Brien McMahon football coach A.J. Albano refuses to look ahead when it comes to his team.
This week he will have no problem looking back.
A year ago at this time the Senators were 7-0 heading into a road game at Ridgefield. They were looking to both prove they were for real and, more importantly, keep their postseason hopes alive.
The Senators were routed, 44-7, lost to St. Joseph the following week and sat out December postseason play.
This Friday, 364 days later, McMahon will again be facing the Tigers, this time with similar stakes under different circumstances. It will be at home, has one loss and Ridgefield, at 1-7, has aspirations of being a spoiler rather than state playoff participant.
Many are still not taking the Senators, who are riding a six-game winning streak following a non-conference defeat, seriously again.
It may be time to start. Assuming they get by Ridgefield, their game the following week at St. Joseph will be one of the biggest of the FCIAC season. Both teams may be playing to keep state playoff hopes alive. And with a win, the Senators could end up in a three-way tie with Darien and New Canaan and bump one of them out of a spot in the league championship.
Think about it: Darien, everyone’s preseason favorite, could remain in its current third position in the playoff point standings, missing out on the final due to the variable of strength of schedule, by a team whose schedule everyone derides.
That Darien-New Canaan final everyone has been anticipating? That game on Thanksgiving could just be for Class L positioning.
Albano will have plenty of locker room motivation material to choose from, but publicly he is sticking to his company stance.
“We’re in the same spot we were last year,” Albano said. “You know how that ended, so we are not taking anything for granted. For us to get into any playoff games, it starts on Friday night.
Albano wasn’t happy with the way his team played in Friday’s 27-7 win over Fairfield Ludlowe. He also considers the Tigers more dangerous than their record; they are coming off of their first win, against Norwalk, and would like to use their proud tradition to play spoiler and make something good out of what has been a forgettable season.
“A lot of kids playing for us now played against them last year,” Albano said. “We remember going up to Ridgefield and getting our butts whooped. If we want to do anything we’ve got to play better. There are a lot of things we need to correct in a hurry.”
When it was mentioned the irony of how his team could end up winning a tiebreaker because of strength of schedule, Albano straddled the middle ground.
“There’s a formula in place to give bonus points for strength of schedule,” Albano said. “We’re just taking care of business. That’s all we can do. We don’t make the schedule, we don’t make the process. We just play the games.”
Game Of The Week
Ridgefield (1-7) at Brien McMahon (6-1), Friday, 7 p.m. It is hard to remember a week that was more difficult to get excited about. Fairfield Warde plays St. Joseph in the lone game where neither team has a losing record. With a three-team race for the two FCIAC championship spots, we might as well go with the game featuring the member of the trio with the best chance of being upset. Are we expecting the Senators to lose? No. But maybe there is a tiny chance that McMahon gets caught looking ahead to the following week against St. Joseph. Or that the Tigers, who got their first win last week on a last-second field goal against Norwalk, can make it two for two against the city. Or that the Ridgefield can summon its proud past and play the role of spoiler. The Senators are too mature and talented to let this happen, but we had to find some game to put here.
The Fab 5
1. Darien (8-0). The biggest concern for coach Rob Trifone was complacency during this soft portion of the schedule. It hasn’t happened yet.
2. New Canaan (7-0). While the Rams keep rolling on offense, two aspects of their game that have gone underappreciated: the offensive line, a question mark in August that has been a strength, and the defense, which despite personnel changeover has allowed a league-low 84 points. If both units keep performing at this level the Rams will be tough to beat.
3. St. Joseph (6-2). It is hard to knock the Cadets down when their lone losses are to Darien and New Canaan, even if Saturday’s 41-14 takedown by the Rams was not pretty. The Cadets need to get healthy at center and hope someone emerges at quarterback. Having Lars Pedersen taking snaps out of the wildcat neutralizes him against good teams and makes Mufasha Abdul-Basir easier to defend.
4. Brien McMahon (6-1). Off the charts in August, the Senators are now one of the greatest hits.
5. Danbury (5-2). The Hatters are currently seventh in the Class LL rankings and control their postseason fate. Year 1 of the Mark Ecke era is going better than expected.
Ridgefield at McMahon, 7
Wilton at New Canaan, 7
Bridgeport Central at Staples, 7
Trumbull at Danbury, 7
Fairfield Ludlowe at East Haven, 7
Norwalk at Stamford, 2:30
Fairfield Warde at St. Joseph, 2
Trinity Catholic at Bassick, 2
Greenwich at Westhill, 2
Harding at Darien, 2