By NED X. GRIFFEN
Truth time — no one here at Polecat HQ is expecting much drama from today's CIAC semifinals.
Sorry to be such a Negative Nellie in sector two, especially on a Sunday.
On paper, the quarterfinals intrigued us more. Some were as riveting as we expected (Hyde v. Rocky Hill, Woodland v. Hartford Capital/Classical/Achievement). Some weren't (Hillhouse v. St. Joseph — hey, at least it snowed). Some were an absolute paddlin' (NFA v. Newtown, Xavier v. Greenwich).
Our spider sense tells us that most of the semis won't be as competitive as we'd like to be. Much like the NCAA basketball tournament, the best teams begin flexing their muscles more with each passing round.
Sure, there are are two games that no one here can figure out — Berlin v. Weston, and North Branford v. Hyde. The rest look like no-brainers, however.
We're hoping to be proven wrong.
One guarantee — we'll have a few Bill Mignault Specials today. That's a game that ends in two hours or less because a strong running game keeps the clock running. Ansonia v. Hyde, Berlin v. Weston and Hillhouse v. Montville fit the bill.
On the flip side, there's North Branford v. Woodland. Sunset is at 4:22 p.m., and this game may just be ending the third quarter at that time. Both teams love to chuck it, so a combination of touchdowns and incomplete passes may cause the timekeeper to break out in tears and/or go plumb loco.
Our gloomy forecast should NOT prevent you from getting your duff off the couch and attending a semi. It's going to be a beautiful day by December standards. There's no need to watch the NFL, either. The Giants play manana, the Patsies are going to gut the Aquatic Mammals, and the Jets and Cardinals should only be viewed the way one would observe a solar eclipse.
We again recommend that you follow the action in these simple ways:
■ Follow on Twitter at #dayfb and #cthsfb
■ Watch at CIAC.tv. Both MSGVarsity.com and CPTVSports (where available) will broadcast two games, too.
■ Listen to the affable George DeMaio, who will broadcast Hand v. Masuk on WELI-960 AM.
Here's the quick and easy on today's semifinals.
Hey! Ho! LET'S GO!:
NO. 1 STAPLES (11-0) v. NO. 5 NORWICH FREE ACADEMY (11-0)
WHERE: Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven High, 12:30 p.m.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Staples No. 2; NFA No. 8.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Staples No. 3; NFA No. 5.
STAPLES PLAYMAKERS: Sr. WR-DB James Frusciante (39 catches, 819 yards, 12 TDs); Sr. DE Pieter Hoets (84 tackles, 7 sacks); Sr. DL Jared Levi (7 sacks); Sr. LB Lance Lonergan (85 tackles, five INTs); Sr. QB Jack Massie (1,353 yards passing, 15 TDs; 578 yards rushing, 9 TDs); Sr. RB Joey Zelkowitz (1,040 yards, 15 TDs).
NFA PLAYMAKERS: Sr. WR-DB Ryer Caruso (420 yards, 8 TDs); Sr. LB Steven Makowicki (6-foot-2, 250 pounds); Sr. RB-DB Marcus Outlow (1,287 yards, 18 TDs); Sr. QB-DB Joey Paparelli (877 yards rushing, 9 TDs; 688 yards passing, 13 TDs); Sr. Tuzar Skipper (6-2, 205 pounds) Jr. RB Khaleed Exum-Strong (10 TDs).
WORDS: The teams have a lot of similarities. Both run the spread option. Both have lots of speed and weapons (Staples averages a state-best 502 yards and 51 points). Staples throws better, though, and we worry about the Wildcats should they be forced into passing situations. The Wreckers are also more experienced because most of them played in last year's state final.
THE PICK: Staples.
NO. 3 XAVIER (10-1) v. NO. 7 GLASTONBURY (10-1)
WHERE: McClary Athletic Complex, Cheshire High, 12:30 p.m.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Xavier No. 5; Glastonbury T9.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Xavier No. 2; Glastonbury No. 11.
XAVIER PLAYMAKERS: Sr. RB DeAngelo Berry (1,603 yards, 34 TDs); Sr. QB Tim Boyle (2,097 yards, 21 TDs); Sr. DB Nate Gonzalez; Sr. WR-DB Kris Luster (1,213 yards, 11 TDs); Sr. DL Max Schumann (6-2, 269); Sr. LB Max Tylki (6-1, 207).
GLASTONBURY PLAYMAKERS: Sr. QB-WR Ben Berey (680 yards passing, 8 TDs; 16 catches, 222 yards, 2 TDs); Sr. QB-WR-DE Joshua Hill (17 catches, 234 yards, 2 TDs; 96 tackles, 14 sacks); Sr. RB-DB Tyler Janssen; Jr. QB Kevin Ollie.
