Archive for October, 2009

Playoffs? Don’t Talk About Playoffs
October 30, 2009

Supersizing the Post Season In Massachusetts

With growing support here in Connecticut to expand the number of playoff teams in high school football, a cause championed by Hand of Madison Head Coach Steve Fillipone, I bring to your attention  a push in Massachusetts that would see a whopping 50 percent of the high school football teams make the playoffs.  In Eastern Massachusetts alone the number of participating schools would  increase from 28 playoff teams to 96.  Check out the article in this morning’s Boston Globe.

And while you’re at it take 49 seconds to enjoy Jim Mora’s classic rant one more time.

Viewer Emails

We regularly get viewer emails to the FNF show (sports3@wfsb.com) and I wanted to share some examples of the type of questions we’re asked:

I like your new show FNF Overtime, but couldn’t you have thought of a more creative name?

– Sandy in Norwich

Well Sandy we did have some other possibilities, but they didn’t seem to work in the end. A couple potential show names that ended up in the circular file were:

“S’More  FNF” – Joe Zone’s personal homage to his favorite campfire snack

“Sleep? It’s overrated!” –  We’re desperate to keep people up and watching at that hour but this one doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue now does it? “Flip over to WFSB.COM and join us for Sleep? It’s overrated!” – That’s next!”

———

On the October 16th show you guys mistakingly ran the scores from the week before on the bottom line ticker all show.  The talking head dopey anchors didn’t even seem to notice either. What gives?

– Brad in Windsor

Brad, there was a method to our madness. At first I was certain it was a technical glitch. But upon further thought, I now realize that there were higher powers at work that night.  By running the scores from a week earlier the powers that be were doing their best to go back in time, back when the Red Sox were still alive in the playoffs and all was right in the world.  In retrospect, I endorse that plan.  Next time I’ll make sure we enlist Doc Brown to give our time travel a better chance of working.

future460

Hey Doc, any hope for Red Sox Nation?

A Good Reed

I saw an update recently on former New London High School Quarterback Jordan Reed.  Jordan is a freshman at Florida and it  seems he now has a chance of seeing time at tight end where Bristol’s Aaron Hernandez excels with the Gators.   With John Brantley as the heir apparent to Tim Tebow at QB, tight end may be Jordan’s best opportunity to get on the field for the talent rich Gators.

CCC Newcomers

With the newly expanded CCC having realigned to accommodate 32 teams, some schools have fared well in the new alingment, others have not.

Essentially the CCC is divided into 4 divisions.  The larger schools in Division 1, the smaller schools in Division 2 with each division broken into A and B subgroups based on the program’s win percentage in recent seasons.  The new CCC also took in former Nutmeg schools like Berlin, Rocky Hill, Northwest Catholic and Middletown. Middletown appears to have gotten the short end of the stick with a Division 1A placement. The Blue Dragons are (0-6) against an unforgiving schedule of  with larger enrollments. When the CCC revisits the divisional alignment in the future look for Middletown to be reassigned.

Former Nutmeggers Berlin and Northwest Catholic have held up nicely in their new conference while former Pequot member Tolland has been more than competitive but struggled to get wins in the CCC with a (1-5) mark.  Conard and Bloomfield – both solid unbeaten teams have benefited from soft schedules, true tests will come in time for the Chieftans and Warhawks.

Wonder Twin Powers Activate

For the first time in the history of our FNF Athlete of The Week Online Poll brothers have won the award in the same season. The honor goes to St. Paul / Goodwin Tech twin brothers Tanner and Chris Bachand.  Tanner is the lefthanded QB for the Falcons, Chris the starting tailback.  Both won a Property of Friday Night Football t-shirt.  Along with their sophomore brother Tucker this is the Bachand Boys first season at St. Paul after transferring from a high school in Lee, Massachusetts. How fortuitous for St. Paul Head Coach Jude Kelly!

