After a one day delay, the state football playoffs kick off tomorrow with six FCIAC schools taking part in four games, with the hope of advancing four to the semifinals.
Class LL: No. 6 Greenwich at No. 3 Darien
This turned out to be the best regular season game between league playoff contenders. It is unfortunate the rematch takes place so early in the tournament. A good team will be going home early.
The Cardinals were an errant fourth-down spike away from having a chance on the final play to tie or beat Darien in what turned out to be a 27-21 defeat.
It has to be in the back of minds that Darien went 9-0 last year and then lost to New Canaan and Newtown in the first round of the state playoffs. The defense did not play that poorly against the Rams but also could not get off the field.
The talk from Thanksgiving is why Darien threw so many long passes into the wind. It has a top back in Will Kirby who has been underutilized this season, and would make what has been a good passing attack even better.
The Cardinals have been itching for a rematch with the Blue Wave. Most impressive has been the way they did not play down to the level of competition at the end of the season, throwing first-quarter haymakers.
Public sentiment seems to be favoring Greenwich. But like the first game, this could go either way.
Class LL: No. 7 Ridgefield at No. 2 Southington
The Tigers are back in the playoffs for the first time since losing to Darien in the state final three years ago. Their defense has been solid all season, the offense inconsistent.
For a measuring stick, the Blue Wave defeated Southington (9-1) in the second week of the season, 24-8.
Southington’s defense has been even more stubborn, allowing one fewer point per game (11.2) than the Tigers (8-2).
It would appear the team that is able to move the ball best will end up moving on. Ridgefield has weapons, with quarterback Owen Matthews having reliable receivers like Owen Gaydos and Gianni Gorham. Kai Prohaszka is an underrated running back.
Class L: No. 8 Wilton at No. 1 St. Joseph
Wilton is the biggest surprise of the six FCIAC teams that qualified for the playoffs. Really, it isn’t the 7-3 mark but that it was good enough to extend the season.
The Cadets (10-0) are getting compared more to the Giants and Jets than to any team in the state. Most consider them the favorites for top team in Connecticut.
St. Joseph won the prior meeting, 56-14. Cadets coach Joe Della Vecchia said it was the one time they faced hardship because the Warriors scored both times so quickly.
The Cadets are a team without faults that have been closing out games before the end of the opening quarter. Jack Wallace has surpassed high expectations at quarterback, with Will Diamantis and Brady Hutchison his favorite targets. Jaden Shirden might be the best back in the state. The defense has been in lockdown mode all year.
Wilton has received strong two-way play from Drew Phillips and Kyle Hyzy. The Warriors are playing with house money because no one outside their locker room expects them to even be competitive. They get the chance to shock the state.
Class L: No. 5 Wethersfield at No. 4 New Canaan
The Rams (8-2) are on as much of an upswing as any team in the state. They have won six straight games and brilliantly executed a smart gameplan in their 20-0 win over Darien. That might have been the happiest coach Lou Marinelli has been after a win in some time.
Wethersfield (8-2), like the Rams, have only lost to other state playoff teams.
New Canaan proved that it can be as successful by ground as air, with a 1-2 attack of John Wise and Christian Carson operating behind an improved offensive line. Still, the Rams might want to unleash the Drew Pyne to Zach LaPolice combination a few times.
The defense is also playing at a much higher level and the return of Drew Guida in the secondary has been a big help.