Archive for November, 2010

New Britain Head Coach Paul Morrell Resigns
November 29, 2010

Ken Lipshez, formerly of The New Britain Herald and now with The Valley Press (Farmington Valley) and West Hartford Press, reports in his blog that New Britain Hurricane Football coach Paul Morrell has resigned following a (1-9) season.  The Golden Hurricanes season concluded on Thanksgiving Eve with a 42-20 loss to Berlin that saw the Redcoats take a knee on offense once they raced out to a 42-0 lead.

Morell is one of the more decent human beings I have come in contact with while covering Connecticut high school football the last 10 years.  It’s logical to think the persistent, nasty message board posts at the New Britain Herald website were a contributing factor to his decision to resign.

In early November I had a feature story on WFSB that examined the message board culture – Paul’s situation is part of the story.

Click Here For Tuesday Night Playoff Matchups
November 26, 2010

** Be sure to join us Friday night at 11:15pm for a playoff preview edition of FNF with The Day of New London’s Ned Griffen**

All kickoff times at 6:30pm Tuesday night for 16 state quarterfinals. 

8 state semifinals to follow on Saturday December 4th.  Neutral sites:  Shelton, Waterbury, Bunnell (Stratford), West Haven, Middletown and Southern Connecticut State University (New Haven).  6 games at 2pm the remaining 2 at 7pm.

4 state finals to be held on Friday December 10th (1 game) and the remaining 3 to be held on Saturday December 11th. All 4 state championship games will be played at Rentschler Field.

Class LL

(8) West Haven at (1) Xavier

(5) Staples at (4) Glastonbury

(6) Conard at (3) Trumbull

(7) Hall at (2) Norwich Free Academy

Class L

(8) Bristol Eastern at (1) Masuk

(5) Darien at (4) Wethserfield

(6) New Canaan at (3) Naugatuck

(7) North Haven at (2) Daniel Hand

Class M

(8) Hillhouse at (1) Berlin

(5) Plainville at (4) Gilbert/Northwest Regional

(6) Lyman Hall at (3) Brookfield

(7) Platt at (2) New London

Class S

(8) Sacred Heart at (1) Valley Regional / Old Lyme

(5) Woodland at (4) St. Joseph

(6) Hyde Leadership at (3) Ansonia

(7) Cromwell at (2) Montville

A Story Of Thanks (Plus Playoff Scenarios)
November 24, 2010

We’ll have special FNF Thanksgiving shows the next 3 nights (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday) at 11:15pm.  Highlights of huge games tonight and tomorrow morning and our traditional preview of the playoff matchups on Friday with the Day of New London’s Ned Griffen.

For a look at the current playoff scenarios (18 of the 32 playoff spots remain up for grabs with 36 teams vying for those spots) visit Ned’s blog with a breakdown of the possibilities.

Once the results start to come in on Wednesday night and Thursday midday you can track who’s in and who’s out of the 32 team CIAC playoff field here.

Tim Rose’s Story of Thanks

On Wednesday’s show I’ll share the story of Southbury’s Tim Rose.  Tim was a standout junior defensive back on Pomperaug’s 2004 state championship team.

Now 22 years old, Tim is back living with his parents after recently having moved into his own condo. He’s been forced to return  home after a 1 man, 1 car drunk driving accident on the night of September 11th.

Tim shattered an ankle in the accident, broke both heels (the hardest bones in the body), suffered a lung contusion and fractured his pelvis.  He hasn’t been able to put weight on his heels and ankle and has been confined to a wheelchair and using crutches.  Fortunately he did not suffer a head injury and he hopes to recover enough to play softball and baseball this summer.  Needless to say, Tim has much to be thankful for this year – first and foremost his life.

What’s different about this story his how he went public with the news of his frightening and embarrassing accident.  He wrote a memorable letter to the local newspaper, Southbury Patch.  Please take the time to read the letter (and see a photo of Tim’s car after the accident) and then join us tonight at 11:15pm as Tim shares his story on television.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Cromwell at Coginchaug – Wednesday 6:30pm

As noted in Ned’s playoff breakdown, tonight’s game in Middletown is the only Thanksgiving game in which the winner is in the playoffs and the loser is out. Both (6-3) teams are left in this must win spot following dramatic losses last week. North Branford rallied for 3 4th quarter touchdowns to defeat Coginchaug while Haddam-Killingworth went for 2 in overtime on Saturday to upset Cromwell, 29-28.

