The Ruden Report All-FCIAC Football Team And Season Recap

Darien’s Mitchell Pryor breaks away from Greenwich’s Robert Lanni during Saturday’s Class LL final. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

If this football season were a meal, liver was the main course and creme brûlée the dessert. There were few big games and they seemed to occur on the same day. Most failed to live up to the hype. The polarization between haves and have-nots has not narrowed.

But the last three days made it all worthwhile. Darien outlasted Greenwich in the snow on Saturday in a memorable Class LL final that led to the Blue Wave today being voted the No. 1 team in the state for the third straight year. The Cardinals, who were undefeated and occupied the top spot, were the surprise team of the season.

If Darien-Greenwich was the best game between two FCIAC schools, last night’s St. Joseph-Ansonia Class S final was the best involving just one, with the Cadets overcoming a 21-point second-half deficit to forge a memorable 42-36 win.

The Cadets ended up No. 2 in the poll because of a 42-10 loss to Darien early in the season.

Greenwich finished fourth and New Canaan eighth (for what it is worth, my top 12 picks were the same as the final poll except for twice flipping two schools one spot; I had Greenwich third and Hand fourth).

New Canaan’s Quintin O’Connell was one of the league’s top receivers. (Photo: Chris Cody)

I also had Ridgefield 13th; it failed to qualify for the playoffs because of three losses — to the teams that ended up in the top four.

The FCIAC had more top teams than any conference, but otherwise there was not a lot to distinguish this season. Other than Trumbull, which was afflicted by turmoil from opening day, every team finished just about where expected.

Early storylines for next year? The usual suspects will again be the preseason favorites. Greenwich is returning an All-Star team. Will someone emerge from outside of the past two seasons’ top five? Danbury, Trumbull and Brien McMahon will be looking for new coaches. Hopefully all of the biggest stories stay on the sports pages.

Now, my postseason awards.

Player Of The Year

David Summers, St. Joseph

We changed the name of this category because during different parts of the year I had three different quarterbacks as MVP: Darien’s Jack Joyce at midseason and Greenwich’s Gavin Muir near the end of the regular season. With strong supporting casts, the value of Joyce, Muir and Summers at St. Joseph were probably equal to their teams.

But in terms of having the best season, the line becomes less blurred and it is difficult to dispute the selection of Summers, further cemented by his five-touchdown performance to rally the Cadets to a 42-36 over Ansonia last night for the Class S title.

It is almost impossible to overcome large deficits — 21 points in the second half last night against Ansonia and 25 points in the fourth quarter during the regular season in a win over Ridgefield — without an otherworldly effort at quarterback.

Summers was outstanding: he completed 220 of 340 passes for 3,208 yards, with 49 touchdowns and just five interceptions. He is poised in the pocket, does a good job of sensing pressure — and is only a junior and will be back next year.

Some made the argument that Summers’ success has been made better by a strong stable of receivers. You can counter that those receivers benefited playing with Summers.

A valid case can be made for Muir, whose numbers are misleading because the Cardinals were close to a 50-50 run-pass split. Mike Neary dominated on both lines for Darien, linebacker Grant Morse had a great season for New Canaan and I’m a huge fan of Ridgefield receiver Jackson Mitchell.

We are letting the fans have their say in our Player of the Year vote. Mine goes to Summers.

Greenwich’s Gavin Muir passes the ball under pressure from Darien’s Charlie Zuro on Saturday. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Most Underrated Player

Connor Tienken, Darien; A.J. Pykosz, Wilton

There were a number of players who received postseason honors whose body of work got overshadowed either by being part of a strong ensemble or playing for a team that was not a postseason contender. That is the case for our runners-up, Ridgefield linebacker Austin Cali (first team) and Fairfield Warde defensive end Joe Gjinaj (second team).

Our winners also made first team (Tienken) and second team (Pykosz).

One of the highlights of Saturday’s Class LL final was a leaping touchdown catch by Greenwich’s Jael Negron. He out-jumped Tienken on the play. It took an acrobatic effort because that is one of the few times Tienken got beat all year. He was a lockdown cornerback who, other than punter Andrew Donovan, probably got the least attention of the Blue Wave’s seven all-league players.

The work by Darien’s secondary holding St. Joseph’s Jared Mallozzi to one reception was the best defensive collaborative effort I witnessed this year. The best by an individual was delivered by Pykosz in a loss to Ridgefield. He finished with 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks. And countless pressures that went unrecorded as he spent most of the day in the Tigers’ backfield.

