Manchester @ Newington
Manchester coach Roy Robert spent the past three seasons as the head coach at Newington. He is still seeking his first victory at his new school, following three losses to start the season, including last week’s 26-18 loss in New Britain.
Newington is off to a 2-1 start under the guidance of Eric Hennessy, Robert’s replacement. The team is coming off of a tough 19-7 loss to rival Hall. The normally potent Indians offense was held scoreless after quarterback Jake Hedberg’s touchdown run in the first quarter.
In last season’s meeting, Manchester edged Newington 14-9, holding the Indians out of the end zone and intercepting Hedberg twice.
Roberts makes his return to Newington High School and his debut on the visitor’s sidelines this Thursday night. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.
Cromwell @ Old Saybrook
Cromwell earned a much-needed victory last Saturday, trouncing Nonnewaug 40-7. Sensastional sophomore Kristian Sapp ran for 226 yards and two touchdowns to propel the Panthers to their first victory. Cromwell looks to even their record when they travel to the shoreline to take on winless Old Saybrook. The Rams have struggled on both sides of the ball this season, allowing 40 of more point in each game and only managing to score 26 points in three games.
Cromwell also has history on their side, having won all nine games between the two teams dating back to 2004. This game should come down to which team establishes the ground game. Both teams prefer to run and have had trouble stopping other teams on the ground.
Cromwell will travel to the windy shoreline for this battle. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
Wethersfield @ Farmington
This is a rematch of Farmington’s wild win last season. Wethersfield quarterback Matt Sanzaro threw for three touchdowns and ran for another in a 32-28 defeat. The Eagles have not lost since that game, winning ten straight, including their first three contests this season.
Wethersfield is coming off a 50-3 pasting of Edwin O. Smith to improve to 3-0. Sanzaro showed no signs of his week-two shoulder injury, shredded the E.O. Smith defense for 260 yards and four touchdowns. Farmington has started the season dropping two of their first three games, including last week’s home loss to Maloney.
Friday night’s kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Farmington High School.
Rocky Hill @ Bloomfield
The two schools have developed one of the fiercest rivalries in the state. Bloomfield had won three straight over Rocky Hill before last season’s 38-14 Terriers’ victory. The two schools made the Class S playoffs last season, both losing in their respective semifinals games.
The Terriers have won their last two games and are coming off a well-rounded performance in a win over East Catholic. Bloomfield has lost their last two games, including a 27-18 barnburner to undefeated Northwest Catholic last Friday. The Warhawks have a pair of juniors leading their offense. Quarterback Isaiah Colebrook and running back Andrell Pinnock have accounted for a majority of the team’s offensive production through three games. Linebacker Lamar Baisden is one of the most gifted defenders in the state and will have the task of stopping Rocky Hill’s runaway trains Dave Sevigny and Grant Nieves.
Phil Rubin Stadium in Bloomfield is the venue for Friday night’s grudge match game. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Xavier @ Hillhouse
Xavier has defeated Hillhouse in their last five meetings, including a 42-14 lambasting last season. It could be more of the same this Friday night when the teams have their annual gridiron get-together. Xavier has started the season with three wins, while Hillhouse has lost two of their first three games.
The Falcons are still searching for an identity on offense, but have increased their scoring output in each week. They scored a season-high 30 points in last Friday’s victory over Hamden. Senior Ted Duarte sparked the Xavier offense in the win, rushing for three touchdowns. Xavier’s defense will have their hands full with Hillhouse quarterback Corey Maddox, who leads the Academics in both passing yards and rushing touchdowns this season.
The game is Friday at East Haven High School. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
Fermi @ Middletown
This is the David and Goliath game of the week. Middletown has steamrolled Fermi over the past four seasons, winning all four games by a combined score of 178-8.
Middletown bounced back after their loss to Wethersfield with a convincing 34-7 trouncing of Bristol Eastern. Dario Highsmith got back on track with 266 rushing yards and four scores in the latest victory.