Naugatuck at Ansonia – Thursday 10:30am

The NVL title is on the line.  Ansonia is already in the playoffs and has a chance at the Class S #1 seed with a win. Naugatuck must win to make the field in Class L.

Note: With Class L being the most competitive of the classes in this the first season of the newly aligned 4-class playoff system it appears that a 1 loss team could miss the postseason party.  The most likely scenario being a (9-1) Bristol Eastern team staying home in the event of  hard earned wins by Naugatuck (at undefeated Ansonia) and New Canaan (at undefeated Darien).  The intent of the new system was to prevent worthy teams (read 1 loss teams) from missing the playoffs. Seems that a 1-loss Bristol Eastern team, with its only defeat coming to undefeated and defending Class M state champ Berlin, is worthy.

Platt vs. Maloney – Thursday 10:30am

The Stoddard Bowl has big implications for the 2 Meriden city rivals this season.  Maloney all but clinches a playoff spot in Class L with a win while Platt is likely in in Class M with a win. The losing team has played its’ last game of 2010.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

Seems the day after Thanksgiving is the first day when it’s OK for radio stations that choose to to go all Christmas music all the time through December 25th. If I had my choice to program a radio station with one theme for the next month I’d go with 24/7 James Taylor. How about you?

Thanks to the wonderful advent of Sirius/XM Satellite radio such channels do exist year round including Jimmy Buffett (Margaritaville) and Bruce Springsteen.  No James Taylor channel yet, but I am hooked on the Fantasy Sports (XM 147, Sirius 211) channel – at least when they’re talking fantasy football – can’t quite get into fantasy hockey or basketball.

See you Tonight, Tomorrow and Friday at 11:15pm for FNF. Happy Thanksgiving!

John

A Tale Of Two Cities
November 19, 2010

On Thanksgiving morning Wilbur Cross and Hillhouse will play their annual football game.  A good crowd will show up to watch in New Haven – maybe not what the crowd used to be, but none the less a good, spirited crowd.  Hillhouse is still alive for a playoff spot and Cross has had some memorable moments (and wins) vs. a brutal schedule.

At Dillon stadium in Hartford Thanksgiving morning  Hartford Public will play city rival Weaver. The attendance won’t match the gate in New Haven.  In a word, why?  Why has high school football continued to do well in one Connecticut city (successful teams, solid crowds, etc) while in another the marquis stadium in town is often a ghost town for Friday night games offering little in the way of energy and atmosphere and fan support?  Why is the once proud Weaver program barely ticking at (1-8)?  Why does a venue that Hartford legend Doc Hurley tells me once sizzled with excitement now fail to draw the big crowds that one would think a city could produce?

What is New Haven doing right that Hartford isn’t?  Has the charter school model in Hartford divided up and diluted the athletic talent in town so dramatically that it’s too challenging for the likes of Hartford Public, Weaver and Bulkeley to be as consistently competitive as Hillhouse, Wilbur Cross and Hyde?

I’m curious as I imagine many of the committed high school coaches in the Capital City are, like Hartford Public’s Harry Bellucci.  Bellucci’s Owls are the city’s shining stars on pace to finish the season with  a (6-4) record.

Quick Hits

* 8 time state championship winning head coach Jack Cochran is currently out of the coaching game.  Spending time in the stands watching his son Casey excel as the junior quarterback for state #2 Masuk.  Thursday night he was our guest on the Connecticut Sports Network show Game Time. Before the interview ended I asked how he felt about the CIAC’s 50-point score management rule being called the “Cochran Rule” by many.  He pointed out the irony in the very rule associated with him leaving his son Casey (and many of his fellow Masuk starters) on the bench come the third quarter of many games. Unable to play and continue developing their skills because Masuk is leading by too many points and in jeopardy of violating the “Cochran Rule”

* The CIAC made it’s ruling in the DJ Hernandez cheating case on Thursday.  The Southington football program will be placed on probation through the 2011 season, Hernandez must take a sportsmanship/ethics coaching education class and Southington must pay a $1,000 fine for violating CIAC policies on ethics and sportsmanship.