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Simsbury at Southington Friday 7pm

Simsbury will go entire games without completing a pass – often by choice. Southington throws its’ first pass before the pregame meal is digested. A matchup of contrasting styles tonight on Pleasant Street.  Southington is very tough at home and can’t afford a third loss, Simsbury is looking to rebound after losing its’ first game of the season a week ago to New Britain.

Bloomfield at Rockville  Friday 6:30pm

Bloomfield coach Roy Roberts calls his senior Quarterback Denzel Jones (who also stars on the basketball court for the Warhawks) a “freakish” athlete. The Warhawks come to Vernon undefeated and and could get their first serious test of the season tonight. Then again, maybe not…it’s been 4 weeks since anybody has scored a point on Bloomfield.

Morgan at Cromwell –  Saturday 1pm

At the moment, Cromwel is on the outside looking in in the Class S playoff standings. They may need to win out to make the postseason. They are clearly one of the top 4 teams statewide in Class S and Saturday is a chance to prove it against the more than solid visitors from Clinton.

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week:

When did having the flu (any flu) become so nebulous? I predict that the phrase “flu-like symptoms” will be the most overused expression of the winter. Do you have the flu or don’t you? Is it legit or are “flu-like symptoms” just the phrase you throw  around on your boss’ voicemail to explain your absence from work?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Week 7 of FNF!

John

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Jack Who?
October 23, 2009

New London and Its’ New Coach

Twice last year, including in dramatic last second fashion in the regular season  (Video),  Jack Cochran coached New London beat ECC rival Montville.  Tonight they schools meet again but hardly a word has been spoken all week about Cochran, one of the winningest coaches in state history.

That’s because in the off season Cochran was removed from the position and Bulkeley head coach Jeff Larson came to New London to be both the head football coach and the Athletics Director.  Larson could be looking at his first loss as New London head coach tonight but as of yet, there is nothing to be disappointed with on or off the field.  Do the players still think about their beloved Coach Cochran? Sure. But as Norwich Bulletin Sports Editor Marc Allard said on CTSN’s Game Time show this week the kids don’t even refer to Cochran by name anymore when asked. Instead it’s “the situation that occurred” and nothing more.

Larson came out of South Windsor and went on to play for and later coach with Randy Edsall as a UConn Husky. In fact, Jeff was on the UConn team that scored the program’s first watershed victory in Division 1, a 37-20 road win over Iowa State in 2002.

As for Jack Cochran, he’s been discreetly watching from the stands this season with his sophomore son Casey leading the Masuk Panthers to a (5-0) record as quarterback. Will Jack coach again and coach soon?  Don’t count on it, though I was told that in the off season certain people at one parochial school wanted him to lead their program but the ultimate decision makers wouldn’t go for it.

H1N1 Concerns

A couple weeks back in this space I speculated that it wouldn’t be long before a Connecticut high school has its’ sports schedule impacted by an H1N1 flu outbreak. It’s happened and quite early in the flu season for that matter.

Guilford has been forced to reschedule its’ game with Amity from tonight until Thursday November 19th at 6pm

FNF has deal with swine flu concerns as well this season. First on our website staff, now with one of our interns.

Seeing Through The Fog

That’s what any family and high school football player must do together when their son is being recruited by schools to play in college. Last night, I had the pleasure of meeting the Narcisse family at their Windsor home. Speaking to their son Pierre (Windsor’s star QB) along with dad Ron and mom Sharon gave me insight into what they’e learned as schools from all over the country have sent mail and made phone calls in the pursuit of Pierre. Let me tell you, this family has it all together and is providing Pierre with tremendous support. I can only imagine high school football players left to navigate the mine fields of recruiting without a strong family base to rely on.  Tonight at 11:15 on FNF I’ll have a feature story on Pierre, his family and his football future.

Attacked at a Local High School Football Game?

Aren’t these games supposed to be safe?  Would you believe that one of the best high school football writers in the state was hit with a punch by a spectator after last week’s Ansonia at Wolcott game? It’s true and it’s deeply disturbing.