Fermi has a relatively new football program and it hasn’t been a pleasant couple of years for the Falcons. They have not won a game since 2010 and last Saturday’s loss to Bulkeley was their 34th in a row. The team does have a solid signal caller in Charles Fields, who has led the team to a school record 127 points through three weeks.
Middletown looks to continue their dominance over Fermi on Thursday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
23 Jason Carducci, 33 Patrick Sullivan, 24 Ricky Montalvo celebrate defensive stand
An explosive offense provides the highlights and a dominant defense delights the fans. It is the third element of football that is often overlooked, but strong special teams play can often be the difference between winning and losing.
Rocky Hill played well in all three phases, but excelled in the kicking game to defeat East Catholic 21-12 on an unusually warm late-September Saturday. The win improves the Terriers to 2-1 and was their fourth straight victory over the Manchester-based Eagles.
Punter Alex Kocaqi was instrumental in changing field position and was the difference maker in the first half. The senior’s second punt was pooch punt, which took a friendly roll before being downed at the 14-yard line. The Terriers’ defense was unable to capitalize as East Catholic running back Josh Lambert busted free for 92-yard touchdown scamper three plays after the punt. The 6’3”, 200-pounder broke several tackles before outracing three defenders to the end zone with under a minute to play in the first quarter. The senior back finished with over 200 yards rushing, but the long touchdown was his lone highlight of the afternoon.
Following Lambert’s touchdown, the Rocky Hill front-seven began to contain the vaunted Eagles’ rushing attacked that had amassed 1093 yards over the first two games of the season. Juniors Santiago Santana and Patrick Sullivan helped stop the East Catholic Wing-T offense that had ran over their first two opponents. Santana is Rocky Hill’s nose guard and was consistently in the East Catholic backfield, registering five tackles. Sullivan also tallied five tackles and was effective at forcing the speedy Lambert to turn many of his runs back inside.
Rocky Hill’s offense went three-and-out on their next possession, but Kocaqi again pinned East Catholic deep in their own end with a monstrous punt. The punt netted 61 yards and was downed at the Eagles 9-yard line. The punting success was a combination of his Kocaqi’s great leg and that fact that East Catholic opted not to use a punt returner. The lack of a returner allowed the kicks to roll once the high-arcing punts hit the friendly FieldTurf at Cheney Tech Stadium.
The Terriers’ defense didn’t squander this opportunity and took advantage of the great punt when defensive tackle Jovan Colon recovered a fumbled snap, giving Rocky Hill a fantastic scoring opportunity at the 11-yard line. Senior captain Dave Sevigny scored three plays later with a one-yard plunge and the ensuing extra-point from freshman Joe Catania gave the Terriers a 7-6--- a lead they would never relinquish.
East Catholic nearly retook the lead after Rocky Hill defensive back Jason Carducci was flagged for a questionable pass interference penalty on a fourth down pass inside the red zone. Carducci and tight end Scott Regan appeared to accidentally get their feet tangled together, but the officials saw it differently and the penalty gave the Eagles a first down. Undeterred, the resilient Carducci intercepted quarterback Jack Droney’s pass in the end zone two plays following the controversial call.
The interception completely changed the momentum. On the following play, sophomore running back Grant Nieves ripped off a 48-yard run down the right sideline. Quarterback Ryan Lombardo then connected with Carducci on a 13-yard rollout pass to extend the drive. Nieves polished off the scoring drive with a spectacular 12-yard run that ended with him summersaulting across the goal line. The touchdown came with 42 seconds left in the second quarter, giving the Terriers a 14-6 lead at the half.
East Catholic’s defense helped the Eagles claw their way back into the game after the halftime break. Defensive captain Jack Trainor scooped up a Lombardo fumble and returned it for a touchdown on the opening possession of the second half. The defensive score narrowed the gap to 14-12, but again the lack of a kicker game hurt the Eagles as they were unsuccessful on their second two-point conversion try.
Both teams struggled to move the ball in the third quarter, but East Catholic threatened to score early in the fourth quarter. However, the Eagles turned the ball over on downs inside their own 20-yard line, giving the Terriers the ball back with just over ten minutes to play.
