A Tale Of Two Cities

November 19, 2010 - Leave a Response

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 - Leave a Response

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 - Leave a Response

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

Dogged Determination

October 29, 2010 - Leave a Response

Well before the curtain closed on the last act of the 2008 high school football season it appeared that Rob Plasky’s run as Naugatuck Head Coach was curtains. Former Hillhouse Head Coach Eric Barbarito, Bunnell Coach Craig Bruno and current Pomperaug Offensive Coordinator Steve Croce were just some of the possible replacements being bandied about.  Nearly 2 years later Plasky remains the head coach on Rubber Avenue. Better yet for Plasky and the Greyhound faithful, Naugy is off to a (6-0) start and could be ticketed for a spot in the Class L playoffs.  Plasky feels vindicated.

In the spring of 2009, amidst allegations of mishandling team funds, Plasky’s contract as coach was not renewed.  The coach’s determination to  prove his innocence and restore his reputation won out. His appeal in a public hearing in front of the Naugatuck Board of Education resulted in his job being restored.

Courtesy: My Citizens News

What is permanently damaged is Plasky’s relationship with Naugatuck Athletics Director Tom Pompei.  A winning (and perhaps even unbeaten regular season) is unlikely to change that. With all he and his family has been through, it’s nice to see Plasky having a successful season with players who have no doubt learned from their coach’s public defense of his integrity.

And It Ends At 36

It had been almost 4 years since the East Haven Yellow Jackets last won a football game – Thanksgiving 2006 vs. Branford. A 36 game losing streak came to an end last Friday vs. Platt Tech of Milford.  A 42-14 victory was highlighted by a 104 yard interception return for a touchdown by East Haven’s Nikko Fiorillo (one of the 3 nominees for the Week 6 FNF Athlete of the Week). Numbers have been a problem for the program and not just the numbers on the scoreboard.  The New Haven Register reports that school had just 18 players on the roster to start the season but now that number has grown to 45.

Detractors might point out that East Haven needed to schedule a game outside the Southern Connecticut Conference to secure a win (Platt Tech plays in the Constitution State Conference) but that didn’t seem to dull the postgame celebration on the East Haven sideline.  Look for video of the streak busting win tonight during our high school football coverage on Channel 3.

On the topic of school’s struggling to snap extended losing streaks check out this story.

Sending The Wrong Message?

Should teenage high school athletes and their adult coaches be subject to criticism on internet message boards hosted by state newspapers?  Does the open forum policy of newspapers such as the New Haven Register, Middletown Press and New Britain Herald run counter to the spirit of high school sports or is it simply a freedom of speech issue?

From persistent posts for New Britain Head Coach Paul Morrell to be fired in the online comment section of the New Britain Herald to disappointed adults fans of the UConn football program taking shots at Xavier Senior Linebacker Graham Stewart who has decided to play out of state at Boston College – is such message board dialogue appropriate when it comes to sports at the high school level?

Next week (11/5) on Friday Night Football we’ll air a story on the issue. In the meantime I’d welcome your thoughts with an email to me at john.holt@wfsb.com

Class S Field Rooting Against St. Joseph

Can you blame the rest of the Class S field if they’d rather not see (4-2) St. Joseph-Trumbull in the 8 team postseason party?  The cadets won now defunct Class SS a year ago and with Tyler Matakevich back in the lineup, having returned from a foot injury in last week’s win over then state #3 New Canaan,  there may not be a Class S team that could knock off St. Joe’s in the playoffs.  Of course they first have to get there and the rest of their regular season includes difficult FCIAC tests vs. Greenwich and Trumbull.  No truth to the rumor that Ansonia Head Coach Tom Brockett has been spotted wearing a Greenwich H.S. Football t-shirt and Hyde Coach Melvin Wells a Trumbull windbreaker.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Bristol Eastern at Berlin – Friday 7pm

Both are (6-0) but Bristol Eastern will play without injured running back Tyrell Holmes (broken leg).  Lancer teammates Dylon Ouellette and Taylor Wrice the stage is yours, an upset of defending state champ Berlin happens only if you both play possessed.

Daniel Hand at West Haven – Friday 7pm

A classic Southern Connecticut Conference rivalry with two of the most accomplished coaches in the state, Hand’s Steve Filippone and West Haven’s Ed McCarthy.  I have a feeling George DeMaio was set up with his radio equipment at Ken Strong stadium back on Wednesday in anticipation of this one.

Fitch at Norwich Free Academy – Saturday 1pm

The Fitch Falcons are coming off their first loss a week ago to New London while the NFA Wildcats remain undefeated and currently atop the Class LL playoff point standings.  Norwich’s senior running back Tony Facchini will return after missing last week’s game at East Lyme with a broken thumb.

