Archive for October, 2008

The Suspense of 24
October 31, 2008

Not the Fox TV show but the 24 teams that are most likely to qualify for the CIAC playoffs – 4 from each of the 6 classes.

Here’s my breakdown heading into Week 8.  As always, I welcome your opinions with an email to john.holt@wfsb.com

Class LL

The Top 4 Right Now: Glastonbury, Hamden, Southington, Xavier

It’ll be different to not have Greenwich in the state playoffs this year.  The reigning LL champs already have 3 losses and check in at #14 in the playoff point standings.

Most Likely Of The Current 4 Not To Qualify: Southington.  The Blue Knights have yet to lose to an in state opponent but Glastonbury, New Britain (in a game played at RentschlerField) & Cheshire all loom on a brutal schedule.  It’s not hard to see the Blue Knights picking up another loss or two. With that said,  I voted Southington 4th in the state this week in the Register poll behind Ansonia, New Canaan and & New London.

Most Likely Team To Vault Into The Top 4: #8 Cheshire.  How impressive is Rams senior quarterback Billy Ragone? He’s already been offered scholarships by Army and Temple and may end up playing in the Ivy League.  Cheshire had 2 early season losses but if they win out – capped off by a second straight Thanksgiving victory over Southington they could squeak in at #4

Class Champion: Glastonbury. No one has come within 18 points of beating the Tomahawks this season.  They are having a state championship type of season.

Class L

The Top 4 Right Now: Masuk, Newington, Bunnell, Simsbury

There’s not an undefeated team left in Class L but there’s plenty of talent.  Simsbury is #4 with 91.43 points but #5 Crosby and #6 Windsor are right on the Trojans’ heels at 90.00.

Most Likely Of The Current 4 Not To Qualify:  Simsbury.  There is very little margin for error. Next Friday’s home game with New Britain is a must win.  A third loss will doom Simsbury’s playoff hopes.

Most Likely Team To Vault Into The Top 4: #6 Windsor. At one point this season I thought the Warriors had a chance to go undefeated. Back to back losses to Simsbury and Wethersfield blew that prediction up.  However, if New Britain does beat Simsbury next week the Warriors are in good shape if they can win out – which would include a victory next Friday night over Class MM #4 Weaver.

Class Champion:It’ll be Masuk vs. Bunnell yet again.  The winner?  Despite the crushing loss last week at home to Masuk I say Bunnell,  provided Rutgers bound wide receiver Mark Harrison is healthy (which he wasn’t for the second half last week).

Class MM

The Top 4 Right Now:  New Canaan, Darien, Hillhouse, Weaver

3 good undefeated teams at the top and all 3 ranked in the top 6 of both the Day of New London State Coaches’ Poll and the New Haven Register State Media Poll.  New Canaan and Darien meet each other on Thanksgiving.  I expect all 3 to make the playoffs. 

Most Likely Of The Current 4 Not To Qualify: Weaver is the only answer that makes any sense here.  The Beavers have no guaranteed wins in its’ 4 remaining games – Wethersfield, Windsor, Hall and Hartford Public.

Most Likely Team To Vault Into The Top 4:   #5 Bristol Eastern or #6 Platt.  If both happen to win this week to move to (6-2), their November 14thgame with each other could prove to be HUGE!

Class Champion: New Canaan.  3 state titles in a row, and 5 in 8 years for the Rams.

Class M

The Top 4 Right Now: Brookfield, Cheney Tech, Berlin, St. Paul/Goodwin Tech/Lewis Mills

Brookfield is the only team to have notched a win over Masuk this season. Cheney is undefeated but the critics will be sure to question their tech-school heavy schedule.

Most Likely Of The Current 4 Not To Qualify: St. Paul.  A game next Friday night at Berlin could mean a second loss not to mention the test St. Paul gets this week against Middletown.

Most Likely Team To Vault Into The Top 4:   Avon.  If St. Paul slips up, Avon could slip in. The Falcons have 2 losses at the moment (Cromwell and Hyde) but a very favorable schedule down the stretch.

Class Champion:  Brookfield.  Bobcats alum Scott Lutrus – currently starring at linebacker at UConn – will be very proud of his alma matr come December 6th.

Class SS

The Top 4 Right Now:   New London, Seymour, Montville, Rocky Hill

Most Likely Of The Current 4 Not To Qualify: Rocky Hill. Not likely. Just can’t risk it with a loss in 2 weeks at Middletown.