Rocky Hill is known for their ball control, run-oriented offense and they put together their best drive of the afternoon when they needed it the most. The Terriers used short runs by Sevigny and Nieves to methodically move the ball down the field and chew up the game clock. Catania also had carries of 20 and 6 yards to propel the Terriers inside the ten-yard line. Sevigny scored his second touchdown of the game to put the game out of reach. The drive took 7:12 off the clock and Catania nailed his third extra-point to increase the Rocky Hill lead.
It was only fitting that is was a kick that finished off the scoring in a game that was so one-sided on special teams.
Rocky Hill @ East Catholic
Rocky Hill heads to Manchester after opening the season with two games at home. The Terriers split their first two games, defeating Tolland 39-22 last Friday night behind Grant Nieves’ 147 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
The Terriers have beaten East Catholic the last three times the teams have faced one another, including a 49-14 victory last season. However, East Catholic has looked like a different team this season, winning convincingly, 72-32, in their opener and then shocking powerhouse Platt this past weekend. The key to this game will be if Rocky Hill’s front seven, led by senior middle linebacker Ryan LaFrancis, can contain the East Catholic potent ground attack. Speedy halfback Luke Townsend and bruising running back Chris Amata have both ran wild this season, helping the Eagles amass a mindboggling 1,011 rushing yards through their first two games.
East Catholic High School is the venue for the conference collision. Saturday’s kickoff is 1:30 p.m.
E.O. Smith @ Wethersfield
Wethersfield is riding high after their historic victory over Middletown. It doesn’t get any easier this week when they welcome E.O. Smith. The Eagles have been victorious in all six games against the Storrs-based Panthers since 2008, including a 62-21 victory last season. In last season’s victory, Matt Sanzaro shredded the Panther’s secondary for 200 yards and four touchdown passes.
However, Sanzaro suffered an injury last Friday and his status for this game is unknown. Whoever is behind center for the Eagles may have a tough time, because the E.O. Smith’s defense is much improved. They registered a shutout in a week one victory over Rockville and held Bristol Central’s high-powered offense to 26 points in defeat. Senior linebacker Daniel Saucier is the heart and soul behind the Panthers defense. He has 15 tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble though the first two games.
The conference clash is Friday night at Wethersfield High School. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Newington @ Hall
Newington couldn’t have had a better start to the season, registering a shutout in the opener and then edging rival Conard 27-22 last week. Quarterback Jake Hedberg has thrown seven touchdowns in the two victories. It will get tougher for the Indians passing attack this week when they play Hall, another conference foe.
Newington has won each game against the West Hartford-based Warrior over the last three seasons, including a 48-27 shootout victory last season. Hedberg had his way with the Hall secondary last season, posting 278 passing yards and throwing four touchdowns to four different receivers.
Hall is fresh off a monumental road victory over Glastonbury, who they hadn’t defeated in Glastonbury since 2004. Saturday’s game will be Hall’s home opener. Kickoff is 2 p.m.
Nonnewaug @ Cromwell
Cromwell is looking to get into the win column after starting the season with two losses for the first time in this millennium. Their latest loss was a 20-point loss to Morgan. Nonnewaug was soundly defeated in the first week, but rebounded with an impressive 41-19 shellacking of Old Saybrook this past weekend.
Cromwell has won the last three meetings against the Woodbury-based Chiefs, including an unforgettable 2-0 victory in 2009. Nonnewaug has improved in each season under the guidance of head coach John Oko and a victory over Cromwell would put them over the .500 mark for the first time in school history.
Cromwell seeks their first victory this Saturday at Pierson Park in Cromwell. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
Hamden @ Xavier
Xavier has owned Hamden over the past decade, winning all ten games dating back to 2004. The latest was a 33-0 pasting in 2012. The Falcons have struggled to score this season, scoring only 24 points through two games, but have been victorious in both games. Quarterback Mike Scherer had a solid performance in their last game, throwing for 276 yards and the game-deciding score in a 21-14 victory over North Haven.
Hamden’s offense hasn’t fared much better, scoring only 28 points in their two games, but they are coming off a win over East Haven. This game has all the making for a low scoring, field position battle.