(NFA Coach Jemal Davis pointed out to me this week that on Tuesday the NFA/New London Thanksgiving game was moved back to Thanksgiving morning after having earlier been changed to a Wednesday night / Thanksgiving Eve game)

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

Any suggested uses for Big Y silver coins other than cashing them in to save on groceries?  I have amassed a sizable collection of the silver but always seem to forget them at home when I go grocery shopping.

How about handing them out on Halloween?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Week 7 of Friday Night Football,

John

Ivy Spiced With Nutmeg

October 22, 2010 - Leave a Response

They call the Ivy League the Ancient 8 and at the moment 2 of these prestigious programs have Connecticut kids running the offense. Former Cheshire quarterback Billy Ragone is the sophomore starter  at QB for Penn and former Griswold standout Sean Brackett is the #1 QB for Columbia.  In fact they shared Ivy League Co-Offensive Player of The Week honors earlier this month – a remarkable achievement for our small state I’d say.  This Saturday and next Ragone and Brackett will make return trips to their home state as Penn visits Yale tomorrow before Columbia comes to town next weekend – both games (noon kickoffs) can be seen on the YES Network.  For an interesting read on Ragone’s return to Connecticut check out Dave Solomon’s recent column in the New Haven Register:   http://nhregister.com/articles/2010/10/21/sports/ssolomon_ragone102110.txt

Is Seth DeValve next?

Manchester High School’s senior quarterback could be the next Connecticut kid playing QB in the Ivy League. Ranked 8th in his class, Princeton is showing big interest in the dual threat DeValve.  Seth need look no further than his brother Jacob who was an exceptional decathlete at Manchester and currently competes on scholarship  at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Seth comes from a family of faith and is said to be unfailingly polite, no vulgarities come out this kid’s mouth – “Aw Shucks!” is about as racy as it gets.  I find that cool.

What Went Wrong?

Each week on our FNF Overtime show (11:35pm streaming on WFSB.COM and on our digital cable channel, Eyewitness News Now) we present our Connecticut Collegians segment where we check on a former CT high school football star now excelling on the next level.  In the first 5 weeks of the season we’ve provided updates on Jordan Reed (New London / University of Florida),  Johrone Bunch (Maloney / Mt. Ida), Jordan Brown (Glastonbury / Bryant), John Moffitt (ND West Haven / Wisconsin) and Keith Carlos (Bridgeport Central / Purdue).  One local player we won’t be focusing on anytime soon is Ansonia’s Erik Kurazcea.  After a stellar high school career clearing the way for record-setting running back Alex Thomas (now at Yale), Kuraczea committed to play for Randy Edsall at UConn. After a month long suspension to start the season, Kuraczea was back as the starter for recent games but this week Edsall announced the Kuraczea was leaving the program.  On the record, Edsall said that Erik was leaving for personal reasons.  Subsequent media reports suggested that Kuraczea wasn’t willing to put in the work that Edsall requires.

Really? A kid from The Valley not working hard enough?  A kid from a storied program from Ansonia not working hard enough?  Doesn’t seem to add up, does it?

Red, Right (or wrong) & Blue

Tomorrow at 2pm in Darien the  Blue Wave host Red Lion Christian Academy out of Bear, Delaware.  It may spell the end to Darien’s undefeated season.  It appears they’re opposite a budding football factory.  Red Lion’s quarterback is 6-1, 14-year old 8th grade David Sills who committed to Coach Lane Kiffin and USC as a 13-year old.  No, that’s not a misprint.  Equally eyebrow-raising are the hundreds of thousands of dollars Sills’ father has committed to building the program at Red Lion. This story has little bit of everything and the Connecticut Post’s Sean Patrick Bowley details it nicely with a blog post: http://blog.ctnews.com/hssports/2010/10/11/coming-to-darien-in-week-6-a/

Time To Step Up The Coverage

Each year at about this time I take a look at the successful teams who to date we haven’t covered enough or at all on Friday Night Football (it doesn’t help that some of these teams play Saturday more often than Friday).  Here now The Underexposed FNF Top 10:

1) West Haven

2) Norwich Free Academy

3) Trumbull

4) New Canaan

5) Wethersfield

6) Fitch

7) Hyde Leadership

8)  Montville

9) Coginchaug

10) Naugatuck

Hope to shake up this Top 10 tonight with plans to feature games including as many as 6 of these teams.  Who else are we underexposing?  Let us know, emails to sports3@wfsb.com

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Southington at Manchester – Friday 7pm

Despite injuries to Joe Pesce and Connor Butkiewicz Southington appears to be improving each week under first year head Coach DJ Hernandez.  Tonight they visit a fellow (4-1) in Manchester.  Some still doubt the Indians and Coach Marco Pizzoferrato – this is their chance to quiet the doubters with home games to follow later on the schedule against Windsor and Bloomfield.