The FNF Top 10

These would be The Top 10 most underexposed schools on the FNF show to date.  We promise to make amends with highlights in the coming weeks.

1. Pomperaug

2.  Staples

3. Conard

4. Manchester

5. Vinal Tech / Coginchaug

6. Morgan

7. Holy Cross

8. St. Joseph

9. Bethel

T10. Bloomfield

T10. Fitch

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Morgan at Vinal Tech / Coginchaug Friday 6:30pm

Vinal is (5-0) and #1 in the Class MM playoff point rankings. Morgan comes in riding a 3 game win streak. I’m very curious to see who wins tonight.

Conard at Manchester Friday 7pm

Conard is (5-0) and has outscored opponnets a whopping 188 to 6. Still, they’re getting no  respect in the state polls. Tonight they can begin to build respect with a win over a good Manchester team.

St. Joseph at New Canaan Saturday 1:30pm

Far and away Saturday’s best game.  Both teams are (5-0). New Canaan is a 3 time defending state champ with a female place kicker (very cool!). St. Joseph is lead by running back Tyler Matakevich, the best player statewide in the junior class.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

I’m this close to buying a best of Earth, Wind and Fire CD.  Two questions.:

Good Move?

and

Do they still sell CDs or am I just woefully behind the curve in this IPOD world most of you live in?

See you tonight at 11:15pm for FNF and be sure to become a fan of the show on Facebook while you’re at it.

John

Could You Use Some New Clothes?
October 16, 2009

Friday Night Facebook

The show has officially gained enough fans on Facebook to have its’ own URL: www.facebook.com/fridaynightfootball

To add to the fan base even more we’re giving away Property of Friday Night Football t-shirts to the best Facebook posts on our wall.  Give it a try, get a shirt, be the coolest football fan on your block.

No Hamden, No Greenwich, No Worries?

Though Hamden and Greenwich are the consensus #2 and #3 teams in the state, they wouldn’t be in the Class LL playoffs if the season ended after Week 4.  At the moment, they rate as #5 and #6, both out of the Top 4 that qualify.  The standings are likely to see  big changes between now and Thanksgiving night  though so no need to start cursing the CIAC like it was the BCS.

Falcons and Panthers In An Instant Classic

The Game of the Week in Week 4 had to be unbeaten Avon’s last second win over Cromwell. The Panthers suffered their first loss of the season when Avon’s Ross McDonald ran the ball 57 yards on a reverse inside handoff as time expired.  37-31 the final.  There were 3 touchdowns in the final 1:15 of the game, one by Cromwell and two by Avon.  Look for video of the wild finish on our 6pm sportscast Friday night.

Newington 3 Hall 2

That was the final last Saturday in West Hartford. I can’t ever remember seeing a score like that in football.  Baseball, yes…football, no.  It wasn’t a walk off home run that won it but rather a 23 yard field 4th quarter field goal from Newington’s Jeremy Rodriguez.

Quick Hits

* Glastonbury senior quarterback Sean McQuillan is the real deal.  He already has multiple offers to play QB in college at the Division 1AA level and I’m told there’s plenty of interest from Division 1A schools as a Tight End / H-Back.  He’s got great size at 6-4, 221 pounds.  Temple, Buffalo, Boston College, Penn State and UConn have all been in touch with McQuillan and his family

* Can you imagine losing this way?

* Disturbing high school football video of the week (out of the Boston area)

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Greenwich at Trumbull  Friday 7pm

Greenwich is averaging 41 point a game, Trumbull has allowed 7 points all season and shutout its opponents the last 3 weeks. Someone leaves (5-0), someone (4-1)

Simsbury at Berlin Friday 7pm

Another intriguing matchup produced by the expanded Central Connecticut Conference. Both have yet to lose. The trip to Simsbury is a little out of the way for most schools and Berlin will be severely tested.

Ansonia at Wolcott Friday 7pm

Wolcott has had this game circled for months. The visiting Chargers are down a bit this season but it’s no guarantee that Wolcott ends the the night still undefeated.