Falcon Field is the venue for Friday night’s game. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Middletown @ Bristol Eastern
These teams belong to the same conference, but have had gone in different directions the last three years. Middletown has become a state powerhouse and Bristol Eastern has struggled to register wins. In their three head-to-head games, Middletown has cruised to victories in all three, including 40-0 and 43-0 shutouts the past two seasons.
Bristol Eastern could be catching the Blue Dragons at the right time. The Lancers are coming off a 33-20 victory over Hartford Public and Middletown is coming off the shocking loss to Wethersfield.
Kickoff is Friday at 7 p.m.
WHS DB Elijah Young
It is said that defense wins championship. The Seattle Seahawks proved that theory in the National Football League, winning last season’s Super Bowl behind a feared defensive secondary, nicknamed the Legion of Boom. Wethersfield has their own vaunted defensive backfield which has played phenomenally well to start the season, including in a 14-0 shutout of the Middletown Blue Dragons on Friday night.
Middletown came into the contest as the heavy favorites, having outscored Wethersfield by a combined 84 points in three games over the past three seasons.
However, Friday night was a completely different story.
Wethersfield’s swarming defense used timely blitzes, team tackling, and spectacular secondary play to hand Middletown their first shutout since 2009. Like the Seahawks, the Eagles secondary has earned their own nickname--- The No Fly Zone. Devon Smith and Jason Gallo are the Eagle’s starting safeties, each intercepted a pass Friday night. Juniors Elijah Young and Jae-Quan Brown are as impressive in man-to-man coverage than any cornerback tandem in the state. The both made touchdown savings deflections and tackles on a cold, brisk night at Cottone Field.
Smith credits the coaching staff to the team’s defensive success and was ecstatic following the victory, “It’s unbelievable, I’ve never felt this way in my life,” said the 6’1 junior, “We played as a team.”
Wethersfield came into the game knowing it would take a team effort to contain 2013 Gatorade Player of the Year Dario Highsmith. Middletown moved Highsmith around all night in an attempt to get him into open space. He played quarterback, tailback, and receiver, but he found very little room to roam and was unable to generate any of the splash plays that the Blue Dragons are accustomed to.
With Highsmith in check, Wethersfield assumed momentum on their second possession. Facing a third down, the Eagles lined up in their customary spread offense, featuring four wide receivers. Quarterback Matt Sanzaro took a shotgun snap and drifted to his right before launching a beautiful rainbow pass down the right sideline, hitting receiver Kyle Klavis right in stride. Klavis sprinted into the end zone to complete the 87-yard touchdown. The rowdy, standing room crowd erupted and the touchdown seemed to erase three years of agonizing memories against Middletown.
The visiting Blue Dragons nearly seized the momentum back on the next possession when Highsmith broke free on a fourth-down carry, but Brown cut off the shifty runner in the open field and made a touchdown-saving tackle. Gallo intercepted Austin Meeker’s tipped pass three plays later to thwart a scoring attempt.
Two possessions later, Sanzaro led a masterful 80-yard drive, which culminated with a touchdown pass to running back Richard Williams. Sanzaro completed passes of 20, 15, 5, and the final 24 yards when he connected with Williams on a wheel route.
Smith intercepted a pass on the ensuing drive and it looked like Wethersfield would head into the halftime break in complete control. However, Sanzaro suffered an injury to his non-throwing shoulder when he was sacked by blitzing linebacker Isaiah Thompkins. Smith, who is the backup quarterback, had to add signal caller to his growing list of duties.
“I knew it was my time to step up and I did what I could,” Smith said about taking over for Sanzaro.
Smith, who is also the team’s punter, played the entire second half under center. The offense changed from a spread formation to to a traditional Wing-T over the final two quarters. They were unable to efficiently move the ball, but it didn’t matter because Smith and his defensive mates were so dominant.
James Malizia was one of the defensive stars that wreaked havoc in the Middletown backfield. The senior forced a fumbled when he destroyed Meeker with a blindside hit, foiling a Middletown drive with time dwindling down in the first half. He also registered another sack early in the third quarter, which ruined another Middletown drive. Patrick Mozzicato recovered the fumble forced by Malizia and recorded a sack of his own. The senior defensive end also batted down two straight passes late in the third quarter, causing Middletown to turn the ball over on downs.
