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Whalers, Bears are back in the playoff picture

By Ned Griffen

Publication: The Day

Published November 12. 2013 4:00AM

Hey, New London and Stonington - you've forced your way into the playoff discussion.

The Whalers and Bears each had upset wins last Friday that gave them much-needed playoff points and pushed them up to eighth in the Class L and M rankings, respectively.

Stonington and New London still have obstacles ahead, namely Norwich Free Academy, but have something to play for other than pride and a winning season.

Thanksgiving Day football has also become a lot more interesting.

Here's a look at the three divisions in which area teams have a chance to qualify:

Class L: New London (6-2) has games left against Waterford (4-5), East Lyme (5-3) and NFA (7-1). It would earn an average of 127.27 to 136.36 points by winning out, depending on the number of bonus points it receives.

A team receives 10 bonus points for every win by a team it beat, or five for every team it tied.

The Whalers won't automatically qualify if they win out, but have the following matchups working in their favor:

• Sixth-seeded Darien plays at No. 7 North Haven on Friday. Both are 8-1.

• No. 11 Windsor (6-2) plays host to Glastonbury (8-1) on Nov. 15. It also plays host to third-rated Middletown (8-1) on Thanksgiving Eve.

• No. 5 Naugatuck (8-1) plays unbeaten Ansonia on Thanksgiving.

• Darien plays at top-ranked New Canaan (9-0) on Thanksgiving.

Darien, Naugatuck, North Haven or Windsor would all fall behind New London if they lose - provided the Whalers win their last three games.

A loss would obviously put New London on the edge.

Class M: The Valley Regional/Old Lyme co-op (8-0) is ranked first and needs to win just one of its final three games to qualify. It plays at Old Saybrook/Westbrook (4-4) on Saturday. The Wildcats can clinch a home game by winning this weekend and then beating No. 4 Gilbert/Northwestern Regional (7-1) next Friday.

Ledyard (7-2) is ranked seventh and would most likely clinch if it wins its final two games against Waterford and Fitch (3-6).

There are remote scenarios where the Colonels can fall short, such as the No. 9 Putnam/Tourtellotte/Ellis (7-2) co-op winning its final two points and collecting the majority of its bonuses.

Stonington (6-2) is in if it wins its final three games. That's a real tall order given that it plays this Saturday at NFA, ranked ninth in The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll.

The Bears' final two games are against Killingly (4-5) next week and Westerly (3-6) on Thanksgiving. There's a chance winning just those two games would be enough for Stonington because there are difficult games for the three teams that could catch it from behind.

• The P/T/ET co-op must beat Bullard-Havens (6-3) this weekend and Killingly on Thanksgiving.

• No. 10 Wolcott (6-3) plays host to Holy Cross (6-3) on Thanksgiving.

• No. 11 Bullard-Havens plays Bassick (2-7) on Thanksgiving. Bassick, a member of the FCIAC, plays a much more difficult schedule than Bullard-Havens.

There's one other scenario in play that could benefit both Ledyard and Stonington - if No. 5 Brookfield (8-1) loses its final two games. That's not out of the question because Brookfield closes the season against two other teams fighting for Class M berths - No. 3 Barlow (8-1) this Friday and No. 6 Bethel (7-2) on Thanksgiving.

The Bobcats would fall behind Ledyard if they lose their final two and the Colonels win out.

Brookfield might be able to outpoint Stonington even by losing its final two games and the Bears winning their last two. The Bobcats would be at the mercy of bonus points, however, and theirs don't look good.

Class LL: NFA earns a home game if it wins out.

The Wildcats could still qualify if they won just one of their last two games, but that's never good for one's piece of mind.

n.griffen@theday.com

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As our children crash from Halloween candy overload, we look ahead to the next big holiday: Thanksgiving. What are you looking forward to seeing on your dining room table on the 4th Thursday of November?
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