After a nine-month wait, FCIAC football fans will be rewarded with about as good an opening week as possible. All four state finalists will face off as Darien travels to Ridgefield in a rematch of the Class LL final and New Canaan hosts St. Joseph. Rams coach Lou Marinelli will take sole possession of the record for most wins in state history if he can step off the field with his 332nd victory.
If that is not enough, Saturday features a battle between what right now might be the two next-best teams in the conference.
Games Of The Week
Darien (0-0) at Ridgefield (0-0), Friday, 7 p.m. There is a great deal of intrigue here between two schools that were hit hard by graduation. Perceptions from outsiders differ. The Blue Wave, riding a 25-game winning streak, are predicted to take a step back because of massive changes on both lines and at quarterback. The view on the Tigers is they will be better than initially thought, largely because of nine returning starters on defense.
Darien is ranked second and Ridgefield fifth in the first state writers’ poll that was released tonight.
Based on composition of rosters, this would appear to be a defensive battle. Darien returns six of its back seven on defense. How will the Blue Wave look with the ball now that the speedy Jack Joyce is at quarterback? And watch the matchup between the Darien secondary and Ridgefield receivers Matt Lombardo and Jackson Mitchell, a name you will be hearing a lot of this fall.
St. Joseph (0-0) at New Canaan (0-0), Friday, 7 p.m. The Cadets have a running threat in Jaden Shirden and one of the state’s best receivers with Jared Mallozzi. They are optimistic the defense will be sharp.
It is hard not to make the Rams preseason favorites for a fifth straight state title and perhaps unseating rival Darien as the No. 1 team in the state. They are in that position in the first state poll. The Rams are strong on both lines, quarterback Drew Pyne has had a great preseason and the defense should be stifling. Receiver Quintin O’Connell is a game-breaker.
Opening against a quality opponent will keep the Rams from looking too far ahead, and there is the added motivation of getting Marinelli his record.
Danbury (0-0) at Trinity Catholic (0-0), 6 p.m. The Crusaders get to play their first home game under the lights, with changes in personnel and the coaching staff. Coach Donny Panapada is hoping quality will overcome quantity with a small roster.
Not much is known about the Hatters, but they have been hyping their veer offense and appear confident a strong stable of runners will lead a climb in the standings.
Brien McMahon (0-0) at Wilton (0-0), 7 p.m. The Senators have a difficult opening stretch, and take to the road against Wilton, which won seven games a year ago and is counting on a strong running game and staunch defense to keep it in the upper part of the standings.
Stamford (0-0) at Fairfield Warde (0-0), 7 p.m. Two teams looking for rebound seasons face off. The Black Knights have speed and are hoping to be more mistake-free. The Mustangs have been hurt by slow starts the past two years and will look to set a strong tone.
Bridgeport Central (0-0) at Staples (0-0), 7 p.m. A tough spot for the Hilltoppers. The Wreckers are viewed as a swing team, with a lot of weapons but an unproved offensive line. Talk is an improved defense has been overshadowed during the preseason. Are the Wreckers destined for another .500 finish or poised to make the jump up to where we are accustomed to seeing them?
Norwalk at Hamden, 7 p.m. Two teams have been mentioned most as sleepers during training camps and the Bears are one of them. They go on the road for a non-league game looking to get receiver AJ Hall as many touches as possible.
Fairfield Ludlowe at Westhill, 1:30 p.m. The Falcons have a renewed attitude under new coach and former Darien offensive coordinator Mitch Ross. The Vikings have been getting talk across the league as a sleeper that could have one of their best seasons in years. An intriguing opener.
Greenwich at Trumbull, 2:30 p.m. This is an important game for teams that both hope to be playing football in December. The Cardinals are young in terms of experience but have huge numbers and feel assured about the impact some of their new starters can make. The Eagles open up with new quarterback Colton Nicholas and a number of openings to fill. One good team will be in an early hole.