Bullard Havens at Cheney Tech – Friday 6pm

Right down the street from the Manchester/Southington game is another good one. The winner of this battle of (4-1) tech schools will likely go on to win the Constitution State Conference (CSC).  Bullard Havens is led by mobile quarterback Nick Rodriguez who ran for 6 touchdowns last Saturday vs. Abbott Tech en route to being one of 3 nominees for the FNF Athlete of The Week.

Fitch at New London – Saturday 1pm (Coast Guard Academy)

This was originally a Friday night game that would have been front and center on our FNF agenda, but New London’s continuing home field troubles bounced the game to Saturday at Coast Guard. The great (despite his Yankee boxer shorts) Mike DiMauro from The Day Newspaper calls it Eastern Connecticut’s greatest rivalry: http://theday.com/article/20101022/SPORT01/310229846/-1/sport

Is Fitch legit under coach Mike Emery’s second run at the helm?  We’ll know a lot more after tomorrow and then next Saturday’s road game at Norwich Free Academy.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

This may fall on some deaf ears of young people who don’t know 60 Minute’s Andy Rooney from Wayne Rooney (or Wayne Rooney from Lil’ Wayne for that matter) but is anyone else both curious and repulsed by what’s going on with Andy Rooney’s upper lip?  Is it an infection or simply the cantankerous Rooney’s way of saying I couldn’t care less if you approve of my biting commentaries or my not ready for prime time upper lip.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Week 6 of FNF!

John

Grand Affair

October 15, 2010 - Leave a Response
Tonight at 7, Ansonia joins New Britain and Hillhouse as the only Connecticut high schools to play 1,000 football games.  It’s a highly anticipated NVL matchup with a Wolcott program that has never beaten the Chargers.  Ansonia’s  710 wins are second behind New Britain’s 733.
For historical perspective on Ansonia I checked in with Ed Morse. Ed’s Passion for Chargers Football (or “The Lavender” as he often calls them) is genuine and passionate.
Ed shares that Ansonia’s first official game came in 1900, a season in which they finished the year undefeated at (3-0-0).   Ansonia has had 15 undefeated teams through the years to go with a record 16 CIAC state championships.  The biggest crowd Ed remembers is the 12,000 for the 1994 Naugatuck at Ansonia game – a battle of unbeatens won by the Chargers in overtime.

Naming the best all-time Ansonia team and player?  Morse politely takes a pass on that one, too tough to pick.

Is victory number 711 in store tonight or will Wolcott make history with its’ first victory over its’ NVL rival?  Either way the winning coach will join us on the phone for a live interview on FNF Overtime (WFSB.COM and digital cable, Eyewitness News Now) tonight at 11:35pm.

Quick Hits

* The Great Bob Sagendorf has his inimitable voice back and after receiving treatment for dead nerve tissues that were impacting his speech Bob is back on the air tonight for the call of the Ansonia-Wolcott game. 7pm on AM 1320 WATR or streaming on WATR.COM.  Bob will be joined on the broadcast by Steve Croce (currently the offensive coordinator for Pomperaug) and J. Paul Vance Jr. Look for one of Bob’s touchdown calls to make the FNF show tonight at 11:15pm.

* Learned recently that the Fairfield Country Interscholastic Athletic Conference (FCIAC) has its’ own substantial and exclusive deal with Madison Square Garden Network and MSG Varsity to broadcast football games.  That’s why you won’t see an FCIAC game on the Connecticut Sports Network or MY 9’s Game of the Week.  It’s not until the playoffs and state championship games when the CIAC’s partner, CTSN, has the right to show games with FCIAC teams involved.

* Speaking of the FCIAC, congratulations to Bridgeport’s Harding High School.  The Presidents won their first game in close to 2 years and first FCIAC game in nearly 4 years last week , 12-6 over Fairfield Ludlowe.

* And speaking of presidents, be sure to catch the opening to FNF tonight at 11:15pm.  Joe Zone for President of Friday Night Football?  You decide.

*  Another reason to feel good about high school sports (young man scores touchdown in motorized scooter)

* Valley Regional Tight End Mitchell King (he also punts and kicks) is drawing more college interest by the day. The 6-6 232 pound senior is healthy after being inured a year ago – schools expressing interest range from the Ivy League to Boston College, Duke, Maryland and UCLA.  Temple and Tulane have already offered scholarships.

*   The Middletown Blue Dragons are enjoying a (3-1) start under new coach Sal Morello who came over from Cromwell to replace Eric Marszalek – both of whom are favorites of this blogger.  After going just 1-9 a year ago it’s logical to conclude that the coaching change is the difference – not so fast.  Middletown has a much more forgiving schedule this season.  In Marszalek’s final season they play a D-1 schedule in the then freshly realigned Central Connecticut Conference, this year they were reclassified to CCC D-2 and it’s making a difference.  Middletown’s 3 wins to date have come over Bristol Central, Hartford Public and East Hartford,  3 teams that were not on the Blue Dragon’s schedule a year ago.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Masuk at Bunnell – Friday 7pm

Most who’ve seen them play believe that no Southwest Conference opponent can beat Masuk. Bunnell may be the best hope  They get the Panthers at home tonight in Stratford and we’ll need every ounce of effort from sophomore quarterback Brian Castelot and the offense against a Masuk defense that has allowed 1 offensive touchdown in its’  first 4 games.

