By NED X. GRIFFEN
If you haven't seen Wolcott play since last year, then, boy, are you in for a surprise.
The Eagles were a finesse team that was a bit on the small side last year. They looked to spread teams out in order to get their players in space.
This season, Wolcott can pound the ball right at opponents because it's bigger and stronger.
"I'm glad you're saying that because I still think we're small," Eagles coach Jason Pace told reporters after his team hammered Woodland of Beacon Falls Saturday, 54-12. "Our guys really bought into the weight room this offseason, and they continue to get better.
"I still think we're among the smaller teams in the NVL, but we try to use that to our advantage. We try to employ and offense and defense that utilizes our strengths."
The win earned Wolcott (8-1) a berth in the CIAC Class M playoffs. It is the second year in a row it has qualified, and for just the second time in program history.
Senior quarterback Mike Nicol and junior running back Joe Lynch punished Woodland. Nicol ran 20 times for 191 yards and a touchdown. Lynch, a transfer from defending CIAC Class S champion Holy Cross of Waterbury, ran 17 times for 129 yards and a touchdown.
"Every day at 7 p.m. o'clock in the morning in the summer we were lifting," Nicol said. "We knew we had one of the smaller offensive lines last year. We were one of the smaller teams. We knew we had to get bigger and stronger and faster. And that's what we put our offseason into."
Nicol also completed 8 of 11 passes for 120 yards and four touchdowns.
The game was expected to be a battle between two of the NVL's top teams. Woodland (6-2) had already clinched the Copper Division and will play unbeaten Brass champion Ansonia for the league title Thursday.
The Hawks averaged 45 points through seven games and were led by quarterback Tanner Kingsley. Kingsley had thrown for 502 yards and eight touchdowns in a 56-30 win over Naugatuck on Oct. 26. It was the second-most touchdowns thrown in a game in state high school history.
Kingsley completed 22 of 32 passes for 162 yards against Wolcott with two touchdowns and three interceptions. That was as many picks as he had thrown all season. He was also sacked three times.
"Coach set up a different defense that just had five in the box," senior linebacker James Nelson said. "Have everyone (else) drop back and cover."
Pace said, "We knew how tough their offense was to defend. What we did was we just tried to mix things up. At times we sent pressure. At times, we dropped into some coverage. We changed our coverages our every play. We tried to just make him uncomfortable as far as his reads and also get some pressure on him."
Wolcott concludes its regular season at Holy Cross on Thanksgrabbing.
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Marc Allard, Norwich Bulletin: "Allard's sideline: Bears capture ECC Small title"
Kyle Brennan, Waterbury Republican-American: "Power rankings", and, "Wolcott's state title potential"
Ray Curren, Milford-Orange Bulletin: "Notre Dame-West Haven shows its mettle with win over Fairfield Prep", and, "SCC football power rankings"
Norwich Bulletin: "H.S. football notebook: Whalers' trainer plays important role"
Pooch Diggity Dogg, New Haven Register: "Notre Dame-West Haven comes of age with win over Fairfield Prep", and, "Wednesday Morning Quarterback"
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The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll with record and first-place votes in parentheses: 1. Hand of Madison (8-0, 9); 2. Ansonia (9-0, 2); 3. Staples of Westport (7-0, 2); 4. Windsor (7-0); 5. Masuk of Monroe (8-0); 6. Xavier of Middletown (8-1); 7. Greenwich (7-0); 8. Southington (9-0); 9. Norwich Free Academy (9-0); and, 10. Newtown (8-0).
The New Haven Register media poll: 1. Hand (18); 2. Staples (8); 3. Ansonia; 4. Xavier; 5. Windsor; 6. Greenwich; 7. Masuk; 8. Southington; 9. Newtown, and, 10. NFA.
Ned Freeman's cold, calculating computer rankings for CalPreps.com and MaxPreps.com: 1. Hand; 2. Xavier; 3. Ansonia; 4. Staples; 5. Greenwich; 6. Masuk; 7. West Haven (7-2); 8. Hillhouse of New Haven (7-2); 9. Newtown; and, 10. Southington. NFA was ranked 11th and Windsor 14th.
