Doug Delivers: Thanksgiving football brings out heavy playoff implications
Staples (8-0) at Greenwich (8-0), Thanksgiving, 10 a.m.
It's finally here.
After more than two months of drama-less football, where outcomes are decided by halftime, we're presented a game that could carry some life in the fourth quarter. This game, after all, will mean a little more.
With a win, Staples will lay claim to its second straight FCIAC title and seventh overall, and clinch a home game for the LL state quarterfinals. A loss and the Wreckers will have to hit the road in the state playoffs--a small task, by no means--and watch Greenwich regain its perch atop the conference for the 13th time. If given the choice, which of the two scenarios do you think the Wreckers would choose?
At 8-0, the Wreckers have seemingly been riding a freight train to loftier heights for weeks. The offense has been unflappable and its ability to churn out two- and three-play touchdown drives has been uncanny. Can anyone stop them? Anyone?
The Wreckers had to work a little harder for their touchdowns in a 49-7 win over Westhill last Thursday, but not by much. They put together a few of their longer scoring drives of the year, including an efficient six-play, 99-yard trip in the fourth quarter, and still made it look effortless at times.
Greenwich, which will also carry a perfect 8-0 mark into Thanksgiving, has been just as dominant at times. The Cardinals have scored at least 48 points six times and somewhat quietly have been just as good on defense. They're only allowing 13 points a game and have held opponents to single digits four times.
The Cardinals have established a resume impressive enough that leads you to believe that they can run with Staples.
The defending conference champions swept aside fringe playoff teams like St. Joseph and Darien in the regular season, but finally have a legitimate challenge on their hands. It won't be one, however, that they're unable to handle.
The Wreckers likely won't breeze to their accustomed three- or four-touchdown lead in the first quarter, but don't expect them to sweat much in the late stages either. Pick: Staples 40, Greenwich 24.
Weston (7-2) at Joel Barlow (8-1), Thanksgiving, 10 a.m.
Outside of the game I just mentioned, the Turkey Day tilt between Weston and Joel Barlow might be the most important one of them all. There's playoff implications galore--words that haven't been uttered around either program for over two decades.
Barlow, perhaps the biggest surprise in the high school football landscape with an 8-1 record, can lock up its first-ever state playoff berth with a victory. Weston, which also has seemingly trumped expectations, can move to 8-2 and solidify its place in the postseason for the first time in 23 years.
The Trojans come into play just seven days off their worst performance of the season--a 49-0 loss to unbeaten Masuk--and hopefully for their sake, have regrouped. They've handled pressure well thus far this season and have shown enough poise in late-game situations to think that the stakes of this game won't crack them.
Compiling over 2,000 yards and 24 total touchdowns, senior quarterback Tyler Hassett has been the driving force in this run, with wide receiver Justin Schaffer (55 catches, 903 yards, five touchdowns) serving as a playmaking threat on the outside. Senior defensive end Austin Gomar has been as steady as anyone around on the other side of the ball, registering 12 sacks. The Trojans have the talent, but will that be enough to catapult them into a playoff spot? After all, Barlow has plenty of talent as well.
The Falcons just haven't been as fortunate of late.
Running back Alex Lockwood has rushed for over 1,000 yards and scored 17 touchdowns, but the Falcons' game-breaking quarterback, Jack Shaban, was lost for the season on Nov. 10 with a shoulder injury. A senior, Cooper Brown, will take his place under center to lead the triple-option. Brown doesn't run like Shaban, but has enough pure smarts and athleticism to give Weston's defense fits.
In the biggest game of the year to date for both teams, the edge goes to the one with the quarterback who has taken nearly every snap. Pick: Weston 29, Barlow 26