Didn’t know the CIAC was in the business of fining schools.  Where does the money go?  With cash strapped schools struggling in this economy is it real necessary to fine them? I’ll see if I can find out more from the CIAC offices.

* Norwich Free Academy and New London will renew the longest running rivalry in high school football on Thanksgiving (first game in 1875).  As far as I know though there’s no nickname for the game.  What nicknames are there out there in CT for Thanksgiving games?

Here are some that come to mind (please email (john.holt@wfsb.com) with others)

Battle for The Bell – Bristol Eastern vs. Bristol Central

Berkshire Bowl – Housatonic/Wamogo vs. Gilbert/Northwestern

The Green Bowl – Hamden vs. Notre Dame West Haven

The Elm City Bowl – Wilbur Cross vs. Hillhouse

The Stoddard Bowl – Platt vs. Maloney

The Carini Bowl – Lyman Hall vs. Sheehan

Got More?

* If you’re wondering who may be the top in-state quarterback prospect, the answer is likely Cheshire Academy’s Cody Keith who following prep school will head to play at East Carolina University. In a game last month the Charlotte, NC post graduate student threw for an amazing 637 yards and 8 touchdowns in a win over St. Thomas More.  Here’s a portion of a press release from Cheshire Academy that announced Keith would be coming to Connecticut to attend prep school:

Head CA Football Coach Dan O’Dea says, “Overall, Cody Keith is the most advanced quarterback I have ever seen coming into a prep school. Cody will be part of an offense similar to ECU and will have many opportunities to throw the ball. I’m very comfortable giving Cody complete control of the field and running the offense because of his ability to make precision passes and quick and smart decisions.”

* The Day of New London’s Ned Griffen, one of the very best high school football reporters in the state, is now blogging. Be sure to email Ned for the story on why his blog is called The Lonesome Polecat.

* Last week when Plainville moved to (8-1) with a home win over East Catholic the Blue Devils thought they had clinched a playoff spot in Class M. Not quite yet. A win in West Hartford on Thanksgiving over Northwest Catholic will seal the deal and even with a loss it’ll take a number of upset wins by other teams to keep an (8-2) Plainville team out of the postseason. It has been a remarkable season for first year Head Coach Chris Farrell.  The team was winless and year ago and (1-19) combined the last 2 years. A teacher at the high school, Farrell recruited more kids to come out for the team and has struck gold in his first season. Plainville’s relatively soft schedule and forfeit win over Maloney (for using an ineligible player) make the Blue Devils an easy target for those inclined to question their success.  I see it the other way – with plenty to celebrate for what is a real good sports town.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Enfield at Coventry/Windham Tech  – Friday  7pm

The Booster Club brings in portable lights for a Pequot Conference matchup in which the loser isn’t necessarily eliminated from the Class M playoff race but one in which the winner (thanks to favorable finales on Thanksgiving) is more than likely headed to the playoffs. How’s that for a lot on the line?

Valley Regional at Hyde Leadership – Friday 6:30m

The game will be played under the lights at East Haven High School.  A beat up Valley team looks to take another step towards an undefeated season (they’ve already clinched a Class S playoff spot) while the defending Class S state champion Howling Wolves fight for their playoff lives following their first loss of the season last week to Coginchaug.

Girls Volleyball Coventry vs. Morgan – Class S Championship – Saturday 11am

It promises to be an emotional day at Glastonbury High School.  The dynastic Coventry program seeks its’ 7th state championship in 8 years as the program’s architect, Matt Hurlock battles cancer. Coventry’s one championship match defeat in the previous 7 years came in 2005 to none other than the Morgan Huskies (Coventry has defeated Morgan for the state title on 3 other occasions).