Most Likely Team To Vault Into The Top 4: Nobody.  Part of me wants to pick #9 Foran as a dark horse but I won’t.

Class Champion:  Is New London Quarterback Jordan Reed healthy enough to play like the All American he is?  We’ll find out a lot next Friday night when New London hosts Montville in what’s shaping up as a battle of ECC unbeatens.    In the end, it’s Jack coaching his alma matr to a state championship after 2 title game losses in recent years.

Class S

The Top 4 Right Now:   Cromwell, Ansonia, North Branford, Hyde Leadership

34 wins in a row and counting for state #1 Ansonia.  Cromwell is the real deal – with 5 shutouts through 7 games while allowing opponents less than 4 points a game on average. 

Most Likely Of The Current 4 Not To Qualify: North Branford.  The Thunderbirdsstill have games remaining with Cromwell and Hyde. Beating one of them is a must.

Most Likely Team To Vault Into The Top 4:  #5 Northwest Catholic (4-2) is a long shot.  They’re only playing 10 games instead of the 11 most others are playing.  They’d need to win out and that means beating Berlin.

Class Champion:Until proven otherwise Ansonia remains the pick in Class S.

Injury Fatigue

Consider this:  The #1 high school quarterback in the state, Jordan Reed, injured his ankle last Friday night.  The #1 college quarterback in the state, UConn’s Tyler Lorenzen,  is out for 6 weeks. The #1 professional quarterback in the region, Tom Brady, is out for the season.  Are you getting a little tired of all the increased injuries in football?  When the star players are increasingly hurt doesn’t it take some of the fun out of following the sport?  Is football more violent than ever?  That’s not a good thing, is it?

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Hillhouse at Shelton  Friday 7pm –  Can the undefeated Academics survive the Finn Fanatics (and a solid Shelton team) on Halloween night?  I look forward to finding out.

Platt at Newington Friday 7pm–  Newington has lost just once under first year head coach Clay Hillyer. Streaking Platt (5-2) has won 5 straight, outscoring opponents by an incredible 188 to 18 in that stretch.

Hyde Leadership at Cromwell Saturday 1pm – It seems every season these two play a big regular season game. Nothing has changed this year.

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week:

What’s the oldest t-shirt in your active rotation?  I got to thinking about this last week when I headed out to the gym in a WPI/Amherst College football camp t-shirt I got from a coach as a freebie back sometime in 1995 or 1996.  Can you beat a 12 to 13 year old t-shirt?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

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Poof! The Magic Dragons
October 24, 2008

In 2006 Hamden won 1 football game.  In 2007 Hamden won 1 football game.  So far in 2008 The Hamden Green Dragons have won 6 football games and lost none.  They are currently #1 in the Class LL playoff point standings. I had a chance to visit Hamden’s practice on Tuesday and it’s clear to the eye the impact that first year head coach Scott Benoit has had on the program.

You want an intense, focused, efficient practice? You got one on Dixwell Avenue Tuesday afternoon.  Benoit (a West Haven player then later a Blue Devil Assistant Coach) left the head job at Guilford to take over at Hamden.  He also has prior head coaching experience at North Branford.  Benoit says first and foremost he has talented kids. Clearly however the impact from he and his staff has been the defining difference from the last 2 years.

There was a fair amount of yelling at practice – but that seems to be the norm for many (though not all) successful programs.  Benoit even got dropped one time when collided with  by two of the Green Dragons running a play.  To his credit Benoit got treated and returned a few minutes later.  Don’t know if the practice was particularly intense considering Hamden’s Friday night showdown at Xavier this week but I left impressed.  I also left without any player interviews – a first in my time covering high school football.  We stayed at practice for over an hour and a half.  Coach Benoit gave us some of his time for an interview but the players were never made available before my photographer had to head out to his next assignment. Odd, but who can argue with Benoit’s ultra-focused approach considering the turnaround he’s engineered?  Just the same I would love to have gotten the thoughts of Hamden standouts Jason Lassiter, Josh Smart and field goal kicking star Kemuel Lawrence who hit a 42 yarder in a last second win at West Haven.

You can hear parts of my interview with Coach Benoit tonight at 11:15pm on FNF.

A Black Hole For Opponents

Read this week in Ray Curren’s SCC Blog at SportingNewsCT.com that Xavier has won 19 of its’ last 20 home games at Middletown’s Palmer Field.  That’s remarkable and it’s something Hamden will have to overcome if they hope to score a win and stay undefeated.

Xavier’s Black Hole student section is the best in the state in my opinion. What’s your opinion?

