By Dave Ruden
What has made this FCIAC football season different? A schedule in which more of the top teams have faced each other. Games with long-term ramifications each week.
Remember the days when you could circle three contests in September and know they would determine the two finalists for the conference championship game? This fall there has been one almost every week.
Even as we head into the final week of games prior to the FCIAC final, though there is much greater clarity a window of uncertainty remains.
New Canaan, unbeaten and, except for the first half Friday night at Wilton, unthreatened, has secured one spot for the first time since winning the title 2008.
St. Joseph is in a strong position to earn its first-ever berth. It needs to beat Brien McMahon and hope that two of these three teams don’t win: Westhill, Greenwich and Ridgefield.
The Vikings face Warren Harding, Greenwich takes on Danbury and Ridgefield plays border rival Wilton. The Warriors have played everyone tough but are 0-17-1 in their last 18 meetings against the Tigers.
If St. Joseph should lose or two of the three mentioned teams win, Staples would secure a spot with a win over Norwalk.
At least there is reason to scoreboard watch on Friday night. And for the first time in three years, the championship will not be decided in Westport or Greenwich on Thanksgiving Day.
However it all plays out, the FCIAC final is going to be a tough marketing sell, in large part because of how dominant New Canaan has been.
Most agree that St. Joseph is the second-best team in the league. The Cadets’ lone loss was to New Canaan. The problem is that it was by 41 points and will have occurred three weeks before a rematch in the final. If the first meeting had taken place earlier in the year, at least there would be a better storyline.
A game against Staples would be an even tougher sell. The Rams won the first meeting, a week before facing St. Joseph, 43-7. And the Wreckers have had lapses in almost every game, lately on the defensive end.
While the Cadets would offer New Canaan the most competition, a game against one of the other four one-loss teams would at least provide a different narrative.
The Rams will face Darien in their annual Thanksgiving Day game, and is the opponent that would spur the most interest, in part because it may be the state’s best rivalry.
The bottom line is New Canaan has been so much better than everyone else, Madison Avenue would have a hard time coming up with a good marketing campaign for the FCIAC championship game.
We will likely have to wait until the state playoffs, and a very strong Class L field awaiting New Canaan.
Game Of The Week
Darien at North Haven, Friday 7 p.m. This would be a good first-round state playoff game. And with Darien currently sixth in the Class L point rankings and North Haven 7th, this could end up being like a play-in game. Given they play New Canaan on Thanksgiving, there is an even greater sense of urgency for the Blue Wave.
The Fab 5
1. New Canaan (9-0): About the only concern for the Rams now is their health after Friday’s win over Wilton. Linebacker Michael Root’s hip pointer is not serious and quarterback Nick Cascione was to be examined for a concussion. Coach Lou Marinelli will be able to rest his players Friday against Trinity Catholic.
2. St. Joseph (8-1): The Cadets could be looking at playing three games against teams with a combined three losses in a 13-day stretch.
3. Darien (8-1): The Blue Wave have to guard against a season-ending two-game losing streak that could leave them home for December.
4. Ridgefield (7-2): The Tigers are currently 9th, Staples 10th and Trumbull 11th in the Class LL point rankings. They are that close, and right now probably ranked in the proper order.
5. Staples (7-2): The Wreckers seem to hit inconsistent stretches in each game, yet have overcome them most of the time.
THE WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Stamford at Fairfield Ludlowe, 6
Norwalk at Staples, 6
Ridgefield at Wilton, 6
Greenwich at Danbury, 6
Fairfield Warde at Bassick, 7
Trinity Catholic at New Canaan, 7
Bridgeport Central at Trumbull, 7
St. Joseph at Brien McMahon, 7
Darien at North Haven, 7
Westhill at Warren Harding, 1:30