By John Goralski
When CIAC officials kicked off the football championship luncheon at the Aqua Turf on Wednesday, Dec. 11, they were already contemplating the weather. Games might be moved, they told the group of coaches, players, and press in attendance, but they have to be finished by Sunday night or they won’t be played at all.
That was the starting point for everything that followed. Games were moved up, but the storm swept through a little ahead of schedule. One game went off perfectly on Friday night. Two Saturday finals were finished with fields obscured by the growing winter storm.
As of the time that this article went to press, Southington and Fairfield Prep players were still waiting to play.
Southington’s senior lineman Jim Nardi said that he was not concerned about the weather’s impact on the game when he first heard the announcement at Wednesday’s luncheon. He smiled at reporters, and said that the Knights will take it all in stride.
“I didn’t even know about the snow until today, but I’m sure that we’ll game plan for it today and tomorrow at practice,” Nardi said. “If we have to run the ball more, we’ll run the ball more. I don’t think it really matters. Our defense is really good against the run, and we should be able to run against them as well as they run against us. Snow is no big deal.”
That was over a week ago. Since the luncheon, the championship game has been postponed three times. The venue has been changed from Central Connecticut State University to West Haven High School, and the CIAC has pushed the final deadline past opening day for winter sports teams as a second round of snow pelted the state.
“There is still too much ice at West Haven to safely play the LL Football Championship this evening,” officials said in a press release on Monday afternoon. “Based on the current forecast the game has beententatively rescheduled for 6:35 p.m. Thursday at West Haven. The latest possibility to play the game is Friday. If conditions do not allow it to be played by then it will not be played and co-champions will be declared.”
Even if the game is played, the weather and dropping temperatures could affect play on the field. Poor weather conditions could favor Fairfield Prep (11-1) since the Jesuits rely so heavily upon the running game with over 3,300 yards this season. As a team, Fairfield Prep has run for an average of 277.2 yards per game while they average less than 130 passing yards per game.
In contrast, the Knights feature a more balanced attack. Southington has rushed for less than 2,000 yards over the course of the season while passing for 2,769 yards. Snow and rain could hamper the passing game, but co-captain Tyler Hyde said that the offense takes whatever an opponent gives them. Hyde has averaged over 150 yards per game in the postseason, and he said that Southington’s running game is more than able to compensate for poor conditions.
“I don’t think it matters,” he said. “The best football teams will go out and execute in whatever conditions there are, regardless of whether it goes one way or another. With the guys we have up front, we’ll be able to execute either way. I believe in these guys around me, and I have confidence in every one of them. We’ll go out there and get it done.”
Jesuit coach Tom Shea didn’t mention any advantages that the weather might bring when he talked about the upcoming duel. “We have a tremendous challenge now to play Southington High School,” he said. “It’s a great program, and this year, of course, they have some tremendous athletes. We know it’s going to be quite a challenge.”
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.