WORDS: Glastonbury's starting lineup boasts as many top athletes as any team in the state. Its problem is that the Falcons have been on a path of rage ever since they trailed Hillhouse of New Haven by 28 points in the fourth quarter. Xavier rallied to win that game, 50-49. Since then, it's outscored opponents 197-52. Again, PATH OF RAGE.
THE PICK: Xavier.
NO. 1 HAND (11-0) v. NO. 4 MASUK (10-1)
WHERE: Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven High, 5 p.m.
BROADCAST: CIAC.tv; CPTVSports; WELI-960 AM.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Hand No. 1; Masuk No. 12.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Hand No. 1; Masuk No. 10.
HAND PLAYMAKERS: Sr. WR Kyle Anderson (32 catches, 496 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. QB Brendan Bilcheck (1,868 yards, 15 TDs; 655 yards, 10 TDs); Sr. WR Caleb Ewald (51 catches, 738 yards, 7 TDs); Sr. DE Peter Gerson (6-4, 230); Sr. RB Ian O'Toole (794 yards, 12 TDs); Sr. FB-LB Matthew Walsh (6-2, 230).
MASUK PLAYMAKERS: RB Frank Bacarella (1,023 yards, 12 TDs); Sr. DB Jack Cardi; RB Sr. Jr. QB Malik Cummings (19 TD passes); Jr. RB-DB Joseph DaMota; Sr. WR-DB Thomas Milone (13 TD catches; 1,020 yards rushing, 18 TDs); Sr. DL Bryan Monaco.
WORDS: Masuk is going to have a hard time moving the ball as Hand has a pretty nasty defense. It'll be interesting to see what approach the Hand defense takes to guard Milone, one of the state's most dynamic threats. Do the Tigers have someone follow his every move, or do they drop several defenders into coverage and drill Milone and the Panthers' receivers like they did in last season's 35-14 semifinal win?
THE PICK: Hand.
NO. 2 WINDSOR (10-0) v. No. 6 NEW CANAAN (9-2)
WHERE: Bulldog Field, Bunnell High, 12:30 p.m.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Windsor No. 4; New Canaan No. 20.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Windsor No. 6; New Canaan No. 22.
WINDSOR PLAYMAKERS: Sr. RB-DB Devonte Dillon; Sr. QB Robert Quinn Fleeting (2,430 yards passing; 31 TDs; 9 rushing TDs); Sr. WR-DB Ryhieme Moore (45 catches, 881 yards, 10 TDs); Sr. DE Cole Ormsby (6-4, 230); Sr. DE Lance Ormsby (6-2, 185).
NEW CANAAN PLAYMAKERS: Jr. Teddy Bossidy (683 yards passing, 8 TDs; 363 yards rushing, 3 TDs); Sr. DL Connor Buck (51 tackles, 9 sacks); Jr. Nick Cascione (1,102 yards passing, 16 TDs; 737 yards rushing, 8 TDs); Jr. Cole Harris (124 tackles); Sr. WR-DB Grady Lynch (30 catches, 303 yards, 5 TDs).
WORDS: Windsor is the better team, and it should be a bit edgy today after it collapsed in last season's last second, 27-24 semifinal loss to the Rams.
THE PICK: Windsor.
NO. 2 BERLIN (10-1) v. NO. 6 WESTON (9-2)
WHERE: Bulldog Field, Bunnell High, 5 p.m.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Berlin No. 18; Weston unranked.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Berlin No. 37; Weston No. 35.
BERLIN PLAYMAKERS: Sr. Tyler Bouchard (28 catches, 418 yards, 4 TDs); Sr. RB Justin Gombotz (1,159 yards, 16 TDs); Sr. DB-RB Kevin Main (80 tackles); Sr. RB Scott McLeod (857 yards, 10 TDs); Jr. LB Dante Vasi (62 tackles); Jr. QB Mitch Williams (1,247 yards passing, 15 TDs).
WESTON PLAYMAKERS: Sr. LB Erik Dammen-Brower; Sr. DL Austin Gomar; Sr. QB-DB Tyler Hassett (1,735 yards passing, 17 TDs; 860 yards rushing, 12 TDs); Sr. DB-RB Aaron Pomerance; Sr. RB-DB Justin Schaffer (461 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 65 catches, 1,035 yards, 6 TDs).
WORDS: The biggest storyline headed into the game is Gombotz' status. He injured his ankle in Tuesday's quarterfinal win over Bullard-Havens of Bridgeport and is a game time decision. If he can't go, then it's on McLeod and Main to carry the ball. The Redcoats have an edge in experience as many of them played in last season's semifinal loss to Ansonia.
