Inside the SCC: Week 9
Everyone wants to be a champion. Better yet everyone wants to have a chance to be a champion, and therefore the first step is qualifying for the playoffs.
We’ve gone over this before here, so I’m not going to spend a whole lot of space discussing why everyone can’t make the playoffs, nor should they.
I’m all for the new proposal to expand the current playoff system from 24 to 32 teams, decreasing the number of classes from six to four, but doubling the number of teams in each class from four to eight.
Time will tell, however, whether the CIAC can get past the big obstacle of expanding the fall season by a week.
Anyway, if you’ve followed high school football the last few weeks, you know that the reason for the proposed change is exactly what is happening in Class LL this season: a perfect storm of very good teams grouped in one class, with only four of them able to advance to the postseason, meaning —of course— that someone is going to get the short end of the stick.
Currently, Glastonbury and Staples are unbeaten, while Xavier, Cheshire, Bridgeport Central (coming off a more than impressive 42-7 beating of New Canaan last week), and Ridgefield all have one loss.
Ridgefield, Bridgeport Central, and Xavier are unlikely to lose (although the Falcons had better not sleep on Middletown, which is better than its record indicates), while Cheshire still has two difficult games remaining (West Haven and Southington).
Bottom line, at the least, there will likely be five teams that finish the Class LL season with one loss (or fewer). With only four teams getting into the playoffs, one of those teams will be left out. That will obviously be a shame, and hopefully the new playoff system will eliminate one-loss squads not going through.
But everyone acts as if the solutions are so easy.
You know what the best solution would be?
To go to the system that is used in Texas, Florida, and many other places in the country.
You scrap the conferences and play your games strictly by class, so you might have an eight-team Class LL geographic division that includes: Hamden, Cheshire, West Haven, Shelton, Amity, Newtown, Southington, and New Britain.
The top two teams, plus two wildcards advance to the quarterfinals against the winners of the other two Class LL divisions, and you have a playoff.
Of course, these playoffs would have to start before Thanksgiving, a team like Hand would likely never play any of the aforementioned teams that have traditionally played in the Southern Connecticut Conference, and the season might go a little bit longer.
What I’m saying is, to make the system as fair as humanly possible, we have to eliminate the SCC and the conference structure as we know it.
But deep down, be honest, do we really want that to happen?
As a neutral observer, I wouldn’t mind so much because I’ve seen it in places like Texas and how it is a better (but not perfect, remember nothing is perfect) way of determining a champion.
But we always go back to the same point: Is it all about deciding a champion?
Is taking apart a league that does so many good things worth that price to have a more equitable playoff system?
There are no right or wrong answers here, but the point here (as it is often in life) is that you need to understand the ramifications of what you’re asking when you say it’s unfair for certain teams not to make the playoffs.
I do feel bad for two-loss teams like Hamden, Manchester, Greenwich, and Newtown (all in LL), all of whom have very good football teams, and all of whom can probably compete with the best teams in the state.
But where do we draw the line?
It has to be drawn somewhere, and for now it’s drawn with four teams in each one of six classes (hopefully soon it will be drawn with eight teams in four classes). But before you complain about a team like Shelton or West Haven not making the playoffs, understand what you’re asking first.
If you understand and still want to complain, then you’re perfectly welcome to do so.
FALL OF THE DRAGONS: Hamden will go into their much-anticipated Thanksgiving tilt with Notre Dame probably playing just for pride after a disappointing 24-7 home loss to Wilbur Cross in the rain last Saturday. Hamden still has an outside shot to qualify for Class LL, but would need plenty of help. I can’t help but feel partly responsible for the hype that the Dragons got in the preseason. By the standards of three years ago, Hamden has had a remarkable campaign, taking a 7-2 record into the game with Notre Dame.
But, after making the playoffs last season, the expectations meter went through the roof, and the Dragons started the season as the No. 2 team in the state.
There were some warning signs from the beginning, and Xavier finally took advantage by keeping Hamden scoreless through the final three quarters in an overtime victory. Last Saturday, the Governors were able to do the same thing, allowing a first-quarter touchdown, but nothing else, which might have been shocking to those who haven’t followed closely, but there were three factors: a) the weather was miserable, which limited Hamden’s ability to throw the ball; b) Hamden’s passing game has sputtered for much of the season, culminating in a fourth-quarter interception return for a touchdown by Maurice Morrison Saturday; c) Wilbur Cross is much, much better than its 4-5 record would show. In their five losses: they had Cheshire on the ropes, but fell 21-18; had a huge lead at one-loss Ridgefield before falling 28-27 (and ironically giving the Tigers 10 playoff points every time they win); were blown out in back-to-back games by Notre Dame and West Haven (no explanation given); and a loss to Hand in which they had more yards and appeared to be in control for large portions.
While extremely disappointing, Hamden is proving how tough it really is, both in SCC Division I and in Class LL.
Unfortunately, the proof will likely result in Hamden being a spectator for the playoffs.
