CHESHIRE — Information may be instantaneous in this day and age, but there’s a reason why CIAC football playoff pairings that are known the very moment Thanksgiving Day games are over aren’t made official until Friday morning.
There’s a lot of math. And, as your elementary school said, you’ve got to check your math.
The CIAC always does and, this year, detected a small discrepency. The result of Thursday’s “Battle of the Bell” game in Bristol, won by Central 33-27 over Eastern, was initially reported backward. This had a domino effect in the Class L bracket that rippled up to Windsor, which in turn rippled down to Meriden.
The long and short of it? The sixth-seeded Maloney Spartans left Falcon Field after their 27-21 Stoddard Bowl win over Platt believing they would be traveling to Groton to face No. 3 Fitch in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
Instead, once the Bristol error was corrected, Windsor shuttled up to No. 3 and Fitch dropped to No. 4.
Which now means Maloney goes to Windsor for Tuesday night’s quarterfinals. Write it down, put it in the books, it’s official. Maloney at Windsor, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
Windsor is where coach Kevin Frederick and his Spartans started the 2017 season. They lost that game 28-0. They haven’t lost since.
Also in the postseason are the Sheehan Titans in Class M. There’s no change in the equation there. Coach John Ferrazzi and his 9-1 Titans, their only loss to Class LL qualifier Fairfield Prep, are the No. 3 seed and they will host No. 6 Joel Barlow on Tuesday, also at 6:30 p.m.
It’s been a long time coming for both area squads. Maloney hasn’t been to the postseason since 2006, when coach Bob Zito’s Spartans lost 53-21 to New Canaan in the Class MM final. Sheehan hasn’t gone since 1995, when coach Dennis Mannion’s Titans lost 16-6 to Ansonia in the Class S semis.
Overall, this is only Maloney’s fourth trip to the football playoffs. Coach Rob Szymaszek took the Spartans to the 1989 Class M finals (14-7 loss to St. Joseph) and the 1998 Class L semifinals (26-23 loss to Fitch).
For Sheehan, it’s only the third trip. The Titans do, however, have a state title to their name: 1985, Class S-1, 21-7 over Montville led by coach Andy Borelli.
So, hey, it’s nice to have some new faces, both on the area front and the state scene. Of the 32 state qualifiers, 17 are back from last year.
Actually, if you throw postseason regulars (but 2016 absentees) Hand and North Haven into the mix, the more accurate number of playoff regulars is 19.
Three reigning state champs are back to defend: Darien (Class LL), New Canaan (Class L) and Ansonia (Class S). Only Class M champ Hillhouse failed to qualify.
Darien, with two starting players arrested and charged for assault the day before Thanksgiving, looks vulnerable. The Blue Wave’s 35-game winning streak came to a halt, 27-0, at the hands of New Canaan in the Turkey Bowl.
That victory got New Canaan back into the postseason and the Rams are about as dangerous a No. 8 seed as you’ll find. Tough break for top-seeded Middletown, which capped its perfect regular season with a 24-7 win over Windsor, which led to the rematch with Maloney.
In the end, all things merge into one champion, and a bracket runs through it. Here, by class, is where we get started on Tuesday night:
Tuesday’s winners will play in the semifinals on Sunday at the higher seeds at 12:30 p.m. Yes, Sunday. That’s new this year.
Also new (relatively) are the likes of South Windsor and East Hartford, surprise qualifers out of CCC Division I. East Hartford hasn’t seen the postseason since defeating Hamden 3-0 in the 1987 Class LL final. South Windsor has been in the desert since falling to Bristol Eastern 22-19 in the 1988 Class MM final.
Both teams ended their drought with massive help from victories over Southington, which saw its run of five straight playoff appearances end, despite Thursday’s 30-22 Apple Valley Classic win over Cheshire, with Fairfield Prep’s Turkey Day upset of West Haven.
A new start awaits the Blue Knights in 2018. For now, a new start, a new season, is at hand for the Maloney Spartans and Sheehan Titans.