Hand-Madison at Notre Dame West Haven – Friday 7pm

The undefeated Hand Tigers jumped into the State Top 10 with their win over Cheshire last Friday. Now they get a ND West Haven team that is a deceiving (2-2) with losses to undefeateds Xavier and West Haven.  Hard to believe Notre Dame, the state #1 from a year ago and defending Class L Champion could be (2-3) come 9:30 tonight.

Valley Regional/Old Lyme at North Branford – Friday 6:30pm

I’m curious to see how this one goes.  Valley and North Branford are 2 of the 4 remaining undefeated teams in the Pequot conference along with Coginchaug and Hyde who were both playoff teams a year ago.

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

Are an increasing number of cashiers at stores unable to extend customers some basic pleasantries? I’m finding more and more often that I will go through an entire transaction with the store’s employee not saying a single word. That means no “Hello”, no “That’ll be  $25.20 please”, no “Thank You”, etc…  Am I alone?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Week 5 of Friday Night Football

John

The Other King James

October 8, 2010 - Leave a Response

(And yes a friendly email to sports3@wfsb.com could get you an FNF T-shirt and or FNF magnet schedule)

A couple months from now New Haven’s  King James may have his own “Decision” to make (Temple, Akron, Maryland, Villanova) but for the next 6 weeks Wilbur Cross Running Back James Ward will do his best to guide the Governors to the postseason.  Through 3 weeks of the high school football season, Ward leads the state with 11 touchdowns.  James and his coach John Acquavita were our in studio guests on CTSN’s (Thursdays 7pm)  Game Time show.  Acquavita is most impressed with how Ward carries himself as a team leader and a student at Cross.  At 5-8, 175 pounds Ward is small in the eyes of Division 1 recruiters but little else he is doing this season rates anything less than big including a first-play-of-the-season kickoff return for a touchdown in the opener at Shelton.

Saturday afternoon Ward should have a few face-t0-faces with 300 pound Ridgefield lineman Tommy Jordan.  Then after that Cross has consecutive games with Cheshire, Hand, Notre Dame-West Haven and West Haven –  the James’ Kingdom is about to be tested in no small way.

Record Tying Bacon

Tonight on Eyewitness News at 6pm and then again on Friday Night Football we’ll have highlights of Bacon Academy’s record tying comeback win over Windham last Saturday.  Playing at home, Bacon trailed the Whips 41-13 in the third quarter before rallying for a 48-47 win.  The rally from a 28 point deficit matches the record for the biggest comeback in state history.  The Bobcats did it behind 5 rushing touchdowns and 2 touchdown passes from quarterback Brennden Cullen and 15 receptions and 170 yards from wide receiver Alex Couture (playing with a splint and cast on his right hand).

The Body Issue

Joe Zone pointed out to me how the week provided quite a contrast with stories that go skin deep. While the Bridgeport Central cheerleaders were protesting skimpy uniform that they felt showed too much skin (exposed midriff), all time UConn Women’s great Diana Taurasi was showing off her buff naked body in ESPN The Magazine.  I applaud them both.

Part I of II?

Here’s hoping last Friday’s mud bowl between Xavier and Cheshire is the first of two meetings between the two excellent programs.  Xavier’s 9-6 win would likely have played out differently on a dry track and that’s just what could happen come the Class LL playoffs.  Both defenses were stout but it’s fair to think that Xavier’s superior speed was neutralized by the sloppy conditions.  Amazingly, due to SCC scheduling quirks the 2 teams hadn’t played each other since the late 90’s.  Their next meeting could come a lot  sooner. See you at The Rent?

The Best Winless Team In The State

My vote is for (0-3) Windham with competitive and or late losses to Norwich Free Academy, New London and Bacon Academy (see above).  It may not get any better this week either. Say Hello to Ledyard.

By George They Decided to Cancel

The decision by Rhode Island prep school St. George’s to cancel a scheduled game with Lawrence Academy (Ma.) is getting a lot of play on Boston sports talk radio.

St. George’s coaches and administrators were concerned for their players safety with the Lawrence Academy offensive line averaging over 300 pounds.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Cheshire at Daniel Hand – Friday 7pm

Hand has showcased a prolific offense through 3 weeks – averaging over 37 points a game – Cheshire has allowed a total of 15 points all season.  Could Cheshire lose two weeks in a row?

