FOOTBALL: Playoff tracks, old rivals and a fond farewell to Harry

MERIDEN — Let’s get right to it. Time and space are tight.

Tonight is the last Friday night of football for area teams, with only Thanksgiving laying beyond — unless, of course, you’ve got a postseason ticket in hand.

Nobody has officially clinched yet, but the rankings are easy enough to read. If Southington and Maloney, both 7-1, hold course, both are in — the Blue Knights in Class LL, where they rank No. 5, and the Spartans in Class L, where they stand No. 2.

(Both could probably afford a loss, but let’s not go there.)

Sheehan, at 5-3, is the only other area team with a winning record. The Titans, though, are outside the top eight in Class S, the division they won in 2019. Sheehan must win out and get some help to have a shot at a state title defense.

Now, does all this mean Platt and Cheshire, both out of contention at 4-4, aren’t worthy of attention? Hardly. Both have great matchups tonight at home against old rivals — Cheshire against Shelton, Platt against Berlin. Let’s start there.

Berlin (3-5) at Platt (4-4), at Falcon Field, 6:30 p.m.

Tonight’s get-together between the Panthers and Redcoats is the first in seven years. After the CCC absorbed the old Nutmeg League, Berlin and Platt waged some wild ones between 2009-14. It was must-see stuff.

No reason it shouldn’t be tonight. Both teams are looking to right proud ships. Berlin has lost four straight, Platt two.

Berlin lost 40-11 to Windsor last Friday a week after Windsor beat Platt 47-31.

The teams have indeed walked similiar paths. Both beat Middletown, Manchester and Enfield. Both lost to Wethersfield, Hall, Newington and Windsor.

This is Berlin’s second trip of the season to Falcon. The Redcoats lost 28-13 to Maloney on Oct. 8.

Berlin leads the all-time series with Platt 5-3. The Redcoats are led this year by senior RB Jamie Palmese, the team’s leading rusher (102-975) and receiver (22-433). Junior QB Lorenzo Miele has completed 69 of 137 passes for 1,075 yards.

Maloney (7-1) at Glastonbury (2-6), at Glastonbury HS, 6:30 p.m.

With a win tonight, the Spartans will clinch at least a share of the CCC Tier 1 title, something they could win outright if Southington and Hall stumble.

Maloney just knocked Hall from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 49-18 throttling driven by an unstoppable ground game. Following the O-line and senior FB Stone DeLeon, junior RB Joshua Boganski carried the ball 50 times for 320 yards.

Only Rahshon Spikes, who amassed 331 yards vs. Bristol Eastern on the night of Oct. 28, 1994, had a more prolific rushing game in Maloney history.

Boganski is now at 979 yards on the season. Senior QB Angel Arce has connected on 81 of 140 passes for 1,030 yards, 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

Last week’s win captured the attention of voters in the state polls. Coaches catapulted the Spartans up to No. 5 in the Day of New London poll. Media members moved them up to No. 6 in the GameTime CT poll.

Maloney and Glastonbury have meet just four times. The Guardians hold a 3-1 edge.

Southington (7-1) at Conard (3-5), at McKee Stadium, 6:30 p.m.

As for the Blue Knights’ standing in the state polls, they’re No. 7 in both.

Southington has excelled on both sides of the ball since suffering its lone defeat at Hall, 27-19, on Oct. 1. The Blue Knights have won the four games since by an average score of 45-9, and that’s rounding up for the opposition.

Javon Thomas (91-597) and Lincoln Cardillo (61-584) continue to chug as the twin turbos out of the backfield. Jack Barnum continues to be Mr. Efficiency behind center, completing passes at a 61.7 percent (100-for-162) for 1,411 yards, 16 TDs and just two interceptions.

Defensively, Southington has been particularly stout against the run. Defensive ends Jackson Rusiecki (65) and Austin Pszczolkowski (62) and middle linebacker Alex Maindon (58) lead the team in tackles.

Rusiecki and Pszczolkowski have combined on 16 sacks and 30½ total tackles for lost yardage. Josh Frappier had two fumble recoveries in last week’s 49-14 win in Simsbury.

As for Conard, the Blue Knights have taken nine straight from the Chieftains and lead the all-time series 17-3.

Hartford Public (2-6) at Sheehan (5-3), Riccitelli Field, 6:30 p.m.

Between the lines, this game is all about the Titans needing to win to keep Class S playoff hopes alive.

In the big picture, it’s also about the head coach on the other sideline.

Tonight marks the final game for Harry Bellucci, who has spent the last 42 years coaching in the Hartford school system and is retiring at the end of the current school year.

Some would say there is a certain rightness in Bellucci going up against a next-generation “lifer” like Sheehan’s John Ferrazzi, the area’s longest tenured coach at 17 years. Bellucci and Ferrazzi often coached together on summer all-star teams.

“I never imagined I would be across the field on the opposite sideline for his last game,” Ferrazzi remarked in a tweet. “Coach Bellucci has been a mentor and role model for me, but moreover a great friend. Thank you, Harry, for the support and guidance.”

This is the first meeting ever between Hartford Public and Sheehan. It’s a Connecticut Football Alliance game, Sheehan’s third of the season. (The Titans beat Weston, fell to New Fairfield.)

Sheehan is looking to rebound from last week’s 41-7 loss in Hamden. Senior RB Jacob Shook did go over 1,000 yards on the season in that game. He’s now at 1,025 on 148 carries.

Shelton (7-2) at Cheshire (4-4), at Alumni Field, 7 p.m.

The Gaels were cruising along, both in the Class LL rankings and state polls. Then they ran into a brick wall last Friday at Fairfield Prep, losing 54-0.

One can only imagine the atonement Shelton will be seeking tonight against old Housatonic League rival Cheshire.

All the better. The Rams are back at full strength with last week’s return of senior RB Christian Russo and sophomore QB Matt Jeffery.

For that matter, the Rams will also be gunning for redemption. They fell 21-14 in West Haven when Jeffery was stopped one yard shy of the end zone on the game’s final play.

Russo enters the game with 760 yards rushing despite missing four games to injury. Senior RB Tyler Rich has 662 yards for Shelton.

This is the last game of the regular season for the Gaels because Derby, their Thanksgiving rival, discontinued its season due to an insufficient number of players.

The Shelton-Derby series dates back 109 years. Shelton-Cheshire isn’t quite so long, but still impressive. Tonight marks the 58th meeting. Shelton leads 31-26. Cheshire won the last clash 24-12 in 2018.

Thames River (6-1) at Wilcox-Kaynor Tech (0-7), at Falcon Field, Saturday, 6 p.m.

The Norwich-based co-op of St. Bernard, Norwich Tech and Grasso Tech is one of three CTC teams in contention for the Class L playoffs. (Cheney Tech and Quinebaug Valley, also 7-1, are the others.)

Thames River had an inside track until falling to Cheney, 26-20, last week. Thames River must also deal with ATI and Quinebaug Valley down the road.

First up, though, is Wilcox-Kaynor. The first-year co-op will be itching to pull the upset and gain its first win, especially because this is the last home game of the season at Falcon FIeld.

Thames River has taken three of four all-time from Wilcox. The Tribe pulled out a 7-0 victory in double overtime in 2018.

Senior QB Jackson Brenek and junior RB Seth Cunningham lead the Crusaders. Brenek has completed 71 of 130 passes for 1,138 yards. Cunningham has carried 154 times for 1,100 yards..






Berlin at Platt (at Falcon Field), 6:30 p.m.

Maloney at Glastonbury, 6:30 p.m.

Hartford Public at Sheehan, 6:30 p.m.

Southington at Conard, 6:30 p.m.

Shelton at Cheshire, 7 p.m.

Thames River at Wilcox-Kaynor Tech (at Falcon Field), Saturday, 6 p.m.


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