All in the Family?

I ran some girls soccer highlights on Channel 3 Wednesday night at 11pm.  Undefeated Cheshire beat Shelton 2-0 with the first goal of the night coming on a penalty kick from Cheshire’s Kylee McIntosh. I figured Kylee has to be the daughter of former Cheshire football star turned Syracuse Orangeman Kyle McIntosh.  Am I right?

Kyle – a 4 year starter at Syracuse – rushed for 5,150 career yards in high school, the 5th best total in state history

Moving Pictures On Newspaper Websites – I like it!

A number of different state papers have added video to the mix in their coverage of high school football.  The Connecticut Post, Day of New London and Waterbury Republican-American do a solid job delivering game highlights from their coverage areas.  In addition the Republican American (Mike Barger & Mark Jaffee ) and the Norwich Bulletin (Brian Girasoli & Marc Allard) offer weekly video prediction segments – both worth checking out.  Then there’s Mike Pucci of the New Haven Register with his weekly sneak peek of the Register’s Statewide Media Poll.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching (In addition to Hamden at Xavier!)

Masuk at Bunnell – 7pm Friday –  A rematch of last year’s Class L state championship game won by Bunnell.  The teams met 3 times last season and Bunnell won all 3 (regular season, Southwest Conference Championship Game, State Championship).  Bunnell is undefeated this year, Masuk has lost just once.   Gotta love the genuine emotion of Bunnell Head Coach Craig Bruno.  He’s the Dick Vermeil of Connecticut high school football coaches – quick to cry but genuine in every possible way.

Norwich Free Academy at Ledyard – 6:30pm Friday –  Two programs with tradition, two with first year coaches (Jemal Davis NFA, Jim Buonocore Ledyard) and two with just one loss apiece. Stonington at Montville is another good one on the ECC schedule Friday night.

St. Paul/Goodwin Tech/Lewis Mills at Rocky Hill – 6:30pm Friday –  St. Paul and UConn bound Marcus Aiken have yet to lose, Rocky Hill has just one loss and is fresh of last Friday’s huge (and controversial) upset over previously unbeaten Berlin.  A great game and a near walk from the Channel 3 studios.

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week:

After watching the ALCS in great detail,  I’m left with one spitting image.  Literally a spitting image.  Does ALCS MVP Matt Garza ever stop spitting? The one time Rock Cat must have more saliva than any human being on the planet.  By the way, when did it become OK to spit indoors (Tropicana Field)?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

When Is A Win Not A Win?
October 17, 2008

When a loss isn’t a loss of course.  Though it had apparently been agreed upon back in January some coaches in the Fairfield County Athletic Association didn’t realize that last week’s 9 league games all did not count towards league standings and qualifying for the FCIAC playoff Championship Game.  The games did however count for the state playoff standings.  With 11 games being allowed this season and the FCIAC having 19 teams – the schedule permitted just 10 of those teams to play a full schedule against conference foes.  9 others are playing only 10 conference games with their 11th game against an opponent outside the FCIAC.  It’s an unbalanced schedule made balanced for league playoff standings by throwing out Week 5.  Do you want 2 or 3 Advils for that headache?

What it means is that Greenwich’s lost last week to Ridgefield  comes off the board for the purposes of the league standings as do 8 other results including Stamford’s win over previously unbeaten St. Joseph and Westhill’s upset win over previously unbeaten Wilton

Tight Spot For A Tight End

Imagine being a teenager facing a decision like New London Senior Anthony Schiavone Is.  The talented tight end has given a verbal commitment to play on scholarship at Temple. However, just recently the Iowa Hawkeyes have offered Schiavone a scholarship.  Without his name yet on a dotted line to play for Temple, Schiavone will be in Iowa this weekend to watch the Hawkeyes meet their Big Ten rivals from Wisconsin.  Temple can’t be pleased with that development, while Schiavone is obviously thrilled to have a Big Ten school showing interest.

Anthony told me this week that the recruiting process was overwhelming at times.  It was a relief to chose Temple.  Now the anxiety is back.  He’ll have a decision to make.  Should he stick by his word and go to Temple?  Is he two-timing Temple with his trip to Iowa or just doing what anyone looking out for their long term best interest would do?

Your thoughts emails to john.holt@wfsb.com

Watching Jordan Soar X2

I was interviewing Schiavone during my trip this week to New London High School to profile Whalers Senior Quarterback Jordan Reed.  This Jordan is headed to the University of Florida to join fellow Nutmegger Aaron Hernandez.  A full feature on Jordan Reed is ahead tonight on Friday Night Football.