New Britain vs. Southington (Rentschler Field) – Friday 7pm

Neither one of these programs appears on track for an exceptional season but their pedigree and the venue (The Rent) help the intrigue here.  Southington Coach and former  UConn quarterback D.J. Hernandez returns to the site of his finest college moment , a game winning 2-point conversion in a 2006 double overtime victory over Pittsburgh.

Trumbull at Bridgeport Central Friday 6pm

Both team are undefeated. Bridgeport Central missed the postseason party last year on account of 1 regular season loss.  It came at Trumbull, 21-0.  Even with a loss tonight, either team would remain a serious playoff contender thanks to the newly expanded 8 teams per class format (last year just 4 LL schools qualified and Central missed out).

Completely Unrelated Thoughts Of The Week

I’m not a big movie guy but I may seriously consider skipping out on work for a full day to take in The Town, Secretariat, The Social Network and The Tillman Story.

Saw Yankees Manager Joe Girardi appearing in a television commercial for Taco Bell this week.  Is this not the same guy who banned junk food from the Yankees clubhouse and encouraged his players to only eat pizza with whole wheat crust?  Fraud alert.

If I can live the rest of my life with 1/100th the grace and courage of Dr. William Petit I’ll be satisfied.

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF

John

Point-less?

October 1, 2010 - Leave a Response

Vociferous complaints about the CIAC’s 50 point (score management) rule aren’t nearly as prevalent as the were when the rule  was first introduced in 2006 but that may soon change if the events of this early season persist.

Bridgeport Central coach Dave Cadelina, who won an appeal of a 50-point rule violation in ’06, is again in the middle of things.  Central has won its’ first two games of the season 5o to 6 and 49 to 0. Faced with violating the 50-point rule in both games Coach Cadelina has been left with no choice but to avoid running offensive plays – in last week’s 49-0 nothing win over city rival Bassick, Bridgeport Central punted on first down on every offensive possession in the second half.

Berlin faced a similar situation last night in a one-sided win over Tolland.  The defending Class M Champion Redcoats began the second half by taking a knee on the opening kickoff instead of attempting to return it.

No Bonus For You

Windsor Coach Rob Fleeting, his Warriors off to a (2-0) start, was surprised to learn that his team did not receive any bonus points in the Class L playoff point standings for wins over LL schools Simsbury and New Britain.  The CIAC groups L & LL schools together and does not reward an L school 10 points for “playing up” against LL schools.  The policy has not changed from last year but  is particularly relevant to a school like Windsor whose 10-game CCC schedule includes 8 teams that are from Class LL.  S schools are rewarded 10 points for beating M schools and 20 points for beating L and LL schools.  M schools are rewarded 10 points for beating L and LL schools.

Edsall To Boston College?

Not Randy, Corey.  The buzz has East Catholic senior Quarterback Corey Edsall, son of UConn Head Coach Randy Edsall, heading to Boston College in hopes of  kicking/punting for B.C. as a walk-on. Edsall an Eagle? – could be, Corey did attend BC Coach Frank Spaziani’s summer camp in Chestnut Hill.

Coach Speak

Tonight on FNF I’ll profile local radio legend George “The Coach” DeMaio.  Coach has been at it since the early 80’s – morning sports reports for his New Haven County audience and tireless play-by-play work for high school football, basketball, hockey and softball.  A Connecticut treasure, Coach has set the standard with his game coverage.

A couple thoughts from Coach that didn’t make tonight’s story:

All Time Favorite Connecticut High School Player: Rico Brogna (Rico actually sought Coach out for advice when faced with a choice to play football on scholarship at Clemson or sign to play in the Detroit Tigers minor league system. Coach told Rico to go with baseball and you know the rest of the story)

Favorite Stadiums To Call a High School Game From:

West Haven (Coach’s Alma Matr and home to the best grounds crew in the state says Coach)

Hand-Madison’s Surf Club –  Coach says, “The Tigers aren’t a team they are a program.”

I reached out  to a few people who know Coach well to get their thoughts.

Steve Filippone / Hand-Madison Head Coach

I have known George for 20+ years and believe that he has had a tremendous influence on HS football throughout the state but most importantly in the SCC and New Haven County.  When we needed to get the new playoff plan through we went to him for help.  He explained what his position was and promised that if we were able to maintain T-Day games he would do everything in his power to support us.  His ability to reach thousands of listeners with a credible and sensible approach to our proposal is one of the many reasons we succeeded in getting it through.

Sean Patrick Bowley / Connecticut Post

George is as passionate about his work as anybody else I know in this business, if not more. He learned very early that the most important thing about covering high school football is getting scores. That’s what his audience wants, that’s what the coaches and players want on their bus ride home. And that’s what he gives them. Long before the internet, text messaging and Twitter ever hit the scene, George has always been the source for high school football scores.

