Football: 10 Takeaways
It’s customary for some teams to hold up four fingers at the beginning of the final quarter under the Friday night lights.
Pretty much every team in Connecticut can do that today, as the regular season enters the stretch run.
In an unforgiving sport where just two losses can often keep you out of the playoffs, who took a step closer to playing football in December and whose hopes were dashed?
1 CADETS ARE FOR REAL: Naysayers may point to a perceived easy schedule, but the bottom line is that there’s no easy way to reel off seven consecutive wins in the FCIAC. That said, St. Joseph’s 24-17 triumph over Staples was definitely its signature victory thus far this season: A gutsy, come-from-behind road win during which its defense permitted just three second-half points. If the Cadets are able to close out their regular season with wins over Westhill and Trumbull, they will certainly be more than worthy of their fifth straight trip to the state tournament.
2 CAN NEW CANAAN BE STOPPED: This was supposed to be a challenge for New Canaan. At least a small one. The high-powered Rams were going up against a stingy Trumbull defense that had held five of its last six opponents to fewer than 20 points, so Friday night wasn’t supposed to be another offensive masterpiece for the Rams. Ultimately, it was exactly that, as undefeated New Canaan broke the 35-point barrier for the seventh consecutive week and clinched the game by halftime, leading 37-0. With a cavalry of offensive threats, the Rams have essentially been able to pick their opponents’ poison on a weekly basis.
3 DARIEN NEVER MISSES A BEAT: Judging by its performances over the past month, you’d never know Darien was missing its head coach. And that’s not a knock on anyone. Rather, it is a testament to the entire program from coach Rob Trifone to his assistants to the players themselves, the senior captains in particular. This undefeated team is showing laser beam focus on its quest to repeat as state champions — regardless of who’s on the sideline — and seven out of the Blue Wave’s eight wins have been by at least 25 points.
4 NEW FAIRFIELD IS THE ULTIMATE BLUE-COLLAR TEAM: It’s not always pretty and it’s rarely by a wide margin, but New Fairfield just keeps winning. Playing with their backs against the wall has seemingly brought out the best in these hard-nosed Rebels, who are happy to bang heads with anyone in the trenches and have reeled off six straight wins after opening the season with consecutive defeats. The Rebels’ graduation losses from a season ago are well-documented, but this is becoming a battle-tested group and one that could be emerging as a dark horse if they can find their way into the state playoffs.
5 PREP-ARED FOR VICTORY: You’d never know that the Jesuits had lost two in a row by watching their 38-15 shellacking of previously-undefeated Shelton. Sparked on by an out-of-nowhere 334-yard rushing performance by Doug Harrison, Prep reminded everyone it’s still a force to be reckoned with. The Gaels, meanwhile, saw their 29-game regular season winning streak come to an end but should still have the inside track to the state playoffs.
6 NO QUIT IN HATTERS: Coming off of a one-win campaign a season ago, Danbury’s 2016 didn’t start any better, as the Hatters opened with six straight losses, five of which were by 21 or more points. While it wasn’t inconceivable that Danbury could beat Warde and/or McMahon, the Hatters have done so by 45 combined points the last two weeks. The relatively-young squad will lose just 14 seniors after this season. Sleeper team for next year?
7 CARDINALS ARE SOARING: Greenwich is back in the big time, and is doing it with an offense that seems to end every drive in the end zone. The Cardinals have actually racked up more points (328) than New Canaan (309) and will close the season with marquee bouts against Ridgefield and Staples.
8 TRINITY SAYS GOOD ‘BYE’: Heading into the bye week with a record of 1-3 was a bitter pill for the Crusaders to swallow, and while it may have been partially due to a difficult schedule, the Crusaders have been a whole new team ever since. A postseason appearance may be a stretch for the three-loss squad, but Trinity has emerged as the champions of the city with consecutive victories over Westhill and Stamford. A revitalized bunch indeed.
9 NEWTOWN BACK ON TRACK: In reality, the undefeated Nighthawks have never really been off track; it’s just that the bar has been set ridiculously high for this perennial SWC powerhouse, so much so that even a competitive victory seems out of the ordinary. A Newtown staple has been its ability to bury opponents early, but that hadn’t been happening in recent games. Two weeks ago, the Nighthawks narrowly edged Bunnell 35-34, and they led just 7-0 at halftime against Pomperaug in their 28-8 triumph last week. Against Notre Dame-Fairfield on Saturday, Newtown built a 42-0 lead by halftime. Enough said.
10 SUNNY OUTLOOK: Here we are in November and we’ve yet to see teams truly battling the elements. Warm (or at least not frigidly cold) weather is November is great for most of us in the stands, but there have to be some teams that wouldn’t mind a bad weather game or two prior to the start of the state tournaments. If and when the temperatures do plummet and/or wintry mixes hit, it’ll be interesting to see which teams gain an edge.