FCIAC Football Is Back (Sort Of) … Some First Thoughts

It is Aug. 15, which means it is time to start thinking….football.

Teams that did not hold spring practice were allowed to begin conditioning today, which included a number of FCIAC teams, including expected contender Staples, Trinity Catholic, Stamford, Wilton and Norwalk.

There was even some big news on Day 1: Norwalk lineman James Makszin, known as Thor to his teammates because of his long hair, gave a verbal commitment to Temple, continuing a trend of players from the league making it to top Division 1 programs.

 

James Makszin Hudl Highlights

 

After a two-month layoff since the state lacrosse, baseball and softball finals ended the school year, and eight months since Darien and New Canaan brought home CIAC football titles, everyone is abuzz about football. The talk has heated up in recent days as the pads are being unpacked.

It is way too soon to start making predictions or pronouncements, as much as we would like to. Most teams won’t even start up until next week. There are names to be learned, spots to be earned, impressions to be made.

Still, on the surface there is much reason for optimism that the overall FCIAC season will be a big improvement from a year ago, when 15 schools only played nine games in order to hold a 50th and final league championship that Darien and New Canaan, head and shoulders above everyone else, would have played anyway.

Balance seems to be on the menu, at least in mid-August, in part because the Blue Wave and Rams lost so many starters and are expected to take a step of undetermined length in a backward direction. At the same time, Staples, Ridgefield, Greenwich and Trumbull all have reason to believe they can make the leap into contention, while Trinity Catholic, Norwalk and St. Joseph appear to be popular sleepers.

As we await a greater body of work to go by, some initial thoughts and trends we will be keeping an eye on.

— I’m still trying to set an over/under line on the number of times I am going to need to correct myself talking about an FCIAC title hunt. Teams now are battling for a mythical crown but, more importantly, state tournament berths.

Generally, not having a league champion is dumb. Like, really dumb. How many conferences in sports at any level don’t hold a final of any kind?

But as we learned under the parameters of a year ago, the FCIAC being the last holdout to hold a title game was dumb. Like, really dumb. Given CIAC guidelines, it was unfair that 15 schools were denied the chance to play the allotted number of regular season games. The issue caused not only a lot of consternation but a great deal of friction.

Will Darien have another state championship to celebrate in December? (Photo: Darien Athletic Foundation)
Will Darien have another state championship to celebrate in December? (Photo: Darien Athletic Foundation)

— If the FCIAC turns out to be as competitive as hoped, how ironic that there will be no division races that lead to a final this fall.

— While we are on the subject of rule changes, how thankful we are that the 50-point rule has gone the way of, well, the FCIAC championship. It ranked with the most inane directives in high school sports — nationally, not just state wide. No longer will I have to tap an oft-used phrase: “You cannot legislate class.”

Teams will no longer have to attempt to be uncompetitive late in blowouts, which for defenses was more embarrassing than being scored upon. There will be running clocks in the second halves of blowouts. And we trust 98 percent of coaches will have their teams run dive plays when up by a sizable margin.

— They say if you have two quarterbacks, you don’t have any. So what if you have six? That is the situation at New Canaan, which has been Quarterback High for over a decade and enters the year with more uncertainty at the position than at any time in recent memory. That doesn’t mean the position is a liability. Many are expecting a battle between senior James Crovatto and freshman Drew Pyne. Lou Marinelli said most of the summer that the highly touted Pyne has a legitimate chance of being behind center on opening day against Trinity Catholic. True, or motivation for the others seeking to take over the Rams’ offense? It will be a fun watch until Marinelli names a starter.

— I’m already looking forward to making the trip opening night to Tiger Hollow, when Ridgefield takes on Trumbull in a battle that will have huge implications for the postseason. The Tigers are going to be good, with a tremendous senior class. Quarterback Drew Fowler? Back. Receivers Chris Longo and Collin Lowe? Back. The Tigers are going to score points, and have a chip on their shoulder after losing out by a whisker on a state playoff berth.

When Ridgefield has had strong teams, getting bitten by the opening-week bug has been a downfall. And Trumbull is similar in nature: a veteran lineup with great potential. Eagles coach Bob Maffei has made no secret he has high hopes this fall.

— How much will the loss of star running back Ethan Burger hurt Staples? It is a significant blow to the Wreckers, who finished 7-3 a year ago with Burger playing in just half the games due to injury. Two of the losses were to Darien, including the opening round of the state playoffs. Coach Marce Petroccio will likely go running back by committee, at least until someone deserving of the bulk of the carries steps up.

— And finally, is there life in Darien after the loss of the best senior class in school history? Of course there is. Sure, almost everyone who put up significant numbers is gone, including state sack record holder Mark Evanchick. But the guess here is that linemen Andrew Stueber, Cord Fox and Quinn Fay are going to be three solid building blocks.

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