* At the start of the year I figured New Canaan’s trip to Seymour would be a slam dunk game to include this week but while the 3 time defending state champion Rams are undefeated Seymour has struggled with major injuries and has yet to win under new coach Tom Lennon

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week

I have a dilemma on my hands I need your help with. There is a kind older gentleman that I talk with at the gym.  We’ve been chatting on and off for 5 to 6 weeks.  Trouble is, he calls me Bill.  Don’t know why he thinks that’s my name. I introduced myself as John when we first met (his name is Chuck). I don’t have the heart to tell him my name isn’t Bill though it gets awkward when he says “Hello Bill” in front of other gym members who know my name is John.  Should I break the news to him or harmlessly keep playing along?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

Bill John

Big Stage, Big Drama
October 8, 2009

Golden Hurricanes and Blue Knights at the Rent

For the second straight season, New Britain and Southington will play at Rentschler Field.  While some opposing coaches wonder if the cost to rent The Rent for the night and the 40,000 seat stadium feeling a bit empty with a whole lot less than capacity in the stands makes this a wise move, you have to believe the players welcome the chance to take the field at the home of the Huskies.

This year the  big stage comes complete with big drama surrounding the game.  During the off season, 3 of Southington head coach Bill Mella’s assistant coaches resigned – believing that Mella mishandled $4,000 from a Southington Booster Club Fund.  Mella was later formally reprimanded by the school system, but just recently a Southington Police investigation cleared him of any wrongdoing.

Mella was deeply stung by the allegations and the story lingers because 2 of the assistants that resigned (Frank Stamilio Mike Prairie)  later joined Paul Morrell’s staff at New Britain.  Friday night the parties in question get reacquainted.  Wonder what the post game handshake / non handshake  might be like between Mella and the New Britain staff?  Can you say Belichick-Mangini?

Mella and Morrell Come Friday Night?

Mella and Morrell Come Friday Night?

Fortt Chooses Penn State

The top recruit in the state, Stamford linebacker Khairi Fortt has chosen to attend Penn State and play for Joe Paterno at Linebacker “U”. In selecting the Nittany Lions, Fortt joins Silas Redd, a highly recruited running back who is a senior at the King and Low-Heywood Thomas prep school in Stamford.

Oklahoma is Not OK!

The suspension of a high profile high school football coach in Oklahoma makes the Southington situation seem a little tame in comparison now doesn’t it?

(http://www.maxpreps.com/news/_iICcbH2Ed6OEwAcxJTdpg/weekend-notes–oklahoma-power-jenks-facing-controversy.htm)

CIAC Comes To Its Senses

I was happy to learn late this week that a Connecticut high school football player finally had his eligibility restored after his family endured an appeals process that robbed him of the ability to play in his school’s first 3 games.  The player will go unnamed in this post but was being forced to sit out after transferring from a private school to a public school in the same town.

The CIAC has an eligibility rule in effect that helps combat what is often players going in the other direction.  Being “recruited” to leave a public school to play at the local private (Catholic) school. This case was the opposite. There was no ulterior motive by the family. The move from private to public was a matter of decreased family finances in a difficult economy.  It’s  a shame that it took the CIAC a month to see the distinction.

Rookie of The Week, Season Over

That’s the story for former Cheshire standout Billy Ragone. Now playing at the University of Pennsylvania,  Ragone scored a touchdown and rushed for 62 yards in a win last week at Dartmouth for which he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Week. However, later in the game he suffered a broken collarbone and his season is over after playing in just 2 games for the Quakers.

On a brighter note,  Cheshire has found life after Billy with the 1-2 QB combination of Greg Palmer and Max Slade. More on their story this week on Friday Night Football.

Rise of the Fall Bloggers

We’re happy to introduce our Fall 2009 student -athlete bloggers from across the state. One for each fall sport – Boys Soccer, Girls Soccer, Field Hockey, Boys Cross Country, Girls Cross Country, Girls Swimming, Football and Girls Volleyball.