He’d climb Mount Everest if it meant getting a score from, say, Killingly or Ellington or even somewhere as close as Seymour. George literally calls every athletic director and football coach in Connecticut to remind them to call WELI and report their final score. If he doesn’t get a score he wants, he’ll almost shame them into getting it right next time. “Well, I called the school, I talked to the AD and he assured me the coach would get us a final,” he’d say. “Right now, I’ve got nothing. I don’t understand.” You can almost hear George shaking his head on the air like a disappointed father. He’s relentless, and that’s what’s so endearing about him.

George is old school in that he’s extremely loyal to the people who help him throughout the season. And he’ll go to great lengths to reward his clan. I’ve been lucky to be a part of the circle. I’ve spent the last 10 Thanksgiving Days with the DeMaio Clan. Not at the dinner table, but at his pregame, Thanksgiving Day Football Extravaganza breakfast he hosts for his “Friday Night Football Crew” at a local diner in West Haven. George provides entire crew with heaping helpings of pancakes, eggs, sausage, bacon and muffins before we head to our separate games.

Traditionally, it’ll go off without a hitch. But on those rainy or snowy Thanksgiving mornings, while the rest of us are stuffing our faces, George is in front of the restaurant, calling every number in his phone book to get the latest postponements so he’ll be able to inform his audience with the latest news when he hits the air at 10 a.m. He pushes us to call our contacts and he lets us know he’s the authority. “I just got off the phone with Joe Canzanella, Wilbur Cross-Hillhouse is still on. …Jeanne Cooper at Hamden says they’re still clearing snow off the field, they’ll make a decision on the Green Bowl by 9 a.m. I haven’t heard back from Craig Semple about Hand-Guilford…”

It’s not Thanksgiving Day without George DeMaio calling his game and getting all the updates from around the state. And he won’t have a bite of turkey until every football score and playoff matchup is accounted for. There’s no other place to go than WELI on Thanksgiving Day. And nobody covers high school football on game day like George. His love of the sport and the community enriches the experience for all of us who cover the games alongside him. I can’t imagine a season without him.

Ned Griffen / The Day of New London

Bad Weather had postponed a number of games one 1998 weekend, including Shelton at Hamden. It was moved from Friday night to Monday afternoon, and relocated to West Haven High School.

George, for whatever reason, decided he was going to broadcast that game. The one hitch was that he couldn’t get a color man and would go it alone.

I was driving from another game and running late to West Haven when I turned on the radio to see how George was handling the solo gig. I was concerned he might struggle without a sidekick.

Nope – George was flawless and never had  a moment of dead air. Pretty sure he gave a plug to someone that brought him Italian food (they take very good care of George at West Haven).

As I listened to George’s non-stop chatter, I though, “Man – this guy is good“.

Links Of The Week

Moon Over Queens:

http://www.foxnews.com/sports/2010/09/26/high-school-coach-moons-fans-game/

Homeless Player, Clueless Decision?:

http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Florida-coach-suspended-for-taking-in-homeless-p?urn=highschool-273393

Ledyard’s Quartet Of Foreign Exchange Students:

http://www.wfsb.com/local-video/index.html?grabnetworks=videoid:4349628%20%20%20

Keeping Score

We had a couple of complaints this week about our FNF page at WFSB.COM not posting the Friday night scores in a timely enough manner.  I’d love some more feedback on this (john.holt@wfsb.com). We tend to focus our energies on getting as many highlights statewide in time for the 11:15pm show with all the scores running on a ticker come showtime.  Should getting the scores up earlier on our website be a priority – even it redirects our resources away from game coverage?

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Staples at Ridgefield – Friday 7pm

Joe Zone will be making the trip to the New York border for this one and has 3 reasons to be excited.

1) His first ever trip to “Tiger Hollow” – said to be one of the best high school football facilities in the state.

2) Ridgefield Senior lineman Tommy Jordan. Chance to see the big time recruit up close before he heads to the University of Florida.

3) Staples.  Class program, class coach in Marce Petroccio.

Holy Cross at Ansonia – Friday 7pm

Dobbs, DiGiorgi, DiClementi, – enough A-List running backs whose names start with D to fill the rosters for 2 games.  Anxious to see who wins this battle of (2-0) NVL challengers

Simsbury at Hall – Saturday 1:30pm

Are the (2-0) Warriors legit?  Let’s see what they have vs. visiting Simsbury

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week

My definition of cruel and unusual punishment?  Stores and merchants asking people like me (who already have horrendous handwriting) to sign for credit card purchases on one of those electronic signature pads.  Can anyone write neatly on one of these things let alone those of us whose cursive never progressed past a third grade level?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for FNF!

John

No Home Field, No Pom Pon Squad, No Voice. What?!