It’s unknown how long Wethersfield will be without Sanzaro, but Smith said that he is confident that he could do the job in his absence. Regardless of who is at the helm for the Eagles, it will be the other side of the ball that will allow the Eagles to soar in the state’s standings. Because, if defense does indeed win championships, than Wethersfield is certainly a championship contender.
Going on the road and playing a rival is never an easy way to start a season, but that was exactly the daunting task facing Cromwell last Friday night at North Branford High School. The final result wasn’t ideal; however, the Panthers showed positive signs in the second half that the team can build on as the season progresses.
The two schools belong to the same conference and with play similar styles on both sides of the ball, using a variation of the read option on offense and aggressive, attacking defenses. It was North Branford that used the home field advantage at Colafati Field to better execute their schemes and force Cromwell into early turnovers, building a comfortable lead en route to a 46-8 victory.
North Branford took control on the game midway through the first quarter after the teams had traded punts. Cromwell punter Cole Bradley pinned the hometown Thunderbirds at their own 10-yard line, allowing the Panthers to seize control of the field position battle. However, North Branford’s quarterback Eddie Miller proceeded to use his legs to quickly move the ball downfield. The senior signal caller had runs of five, six, and ten yards during the drive. Running back Austin Calamita reeled off a 50 yard run down the left sideline and backfield mate Shelby Franklin polished off the masterful drive by taking an inside handoff before scampering around the right end for a 12-yard touchdown. The score gave the Thunderbirds a lead they would never relinquish.
Sophomore running back Kristian Sapp gave Cromwell new life when he returned the ensuing kickoff for 38 yards, but a lost fumble of the first play of the drive killed any momentum. Following the turnover, North Branford took advantage of the good field position and Miller had runs of 20 and 21 yards, the latter resulting in a the Thunderbird’s second touchdown.
Franklin added another rushing touchdown and the Thunderbird’s defensive added two more scores, which ballooned their halftime lead to 32-0. Calamita, who scored one of the defensive touchdowns on a 22-yard interception return, brought back the opening kickoff of the second half 76 yards for another score, increasing the lead to 39. The stunned Panthers could have folded at this point, but instead played inspired football the rest of the game.
Quarterback Jarius Bailey, who led Cromwell in receiving last season, is in the process of learning a new position and struggled at times in the first half. He looked more comfortable over the final two quarters and, late in the third quarter, engineered the team’s best drive of the evening. The junior completed a 19-yard pass to Sapp and then completed passes of 12, 11, and 23 yards to versatile wide receiver Emir Cirikovic. The 23-yarder was a beautifully thrown fade pass near the right sideline that Cirikovic snared out of the air after out jumping a helpless Thunderbird cornerback. Bailey scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak on the following play and then hit Nelson Carlson for the two-point conversion to cap the Panthers’ lone score of the game.
The touchdown drive was a shining moment for Cromwell, but they had several players who had solid individual performances once the stadium lights came on. Nik Mazzucco led the defensive charge Friday night by playing with intensity and passion for all four quarters. The senior defensive lineman blocked an extra point and made a handful of tackles in the game. He suffered an injury in the third quarter, which forced him to miss several plays, but he made an immediate impact upon his return when he tackled Calamita for a loss on his first play back.
Carlson, Mayze James, and Justice Taylor also gave valiant efforts on defense. Carlson and James are gifted athletes that can play multiple positions and both made several open field tackles against North Branford’s shifty backs. Taylor is a punishing tackler that can play with both his hand in the ground and at linebacker.
It certainty wasn’t the way that Cromwell coach Chris Eckert wanted to start the season, but he can rest assured that he has several budding stars on a roster that will develop over the next couple of months.
Wethersfield v. Middletown Highlight Week 2
Wethersfield returns home after an impressive road win looking to end a drought against Middletown. The Blue Dragons have soundly beaten the Eagles for three straight seasons, winning the three contests by a combined score of 103-17.