They will be doing weekly updated entries.

This state map allows you to drag and click over the sports icon of your choice:

http://www.wfsb.com/sportsblogs/index.html

Quick Hits

* Ray Curren’s SCC Football Report  (CTSPORTINGNEWS.COM) nailed it this week with this apt comparison:

” (Daniel Hand QB) Nick Merullo does his weekly best Tim Tebow impersonation, trampling poor defenders and throwing a good ball when he has to. He certainly will have a case for league MVP at his current pace.”

* Connecticut radio legend George “Coach” DeMaio joined us in studio Wednesday night  for our taping of Game Time (seen Thursdays at 7pm on the Connecticut Sports Network). He didn’t disappoint, though I could have done without the New York Yankee logo tie he wore.  Ansonia Head Coach Tom Brockett and Simsbury Head Coach Jeff Osborne are also guests on this week’s Game Time show

* Did you know current Cincinnati Bengals QB Carson Palmer had a very brief stay at St. Joe’s high school in Trumbull before moving on? Never played in a game for the Cadets before heading elsewhere on his way to USC and the NFL.  Thanks to the Connecticut Post’s Sean Patrick Bowley (and Coach DeMaio) for bringing this to my attention.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Crosby at Wolcott – 7pm Friday

This is the first of two consecutive huge Friday night home games for Wolcott with Ansonia visiting the Eagles next Friday. Is it too early to say that Thanksgiving rivals Wolcott and Holy Cross are the class of the NVL this season? We’ll know better in the near future.

One thing that is certain? Wolcott Head Coach Patrick Russo is one very committed coach. When scheduling a pre-season visit to Wolcott I asked Russo what time the team practiced? His answer? “We practice 24/7.” I think he’s exaggerating, but then again maybe not.

Windsor at Glastonbury – 3pm Saturday

A road trip to meet the defending (and unbeaten) Class LL State Champs ends a brutal 4 game opening season stretch for Windsor – Simsbury, New Britain, Southington and Glastonbury. A win by Windsor to move to (3-1) and they deserve a spot in the State Top 10.

Cromwell at Avon – 3:30pm Saturday

Write it down, the winner of this game finishes the regular season undefeated.  How’s that for huge implications?

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week

Do men really drink hot tea? I hear Joe Torre and Terry Francona doing ads telling us about their daily rituals of tea drinking. I have no interest in hot tea and drink just one hot beverage period and on one occasion only: Hot chocolate after shoveling snow.

See you at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

Story of the Year?
October 2, 2009

Unforgettable Sportsmanship

Last Saturday late in a blowout loss to visiting Avon, Wolcott Tech senior Nick Reardon scored an 82 yard touchdown – the one and only of his high school career.  The touchdown came just days after Nick had surgery to treat testicular cancer and just 2 days before he began chemotherapy.

Nick ran untouched into the endzone after Avon Coach Brett Quinion instructed his defense to not tackle Nick – who was off limits to physical contact following surgery.  Coach Quinion’s gesture is one of such unique decency and sportsmanship I’m convinced it will stand as the 2009 Connecticut sports story of the year when the calenadar turns  to 2010. We will have a feature story on the wonderful moment (including video of the touchdown and interview comments from Nick Reardon himself tonight at 11:15pm on FNF)

The Story That Almost Didn’t Happen? Yes.

What’s gone largely underreported in the chronicling of Nick Reardon’s touchdown is that just days before the start of the school year it appeared there would be no sports at all at the state funded and operated vocational/technical high schools.  That was the proposal being pushed forward in the planned state budget.  Fortunately the funding was restored just days prior to the start of school.

Do the math. No sports teams at any of Connecticut’s technical high schools would have meant, among other things, no football at Wolcott Tech.  By extension,  no chance for cancer patient Nick Reardon to score the touchdown he had always dreamed of and no chance for two teams of young men (Wolcott Tech and Avon) to learn valuable life lessons about humility and sportsmanship.

