VARSITY BLUES: Teams prepare for gridiron rivalries

As is tradition across the gridiron, Thanksgiving day means both football and turkey for local football fans. Here is a look at the slate of games prior to this year’s feast.

South Windsor Bobcats vs. Rockville Rams

All Time Series: South Windsor Leads 22-18-1

Last Year: South Windsor 42-14

This is the oldest rivalry in our area. Enfield and Fermi used to matchup in the oldest rivalry until that game ended in 2009. There is no love loss here, and both teams are always hungry for each other.

This year the game has an added level of importance. The winner will go home with their lone win of the season. Both teams come in 0-10 and their turkey will taste a lot better if they leave with a W. This past weekend Rockville was beaten by Rocky Hill 49-6 and South Windsor fell to Southington 45-0.

Going into the season South Windsor’s Mike Bullock said he expected his team to suffer growing pains, but that he hoped to compete.

“We have not won a game yet in the tough CCC division 1, but have competed in every game and have had our chances but have not been able to make the big plays when needed,” said Bullock. “James Nyarko on pace to have 2000 yards rushing but was injured in week 6 and has not played since. I am proud of the perseverance this team has shown and though our record may not show it this team has improved throughout the year.”

Nyarko had 876 yards rushing on 9 TD’s through week 7, he may be back to play on Thanksgiving.

Bullock noted that 70% of the offense ran through him. In Nyarko’s absence QB Ryan McDonald, DE Eric Walz, RB Cody Zitkus, and G/MLB Mike Kelly have picked up the slack for South Windsor.

Rockville has struggled all season behind first year head coach Steve Schortmann. At the beginning of the season they had high hopes, Schortmann even thought the playoffs could be a possibility. However, their defense has been unable to stop the run and the offense has struggled to find the end zone.

Ellington/Somers Knights 

vs. Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton Patriots

Series: Ellington/Somers Leads 6-0

Last Year: Ellington/Somers 38-14

This is the first time since this rivalry has been renewed (2009) that there are not playoff implications on the line. Each year the playoffs have been on the line for Coventry.

In each of the last two years both teams had the playoffs on the line, and in 2011 it was a battle of undefeated for the conference championship.

This is never a dull event, but this year it will be played on Wednesday evening. This is the first time that the two teams have squared off at night. This season, the division title will also be on the line.

Ellington can claim the Pequot North with a victory, or they will have to settle for possibly a four way tie—Coventry would be one of the teams in position to grab a piece of the title.

Ellington will rely heavily on the right arm and legs of QB/S  Joe Leslie and RB/LB Christian Schneider.

Ellington’s first year head coach Sean Byrne notes that the team relies heavily on a strong group of seniors as well as a cast of freshman who see varsity time.

Aside from Leslie and Schneider, Byrne has received strong contributions from lineman Ben Bahler, Sean McKillop, and Trevor Printy, as well as skill players Mike Casciano, Andrew Pearce and Kyle Ross.

Ellington will need to limit Coventry’s potent offense which has been called the best triple option in the state of Connecticut by some of the league’s coaches.

“We must protect the football and cause turnovers,” Byrne said. “A win will give us the Pequot North title and that is pretty important to us.”

Tolland Eagles vs. E.O. Smith Panthers

Series: Tolland 3-1

Last Year: Tolland 28-7

The Bourquin Bowl is in its fifth year, a series that Tolland has handled early on. Coach Andy Bourquin started the program at E.O. Smith in the late 1990’s and he gets the chance to see his old team every year on Thanksgiving’s Eve. This year should be a battle as usual. In the past some high scoring affairs and late heroics have saved the day.

Of late, Tolland has struggled. They played a strong game against East Catholic in a one point loss, and this week they fell to Weaver 45-42. They come into the game with a 1-9 record.

Fermi Falcons vs. Bloomfield Warhawks

Series: Bloomfield leads 2-0

Last Year: Bloomfield 38-13

Things just aren’t the same in Enfield. This game is played on a Saturday, it isn’t a traditional rival, and it is often a lopsided affair. Bloomfield has dominated the last two games, and Fermi longs for the days of their traditional matchup.  Fermi is currently in the middle of a 34 game losing streak.

“The 2013 was a tough year, the team is focused, but with lack of experience and depth we struggled,” said Fermi head coach Joe Tata Jr.  “We also lost 7 major varsity players out with some major injuries. Charles Fields RB/LB, Andrew Wilcox K/P and Tim.Butler OL/DL have led the way for us.”