Coach Of The Year

John Marinelli, Greenwich

This one is a lock. The Cardinals grabbed the eighth playoff spot and lost to eventual champion Darien in the Class LL quarterfinals last year. Prevailing wisdom was they would finish a little higher and maybe get a postseason win and be positioned, with a number of sophomore and junior starters, for a championship run next season.

Well, Greenwich again lost to eventual champion Darien in a final that could have gone either way. It was a two-point game until a late Blue Wave touchdown after the Cardinals failed on a fourth-down try deep in their own territory.

Marinelli batted close to 1.000 this season with his calls, deployment of personnel and player development. He coached to his skillset. There was parity running and passing because of a strong offensive line and the development of Muir.

The defense was the biggest surprise, almost immediately going from promising to dominant. The Cardinals ran off 12 straight wins and were the No. 1 team in the state until Saturday.

In the big picture, Greenwich is positioned for the long haul. Depth will help it offset graduation losses. Right now the Cardinals would appear to be the favorite to be No. 1 in next year’s preseason poll.

Marinelli wanted to be No. 1 in today’s final poll. That it almost happened was in large part due to his work.

St. Joseph’s Jared Mallozzi returns a kick during last night’s Class S win. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

Ruden Report All-FCIAC Team

Offense

QB: David Summers, St. Joseph
RB: Tysen Comizio, Greenwich
RB: SaQuan Kelly, Westhill
WR: Jared Mallozzi, St. Joseph
WR: Jackson Mitchell, Ridgefield
TE: Henry Saleeby, Greenwich
OL: Mike Neary, Darien
OL: Kyle Woodring, Greenwich
OL: Kyle McDonald, New Canaan
OL: Jack Conley, New Canaan
OL: Jack DiNanno, Wilton

Defense

DL: Mozi Bici, Greenwich
DL: Tyler Blizzard, Greenwich
DL: John Schneider, Ridgefield
DL: George Harrington, Staples
LB: Connor Fay, Darien
LB: Jack Feda, Greenwich
LB: Grant Morse, New Canaan
DB: Brian Minicus, Darien
DB: Jeremiah Harris, Greenwich
DB: Connor Tienken, Darien
DB: Matt Lombardo, Ridgefield

Specialists

K: Zach Moore, Greenwich
P: Andrew Donovan, Darien

First Team (2)

QB Gavin Muir, Greenwich; WR Noodles Metayer, Westhill; WR Quintin O’Connell, New Canaan; WR Mikey Riddle, Stamford; WR A.J. Hall, Norwalk; OL Michael Turner, Ridgefield; DL Nicholas McIntosh, Greenwich; DL Charlie Zuro, Darien; DL Seamus O’Hora, New Canaan; DL Joe Gjinaj, Fairfield Warde; DL A.J. Pykosz, Wilton; LB Alex Cali, Ridgefield; LB Jude Andrzejewski; St. Joseph; LB Garrett Braden, New Canaan; LB Marlon Brown, Norwalk; DB Kyle Phillips, Wilton.

All-FCIAC Analysis: The goal each year is to keep this to a 24-player team, and this year it was again impossible. I might have been able to make some hard calls if there weren’t so many great defensive linemen and linebackers, more than I can ever remember. Seamus O’Hora not first team? Or Zuro? Leave off Alex Cali? You could easily plug them into the top 24. But who do you omit? I had 33 players initially. So rather than pare down the list, I added seven players and made it essentially a top 40. And that took removing four players who just missed the final cut. There are only two players here I did not see at all. Of course the eye-test is the best means of evaluation.

Final Fab 5

1. Darien
2. St. Joseph
3. Greenwich
4. New Canaan
5. Ridgefield

 

26 Comments on "The Ruden Report All-FCIAC Football Team And Season Recap"

  1. How is Blake Runkle picked for first team ALL-FCIAC but not even make your second team. Go watch his highlight reel and see for yourself https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2u421EhIso. I know for a fact he is better than Joe Gjinaj and A.J. Pykosz.

    • He was No. 41 on my list. With something subjective you can’t say you know for a fact, and I am not going to knock any players, but I can’t argue with anyone thinking Runkle should be here. It was that close for me.

  2. How is it that Tysen Comizio ALONE rushed for 1300 yds, and only 8 sacks allowed in the regular season as a unit, does only one OL get all fciac?

  3. From Greenwich

  4. DB Mike DiIorio and LB Jude Andrzejewski from SJ are both first team players and it ain’t even close. Check the stats Dave.

  5. See him. Should be on 1st team (1). Wheres Dilorio?

  6. I didn’t think it could get worse than the All FCIAC selections.Then I saw the Ruden Report team. Congrats you out did them.