September 23, 2010 - Leave a Response

Last Saturday New London opened its season vs. Montville with a  game at the Coast Guard Academy.  The game was moved from Friday to Saturday and New London High School to Coast Guard because of problems with the new turf field at New London H.S. Now it appears there’s a good chance the football team (and other teams that use the field) won’ t have a single home game this fall as the field problem is addressed. The Day of New London reports that Whalers head coach Jeff Larson is preparing for a season of road games.

The Finn Stadium field at Shelton is just fine for football but the 30 year tradition of a Pom Pon dance team (a different group from the cheerleading squad) has been suspended for the year after a suitable advisor for the team could not be found. The kids on the Pom Pon team, especially the seniors are devastated.

Speaking on long running traditions in the valley, nobody speaks on the radio with more authority than “The Voice”,  WATR radio’s Bob Sagendorf. For the forseeable future though “The Voice” is silenced.  Dead nerve tissues that control speech are the problem.  Sags continues to seek treatment.  My thoughts and prayers are with him. In his absence, WATR has Tom Fuller  and  Steve Gesseck  on the radio call of weekly high school football games.  This week’s game is Friday’s 7pm kickoff between St. Paul and Holy Cross.  Read Joe Palladino’s recent article on Bob’s battle to regain his voice here.

Shedding Light On The Matter

There’s nothing quite like high school football under the lights, almost every school wants in on it.  Friday night this week brings the debut of new permanent lights at Haddam-Killingworth (hats off to Al Sheahan and the lighting project committee at HK) and a special game under portable lights in Falls Village for the Housatonic Valley Regional Mountaineers.  Housy’s 7pm game with Canton is believed to be the first home night game at HVRHS in some 15 years.

Later this season both Bristol Eastern (10/8 vs. Northwest Catholic) and Old Saybrook/Westbrook  (10/22 vs. Coginchaug) will bring in temporary lights to host night games on their high school campuses.  The Bristol Eastern Lancers are used to home night games at Bristol’s Muzzy Field but the 10/8 game will be right out the school’s backdoor.

Just Wondering

Friday Night Football producer Mark Fijalkowski threw this interesting question at me recently:

Has any player ever quarterbacked 2 different Connecticut schools to state championships during his high school career?

Of course should Masuk win a state title this year  (or presumably next)- that’d make 2 for Panther Quarterback Casey Cochran. The first coming as  freshman at New London High School in 2008.

Reason To Smile

Channel 3’s weekly online Student Athlete of The Week Poll is back again this season and this year is brought to you by the good people at Rosenberg Orthodontics with locations in West Hartford, Wethersfield,  Newington and Canton.

We reveal the 3 nominees each week at 11:15pm on Sports Sunday then again in Monday’s 6pm sportscast.  You can vote at WFSB’s Friday Night Football page through Friday afternoon each week.  We then reveal the winner during Friday’s 6pm sportscast and again on FNF at 11:15pm.

The first 3 nominees of the season were Torrington running back Brenden Lytton,  Wilbur Cross running back James Ward and St. Joseph Quarterback Joe Della Vecchia.

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Masuk at Pomperaug  7pm Friday

Their first regular season meeting since 2008.  Pomperaug won the SWC Championship game between the two last season.  Masuk Coach John Murphy says the Pomperaug student section is one of the best in the state.  For what it’s worth, I’ve been voting Masuk #1 in the state in the early polls.

Windsor at New Britain 7pm Friday

Are the Windsor Warriors for real after a 42-6 opening night win over Simsbury?  A spot on the big stage of Veterans’ Stadium in New Britain vs. the Golden Hurricanes Friday night will be telling.

Staples at Norwalk 7pm Friday

Time for Norwalk to back up that eye-popping Week 1 win over Greenwich. No better test than Staples, right?

(Friday’s 7pm game with Glastonbury visiting Southington also has the makings of a good one!)

Is Friday Night Football Really The Most Fun 15 Minutes In Connecticut Television?

We ask that question in the spirit of the excellent, creative Geico Insurance TV ads.  Look for FNF to debut some of its’ own spots in coming weeks starring the Naugatuck Cheerleaders, WFSB’s Denise D’Ascenzo , local radio legend George “The Coach” DeMaio and FNF’s Joe Zone.

We hope ours are just half as the real ones, here are 2 of my favorite:

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week:

I own a basic cellphone that’s probably about 5 years old.  My wife believes it’s woefully outdated and I should upgrade especially since the new phones are free if you extend your service plan.  I feel no need to get a new phone – should I?

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

John

Is There A Spot On Your Fridge For Us?

September 17, 2010 - Leave a Response

As the 2010 season kicks off we have plans to bring you more Friday Night Football shows than ever – likely as many as 17.  It starts tonight and ends on the second Saturday of December – December 11th. New this year are FNF magnet schedules listing show dates. Any chance you’d offer us (Joe Zone and I are pictured on the magnets) some real estate on your refrigerator?  If you’d like one sent your way drop an email to john.holt@wfsb.com  – with your home address.

Change Is Good – Right?

