We are two games away from the end of a regular season that has been pretty much drama-free. Consider this the football version of a murder mystery where you figure out who did it after a scene or two.
It struck me there have been few surprises, so I went back and looked at some of the stories that were published in late August and early September. Sure enough, there have been few deviations from the script.
We have only a few teams that really passed expectations. We have two teams that at this point figured to be higher in the standings, and still have a chance to come close to hitting their targets.
With another 20 percent of the schedule still to come there are a few puzzle pieces that could be moved, but here is a look at what to date has been a pretty predictable season.
— Fairfield Ludlowe. No one expected much from the Falcons. Maybe year two under Mitch Ross would lead to improvement on the field that outside of a win or two would not be greatly reflected in the standings. Instead, Ludlowe is sitting at 6-2 and assured of a winning season. Beating New Canaan on Friday may be asking too much, but a Thanksgiving win against Fairfield Warde would mean a six-victory jump. The Falcons are easily the biggest surprise of the year.
— Danbury. The Hatters also seemed to be prisoners of their recent history. Add in an unknown new coach in Augie Tieri and it figured the rebuilding of the program would not reap immediate rewards. The Hatters instead sit at 4-4, and like Ludlowe have won with an improved offense. They can finish at .500 with a win over Ridgefield on Thanksgiving eve.
— Staples. The Wreckers figured to be a little over .500 but no one was talking about them as a state playoff contender two months ago. The defense and running games have carried them to a 6-2 mark. There are no wins against an opponent with a winning record – there aren’t many – but Staples will get a chance to change that on Thanksgiving against Greenwich, hopefully with a state playoff berth on the line.
A Little Short
— New Canaan. The Rams were the preseason No. 1 team in the state. Some voters were no doubt swayed by their four players who have given verbal commitments to major FBS schools. Then came the stunning 28-0 opening-weekend loss to St. Joseph. That was followed by another 28-point defeat, against Greenwich. The Rams are hoping they can still earn a state-playoff berth with a win against Darien and then making a strong postseason run.
— Norwalk. Few thought the Bears were going to need two wins to finish at .500. They will be heavy favorites against both Trinity Catholic and McMahon, and a 5-5 mark will be much more palatable and move them out of this category. There was valid belief a six- or seven-win season was possible, and coach Sean Ireland can definitely find one or two games he would like to have back.
What We Thought
— Greenwich. The Cardinals were expected to be in the hunt for a state title, and they have been sharing votes with Darien for No. 1 in the polls. Most everyone wants to see a Darien-Greenwich rematch sometime in the postseason.
— Darien. We thought there might be a slight slip, perhaps a loss to St. Joseph. Instead, the Blue Wave are currently where they ended the last three seasons, atop the state polls. And the performance of the defense and quarterback Cooper Hancock have certainly been pleasing.
— St. Joseph. The Cadets jumped up to Class M but were heavy favorites to win another CIAC championship. They are right on schedule.
— Ridgefield. The Tigers were hit hard by graduation losses and due for rebuilding. They have a solid chance to finish 6-4.
— Trumbull. A climb up the standings was a safe bet in Marce Petroccio’s first year. How big a bounce was uncertain. A good future foundation has been set.
— Wilton. The Warriors looked like a team that would finish around .500 and are in position to end up 6-4.
— Fairfield Warde. The Mustangs were another team that figured to end up around the break-even mark. They are 4-4 and their last two games can go either way.
— Brien McMahon, Stamford, Trinity Catholic, Westhill, Bridgeport Central. For assorted reasons, these five teams figured to be in for rough falls. Except for the winless Hilltoppers, each has created at least a happy memory amid the struggles.
1. Greenwich (7-0). What a monstrous game by Mozi Bici, who set a state record with eight sacks, and the entire Cardinal defense, which finished with 13.
2. Darien (8-0). Rob Trifone is trying to keep his players focused as they await their next big test, on Thanksgiving.
3. St. Joseph (7-1). The Cadets got a good postseason tuneup with a hard-fought road win at Staples.
4. New Canaan (6-2). Will Fairfield Ludlowe’s offense give the Rams’ defense some needed work Friday night? Drew Pyne, as a junior, set the school record for career passing yards against Norwalk.
5. Staples (6-2). The Wreckers’ Thanksgiving game against Greenwich could still get them into the state playoffs, but their penchant for penalties when they will need to play a perfect game is troubling.