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

After long and careful consideration I have concluded that Saint Anselm college in Manchester, New Hampshire is the most often misspelled college in America. There’s a good chance if you’ve had reason to pronounce or spell the school’s name you’ve said or written Saint Anslem. It seems to flow off the tongue better, but the trouble is it’s incorrect.

In that spirit of Saint Anselm, spell the name of Connecticut’s Governor Elect?

Daniel Malloy?

Nope.

It’s Dannel Malloy.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Week 10 of Friday Night Football!

John

Nick Reardon, One Year Later
November 12, 2010

It’s been over a year now since then Wolcott Tech senior Nick Reardon inspired a state and a country with his touchdown run vs. Avon.  Equally memorable was the gesture by Avon Head Coach Brett Quinion. I’m happy to report that Nick is cancer free.  This week he took some time to answer a handful of questions via email:

NIck's Touchdown Run vs. Avon Last Season

Q:  Nick, how are you feeling?  What is the health update?

A: I feel great! Everything is on the up and up from what the blood work and scans show. Monitoring of blood tumor markers will be on going and I will have a few more CT scans in the future.

Q:  Would you say you have “beaten” cancer?
A: In the words of the Avon Falcon cheer “I Believe” that I have . But it wasn’t just me. Advancements in technology and the medical staff at the cancer center certainly played a critical role. I have to give a lot of credit to all the people around me that kept me believing that I could beat cancer. The support from my football team and their families, coaches, friends, the students and staff at Tech, my immediate family and a lot of people I never met, helped me beat cancer.

Q:  What are you up to day-to-day having graduated from Wolcott Tech?

A:  I work for an excavating contractor by day and then head over to the Tech field where I help as a coaches assistant to the Wildcats football team. I am attending coaching classes and working towards certification. In my spare time I like working on my truck or tinkering with the numerous mopeds I seem to have collected.

Q: When you look back on the events of last fall (the cancer diagnosis, the
touchdown vs. Avon, the response from the local community, the national
attention you received, and your fight to get healthy) – What stands out?
A: The main things that stand out are the touchdown run and the show of support from so many. The national attention gave me the opportunity to learn firsthand how awesome people are even if they don’t know you personally. From people that attended the benefit dinner to those that sent cards, gifts, and emails wishing me well, to the football teams around the state that “brown bagged” it for me, they were and continue to be my inspiration.

Now that it has been a year since that very scary diagnosis, I can say the real fight was more mental than physical. It was a mental battle to know I would be spending 4 to 5 hours hooked to an IV, during treatment days. Sure there were days that I didn’t feel in tip top condition but I was doing everything I would have done with the exception of playing football and that is still my only regret from the experience. Don’t get me wrong, the little red cancer flag is always in the back of my mind, but it is not the focus of the day like it was for a while.

Q: What message would you share with individuals (and their families) who
are facing a cancer diagnosis?

A: It is going to sound absurd but; Don’t worry about it. Attitude is everything! All worrying is going to do is make things worse. Deal with what you are dealt with and just look for the positive in everything, you will find some. Crying, feeling sorry for yourself, and being filled with fear are the worst things to do when faced with a life altering experience like cancer. Accept and cherish the support from the people around you, even though sometimes it can make you feel needy. Pull your head up and don’t let cancer put your life on hold. Plan for the better times that are coming and just keep moving forward.

If The Season Ended Today

If the season ended today, there’d be some explaining to do to those intent on attending traditional Thanksgiving morning rivalry games!  Of course it doesn’t end today but if it did the top seeds in each class (as of this writing) would be  Norwich Free Academy (LL), Masuk (L), Berlin (M) and Ansonia (L) but would they be considered the favorites to win the 4 titles? I polled 3 of the biggest experts in the Connecticut High School football universe:

George “The Coach” DeMaio  / WELI Radio  (AM 960)      

LL – Xavier

L – Masuk

M – Berlin

S – Ansonia

Sean Patrick Bowley /  Connecticut Post – Hearst Connecticut Media Group 

LL – Xavier (but ask me again Saturday night)

L – Masuk

M- Berlin

S – St. Joseph

Ned Griffen / The Day of New London

No Ned's Real Name Isn't "About This Blog". This blogging amateur just can't crop that out!