Enfield Raiders vs. SMSA/University Tigerhawks

Series: Enfield 2-0

Last Year: Enfield 50-16

Barry Bernstein must have had an affinity for strange birds when he found Enfield and Fermi these rivalries. Both teams wanted to keep Thanksgiving matchups and Enfield, after toying with the Granby Bears for one year, acquiesced and forged a matchup with SMSA. This is not the ideal game, but they play on Thanksgiving’s Eve at Dillon Stadium

Enfield has been led by QB Jason Davis running back Tom Watson and wide receivers Tyrik Henry and Nick Joren. On Friday night they dropped a heartbreaker to Coventry when they scored on the final play of the game, but were stopped twice (one penalty) on two point tries by the Patriots.

“Defense has been our strength the past few weeks,” said Enfield head coach Jay Gaucher. “We’ve been led by- seniors- Bryan Murphy, Ryon Gates, Jake Watts, Travis and Tyler Bonanno, and Kyle Whalen.”

Stafford/East Windsor Bulldogs vs. Windsor Locks/Suffield/East Granby Raiders

These two teams will square off on Thanksgiving’s Eve in Windsor Locks. The Raiders will clinch their first winning season since 2006 with a win this weekend over Lewis Mills. Stafford has dominated this series for the past five years, but this year they have struggled to a 1-9 record, while Windsor Locks is 5-4. Junior running back Jarvis Miller will be the one player who Stafford needs to stop in order to win the game.

Farmington Indians vs. Plainville Blue Devils

Series: Farmington 2-0

Last Year: Farmington 46-14

This isn’t quite a rivalry yet, but it is a Thanksgiving showdown none the less. For years Farmington didn’t play on Thanksgiving, but head coach Chris Marcol wanted to get his team playing again. Plainville squared off with Northwest Catholic for years, while Farmington went in and out with Fermi, Avon, Simsbury, etc. For the third consecutive year these two teams will meet.

Farmington has had an excellent season. Their signature win of the season was against Windsor when they shut down the state runner up with the rushing of Ivan Guadalupe and behind their stout defense that was led by Kenny Jones. That evening Jeremy Buck did not have his best night, but he has been fantastic this season, including a 300 yard passing game.

Lately the Indians have struggled. They lost a hard fought battler to Middletown 21-7, and this week they were surprised by a dominating performance from Manchester. Manchester came in at .500 and thumped Farmington 44-24. Early in the evening it looked like the loss could crush their playoff dreams, but they are still alive as the 7th seed in Class L. They need to beat Plainville in order to stay alive; a loss would almost certainly knock them out of the playoff picture. If the season ended today they would have to play a road game versus CCC foe Platt of Meriden. Each team in Class L has at least one game left; a few teams have two games left to play. A lot can change between now and Thanksgiving Day.

The disappointing thing is that with such a fantastic season, most likely a 9-2 finish, they cannot win the division title because Middletown is undefeated in league play.

Avon

Avon does not play on Thanksgiving’s Eve, Day, nor do they have a traditional rivalry the Saturday before. They just play whoever the schedule-maker gives them on the last weekend. This causes problems for the rest of the league because it creates a bye week somewhere in the season instead of the traditional Thanksgiving Day bye.

On Saturday Avon crushed a Cromwell team who is spiraling out of control. The game was never a contest as Avon won 44-14. Last week they had a crushing last second loss to rival Gilbert/Northwestern in a 34-33 loss. This hurt their chances to win the Pequot West title.

“I hope our key players such as Jimmy Murphy, Steve Griffin, Noah Hahn, Dylan Marquis and Justin Reichler can step up and lead us to another victory,” said Avon Head Coach James Cauoette.

He is looking for a strong finish to the season, one that started off poorly with some tough losses in the first quarter of the year.

“Ellington is one of those games that is a battle every year. For some reason our kids and their kids really “get after” each other every year,” said Cauoette. “If we can pull off two more wins and finish 8-3 I would think that would be a decent year considering we graduated 19 seniors and the Gatorade State Player of the Year.”

Canton Warriors vs. Granby Bears

Series: 1-1

Last Year: Canton 38-12

These two teams were reluctant to play each other when the programs started, as neither team wanted to play on Thanksgiving. After a few years, the two teams decided it was time. They have squared off for two years, a split for both teams, and this year they will play on Thanksgiving’s Eve.

This week Canton opened their state of the art turf facility with a home game versus Lewis Mills on Friday night. They dominated the game in a 42-16 victory. They have to play Enfield on Friday night and four days later (this is where the Avon bye impacts teams) they will square off against Granby. Canton still has an outside shot at the playoffs, but a lot of things would have to happen in order for things to fall in their favor.

Dan Daleos has led the team with 12 rushing touchdowns. Terrance Brophy, Eric Scott and Sebby Gombs have also helped pace the offense who shares the wealth by running multiple formations and getting all of their backs involved.

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