THE PICK: Berlin.
NO. 4 HILLHOUSE (9-2) v. NO. 8 MONTVILLE (9-2)
WHERE: Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown High, 5 p.m.
BROADCAST: CIAC.tv; CPTVSports.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Hillhouse No. 11; Montville unranked.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Hillhouse No. 7; Montville No. 16.
HILLHOUSE PLAYMAKERS: Sr. RB-DB Andre Anderson (1,221 yards, 14 TDs; 78 tackles); Jr. RB-LB Harold Cooper (1,403 yards, 19 TDs); Sr. LB Terell Fairweather (101 tackles, 4.5 sacks); Sr. QB-DB Je'Vaughn Moore (684 yards passing, 6 TDs; 801 yards rushing, 6 TDs).
MONTVILLE PLAYMAKERS: Sr. OL-DL Jake Basilica (6-4, 280); Sr. QB-DB Nick Clemons (810 yards passing, 10 TDs; 740 yards passing, 6 TDs); Jr. RB Jeremiah Crowley (1,737 yards, 21 TDs); Sr. OL-LB Isaiah Holloway (6-0, 250); Sr. RB-DL Will Thompson.
WORDS: Hillhouse and St. Joseph began the tournament as the best teams in the field, and Hillhouse beat the latter in Tuesday's quarterfinal (34-14). Montville have the size to push the Academics around, an approach Xavier used to wear the latter down. The Indians' power running game could serve them well today as they needs to keep Hillhouse's offense off the field.
THE PICK: Hillhouse.
NO. 1 ANSONIA (12-0) v. NO. 5 HYDE (10-1)
WHERE: Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown High, 12:30 p.m.
BROADCAST: CIAC.tv; CPTVSports.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: Ansonia No. 3; Hyde unranked.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: Ansonia No. 4; Hyde No. 29.
ANSONIA PLAYMAKERS: Sr. LB Hezekiah Duncan; Sr. WR-DE Raeshaun Finney; Sr. WR-LB Andrew Matos (35 catches, 916 yards, 13 TDs); So. QB-DB JaiQuan McKnight (1,197 yards, 22 TDs; 397 yards, 5 TDs); Jr. RB Arkeel Newsome (1,796 yards, 26 TDs); Sr. RB-LB Saiheed Sanders.
HYDE PLAYMAKERS: Sr. RB-LB Akeem Berry; Sr. OL-DL Donnery Evans; Sr. QB-CB Kevin Jones; Sr. RB-LB Ezekiel Nixon (1,124 yards, 15 TDs); Sr. LB Kahill Morant; Sr. RB-LB Marcus Rogers.
WORDS: Both teams run the ball and play defense very well. Both teams also have speed and athletic players, too. Ansonia has thrown the ball better, and it has more big-game experience.
THE PICK: Ansonia.
NO. 2 NORTH BRANFORD (11-0) v. NO. 7 WOODLAND (8-3)
WHERE: Falcon Field, Meriden, 12:30 p.m.
DAY COACHES POLL RANKING: North Branford No. 19; Woodland unranked.
CALPREPS.COM COMPUTER RANKING: North Branford No. 13; Woodland No. 23.
NORTH BRANFORD PLAYMAKERS: Sr. QB Brandan Basil (2,579 yards passing, 39 TDs); Sr. RB-LB Chris Caron (42 catches, 887 yards, 15 TDs); Sr. RB-DB Joe Delucia (40 catches, 660 yards, 13 TDs; 4 INTs); Sr. RB-LB Gary Falanga (91 tackles, four sacks); Sr. RB-LB Dale Hausman (1,133 yards, 10 TDs); Jr. RB-LB Josh Melaccio (82 tackles, four sacks).
WOODLAND PLAYMAKERS: Sr. DL Eric Collodel (82 tackles, nine sacks); Sr. TE-LB Levi Fancher (67 tackles); Jr. QB Tanner Kingsley (2,996 passing yards, 47 TDs); Sr. RB Joe Masulli (436 yards, 18 TDs); Sr. WR-DB Rahmi Roundtree (50 catches, 737 yards, 12 TDs); Sr. WR-DB Anthony Scirpo (68 catches, 1,087 yards, 23 TDs).
WORDS: You won't be bored by this game. North Branford averages 450 yards and 48 points; the Hawks average 376 yards and 41 points. Both love to throw, throw, throw, throw. Kingsley set the state-record for most TDs in a season in Wednesday's quarterfinals. The Thunderbirds are a better running team (214 yard average).
THE PICK: North Branford.
Vaya con dios….