In a telephone interview early Monday afternoon, Brien McMahon coach A.J. Albano was insistent that he was unbothered by the lack of attention his team has received for the second year in a row.
Albano then launched into a compelling defense of the Senators, who are far and away the least heralded of the four teams still unbeaten in conference play.
Most notably, Albano discussed the disparity in attention between McMahon and its opponent on Friday night, Stamford. Both teams lost its opening game in non-conference play and have since won four in a row, setting up a showdown with importance no one could have foreseen a month ago.
The Black Knights have had their pictures splashed above the fold in newspaper sports sections. McMahon’s might as well be on the back of a milk carton.
“We’re 4-1 and they are 4-1, and every media person in the state is talking about Stamford,” said Albano, no sense of frustration in his voice but evident in his sentiments. “I don’t know what it is. You look how many points we’ve been scoring and it is not that much different. We run the ball and play good defense and that’s it.”
And that is a large part of the reason the Senators have toiled in relative anonymity. The Black Knights’ high-flying offense is sexy. It is the Maserati that gets second and third looks. They have scored 218 points, an average of just over 43 points a game.
McMahon, in contrast, is the reliable sedan that gets you 200,000 miles and needs little servicing. This is old school-football. It has rushed for just over 1,600 yards, including 440 in Friday’s 43-28 win against Harding.
The Senators have scored 57 fewer points than Stamford, but are still averaging 32 a game. More importantly, they have given up just 99 points, a little over half of what the Black Knights have yielded.
“The greatest show on turf, that is what we have to stop,” Albano said of Stamford.
This really isn’t a McMahon vs. Stamford contest to dominate newspaper space. Albano doesn’t begrudge the Black Knights any of their attention. He just wishes people would take notice of what his team has accomplished.
Another issue, and one that also causes Albano to bristle: Stamford has a win over Staples, while the Senators don’t yet have that signature victory.
This is a carryover from a year ago, when McMahon started 7-0 but was not taken seriously because of strength of schedule.
“All that stuff is fluff, it doesn’t matter if we are 7-0,” Albano said. “I don’t care who is on our schedule. We can’t make our schedule.”
McMahon again has a backfield by committee that is flourishing. Tyre Holman, Juju Snider, Timmy Hinton and Jordan Smith are averaging over eight yards a carry, which will provide a test for Stamford’s defense.
Looking at the big picture, and back a season, Albano said, “Is this going to be a one-year thing or an every-year thing? That’s the goal. Take a look at the last three years of the program and who we’ve lost to. Our philosophy is to run the ball and play good defense. That’s our style of ball.”
Friday night’s game makes for a contrast in extremes, including public relations. A win would be huge for the Senators’ long-term goals. And it will certainly get people talking.
“It’s an opportunity to put ourself back in the conversation,” Albano said. “I don’t know if we’re in the conversation.”
Game Of The Week
McMahon at Stamford, Friday, 6 p.m. Let’s be honest: this game a month ago had no sex appeal. Many expected the Senators to take a step back after heavy graduation losses; the Black Knights were coming off a two-win season. Now? The pair make up half of the four remaining undefeated teams in conference play. The Black Knights do it through the air, the Senators on the ground. Which defense will take away what the other does best? The answer to that question will likely determine which team stays in the FCIAC playoff hunt and enhances its state playoff hopes.
The Fab 5
1. Darien (5-0). The Blue Wave’s three third-quarter turnovers were just a blip on their best 48 minutes of the year. The defense is getting better with each game.
2. New Canaan (5-0). The Rams took care of business with a complete performance, highlighted by a strong all-around game from Alex LaPolice. The team would be a lot happier if it could have filled the bye that will provide an unwanted week off.
3. St. Joseph (4-1). The Cadets got back on track after losing a 17-point lead to Darien. Lars Pedersen scored touchdowns in three different ways.
4. Stamford (4-1). Winning is never easy at Tiger Hollow, particularly for the Black Knights, who pulled away in the second half. Now they are holding their breath that quarterback Jalen Brown’s hand injury will not force him to sit Friday.
5. Staples (3-2). Staples or McMahon? McMahon or Staples. I’m sticking with the Wreckers for another week in large part because of their defense, though they will need to show more to play with New Canaan in two weeks, a game where an upset could alter the postseason landscape.
Bassick at St. Joseph, 3
McMahon at Stamford, 6
Harding at Ridgefield, 7
Staples at Danbury, 1:30
Central at Westhill, 2
Darien at Trinity Catholic, 2
Trumbull at Greenwich, 2
Norwalk at Ludlowe, 2:30
Warde at Wilton, 3:30