EXTRA POINTS: It won’t help any of their SCC brethren, but Notre Dame will become big Glastonbury fans Friday when they host Simsbury. A loss by the Trojans means that at the least, the Green Knights will control their own destiny, and it might mean that they may be able to qualify for the playoffs even if they lose to Hamden (although that will drag Windsor back into the mix as well). For those scoring at home, if Simsbury and Notre Dame both win, it will be very, very close between the two for the fourth and final playoff spot. I think the Knights have a slight edge, but trying to figure it out at this point would give me a big headache. Keep checking the Twitter and the blog for updates on that front… Most of the games went on despite the miserable conditions either Friday or Saturday (with the obvious notable exception of Xavier-West Haven), and the best game was between Branford and Foran, with the Hornets prevailing in double overtime, 21-20, on a blocked extra point. For those that don’t follow the Lions, they may be the most entertaining team in the SCC week in and week out. The Hornets kept their Class M playoff hopes alive with the win. They should beat East Haven on Thanksgiving, then they need Bethel and Gilbert to lose, then outpoint them as well as Watertown. Stranger things have happened, but as with the Class L race, it’s useless to discuss it any further at this point… After sitting out a week because of the flu, Cheshire got to play in the rain last Friday, blanking Fairfield Prep 34-0, the seventh time in nine games the Jesuits have scored one touchdown or less this season. Don’t think it will change too much against West Haven… East Haven managed 21 points against Guilford, but still fell, 41-21, in the rain… Hillhouse sludged through a 16-6 win over Sheehan. It seems like every time the Titans come to New Haven, it’s a quagmire at Bowen Field… Notre Dame had no trouble with the conditions, racing to a 31-0 halftime lead over Amity, before coasting to a 38-0 victory. It would be nice to see the Knights in good weather to see what their passing game can do, maybe we’ll get one Thanksgiving morning… Finally, North Haven kept its flickering Class MM playoff hopes alive by trouncing Jonathan Law, 46-13, a game the Indians led 40-6 after three quarters. North Haven, like Shelton and West Haven, will probably be out of the postseason, but still should leave the campaign with plenty of good memories.
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PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Joe DeSandre, Lyman Hall - Yeah, it was against Cheney Tech, but it’s hard to ignore these numbers: 276 yards rushing on 22 carries and four touchdowns, as the Trojans rolled to 47-26 victory on Senior Night in Wallingford. DeSandre also returned the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown to give him a total of five scores on the night.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Cheshire at West Haven, Saturday, 7 p.m. - Due to the game originally being postponed because of the flu at Cheshire, the Rams are going to have to take the hard route to the playoffs by beating West Haven and Southington in a five-day span. The Westies were trounced, 28-0, last Sunday by Xavier, so this might be their last stand, their last chance to play spoiler with Fairfield Prep coming up on Thanksgiving. The key will be the Westies stopping the Cheshire option, with a young squad, a few big plays may be the difference.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Number of rescheduled games that take place this week. In addition to the West Haven-Cheshire showdown on Saturday night at Ken Strong Stadium, Amity played Guilford Wednesday night in a game that was postponed last month due to the H1N1 outbreak at Guilford High. Sheehan will also take the field this weekend against unbeaten New London, an interesting test for both Division II and the ECC.
1. Notre Dame (8-1; Last Week 1)—Hamden is reeling, but don’t think the Knights will overlook them.
2. Xavier (8-1; LW 2)—Middletown is 1-8, but played an SCC Division I-like schedule this season.
3. Cheshire (7-1; LW 3)—Entire city of Bridgeport rooting for the Rams to fall down. Nothing personal.
4. Shelton (6-3; LW 5)—Gaels would like to reschedule all three of their losses for December.
5. Hamden (7-2; LW 4)—The warning signs were there, and Cross finally finished their playoff hopes.
6. West Haven (4-4; LW 6)—Maybe a little rusty after 17 days off? We’ll find out Saturday night.
7. Hand (4-5; LW 7)—Should finish at the .500 mark, and wonder what life would be like in Division II.
8. North Haven (6-3; LW 8)—Playoff hopes just about dead, but a reachable 7-3 mark is impressive.
9. Wilbur Cross (4-5; LW 12)—Lots of credit for pulling the upset, but have to wonder what might have been.
10. Branford (6-3; LW 14)—Bethel beating Stratford doesn’t help, but still faint playoff hope on Thanksgiving.
11. Foran (5-4; LW 9)—Lions should finish with a winning record for the second consecutive season.
12. Lyman Hall (4-5; LW 10)—Had a little trouble with Cheney Tech, but offense still clicking correctly.
13. Amity (2-6; LW 11)—Doesn’t it seem like Spartans are playing someone in the top five every week.
14. Hillhouse (5-4; LW 13)—Jones helped Acs muddy their way to a low-scoring win over Sheehan.
15. Sheehan (3-5; LW 15)—Will be interesting to see how Titans do this weekend against New London.
16. Jonathan Law (3-6; LW 16)—Have to find a way to improve defense if they have a shot to beat Foran.
17. Guilford (2-6; LW 17)—Couple of Division I teams left as the Indians try to increase their win streak.
18. Fairfield Prep (0-9; LW 18)—Jesuits have scored more than once just twice all season.
19. East Haven (0-9; LW 19)—Gave it a run, better hope Branford is eliminated from playoffs before T-day.