Staples goes for FCIAC and Class LL titles this weekend

Staples High School should call this weekend Title Quest Weekend and if successful, it should drop the Quest from the title. Going for one title is big but to go for two and possibly three in a 16-24 hour window is a rarity. Staples football will play Bridgeport Central tonight at 7:30 for the FCIAC title at McDougall Stadium in Trumbull and Wreckers boys soccer will face New Milford tomorrow at Ridgefield High School at noon. If the Staples girls volleyball team defeated Fairfield Ludlowe yesterday after press time, it will compete for the Class LL title tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Berlin High.

With two games etched in stone (sans location and time for soccer), previews for both games appear below.

Staples vs Central football

Top-seeded Staples brings its 9-0 record to Trumbull and will compete in its four FCIAC championship game this decade, fifth since 1997. The Wreckers made FCIACs every two years and won the title against Danbury in 2003. Central is competing in its first FCIAC title game since 2004. This game pits the Hilltoppers explosive and athletic offense against Staples' stingy defense, which has five shutouts to its credit. The varsity has allowed only two scores all year.

"The kids are excited to have an opportunity to win a championship and it should be a great game," said Wreckers coach Marce Petroccio. "The fact we play great defense is comforting because I don't think you can win a game like that without playing great defense. They like to run the ball and we like to run the ball."

Central's offense is led by lethal senior quarterback Christian Gill, who can run and throw. Complementing Gill is junior running back Shabashe McIntosh, who is quick able to dart out.

"They are fast, physical and athletic," said Petroccio. "You have to get them in third-and-longs and situations they're not comfortable with."

Playing key roles in stopping Gill and McIntosh are senior captain Devin Graber, classmate Cody Laszlo and juniors Chirs Coyne and Pat Murray from the defensive line, who will apply pressure and senior captain linebacker Jake Santora, who is all over the field.

Although the Wreckers are renowned for their defense, they are lethal on offense and the Hilltoppers, who make a name for themselves on offense, have a strong defense as they made life miserable for New Canaan quarterback Turner Baty, a Division I recruit.

Staples runs the option well with senior Matt Kelly and junior Ryan Burke at running back and senior backup quarterback Keith Gelman has done well in running the offense since senior captain Brandon Pacilio's season-ending injury. Gelman has thrown four touchdown passes in three games and having a wide receiver of senior captain Brendan Rankowitz' caliber to throw to has helped him succeed.

Central senior defensive tackle Ernest Wiggins and senior linebacker Christian Bish will use their speed, athleticism and strength to contain the option and pressure Gelman.

"We have to stop their option game or at least slow it down," said Hilltoppers coach Dave Cadelina. "We have to be prepared schematically because we face a good Staples team. Field possession is important, which helped us [in a 14-13 win] against Greenwich and turnovers opened things up against New Canaan [a 42-7 win]."

Prediction: Although both teams are good, it comes down to experience and defense in the end and Staples will come out with a 14-0 victory.

Staples boys soccer vs New Milford

Staples is going for its 12th straight State title, first since 1993, to go with 26 FCIAC titles. The Wreckers, who enter the game at 21-2, have a strong squad with no holes to go with their tradition, starting with their defense, which is led by senior captain Jack Hennessy, classmate Mikey Fitzgerald and juniors Frankie Bergonzi and Sean Gallagher. They support senior goalie Mike McCarthy, who is reliable between the pipes.

Getting to the Class LL championship game wasn't easy for fifth-seeded Staples as it knocked off top-seeded Glastonbury, the top-ranked team in New England and fifth-ranked team in the country, to get to its first finals in three years.

Offensively, senior captain Mike White and junior Greg Gudis give the Wreckers an explosive touch and they are helped by multi-skilled senior captain midfielder Alan Reiter. Senior captain Andrew McNair also contributes in the midfield and helps the offense along with juniors Brendan Lesch and Mikey Scott, the latter who specializes in throw-ins. Any squad that has senior Matteo Marzoli, who'd start for 98 Percent of the teams in Connecticut, is deep. Marzoli is a sparkplug in the midfield who gets Staples going on offense and defense when he comes off the bench.

Sixth-seeded New Milford was the SWC regular season champion before losing to Brookfield in the finals on penalty kicks and enters the game with a 20-3 record. The Green Wave have two dangerous offensive threats, seniors Miguel Carneiro (21 goals) and Nick Murad (17 goals). Senior Jack Holub is New Milford's goalie and saved 85 percent of the shots he faced.

"They are a very good team and have good speed," said Green Wave coach James Tong in reference to the Wreckers. "All of their players are technically sound and we have to defend well, create chances and finish. Staples is pretty balanced and we have to guard against their long throw in."

One common opponent both teams faced is Brookfield, who is playing for the Class L title tonight at 7:30 against New Canaan. Staples lost 3-1 at Brookfield and New Milford lost 2-0 to the Bobcats during the regular season.

"We have to continue the momentum going after the win on Wednesday," said McNair. "We have to play like we played all year and play our brand of soccer. We need to defend and communicate well. We have to know where their strikers are and mark them. We need to play the ball to the feet, have a good one-two touch and play the ball down the line and get good crosses in. We have a couple of things going for us and it's ours to take."

Prediction: New Milford is an outstanding team but Staples is better and has destiny on its side. The Wreckers will win, 3-0.