  7. Runkle got snubbed. First team all fciac and not even on your list. I think you like others pick based on bias. It shouldn’t be based on wether or no the team did well. This is on personal stats not team. It’s a shame that coaches along with you vote with such bias. Explain how he isn’t on the second team.

    • There is absolutely no bias with my picks. What would be the incentive for me to be biased? If I was biased, I would have picked Runkle, who attends the same school I did. Team records have no influence on my choices. Runkle was the last person I left off. Any argument that he should be here is valid. It was a tough call for me. Maybe I should have added five more players. Whenever you have lists with a set number, there will always be someone unhappy. If I am influenced in any way, it is by seeing players in person and I see some teams more than others. I don’t like singling out players, but Greenwich’s Tyler Blizzard was not first or second team and he dominated all year. I only had a first team. The difference between the linebackers and defensive linemen in many cases was marginal.

  8. Footballfan18 | December 13, 2017 at 2:11 pm |

    Dave – is this stats based ? Cuz it sure looks like popularity

    • I looked at stats, but I also talked to some coaches I trust with their league knowledge and I also went mostly by my own assessments based on what I saw. To be honest, there were few dominant players this year. In my opinion there were a few positions where there were so many players of almost equal ability that it was tough making calls. Because of this I expected more criticism than usual. I’m not sure how you can say this is popularity because I don’t know what makes players I included more popular than those I left out.

  9. If you are going to come out and blast the guy and question his judgement and integrity , at least have the sac to list your name. #karma

  10. Staples Fan he doesnt have Dilorio,Pasmeg,Negron either. But he has players on the team that missed 3,4,5 games during the season.
    S-Dilorio 84 tackles 13 pass breakups
    WR-Pasmeg 856 yds 12 TDs
    WR-Negron 641 yds 11 TDs.
    Sorry Dave those are numbers blowout the majority of players on your team. Some are not even in the same league with those players.

    • 84 tackles and 13 pass breakups. So that’s what, 1 pass break up a game? Yawn!

      The best corners actually aren’t on the stat sheets. That’s because they don’t allow any receptions (no tackles) and don’t get thrown at (no ints).

  11. footballfan18 | December 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm |

    your defense has 4 from Greenwich/3 from Darien.
    lets break down the stats only for the DB’S (as thats most easy)
    DIIORIO – 84 EIGHT FOUR
    MINICUS – 29
    HARRIS – 45
    TIENKEN – 42
    LOMBARDO – 25
    PHILLIPS – 34
    !WOW!

    • Wait, you guys are kidding, right? These are the most idiotic arguments I have ever heard. Do you know if a DB has a lot of tackles, he’s thought of as a bad DB? Because that means you let the WR you are covering catch the ball! You guys know nothing about football. Then you have the nerve to call Dave biased.

      • Anon are you kidding me? Hes got players in front of a kid that missed multiple games. And if you read Daves own words he based it on stats. If you don’t think Dilorio was one of the best DBs if not the best you never saw him play or you know nothing about football. Maybe Anon you should give Dell a call ask him what he thinks.

      • footballfan18 | December 14, 2017 at 9:56 am |

        OR you stop thee best RB in the state 3-4 times in the State Championship game?? have 13 tackles against a 98% run team – again in the STATE CHAMPIONSHIP GAME. BTW, best RB = Dobbs.
        some more stats for you Anon:

        GP INT PD FMB REC BLK PNTS
        DIIORIO 13 1 13 1 2
        LOMBARDO10 0 0 1 0
        PHILLIPS10 3 1 0 0
        MINICUS 8 6 9 0 0
        TIENKEN 12 6 7 0 0
        HARRIS 8 3 5 0 0

        oh wait… must be based on interceptions only.

    • Fairfield Frank | December 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm |

      AMEN Brother…..DIIORIO was most dominant defensive player on the #2 team in the state and went 9-1 in the FCIAC but don’t see his name on the list. JOKE

  12. Where is Luke Gaydos from Ridgefield?

  13. Pasmeg, impressive season yes, but negron missed 2 games and played for a 50/50 pass run team. Pasmeg played for a 70/30 pass run team so obviously his stats will be a tad better.

  14. Fairfield Frank | December 13, 2017 at 11:39 pm |

    How is it possible that you left off Mike DiIorio from SJ with 84 tackles and was the most dominant defensive player that went 9-1 in the FCIAC???, if you saw any SJ games this year his name was announced more than any player on either team in every game…….guess you didn’t “speak” to coaches that SJ beat this year to pick this team.

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