The other Jordan? Glastonbury’s Jordan Brown.  The Senior running back has helped the Tomahawks get off to a (5-0) start including last Saturday’s 41-3 romp at Wethersfield.  After being injured a season ago, Brown has returned as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the state.

The Holt Top 5

I’m still voting Ansonia #1 in the state in The New Haven Register Media Poll.

But I’m also coming clean to offer you an exclusive Top 5 for the schools most under-exposed on FNF.  I admit, we need to show more highlights from these schools that are in or on the edge of our viewing area.

1. Bunnell

2. Masuk

3. Xavier

4. Montville

5. Newington

Games We’ll Be Watching

Manchester at Glastonbury Friday 7pm –  Two (5-0) teams.  Glastonbury ranked #2 in the Class LL playoff standings, Manchester # 3.

Simsbury at Southington Friday 7pm – Both teams are (4-1).  Southington is Southington.  Simsbury put up the shocker of the week last week in my eyes, pounding Windsor 35 to 7.

Rocky Hill at Berlin – We know undefeated Berlin is good.  How good is (4-1) Rocky Hill? Tonight we learn more.

Others to watch this weekend:  St. Bernard/Norwich Tech at Stonington,  North Branford at Haddam-Killingworth (first ever home night game for HK) & New Canaan at St. Joseph (Saturday)

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

On October 31st a movie by the name of Zack and Miri Make A Porno will be released.  And intelligent Americans will pay money to see it?  Hope you’re not one of them.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

Have Camera, Will Travel?
October 10, 2008

There are so many intriguing games tonight it won’t be possible for our Eyewitness News cameras to get to every one of them.  Know anyone taping footage of the Hamden-Shelton game? The  New London – St. Bernard’s/Norwich Tech game?  If they’re willing to hop in their car and travel to Rocky Hill postgame to get highlights to our studio for 11:15pm –  I’ve get a 6 pack of FNF T-Shirts waiting for them.

With all the great matchups let me get right into it…

Games We’ll Be Watching

Seymour at Crosby 7pm –  Both teams are undefeated,  Seymour is ranked #6 in the state.  Crosby hasn’t had a winning season since 2002.  This is a juicy matchup!

Cromwell at Tolland 6:30pm –  Two more teams without a loss.  Tolland is legit.  Remember how they challenged Seymour in the Class SS state championship game a year ago.  Cromwell is legit.  4 games, 4 shutouts – absolutely 0 points allowed.  118 to nothing.

Hamden at Shelton 7pm – Are the (4-0) Green Dragons for real?  We’ll know after they face the Finn Fanatics in Shelton

New London at St. Bernard’s/Norwich Tech 6:30pm – The Saints are (4-0) the Whalers are (4-0). I don’t see a St. Bernard’s upset win here but it would be the story of the night wouldn’t it?

Also of note:  Windsor at Simsbury tonight,  Wolcott at Ansonia tonight &  Glastonbury at Wethersfield (high noon Saturday)

Is this Offense For Real or Just Plain Offensive

National Public Radio (yeah…I occasionally listen) recently had a fascinating story on something called the A-11 offense being used out in California.  That’s A-11 as in All 11 players potentially eligible.

Thanks to WFSB photographer Mike Kopelman for bringing this to my attention.

Check it out:NPR’s Story On The A-11 Offense

What do you think?

Billy Ball

In a moment that suggests I might be completely losing my mind before I reach my 37th birthday next month, I forgot to include Cheshire’s Billy Ragone in WFSB.COM’s recent poll asking who is the best high school quarterback in Connecticut.  Did  you catch Ragone’s stat line last week in a win over previously unbeaten Wilbur Cross?

20/27 passing for 208 Yards & 1 TD

131 yards rushing, 2 TDs

5 tackles, 1 Intereception on defense

Wow!

Billy alone makes Cheshire the best (2-2) team in the state.

Retiring at 29

29 years of coaching that is.  Seymour legend Paul Sponheimer will call it a career after this season ends.  Coach already has brought 4 State Championships to the NVL school and this year could mean a 5th – How’s a Seymour/New London Class SS final sound to you?

Tonight on FNF, we have a feature story on Coach Sponheimer.  It will run around a minute and a half. The truth is, it could be well over 5 minutes and still keep your attention. I was at Seymour practice on Tuesday and Coach proved a terrific interview.