Wethersfield was victorious against Rocky Hill (17-7) and Middletown breezed by East Lyme (37-12) in their respective openers. Two of the state’s best quarterbacks will go head-to-head in a matchup of contrasting styles. Wethersfield’s Matt Sanzaro is the conventional pocket passer with a golden right arm and Middletown’s Dario Highsmith is a duel-threat quarterback that can beat you with his arm and dazzle you with his feet.
The revenge game is Friday night at Wethersfield High School. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
Morgan @ Cromwell
Cromwell and Morgan have developed an intense and competitive rivalry in a variety of sports. However, the Panthers have owned the Huskies on the gridiron, winning all nine games dating back to 2004. The two teams didn’t play last season, but 2012’s 16-10 finish was the closest contest to date.
Morgan’s football program has morphed into a powerhouse since that defeat, finishing last season with a 10-2 mark and a postseason berth. Sensational senior running back Jake Ward is the catalyst behind the team recent rise up the ranks, rushing for an astonishing 2576 yards and 41 touchdowns as a junior. He opened his senior season with 252 yards and three touchdowns in a 46-12 victory over Haddam-Killingworth.
Cromwell will try to keep their dominance over Morgan alive at Pierson Park on Saturday afternoon. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Conard @ Newington
Newington started the Eric Hennessy-era with a bang, thumping Fitch 38-0. The upstart Indians will look to carry the early-season momentum into their home opener against rival Conard.
Both schools are expected to be playoff contenders this season. Conard defeated Newington last season, but the last time Newington hosted the game was two season ago when they easily disposed of the West Hartford-based Chieftains 41-16.
This will be Conard’s first game on the season and they will be have to deal with Newington’s potent passing attack as well as their vaunted defense that is coming off their first shutout since October of 2009.
The conference collision takes place Friday night at Alumni Field. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
Tolland @ Rocky Hill
Rocky Hill has defeated Tolland in five straight games, including a 41-7 drubbing last season. The Terriers are hoping to make it six victories in a row against their conference rivals this Friday night.
Rocky Hill is coming off a loss to Wethersfield and Tolland is riding high after starting the season with a 28-13 victory over Killingly. Tolland had lost ten of their last eleven games before the season-opening win. Look for both teams to use the ground game a lot in this contest. Rocky Hill’s Dave Sevigny churned out 80 yards and Tolland’s Austin Hainey ran for 87 yards and a touchdown in their respective openers.
Rocky Hill High School will be rocking this Friday night. Kickoff is 7 p.m.
North Haven @ Xavier
North Haven exploded for a 21-point fourth quarter in a come-from-behind victory over Xavier last season. North Haven, who is usually run-oriented, turned to the air in last season’s comeback. Receiver Zach Kastehuber, who is now a senior, hauled in three passes for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The game’s venue returns to Falcon Field, where the hometown Falcons defeated the Indians 49-12 two years ago.
Xavier struggled offensively to open the season, but rode the leg of kicker Andree Verre to a 3-0 victory over Staples. The Falcons’ defense was spectacular in the shutout, but will have their hands full with North Haven’s senior tailback Cole Pecora, who ran for 85 yards and a touchdown in a 42-6 victory over Bridgeport Central. Pecora’s touchdown was one of four that the Indians scored on the ground in their opener.
Kickoff is Friday at 7 p.m.
WHS diver Caroline Logozzo
Caroline Even- Wethersfield: Even is entering her senior and is primed for her best season yet. She won the 100 Yard Butterfly at the Class M finals and finished 8th in the event at the 2013 State Open. She also teamed with Idalis Irizarry, Alyssa Difiore, and Jaime Lacus to win the 200 Yard Freestyle Relay at the Class M finals. All four of the relayers will be back in the pool for the Eagles this season.
Danielle Rocheleau- Newington: Rocheleau has been one of the area’s best athletes over the last couple of years. She is now a senior and ready to add to her already impressive swimming resume. She finished 4th in the 500 Yard Freestyle at the Class L finals and then placed 8th in the grueling event at the 2013 State Open. She also delivered a 6th place-finish in the 200 Yard Freestyle at the state open.
