A look at the FCIAC football standings might cause the average follower to do a double-take.
Darien, New Canaan and St. Joseph, the three best teams a year ago, are sitting with 2-0 records. But so are Trinity Catholic, winless last season, Danbury and the two Fairfield schools, Ludlowe and Warde.
That’s eight wins already from four teams that produced a total of 13 all of last season.
And with Trinity Catholic and Warde meeting on Saturday, one of those teams will be 3-0.
Let’s take a look at what for now appears to be separate tiers for the unbeatens.
Until proved otherwise — and that picture will come into a little greater clarity by Saturday night — the FCIAC playoff race appears to be a battle between the three expected undefeated teams. Better yet, we have a round robin to look forward to. Darien and St. Joseph meet in two weeks. The Cadets face New Canaan on Nov. 1. And Darien and New Canaan have their annual Turkey Bowl.
Those three games, involving a pair of defending state champions and a finalist — will go a long way in shaping both league and state races.
Darien was the most heralded of the trio, in large part due to having massive offensive and defensive lines. The Blue Wave have won twice despite having lapses in both games. Easier to overlook was a slow first half in the opener against Hillhouse.
Potentially more problematic if it proves not to be an aberration is the five fumbles lost against Greenwich in Friday’s 33-26 win. It isn’t often a team overcomes that many turnovers, especially on the road against a good team.
Fortunately for the Blue Wave, the Cardinals were just as error prone, losing the ball four times and failing to fully capitalize on presented opportunities. There were stretches where Greenwich’s defense looked like the touted unit most expected. But there were too many errors in the secondary that led to big plays.
And Greenwich’s offense is way too reliant on Austin Longi and needs better balance. Two of the Cardinals’ scores came on screen passes that Longi transformed from losses to spectacular touchdowns. A third came off a fumble return following a sack.
The Cardinals are in must-win territory this Saturday at New Canaan.
A Greenwich win opens up the prospects for an interesting race.
The other player in all of this is Staples, which has allowed just three points so far. The Wreckers have the most favorable schedule of the teams that currently appear to be contenders.
This is all kind of premature, but for the second straight year we could be looking at the prospect of a number of important regular season games, rather than just a handful deciding the FCIAC finalists in previous years.
Welcome To The Club
With two games in the books, perhaps the bigger story right now is the teams that are unbeaten and usually absent from the spotlight.
One of the best right now is taking place in Fairfield, where Warde and Ludlowe are both unbeaten.
The Falcons are the biggest surprise thus far — they received even less preseason talk than Trinity Catholic.
Ludlowe had considerable losses in personnel but won at home Friday against Ridgefield, a perennial contender currently in rebuilding mode. The Falcons face Bridgeport Central and Harding the next two weeks, which means it is possible they could open 4-0 and position themselves for another winning season.
Warde came into the year with a better pedigree and stamped itself with Friday’s 23-7 win over Trumbull. It was either the Mustangs’ first or second in the series in school history.
Quarterback Brandon Bisack is off to a strong start, throwing for 540 yards. More important is a big improvement over last year’s touchdown to interception ratio, which currently is six to two.
The Mustangs’ biggest long-term issue is not personnel but their schedule. Saturday’s game with Trinity Catholic certainly provides far greater intrigue than two weeks ago. It is important to Warde because on deck are back to back games with New Canaan and Darien, followed two weeks later with Greenwich.
Right now seven league teams are averaging 30 or more points a game. One of them is Trinity Catholic, which surpassed that mark in just over 18 minutes of Saturday’s 38-28 win over Westhill. Four of the scores came off the arm of new quarterback Anthony Lombardi, who can deliver an accurate deep ball and has a game-breaking receiver in Randy Polonia.
The Crusaders may eventually become a victim of their schedule: Greenwich, Darien, St. Joseph and New Canaan await. But there has been an increased level of excitement with an offense capable of putting up points quickly.
Danbury gutted out a 14-6 win at Norwalk on Friday night and return to the city Saturday afternoon to play Brien McMahon.
The race at the top of the standings will always command the most attention. But right now the other 2-0 teams are helping to shape an interesting and unexpected narrative.
Game Of The Week
Greenwich at New Canaan, Saturday, 1:30 p.m. The Cardinals come in desperate at 0-2. Can they rebound from the disappointment of a game to Darien that easily could have been won with fewer mistakes? The Rams’ opener over Hand gave the impression of a talented team sparked by a number of unheralded first-year starters. A chance here for reinforcement.
The Fab 5
1. Darien (2-0). The Blue Wave survived on Friday night despite making mistakes very few people are expecting to continue the rest of the year.
2. New Canaan (2-0). The Rams went off radar for a week after an easy win over Bassick.
3. St. Joseph (2-0). The Cadets’ rushing yards after two games: 559. New faces, so far same old Hogs.
4. Staples (1-1). The Wreckers’ offense is a work in progress, but the defense has been in midseason form.
5. Fairfield Warde (1-1). A big win for the Mustangs in Trumbull. An intriguing matchup Saturday as their solid secondary goes up against Air Trinity.
The Weekend Schedule
Ludlowe at Central, 7
St. Joseph at Ridgefield, 7
Wilton at Branford, 7
Warde at Trinity Catholic, 1
Westhill at Staples, 1:30
Trumbull at Stamford, 2
Danbury at McMahon, 1:30
Greenwich at New Canaan, 1:30
Norwalk at Harding, 1:30
Bassick at Darien, 1:30