FOOTBALL: While 7-3 teams qualified in other classes, 7-3 wasn’t enough for reigning Class S champ

WALLINGFORD — When the Sheehan football team raised the Carini Bowl trophy on Thanksgiving morning, it was a crowning moment.

Yet it was also the end of the line.

Though the Titans tallied seven victories over their 10-game schedule, they were the first team left on the outside looking in when the Class S playoff bracket was finalized.

“We put ourselves in a position to have a shot to get in,” head coach John Ferrazzi said after Thursday’s 28-9 win over Lyman Hall. “We had about five weeks where we really struggled a little bit, and our kids were resilient and they should be proud of a seven-win season.”

Entering the final game of the regular season with three losses, the Titans needed to not only beat Lyman Hall, they needed some help. Of the eight teams ahead of them, five had two losses going into their season finales. 

Holy Cross, New Fairfield, Seymour, Notre-Dame Fairfield and Morgan were all in range of being leap-frogged by the Titans if any were to lose. All five won.

That left Sheehan, with 124.5 playoff points, 5½ points behind No. 8-seed Morgan.

Sheehan had a two-point advantage against Morgan in-case the two schools ended in a tie. It didn’t happen.

So, Morgan will take on top-seeded Bloomfield (10-0) in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. Bloomfield is the team Sheehan beat 64-33 in the 2019 Class S state championship game.

There will be no title defense in 2021.

“Definitely not satisfied not making the playoffs,” Ferrazzi said. “And it’s a shame that with seven wins we won’t be getting in.”

There is one 7-3 team in the Class LL bracket (Greenwich) and one in Class L (Daniel Hand). The Class M tournament features three: Granby/Canton, Torrington and Ellington. There’s also one that’s 6-2 (Gilbert/NW/Housatonic).

In Class M, 7-3 Granby/Canton is the No. 3 seed. In Class S, 7-3 Sheehan is out

The Titans opened the season 2-1 with wins over East Haven and Weston sandwiced around a 14-13 loss at New Fairfield.

In that New Fairfield game, the Titans scored a touchdown as time expired. Opting not to play for the tie and overtime, Sheehan went for two and came up short.

After that, the Titans faced a six-week gauntlet of Class L and Class LL opponents that began with a rough 49-6 loss to Hand at the Surf Club. Concurrently, COVID infiltrated the locker room and the injury bug entered the picture.

“This team overcame a lot,” Ferrazzi said. “Recovering from COVID and having such a young, inexperienced team, and then dealing with COVID issues and injuries early on in the season, it took us a while to find our groove.”

Sheehan returned home after the Hand loss and posted a 15-13 win over Amity in overtime. The win was the first of three in a row, as 30-point routs of Harding and Hillhouse followed. 

In a game that decided the SCC Tier 2 title, the Titans were touched up by the Hamden Dragons 41-7. They returned home to thump Hartford Public 54-0 before winning the Carini Bowl for a ninth straight season on Thanksgiving.

The Titans faced and overcame challenges in 2021, and though they fell just shy of their goal, Ferrazzi hopes it provides motivation for 2022.

“We play a very tough schedule for a Class S school,” Ferrazzi said. “And it certainly does make us better, but it's tough not being able to overcome your schedule and falling a game short. I feel like we are one of the top-eight Class S schools.

“It’s unfortunate. It won’t change who we are and what we’re about. Hopefully it’s something that will make us even more hungry for the following season.

“Still proud of this football team and the way they fought all season long,” Ferrazzi added. “I’m so proud of them.”

Senior running back Jacob Shook wishes Sheehan could get another crack at a playoff-bound team like New Fairfield.

“We were not anywhere close to our best that game and we went down to the wire,” Shook said.

But Shook opts to not dwell on the past. He and his teammates chalked up seven wins in a sport that guarantees nothing.

To his own credit, Shook rushed for 1,285 yards this season with 12 touchdowns. His nine-yard run on Thanksgiving put the Titans ahead 7-3 in the second quarter. Sheehan was up to stay.

Shook, who dreamt of playing in the Carini Bowl since he was in youth football, was just pleased his team walked away with a final win.

“It’s disappointing because that’s just how the chips fall,” Shook said. “I think we definitely deserved a spot, but nothing we can do about it now. I’m thankful for the football career that I had and I’m glad I finished my career with a win.”

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