Kate Sullivan and Callie Sullivan- Rocky Hill: The tandem is entering their sophomore seasons after making a splash last season when they were parts of the Terriers’ 200 Yard Freestyle Relay team at the Class S finals. Kate also competed in the 100 Yard Backstroke at the finals.
Caroline Logozzo- Wethersfield: Logozzo is the area’s best diver and enters her junior season fresh off a 5th place showing at the 2013 Class M finals. As a sophomore, she was the only underclasswomen to place in the top five during the finals. She is the younger sister of Gabrielle Logozzo, who competed at Wethersfield and is now diving for the University of Vermont.
Rocky Hill vs. Wethersfield Highlights Kickoff Weekend
Rocky Hill and Wethersfield won’t have to wait long to renew their crosstown rivalry. The two schools clash this Friday night at Rocky Hill High School. It’s the second year in a row that the powerhouse programs will meet to kick off the high school football season.
The neighboring schools are both coming off terrific seasons and put on an offensive exhibition during last season’s opener, a game that Rocky Hill won 39-26. The victory was the Terriers second consecutive against their rivals, also defeating the Eagles 40-21 in 2009.
This season’s matchup should look vastly different from last season. It will be the first game in the Mark Fritz-era at Rocky Hill. Fritz took over for the departing Dave Coyne, who retired following the 2013 playoff season. On the other side of the field, Wethersfield has veteran coach John Campanello and his highly efficient offensive back for another season.
The most intriguing aspect of the game is to see how Wethersfield’s senior signal caller Matt Sanzaro attacks Rocky Hill’s young defensive secondary, led by Jason Carducci and Grant Nieves.
Come early, because McVicar Field should be packed for this border-battle. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Here’s what else is happening on the gridiron this weekend.
Newington @ Fitch
New head coach Eric Hennessy and Newington have to travel to Groton and play the Fitch Falcons to kick off the season. The Indians are hoping to win their opening game for the second consecutive season, last year pasting Beacon Academy 52-22 at home.
Fitch is led by second-year head coach Jordan Pannucci, whose team struggled to find consistency during a 4-win 2013. Newington’s potent passing attack will challenge Fitch’s fierce defensive backfield. Indian’s dynamic wide receivers Kyle Armour and Andrew Grenier will be pitted against the Falcons’ cornerback tandem of Cooper Robinson and Jonathan Johnston.
The out-of-conference game is Friday at Fitch High School. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
Cromwell @ North Branford
Cromwell is anxious to erase a disappointing 2013 season and they will be tested directly out of the gate, facing division-rival North Branford to open the season. The Thunderbirds won last season’s contest 24-6, which was their third victory in as many seasons over the Panthers.
Cromwell head coach Chris Eckert will look to avoid a fourth straight loss by relying on Kristian Sapp and his ground game to keep the ball away from North Branford’s athletic quarterback Eddie Miller, who is capable of using his arm and legs to amass huge chunks of yardage. The Thunderbirds also have a stout defensive, led by defensive captain Mike Kaiser, who can stuff the run and pressure the passer.
The conference clash is scheduled for Friday at North Branford High School. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.
Middletown @ East Lyme
This is a rematch of last season’s opener, in which Middletown trounced East Lyme 41-14. However, this time the contest has shifted to shores of East Lyme, where the Vikings won three games in head coach Rudy Bagos’ first season on the sidelines.
Middletown’s Dario Highsmith will make his first regular season appearance since capturing Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year honors. The senior will again be under center for an explosive Blue Dragon’s offense that will battle an up-and-coming Viking’s defense. Easy Lyme’s Hunter Waido and Connor Parker will lead a group of defenders who look to slow down the electrifying Highsmith.
East Lyme High School is the location for Friday’s rematch. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
Xavier @ Staples
Xavier opened last season by edging Staples 30-22. It was the Falcons’ second consecutive victory over the Westport-based Wreckers. A lot has changed since last season’s victory, including the venue. This time the game will be played in Fairfield Country, where the Wreckers have become a staple in the football community, having won 13 of their last 15 games at home.