Don’t ever doubt the power and impact of high school sports.

Siding With Vinal

Speaking of tech schools, to me the single most surprising final score last week was Vinal Tech/Coginchaug 28 Hyde Leadership 21. That’s a win for the Vinal – Coginchaug co-op over a Hyde program that is a perennial Class S playoff contender and it follows Vinal Tech’s 47-0 win over Windsor Locks/Suffield in Week 1.

Heart-Breaking

For the second straight Thursday night, the Sacred Heart Hearts lost a heartbreaker at Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium.  Last week Derby/O’Brien Tech beat Sacred Heart 42-40 on a field goal as time expired. Then last night, Crosby broke the Hearts with a go ahead touchdown pass with just 3.5 seconds remaining.  If tough losses build character, Sacred Heart is cornering the market.

By the way, freshman sensation Dave Coggins followed up his eye popping total off 333 yards receiving (3rd all time in state history) last week with a  total of 3 catches for 39 yards last night.

Competition In The Central Connecticut Conference

The last 2 weeks on the Connecticut Sports Network’s Game Time show (7pm – Thursday nights) CCC coaches have offered their opinions on how stout the new jumbo sized 32 team conference is.  New Britain Head Coach Paul Morrell says unlike years past when you could circle certain conference games as likely victories, that’s no longer the case.  Berlin Head Coach John Capodice is convinced that by knocking each other off all season,  a superior 3 loss CCC team will miss the playoffs with 2 loss teams from much lesser conferences qualifying.

Protecting the Fortt

With our FNF cameras headed to Norwalk tonight for the Brien McMahon / Stamford game, we’re hoping to catch some highlights of Top 50 national recruit Khairi Fortt – Stamford’s senior linebacker. Fortt may miss a second straight week of action though with the Connecticut Post’s Dave Ruden reporting that Khairi is 50/50 to play as he works his way back from a small tear in the cartilage behind the patella of his right knee

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Ledyard at New London Friday 6:30pm

It’s no longer Buonocore vs. Cochran in the coaching matchup but even with new head coach Jeff Larson the Whalers haven’t forgotten that their only loss a year ago came at the hands of the Colonels.

Southington at Windsor Friday 7pm

Two (1-1) CCC teams but both coming off very different results a week ago. Southington saw a 24 point lead slip away in a 49-46 loss to Glastonbury while Windsor and Division 1 quarterback recruit Pierre Narcisse rallied from an early 2 touchdown deficit to beat New Britain. The losing team in this one may be in a hole too deep to dig out of when it comes to making the postseason.

Cheshire at Wilbur Cross Friday 4pm

Two (2-0) SCC teams each with their own dynamic playmakers on offense. Cross with wideout Maurice Morrison, Cheshire with quarterback Greg Palmer. Palmer and teammate Max Slade have combined at QB to fill the shoes of the do-it-all (now graduated) Billy Ragone in a way very few expected.

Speaking of Vermont

My wife and I have been speaking quite a bit about Vermont because we’re headed with our girls to Burlington for a Columbus Day weekend vacation. Please email (jholt@wfsb.com) with any suggestions for what to do and see in that  neck of the Green Mountain State.

Anyhow, there’s another reason to be talking about Vermont when it comes to  high school football.

Have you seen this unbelievable ending to a game last week?

For more details read this

Then of course there’s the all time, all time wild ending in high school football. (BTW – Love it when the color guy says “We’re gonna celebrate, break out the Oreos” and later  “I done wet my britches”.

Completely Unrelated Thought of the Week

There’s a lot to love about the State of Connecticut. 3 of my favorite things? New Haven style pizza, a hike up Sleeping Giant, the absolutely magnificent Farmington Valley Greenway (bike trail). Why is it then that annually Connecticut has the most underwhelming state house on the Avenue of the States at The Big E in West Springfield?

I want to love CT, but at the Big E I’m definitely more a Maine and Rhode Island guy.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John