It’s a near lock too with East Catholic struggling (1-8) in their first season since their co-op team with Cheney Tech was broken up.

Weaver at New Britain – Friday 7pm

The Beavers aspire to join Berlin in the Class M playoff field but can’t afford a slip up tonight or on Thanksgiving vs. city rival Hartford Public.

Avon at Ellington/Somers – Saturday 1:30pm

Ellington/Somers needs a win here and at Tolland on Thanksgiving morning to maintain its spot in the Class MM playoffs and hold off a fast charging , explosive North Haven team. A win for Avon would keep its playoff dreams alive though they’ll also need Weaver and Jonathan Law to slip up.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman says the team won’t negotiate with Alex Rodriguez if he opts out of his contract to become a free agent. ARod opts out (by arrogantly having his agent announce it during Game 4 of the World Series). Hank Steinbrenner then says the door is shut on Rodriguez’ future with the team.

A few weeks later and ARod is ready to re-sign with New York?

In a word, pitiful. These two deserve each other

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF.

-John

They Meet Again
November 9, 2007

Blue & Gold(en) Illustrated

It’s not the latest issue of Notre Dame propaganda, it’s tonight’s matchup in Southington between the 3rd ranked, undefeated Blue Knights and the (7-1), visiting New Britain Golden Hurricanes. This game has had big meaning in recent years and tonight is no different. New Britain needs a win to keep its’ Class LL playoff hopes alive while Southington could get its first real test of the season. This one produced a real thriller in Week 9 a year ago as Southington drove for the winning score in the final 2:30. This after, New Britain had taken the lead on a long touchdown return off a blocked field goal try. One reporter at the game (ok … it was Joe Zone) called it the greatest drive to finish a high school game that he’d ever seen in person. Judge for yourself: Get the game here

Thursday Makes Some Noise

What is the most nondescript day of the week? Hope you didn’t hesitate. Hands down, it’s Tuesday.

Thursday finishes second, but last night, it put even more distance between itself and the troubled day that is Tuesday. (Think about it … what’s the most famous Tuesday? Fat Tuesday! – Not very flattering!)

Two notable Thursday games in high school football:

Bassick of Bridgeport ended its 63-game losing streak with a 20-18 win over city rival Harding. Tim Parry, who does an incredible job with his FCIAC Blog has video of the field goal block Bassick made as time expired to ice the win: fciacfootballblog.com

Meantime, in Seymour, Ansonia won the battle of Valley unbeatens 20-12 while Alex Thomas not only set the Connecticut career record for rushing touchdowns (with his 102nd), he also threw for the touchdown that proved to be the decisive score. How awesome are the Tank Engine’s stats? Check ’em out with these unofficial numbers (heading into last night’s game) courtesy of a big Thomas fan who’s a regular on the BIRDSEYESPORTS.COM message boards:

    SEASON (8 games)

  • 159 carries
  • 2305 yards
  • 288.12 yards/game
  • 34 TDs
  • 14.49 y/c
  • 4.67 c/TD
  • 19.87 c/game
  • 4.25 TD/game
  • CAREER (31 games)

  • 630 carries
  • 6988 yards
  • 225.42 yards/game
  • 101 TDs
  • 11.09 y/c
  • 6.23 c/TD
  • 20.32 c/game
  • 3.26 TD/game

Eastern Exposure

At 8-0 and with games remaining against Platt (tonight) and city rival Bristol Central (Thanksgiving Day) – look for Bristol Eastern and 4th year head coach Paul Philippon to finish undefeated. Philippon has completely changed the culture at Eastern. Last year’s Turkey day tie with an Aaron Hernandez lead (and favored) Central team was a sign of things to come.) Coach Philippon is my podcast interview this week and you can hear his comments by visiting our high school football page and clicking on podcasts.

Programming Notes

The T-Birds Cheerleaders from North Branford will join us LIVE in studio for FNF tonight at 11:15pm.

I’ve managed to get my hands on video of Daniel Hand’s game winning and game ending :27 second drive last Friday night go beat West Haven. You’ll see it tonight on Eyewitness News at 6pm in Sports. To see WFSB’s highlights from earlier in the game, click here

Games We’ll Be Watching

Hillhouse at Jonathan Law – Friday 7 p.m.

Jai Alai was once big in Milford. Tonight, football is big. The Lawmen are 7-1 and 5th in the Class M playoff point rankings. They’ve scored 47 or more points in their last 4 games and hung 63 on Guilford on the road last Friday night (http://www.wfsb.com/sports/10295501/detail.html). (6-2) Hillhouse is the defending State Champ in Class M and presents a huge obstacle. Law needs a win and needs Middletown to beat Berlin tomorrow and or New Britain to beat Weaver next week to jump into the top 4 in Class M.

