While most of the FCIAC football world’s attention will be focused this week on Darien, which hosts St. Joseph in one of the most important games of the year, another compelling contest will take place later on Thursday, less than 20 miles away.
Call it the Contrast Bowl.
Staples has allowed a league-low three points this season; Stamford has scored a conference-high 134. The teams meet in Westport.
“We will definitely find out how good we are,” said Jamar Greene, the Black Knights’ second-year coach.
Thus far, to borrow from Larry David’s character in Curb Your Enthusiasm, Stamford has been pretty, pretty good.
Last year the Black Knights lost their first seven games, scoring a total of 51 points, then won twice before ending with three successive losses.
Stamford has already equalled last year’s win total and surpassed points scored.
“A big difference is when I got the job a year ago March, my offseason was spent hiring coaches,” Greene said. “This year I was able to concentrate on our conditioning and weightlifting.”
Greene said the Black Knights entered this season with renewed optimism. Running back Cameron Webb and receiver Jake Bivona graduated, but Greene felt he could replace both players by committee.
More importantly, four-fifths of the starting line was coming back, and quarterback Jalen Brown spent the offseason working with Travis Meyer, who runs Five Star Quarterback Training.
“Jalen was determined to get better,” Greene said. “Jalen bought in. He has a year of maturity. He understands the offense better. It’s not new to him. He’s more in control, more of a leader. He doesn’t look to run right away. He’s more confident in the offensive line and doesn’t feel like he has to get rid of the ball quickly.”
Brown has so far thrown for 14 touchdowns and run for two more.
Stamford got a foreshadowing when it scored 40 points in the opener against Fairfield Prep. Unfortunately, it also gave up 59.
“We left in a positive sense that we were able to put up points against them,” Greene said. “We were negative in that we gave up so many points. You figure if you score 40 against Prep, you are going to win.”
Stamford scored 94 points the last two weeks, defeating Harding and, on Saturday, Trumbull. But it also gave up 64 in the games.
Now comes a trip to Staples, where something will have to give.
On A Crusade
Boyle Stadium is not the only scene of a resurrection in Stamford football. A year after going winless, Trinity Catholic remained the least expected of four undefeated teams following a 17-14 win over Fairfield Warde. Sam Ruzzi kicked a 22-yard field goal on the game’s penultimate play against the much-improved Mustangs for the deciding points.
“We’ve gotten off to a great start,” said Trinity coach Donny Panapada, who is in his second season. “I’m proud of the kids. Coming off of being 0-11, they came in and worked their tails off it the offseason and it has paid off.”
The win over Warde did not come easily. There were two end-zone interceptions and a fumble when the Mustangs were on the verge of scoring.
“Our defense really played well,” Panapada said.
Panapada was equally encouraged by the way the Crusaders, leading, 14-0, stayed together after Warde scored twice before halftime to tie the game.
“Last year we never would have recovered from it,” Panapada said. “Maybe the team two years ago, but in the past it was not something they would recover from.”
The 2013 season has eclipsed that the Crusaders reached the state playoffs the year before.
There are obvious reasons for Trinity’s play, most noticeably transfer quarterback Anthony Lombardi, who has added a vertical game unlike anything the team has seen in years.
But Panapada said the biggest catalyst is much more subtle.
“I see a lot of difference with all the kids chipping in,” Panapada said. “It hasn’t been one or two, or even three kids. It may seem that way on the outside. We’ve gotten contributions from all over the place. We have a little more depth than we’ve had in the past.”
Game Of The Week
St. Joseph at Darien, Thursday, 3 p.m. Here is the first really big domino in the FCIAC playoff race. The Cadets struggled in a 21-17 win over Ridgefield but are averaging 258 rushing yards a game. The touted Darien defense gave up 25 points against Hillhouse and 26 against Greenwich before blanking Bassick. Can the Blue Wave slow down Mufasha Abdul-Basir? The answer will likely determine whether the Cadets make it three in a row in one of the league’s best recent rivalries.
The Fab 5
1. Darien (3-0). The Blue Wave looked like they would have smooth sailing if they get by St. Joseph. But much-improved Warde and Trinity Catholic are up next, followed by Ridgefield, which gave the Cadets a scare.
2. New Canaan (3-0). Coach Lou Marinelli got his 300th win on Saturday. Now the Rams attempt for the program’s 500th win Thursday against Warde.
3. St. Joseph (3-0). The Cadets needed a late surge to win at Tiger Hollow. They don’t want to put themselves in a similar position this week.
4. Staples (2-1). The Wreckers’ defense is getting snowballing acclaim, but in the big picture they seem to still be cast to the side, sitting, waiting … and enjoying.
5. Trinity Catholic (3-0). The Crusaders face Greenwich, Darien and St. Joseph the next four weeks. That made the Warde win even bigger.
St. Joseph at Darien, 3
Ludlowe at Harding, 3:30
Danbury at Central, 6
Norwalk at Trumbull, 6
Bassick at Wilton, 6
New Canaan at Warde, 6
Notre Dame-West Haven at Ridgefield, 7
Stamford at Staples, 7
Trinity Catholic at Greenwich, 7
McMahon at Westhill, 2:30