Most preseason accounts of the new state  playoff system  (32 teams qualify instead of 24 / 4 divisions instead of 6) have coaches voicing universal approval.  Believe me when I say not all coaches are behind it.  The smallest of the Class S small schools will now find it more challenging than ever to win a state championship for their town.  These schools must still beat all the regular suspects in Class S plus others schools that had previously been classified with the slightly bigger enrollment of Class SS schools.  Bottom line?  The large schools and their coaches love the changes yet a small school Cinderella story is now more unlikely than ever.  That state title Putnam won back in 1994?  Consider it once in a lifetime even as Putnam now competes as the Quinebaug Pride co-op with Tourtellotte and Ellis Tech.

It’s Early but….

Week 1 games started early this week with some schools avoiding  Friday kickoffs due to the Jewish Holiday, Yom Kippur.  2 scores catch my attention:

Windsor (not a playoff team a year ago) 42 Simsbury (a playoff team a year ago) 6

Norwalk 19 Greenwich 7

The last time Norwalk won in this series?  1980

Family Time

It’s been a good week for the Hernandez family of Bristol.  On Sunday  20-year old Aaron Hernandez made his regular season NFL debut for the Patriots – highlighted by a 45 yard catch and run from Tom Brady.  Three days later, big brother D.J. Hernandez (all of 24 years old) won his Southington head coaching debut over South Windsor. At least one party in town is already worried that D.J. won’t stay long, potentially joining the staff of his college coach Randy Edsall at UConn.  Is 24 too young to be a head high school football coach in Connecticut?  Share your thoughts in an email and a Property of Friday Night Football t-shirt may soon be part of your wardrobe.

Proud Eagle To Be

Xavier Senior linebacker/tight end Graham Stewart is headed to play on scholarship at Boston College next season.  When he made his decision public he took some nasty backlash on the message boards from some UConn fans who were stung by Graham’s choice to go out of state.  The mature Stewart is using those message board posts as motivation – posted in his locker to inspire.

Wins, Losses & Tys

The big question of the early season in the FCIAC:  What does the preseason right foot stress fracure  suffered by St Joseph-Trumbull senior running back Tyler Matakevich mean for the Cadets’ chances of repeating as state champs?  How effective will the bruising back be when he returns?

Numbers Not In Their Favor

A small male enrollment of just 150, a practice field all of 35 yards in length (try practicing kickoffs on that limited lot) yet Hyde Leadership keeps on winning.  4 state championship in 10 years and a perfect (4-0) record in state title games.    Seems like Head Coach Melvin Wells (and John Aquavita before him) crunch the numbers better than most.

Sage Decision

Sage Park in Berlin isn’t big enough to handle the Thanksgiving Eve crowd that the fledgling Berlin-New Britain rivalry is expected to attract. So again this year (year 2 of the series) the game will be played in New Britain. Tough luck for Berlin and Head Coach John Capodice but a wise, judicious, prudent – Sage decision?  Yes.

Links – Get Your Weekly Links Here

One Giant Leap for Running Back Kind:

http://rivals.yahoo.com/highschool/blog/prep_rally/post/Georgia-RB-hurdles-defender-on-incredible-touchd?urn=highschool-270332

Heart Stopping Win:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/09/14/hs-football-players-heart-stops-game-winning-touchdown/

Relaxing The Dress Code On Game Day:

http://www.wftv.com/news/24844593/detail.html

3 Games We’ll Be Watching

Xavier at Notre Dame West Haven – 7pm Friday

The preseason #1 and defending Class L Champ is home to it’s preseason Top 5 SCC rival after Xavier gave ND its’ only loss a year ago.  It’s almost a shame this game comes in Week 1.

Montville vs. New London – 1pm Saturday

Originally scheduled for Friday night – the game was moved to Saturday and from New London High School to the Coast Guard Academy on account of issues with the new turf field at New London. Montville will go it without Head Coach Tanner Grove who is finishing up a 4 week suspension for an off season DUI charge.

Avon at Hyde – 1pm Saturday –  Another “almost too good for Week 1 matchup”.  A pair of playoff teams from a year ago. Howling Wolves beware, Avon returns star running back Ross McDonald who rushed for nearly 2,000 yards in 2009.

Kenny Do It

I’m not much of country music fan (I leave that to our producer Mark Fijalkowski) but this Kenny Chesney “Boys of Fall” video is worth a look for high school football fans:

Completely Unrelated Thought of The Week:

This soon to be 39 year old dad wants a family stick figure sticker for his car.  My wife doesn’t share my fondness for them and there’s actually a Facebook page for those that outright hate them.

Your thoughts please (john.holt@wfsb.com)

Cool, right?

See You Tonight at 11:15pm for Friday Night Football then at 11:35pm for FNF Overtime on WFSB.COM and our digital cable channel, Eyewitness News Now!