Vaya con dios….
The Day of New London Top 10 state coaches' poll
First-place votes in parentheses, record, points tabulated on a 30-28- 26-24-22-20-18-16-14-12-11-10-9-8-7, and previous ranking:
1. Hand-Madison (9) 8-0 380 1
KNOW THIS: The Tigers beat Shelton Friday, 42-23, but coach Steve Filippone wasn't happy. "We've been getting worse since we beat Xavier," he told the New Haven Register. "They thought the season ended after Week 5 and that's the attitude." NEXT: at Notre Dame-West Haven, Thursday, 7 p.m.
2. Ansonia (2) 9-0 352 2
KNOW THIS: The Chargers already roughed up Woodland (47-16) on Sept. 21, which begs the question, "besides money, why is the NVL bothering with a title game?" NEXT: NVL championship vs. Woodland at Municipal Stadium, Waterbury, 6:30 p.m.
3. Staples-Westport (2) 7-0 348 3
KNOW THIS: The Wreckers led Fairfield Warde by 49 points at halftime in Saturday's 49-20 win. "They might be the best team I've seen since I've been in the league for 14 years," Warde head coach Duncan DellaVolpe told the Westport News. NEXT: vs. Westhill, Thursday, 5 p.m.
4. Windsor 8-0 290 4
KNOW THIS: The Warriors scored 42 first-half points and held RHAM to 56 yards in Friday's 49-27 win. NEXT: Hartford Public, Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
5. Masuk-Monroe 8-0 268 5
KNOW THIS: Your weekly Thomas Milone update — the senior UConn baseball recruit caught two touchdowns and ran for two more as the Panthers crushed previously unbeaten Barlow Saturday, 42-23. NEXT: at Weston, Thursday, 7 p.m.
6. Xavier-Middletown 8-1 265 6
KNOW THIS: The Falcons had a 301-to-8 edge in yardage in the first half of Monday's 42-7 rout of then No. 8 West Haven. NEXT: vs. Middletown, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
7. Greenwich 7-0 242 7
KNOW THIS: Dear FCIAC — if the Cardinals' Thanksgiving Day game against Staples is for the league title, then please move it to that evening so that we can all see it. Okay? Thanks. NEXT: vs. Danbury, Friday, 7 p.m.
8. Southington 9-0 204 9
KNOW THIS: Stephen Barmore threw a 30-yard touchdown to Corbin Garry as time expired Friday as Southington escaped Manchester with a 13-12 win. NEXT: vs. Cheshire, Nov. 22, 7 p.m.
9. Norwich Free Academy 9-0 137 NR
KNOW THIS: Welcome back to the Top 10, Wildcats. They've outscored teams by an average of 32 points. NEXT: at New London, Nov. 22, 10 a.m.
10. Newtown 8-0 130 NR
KNOW THIS: Andrew Tarantino took over for an injured Dan Herbert and threw four touchdowns as the Nighthawks rolled Bunnell Friday, 42-8. NEXT: vs. Immaculate, Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Dropped out: West Haven (8), and Berlin (10).
Also receiving votes: Glastonbury (7-1), 98 points; Hillhouse-New Haven (7-2), 97; Middletown (8-1), 96; New Canaan (7-1), 88; West Haven (7-2), 64; Wolcott (8-1), 61; North Branford (8-0), 50; Berlin (8-1), 44; Avon (9-0), 43; Fitch (7-1), 26; St. Joseph-Trumbull (6-2), 18; Tie, Hartford Capital/Classical/Achievement (9-0) and Trinity Catholic-Stamford (7-1), 7.
The following coaches voted: Tom Brockett, Ansonia; Jim Buonocore, Ledyard; Craig Bruno, Bunnell-Stratford; Dave Cadelina, Bridgeport Central; Steve Filippone, Hand-Madison; Rob Fleeting, Windsor; Tanner Grove, Montville; Jude Kelly, St. Paul-Bristol; Tim King, Valley Regional-Deep River; Sean Marinan, Xavier-Middletown; John Murphy, Masuk-Monroe; Marce Petroccio, Staples-Westport; Bob Zito, Maloney-Meriden.