There is a big football game Friday night at Boyle Stadium, the site of many of the biggest games in FCIAC history.
There’s just one major difference from the recent past. New Canaan won’t be there. Or Darien. Or St. Joseph. Staples? Greenwich? Nope, nope.
Before what it is expecting to be the biggest home crowd in years, Stamford will be taking on Brien McMahon, with considerable playoff implications on the line.
As the weekend commences, the two teams join New Canaan and Darien as the lone remaining unbeaten in conference play. Based on the power points system, McMahon trails the other three by a slim tiebreaking margin.
The FCIAC, which likes its postseason tournaments to generate as much revenue as possible, and many fans would like nothing better than to see New Canaan and Darien back at Boyle — a meeting would almost certainly get moved — the site of last year’s Class L title game, on Thanksgiving morning.
Darien-St. Joseph II? The two teams have played great games over the years, developing what has become a great rivalry that still hasn’t resonated the way it should in the hype department.
Most are expecting two of those three teams — with Darien almost certainly being one of them — to play for the league title. The smart money is on it.
But McMahon and Stamford would like to break up the puzzle, and seeing two schools outside the power circle playing in a game with so much riding on it is good for the league. When was the last time this has happened at such a late point in the season — and this weekend, with an 11-game schedule, only bridges the first and second halves?
If McMahon should win, it would be favored in all of its remaining games except for St. Joseph on the penultimate week of the regular season. Stamford has an even more inviting schedule. Its biggest obstacle would then come in two weeks, at home against Trinity Catholic — the same day New Canaan and St. Joseph meet in Trumbull. That would create one of the biggest football games between two Stamford schools in years.
You would call Friday night’s game a battle for the little guy, if either McMahon or Stamford were small in stature. Perhaps it is a showdown for the guest that usually does not get invited to the big party.
Unless you attend one of the two schools, it is hard to root against either. Both are led by likable coaches — McMahon’s A.J. Albano and Stamford’s Jamar Greene — who are working hard to build their programs into consistent winners.
McMahon was cast in a similar role a year ago after winning its first seven games. It was criticized for being the product of a soft schedule, which caused understandable bristling.
The Senators are not even facing that accusation this year because it has received little attention, eclipsed, ironically, by the rise of Stamford, which coming off of a 2-9 season has been the surprise team of the league.
It is not just how quickly the Black Knights have improved, but in the manner they have been winning: high-scoring shootouts that have become the byproduct of spread offenses in a 7-on-7 world.
Friday night’s game is a study in contrasts. McMahon will attempt to run the ball, control the clock and play punishing defense. The Black Knights will try to score quickly, get an early lead and force the Senators to get out of their comfort zone.
This game also has important implications in the race for the state playoffs. McMahon is currently seventh in the Class LL rankings, one spot ahead of Stamford.
Needless to say, there is a lot at stake, and the winner is going to be in an enviable position.
The Senators are on the way to their fourth winning season in Albano’s five years. Greene, after a tough debut, has made all the right moves so far in his second year.
Boyle Stadium should be packed Friday night. The protagonists will be different from the teams that have played big games in the storied venue in recent years, but both McMahon and Stamford have earned the chance to be in the spotlight.