Friday’s game will be Xavier’s first in the post Andrew Meoli era. The new look Falcons’ offense has to find ways to move the ball against an attacking Wrecker’s defense, led by linebackers Nick Esposito and Jack Mendillo.
Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Staples Stadium. “That was easy.”
Wethersfield Lian Hoffman returns to set for the Eagles
Cromwell Eyes Tournament
Fourth year head coach Tracie Capodice is searching for the right nucleolus of players that will help the team qualify for the postseason. Last season the team finished with a 5-14 record and was on the outside looking in at the Class S tournament.
Capodice will need to replace the immense production of 2013 team captain Lauren Schmitt, who graduated. Junior Araya Lessard will head a committee of players that will help shoulder Schmitt’s productivity. Lessard, who also stars on the hardwood for the Panthers, led the team in blocks and finished second in both kills and digs last season.
Fellow junior McKenzie Karstetter will also help fill the leadership void. She played exceptional at the end of last season, helping the team win two of their final three games.
The team opens on the road Tuesday, September 9th at Haddam-Killingworth High School. The Panthers lost both meeting to the conference-rival Cougars last season. Cromwell returns for their home opener on Wednesday, September 17th for a date with East Hampton at 5:30 p.m.
Newington Primed for Next Step
Newington rebounded from a winless 2012 and made the Class LL tourney in their second season under the guidance of head coach Patrick Douglas. After a slow start to last season, the Indians won six of their final seven regular season games and earned a spot in the 2013 tournament.
Junior Carley Wanner-Hyde returns after leading the team in assists (453) as a sophomore. The setter was also the team’s serving specialist, finishing with a team-high 50 aces.
Gabby Gratchev and Alexis Souza will also be back for their senior seasons. The tandem finished first and second in kills during the 2013 season. The pair also excelled at serving, finishing with the second and third most aces on the team.
The Newington spikers open at Simsbury on Tuesday, September 9th. The conference foes split the two meetings last season. The Indians returns to the friendly confines of Newington High School on Friday, September 12th to face Wolcott at 5:00 pm.
Rocky Hill Rebuilding or Reloading?
Rocky Hill had a tremendous start to last season, but nearly missed the postseason after losing four of five matches to close out the regular season. The fast start was good enough to earn the Terriers a spot in the Class M tournament, where the team made a miraculous postseason run, upsetting three teams before losing in the semifinals. One of those upsets came against Lewis Mills, the 2nd ranked team in the tourney.
It was the second straight deep tournament run for Scott Ferguson, who is entering his third season as the team’s head coach. Ferguson is hoping to recapture the championship magic of the 2011Terriers, who won the Class M finals.
The team will need to replace a lot of senior leadership, including last season’s captains Krista Iacobucci and Kirstyn Arcata. One of the players that will assume more of a leadership role will be senior Marissa DiMatteo, who played very well late in the season.
Junior Caitlin Perkins will be counted on to be the team’s distributor. She’ll be replacing Emma Skultety, who registered every assist for Rocky Hill last season
The team opens with a conference match against E.O. Smith on Tuesday Sept 9th at 5:00 p.m. The Terriers will be looking to exact a measure of revenge after losing both matches verse the Panthers last season.
Wethersfield’s Wins Continue to Increase
Wethersfield finished with a 10-10 regular season and made the 2013 Class L tournament, before losing in the first round of the tourney. The ten victories was a milestone for the team and head coach Debbie O’Brien, who also coaches the boys’ team at Wethersfield, has seen her team’s win-total increase in each of the past five seasons.
In order for the team to increase their wins for a sixth straight season they will have to replace last season’s star Kelly McDonald, who graduated following an all-conference senior season. Senior setter Lian Hoffman will again in be charge to spreading the ball around to a cast of players looking to fill McDonald’s vacancy.
The Eagles have a great opportunity to have success early when they begin the season with four consecutive home games. Their opener is Tuesday, Sept 9th at 5:00 p.m. against Weaver, who they swept last season. All of the Eagles’ homes games are played at Silas Deane Middle School.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin