Class LL state semifinal
No. 1 Staples (10-0) vs. No. 5 Norwich Free Academy (11-0), Sunday, 12:30 p.m.
Ken Strong Stadium, West Haven High School, West Haven
Staples made yet another opponent look helpless in the LL state quarterfinals on Tuesday and now sits just a win away from returning to the championship game.
Staples meet NFA. NFA meet Staples.
These two teams are similar in a lot of ways--at least on offense--from their surplus of weapons on both sides of the ball to the spread option systems that they so effectively run. Both blew through their quarterfinal opponent to get here--Staples 42-20 over West Haven, NFA 63-21 over Newtown--and have proven to be close to unstoppable at times.
NFA has a big, physical threat on the ground in senior running back Marcus Outlow, who gashed Newtown's defense for 178 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The Wildcats, who are averaging 41 points a game, have a dual-threat quarterback in senior Joey Paparelli and a playmaking receiver, senior Ryer Caruso.
Sense a theme here? NFA has some players who, simply put, can make plays.
By now, we've talked at length about the embarrassment of riches that Staples has on the offensive side of the ball. The Wreckers scored four touchdowns on their six plays from scrimmage against West Haven. The offense's lone bout of misfortune came in the third quarter, when senior running back Nick Kelly had to leave the game with an apparent shoulder injury. His status for Sunday is uncertain.
NFA has enough weapons to keep it close, but Staples will make sure the Wildcats don't get too comfortable. Pick: Staples 38, NFA 23.
Class M state semifinal
No. 6 Weston (9-2) vs. No. 2 Berlin (10-1), Sunday, 5 p.m.
Bulldog Field, Bunnell High School, Stratford
Weston has made a habit of pulling out wins in the fourth quarter. Its 29-22 victory over Ellington-Somers in the quarterfinals on Tuesday marked the fourth time this season that Weston has trailed in the final quarter and won. You have to think that's going to catch up with the Trojans at some point. Right?
A lot of credit has to go out to Weston head coach Joe Lato for keeping his players focused and not letting them panic when these games don't go their way early. This team's already accomplished more than any other in program history--winning a state playoff game for the first time--and have set the groundwork for many more seasons like it.
Unfortunately for the Trojans, this is where it ends.
Berlin rolled through the first round, trumping Bullard-Havens 41-14, and has offense and defense aplenty. Senior running back Justin Gombotz (over 1,110 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns) injured his ankle and his status for Sunday is uncertain. But there's other options to carry the load if Gombotz can't go. Senior running back Scott McLeod has 15 touchdowns on the season.
Weston can run with Berlin, but only for so long. Pick: Berlin 34, Weston 26.