The Battle in the Polls
For the last two years the top two teams in the polls have been Xavier and Masuk. For the most part, Xavier has been #1, but there have been a couple of weeks in some polls where Masuk edged them out. Serious football fans in Connecticut would love to see an Xavier vs. Masuk match-up to settle this thing once and for all on the field. That just won’t happen because there is no open division or ultimate playoff between classes, (Xavier is in Class LL). So the next best thing is Masuk vs. the #3 team in the New Haven Register Poll, Daniel Hand.
A Look at Masuk
In the last four years Masuk’s record is 45-2, with two Class L Championships. In 2008 they beat Newington 56-13 in the Championship Game. That same year a 14-year-old freshman quarterback named Casey Cochran led the New London Whalers to the Class SS title with a win over Seymour. In 2009, Cochran moved to Monroe with his dad and started attending Masuk High School. In the 2009 season Masuk went in to their Thanksgiving Day match-up against their rival Newtown with a 9-0 record. Newtown would knock them off that day 36-22 and also knock the defending champs out of the playoffs. They finished 5th in Class L with a 9-1 record, and in the old system, only the top four teams would make the playoffs. That Newtown game, from 2009, is the last game that Masuk has lost.
Last year, Masuk won their third State Championship by defeating New Canaan 50-20 at Rentschler Field. Their junior quarterback, Casey Cochran would be named the 2010 Gatorade Player of the Year for Connecticut.
This year Masuk has continued to pile up points and wins. Cochran is now the Connecticut career passing leader with 10,500 yards, (the first Connecticut player to pass the 10,000 mark) and 108 touchdowns. His stats for 2011 are 119 completions in 167 attempts with only 4 interceptions. He has passed for 2,801 yards and 36 touchdowns. The kicker is that in most games he sat out the second half. This week it was announced that Cochran was named the 2011 Gatorade Player of the Year, he is the only repeat winner of this award in Connecticut football history. One month from now, Cochran will be attending classes at UConn on a football scholarship as he has earned enough credits to graduate from Masuk High one semester early.
Masuk is by no means, one-dimensional or a one-man show. Senior running back, Colin Markus, has rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 20 touchdowns. Cochran’s favorite targets are receivers; Thomas Milone, over 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Jason Piontowski. The defense has given up only 110 points in 11 games (and most of those points came late in blowout games after the starters were removed).
The knock against Masuk that you hear most often is that they play in a weak conference, the SWC. In fact, this year they didn’t play a team with a winning record until week 8. However, they finished the season strong against three solid teams winning handily against (8-2) Pomperaug 49-3, (7-3) Weston 56-14 and on Thanksgiving they beat Class LL semi-finalist (8-2) Newtown 46-7. In Tuesday’s quarter-final game, North Haven gave them a scare by tying the score at 14 in the fourth quarter, but Masuk pulled away in the end for a 28-14 win. Yes the SWC is much weaker than the SCC, but Masuk is a powerful team and would be at the top of any conference, including the SCC and FCIAC.
The Tigers Have a Rich Tradition
There have been many big games in the history of Daniel Hand football and this game looks to be another instant classic. On the fence surrounding the Tiger’s practice field this week, there were nine black and gold flags each representing a past team who won a State Championship. The flags serve as a reminder to the team that their goal is to add a flag of their own for future teams to see. Do the 2011 Tigers have the ability to reach that goal?
The biggest difference in this year's team compared to last year's semi-finalist has been the play of the defense. It all starts with senior captain, nose tackle Joe Demichele up front. Demichele ties up at least two of the opposing players on every play and still manages to clog the middle. Behind him is junior linebacker, Matt Walsh, the team's leading tackler. The defensive ends, Peter Gerson (12 sacks) and Weston Staples will have to bring the pressure tomorrow and not give Cochran the time to pick apart the secondary.
On offense, senior quarterback, Henry Foye has had a great year, passing for over 1,800 yards and 20 touchdowns. Kevin Frey has been the leading rusher. Receiver Nick Vitale has the ability to turn a 3 yard pass into a 63 yard touchdown at any time.
Hand Coach Steve Filippone commented Friday that he expects a close game. "They have a great team. We have a great team. The game could be decided on a freak play, a fumble, a mufffed punt who knows? It's like trying guess the outcome of a coin flip."
The Tigers will get a chance to showcase their talent on a big stage tomorrow and possibly take one step closer to their goal.
Patch Player of the Week
Coventry/Windham Tech's first play on offense on Tuesday night was a run up the middle. That was a bad move. Joe Demichele had driven the offensive line so far into the backfield that they interferred the handoff and caused a fumble. It was typical of what Joe has done on defense all year. At the end of the first half, Demichele also got a chance to carry the ball on offense. He was met at the line by a defender but that didn't matter. The reigning 285 New England Wrestling Champion was not about to give up a takedown here and he powered his way into the end zone for a one yard touchdown.