Greenwich at Naples (Fla.) – Friday 7 p.m.

An intriguing matchup. The 2nd ranked team in the state of Connecticut travels to play the 8th ranked team in the state of Florida. Will it be ugly for the Yankee boys from CT? Greenwich radio station WGCH will stream the game through their Web site.

Berlin at Middletown – Saturday 1:30 p.m.

A game with huge playoff implications. Middletown is 3rd in Class MM, Berlin 3rd in Class M. The losing team likely misses the postseason. Hey – Middletown – get lights! Or play select games at Palmer Field – games like this are meant for Friday night.

Completely Unrelated Thought Of The Week:

News anchors and Weathermen, stop saying “near miss”. As in there was a “near miss” above Laguardia Airport. To me, near miss (i.e. nearly missed) means they didn’t miss – and in fact they hit each other. That of course is not what “near miss” is intended to mean by the speaker.

I’m just some guy on TV, I may not be right. For further debate (and evidence that I really may not be right) visit their Web site.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF.

-John

You Can’t Script November
November 2, 2007

You can’t script November (and the first Saturday in December) when it comes to high school football in Connecticut. Isn’t that what they say?

Three more Friday nights of high school football: Thanksgiving Day. State Semifinal Tuesday. Championship Saturday — That’s the schedule for the next 30 days.

Are you ready?

If the season ended today, these would be my six picks for State Champions:

  • Class LL – Southington
  • Class L – Bunnell
  • Class MM – Daniel Hand
  • Class M – Ledyard
  • Class SS – Seymour
  • Class S – Ansonia

Nothing too daring about these picks. Though, Greenwich and Bristol Eastern are top-rated teams in their classes (LL & M) that I’m not picking.

More challenging and interesting to me is picking one team per class currently not qualifying as a top 4 playoff team in its’ class that will end up making the postseason.

Here are the picks:

  • Class LL – Bridgeport Central
  • Class L – Masuk
  • Class MM – North Haven
  • Class M – Avon
  • Class SS – Bullard Havens Tech
  • Class S – Northwest Catholic

I would love to hear what you think. Drop me an email at john.holt@wfsb.com

Plainville Lets Up 72 Points … In The First Quarter

And the opposing coach will not be suspended for violating the 50-point rule. That’s because it was a state playoff game in Kansas this week where Smith Center High School scored 72 on Plainville (Kansas) in the first quarter before going on to an 83-nothing final. And you think some of the state semifinal playoff games in Connecticut were mismatches last year?

How’d Smith Center get to 72 in the first Quarter? 7 running touchdowns, 1 passing touchdown, 1 defensive touchdown and 9 successful 2 points conversions.

For more read this: on ESPN

Beating The Odds

Tonight on FNF (11:15pm local time, international viewers should check their local listings for times and stations in their areas) – We’ll introduce you to Waterford Senior tight end & defensive end Jimmie White. Jimmie turned 18 on Wednesday and tells me he’s been in so many different foster homes and group homes growing up that he’s stopped counting. Jimmie lost both his parents to drug additions when he was just an infant.

Despite all he’s been through he’s making it work in Waterford and has his sights set on prep school or college where he’d like to play football. In tonight’s feature story, Jimmie talks about all the challenges he’s faced and some of the misconceptions people may have about foster kids. His story is a powerful one and quickly becoming a triumphant one.

Games We’ll Be Watching

West Haven at Daniel Hand – Friday 7pm

The Tigers are 7-0 and ranked 4th in the state. They’re fitting the surf club for another state championship flag and they’ve been winning the last 2 weeks behind sophomore quarterback Nick Merullo. Merullo replaced a suspended teammate who had been playing quarterback and proceeded to lead the Tigers to road wins at Shelton and Notre Dame-West Haven. Nick is the son of Connecticut native and former big league catcher Matt Merullo.

Cromwell at North Branford – Friday 6:30pm

This is just the 5th year of a varsity football program at Cromwell. The Panthers are headed for their 4th playoff appearance in 5 years. Coach Sal Morello is clearly doing something right, very right.

Naugatuck at Woodland – Friday 7pm

Both schools have one loss. Whoever gets one more tonight can likely say goodbye to any chance at the postseason. As if a valley football game needed something extra to make it special, right?

Completely Unrelated Thought Of The Week

I’m the father of a 15-month-old daughter and a becoming-more-curious-by-the-day 5-year-old daughter. Fellow parents, just wondering, what do you tell your kids when you’re driving on 84 or 91 and you pass one of those giant billboards for an Adult store in the area? How do you explain that one to kids? Why isn’t the state of Connecticut smart enough to ban these billboards?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Friday Night Football.

John

P.S. Catharsis. Plain and simple, Catharsis.