LL – Xavier

L-  One guess  (editor’s note:  guess he means Masuk?)

M – Berlin

S – St. Joseph (if it qualifies – plays Greenwich and Trumbull the next 2 weeks)

In State Troubles

Randy Edsall often takes criticism for not landing as many of the precious big in-state recruits as some would like.  I’m all for local kids excelling at State U but it doesn’t help when 3 of the bigger names in recent years run into off the field trouble in Storrs.

Ansonia’s Eric Kuraczea was suspended earlier this season and has since left the program.  This week we learned that Bloomfield’s Marcus Campbell’s suspension is apparently the result of a larceny charge for theft of  a backpack containing a laptop.  Seymour’s Mike Osiecki remains on the roster but faced a shoplifting charge last April.

Here’s hoping all 3 young men are good citizens moving forward – your state wants desperately to root for you.

Sad & Disturbing News Thursday Night

While the story of Southington Head Coach DJ Hernandez being given a one game suspension following cheating allegations has dominated the Connecticut High School headlines this week, two other significant stories arose Thursday night.

There are  heavy hearts in Danbury after the sudden death of Assistant Coach Robert “Bo” Williams.

Less than 2 weeks after the Lewis Mills / North Branford brawl, Sacred Heart and Woodland mixed it up in a tussle that saw the Hearts’ star wide receiver Dave Coggins get ejected.

The NVL blog has the game recap and fight video.

Quick Hits

* How frenzied did the media interest in the DJ Hernandez story get this week?  ESPN devoted 30 minutes to it Tuesday afternoon on Outside the Lines at the same time producers from Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s satellite radio show were reaching out to Manchester Head Coach Marco Pizzoferrato who made the allegations.  To the best of my knowledge, Marco did not join Chris on the radio but I do like the ring of “Marco & The Mad Dog”, don’t you?

* What would you say if I told you there was a local head coach who got a call in the first quarter of a state semifinal game last fall with news that he may have lung cancer?  He then had to prep for the state championship game a few days later, the whole time not yet having the results back  to know whether he did in fact have cancer.  Turns out he didn’t. Thank goodness.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Lyman Hall at North Haven – Friday 7pm

My (7-1) team vs. your (7-1) team –  sounds fun to me. Joe Zone will be there to cover it for FNF.

West Haven at Xavier – Friday 7pm

The #1 ranked Falcons made another HUGE defensive statement a week ago by holding visiting Hamden to just 1 yard of total offense. Won’t be nearly as easy vs. the 1-loss Westies.  For those seeking autographs, Joe Zone will also be in attendance at this game (second half).

(I’m feeling for the Hamden kids; #1 in many preseason state polls before the start of last season to 1 yard of total offense –  it’s been a trying season for Head Coach Tony Martone who took over Scott Benoit after Benoit left to be an assistant at The University of New Haven)

Trumbull at Staples – Saturday 1:30pm

A combined (15-1) record for these two FCAIC titans, the winner gets a spot opposite Darien in the FCIAC title game (in Trumbull) next Friday night at 7:30pm.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

When I saw where a contestant on Wheel of Fortune recently solved a word puzzle with just one letter it brought to mind when I once solved a Wheel of Fortune puzzle (all be it sitting on my couch) with no letters!  I swear this is true. The clue was, “Place” and I blurted out Denver, Colorado,  Game, Set, Match – Me!  I am not making this up – just wish someone was sitting with me to verify it.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

Will They Be Installing Blue Turf In Monroe?
November 5, 2010

The headline would have had a little more juice if the Masuk football team hadn’t broke through this week and been voted #1 in the Connecticut Sportswriters Alliance poll.  Xavier remains #1 in the New Haven Register Media Poll and The Day of New London Coaches Poll.

I have been voting Masuk #1 all season and was beginning to wonder  whether voters were holding Masuk’s relatively soft Southwest Conference schedule against it much like the treatment undefeated and yet to ascend to #1 Boise State (out of the Western Athletic Conference) gets in college football.

The Broncos have won their conference games by an average of 50.6 points a game this season,  Masuk by an average of 44.5 – no doubt kept down the CIAC’s 50 point rule that doesn’t apply to teams in the WAC.