A few of the nuggets I learned:

* Sponheimer was drafted by the Montreal Expos before heading to the University of Kentucky to play football

* He looks forward to watching some college football once his high school coaching days are done.  In 29 years,  his Seymour schedule has only allowed him to see 2 of his former players in person playing in a college game.

* Sponheimer won’t make the ultimate call on his successor, but he’s intent on impressing upon the powers that be that the program is best served by hiring from within the current staff

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

One sure sign I’m becoming an old fart?  Every time I hear Kid Rock’s song, “All Summer Long” I’m momentarily excited believing Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is on my radio.  Silly me….fooled again by the Kid’s sampling.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

P.S. We’re still looking for an “artist” to carve us an FNF themed pumpkin for our Halloween show.  Emails to john.holt@wfsb.com

A White Out In The FNF Poll
October 3, 2008

Foran’s Jake White: One To Watch

With rain causing the games to be all spread out over last weekend (the last game wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon) we opted to do something other than our typical Athlete of the Week poll on the FNF home page.  We ran a poll asking you to vote on the best high school quarterback in the State of Connecticut.  Is it New London’s Jordan Reed (headed to play at Florida )? Maybe it’s Bunnell’s Chris Sloat. He of the Sloat & Harrison combo that is sure to post big numbers in the SWC all season.  Well, according to those who visted the website to vote it’s Foran High Senior Jake White.  As of 11:15 this morning the polling went like this:

Choice Votes Percentage of 1903 Votes
Griswold’s Sean Brackett 49 3%
Foran’s Jake White 990 52%
New London’s Jordan Reed 59 3%
Windsor’s Pierre Narcisse 703 37%
Bunnell’s Chris Sloat 10 1%
Windham’s Spencer Beaudreault 69 4%

Way to get out the vote Milford and way to support your record setting QB!  In a game last season vs. North Haven Jake completed a state record 38 passes while throwing for 516 yards and 5 touchdowns.  A property of Friday Night Football T-shirt is on its’ way to Milford.

I was sent a few emails suggesting other top QBs that should have been part of the survey including Crosby’s Dave Gondek,  Cheshire’s Billy Ragone (major oversight on my part) and Ansonia’s Ron Bilodeau.  Thanks to everybody who offered their opinion.

4 Weeks To Halloween

28 days from tonight it’ll be football and trick or treating all on the same night.  If you’re thinking about wearing your costume to the game that night, do it!  Our Channel 3 cameras will be out looking for you.

Can you carve a mean pumpkin?  Want to have it appear on our set for the Halloween edition of FNF?  How about carving a football and the letters F-N-F into one of the big orange beatuies?  How about the handsome faces of myself and Joe Zone?

If you’re interested send me an email at john.holt@wfsb.com.

Games We’ll Be Watching

Wethersfield at Manchester – Friday 7pm –   Both teams are undefated at (3-0).  Manchester has outscored opponents 63 to 13,  Wethersfield 116 to 22.  Now after some softer competition to start the season, the Eagles and the Indians get each other.  A Holt prediction:  Wethersfield 35  Manchester 19

Plainfield at Bacon Academy – Friday 6:3opm –  The  push to get permanent lights in Colchester (just like they’re doing at Haddam-Killingworth) delivers a sneak peak of the possibilities tonight.  A big night of events is planned but after playing New London closer than expected last week, Plainfield may be a tougher opponent than Bacon planned on.

Maloney at Windsor – Friday 7pm –  The host Warriors moved to (3-0) with a dominating 42-12 win on Monday over Bristol Central.  I’m starting to think that Windsor could make an undefated run in the regular season.   Crazy?

If you’re looking for the coolest halftime show of the night tonight head to Seymour. During halftime of the 6th ranked Wildcats game with Naugatuck there will be a freestyle motocross show!  Hope the band has cleared the field in time!

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week:

The word exclusive is being overused and used in correctly in television news.  When you have an “Exclusive” interview with Sarah Palin one night and she sits down with your competition the next night it’s really not all that exclusive.

The word is even more misused on the local level.  Exclusivity suggests that a newsworthy person is talking to you while declining to talk to others.  If I were to offer you an “Exclusive” interview this afternoon with my 6 year old daughter Rilee it would not fit the definition since Rilee is not currently making news or refusing interview requests from media outlets her father doesn’t work at.

If you’d like your own Property of Friday Night Football T-Shirt.  Drop me an email (john.holt@wfsb.com) and describe your loyalty to our little 11:15pm Friday night show.

See you tonight!

John