All this and Masuk stlll sits behind a Xavier  team (that has eked out wins the last two  weeks) in the minds of voters in the Register and Day Polls. Boise, Masuk feels your pain.  In the name of solidarity, where can they call for one of those blue turf fields?

If not Boise how about the University of New Haven - the only other school in the country with blue turf and much closer to Monroe when it comes to scheduling home games!

Unethical Football?

Thursday night the Hartford Courant’s Tom Yantz broke a memorable story with Manchester Head Coach Marco PIzzoferrato accusing Southington Head Coach DJ Hernandez of cheating in his team’s win over Manchester 2 weeks ago. Hernandez, the first year Southington Head Coach and former UConn Quarterback is alleged to have utilized an armband with Manchester’s offensive plays that came into his possession in time for the second half.

Is it cheating?  Maybe. Is is unethical?  Seems to be. Sort of like a distant relative of the move  occassionally seen in the NFL when a team acquires the recent castoff of an upcoming opponent in hopes that he will bring some knowledge of his old team’s playbook and strategy to the table.  I’d point to New England’s Danny Woodhead as an example but as it turned out Woodhead wasn’t enough to put the Pats over the top in their Week 2 loss to the New York Jets.  Furthermore Woodhead has proven to be much more valuable in the long haul than someone picked up strictly for their intimate knowledge of a division rival.

At the least this incident promises to stick with DJ Hernandez going forward and unfortunately mar what has been a terrific first year coaching job by a 24-year old coach with more than one key injurie on his team.

High School Football Controversey Part II

Consider me stunned that the North Branford / Lewis Mills brawl resulting in a double forefit did not end up being appealed in court this week by North Branford. For a recap of the incident and video of the brawl (that does get interrupted at a key juncture) check out Dave Solomon’s column for the New Haven Register.

Looks like a hodge podge of younger players and former players (former players still in high school that is) will suit up for North Branford tomorrow in a home game vs. SMSA/University.  Without a win, North Branford’s playoff hopes will be over.

Wonder which first year varsity head coach is having a longer week: Southington’s DJ Hernandez or Lewis Mills’  Peter Flammia?

Sending The Wrong Message

Tonight on Friday Night Football at 11:15pm I’ll examine whether the message boards on local newspapers allow those who post comments the cross the line when it comes to high school athletes and coaches.  Xavier Senior linebacker Graham Stewart and New Britain Head Coach Paul Morrell are the focus.

Speaking of the BC bound Stewart, he gave me some insight into his choice of Boston College over UConn when we spoke a few weeks back.  Was going from a Catholic high school to a Jesuit college a consideration in setting him up for success at BC ?- Yes! Was a struggling Big East a consideration when choosing the ACC instead? Yes on that account to.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Avon at Enfield – Friday 7pm

Two of the top running backs in the state hit the field with Avon’s Ross McDonald and Enfield’s Andrew Buanno. This meeting of once beaten teams has got to be the most anticipated football game in Enfield in years.

Ledyard at Montville – Friday 6:30pm

A third loss for Jim Buonocore and his Ledyard Colonels and the Class M playoffs won’t happen. This will be a physical batttle.

Maloney at Wethersfield – Saturday 2pm

Ironically, a year after seeing start Quarterback Tyler Murphy move on to the University of Florida the Wethersfield Eagles are undefeated.  Saturday the meet a Maloney Spartan team whose only loss came in Week 1 to Plainville due to the use of an ineligible player that was discovered later after Maloney had won the game on the field.

The most talented player on the field Saturday may be – Maloney’s conistent, productive and occassionally spectacular quarterback Ryan Belote.

By the way does the annual Platt-Maloney Thanksgiving day game look juicy this year or what?

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

Why is it all the high speed car chases seem to come from Southern California? Saw yet another one LIVE on Fox News this week and it got me wondering.  Do they actually happen all over the place but it’s just Southern California with the TV helicopters to bring it into our living rooms or do Southern Californians have a special place in their hearts for racing against pursuing police cars with no regard for human life?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John