The home stretch of the high school football season has arrived. Here are five key games for Week 9:
Why it's big: A CCC Division III cross-over game pitting an undefeated Berlin squad against a one-loss Bloomfield team.
Overview: Bloomfield needs a win to stay in the hunt for the playoffs, as they currently sit ninth in a crowded field. Berlin is third in Class M.
About Bloomfield: The Warhawks had some offensive struggles in the first three games of the season but things have settled back toward normal as they've averaged nearly 48 points per game over their last four.
About Berlin: The Redcoats' offense has been clicking all season, with a number of players capable of shouldering the load. QB Kevin Dunn, despite some occasional misreads on offense, has been solid all season and looks to continue that against Bloomfield.
Ellington (3-4) at Stafford/East Windsor/Somers (6-1), Friday, 6:30 p.m.
Why it's big: The Stafford co-op needs a win if it wants to keep Class S playoff hopes alive while Ellington looks to keep some momentum going and deliver the upset.
Overview: The Knights have won three straight after starting the season 0-4 and look to disrupt Stafford's chances of making it out of the regular season.
About Ellington: Robert Ecker is the leading rusher for a team that loves to run the ball (301 rushing yards as a team last week) while Nick Abbruzzese is a threat on both sides of the ball (two TD catches and a sack last week).
About Stafford/East Windsor/Somers: The Bulldogs, behind QB Colton Engel and RB Julian Revis, will need their offense to bounce back. A 24-7 loss to Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton last week that put their postseason hopes on thin ice.
Cheshire (5-2) at Hand (6-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Why it's big: A clash between two SCC powerhouses who both still have playoff hopes.
Overview: Cheshire has quarterback Jack Raba back following an injury earlier this season, but it's the defense that will have to contend with a high-powered Tiger offense.
About Cheshire: The Rams are the highest-ranked team with two losses in Class LL, sitting at 10th behind Fairfield Prep. A win over Hand would go a long way to keeping them in the playoff hunt.
About Hand: Delvantae Hutton has been stellar on offense for the Tigers and the defense has been strong all season, including last week when they recorded two sacks, three interceptions and a blocked punt in a win over Law-Milford.
Plainville (3-4) at Tolland (4-3), Friday, 7 p.m.
Why it's big: Tolland needs a win to keep any playoff hope alive, while Plainville looks to play the upset role.
Overview: Tolland is one of seven teams hoping to stay alive in the Class M playoff race. Plainville has strung together consecutive victories, though, and looks to even its record.
About Plainville: The Blue Devils play fast on both sides of the ball, led by Frank Griffin at quarterback and a now-healthy E.J. Wynkoop leading a solid wide receiver group. They can struggle against the run, though, and will need to be ready against Tolland.
About Tolland: Ryan Carlson leads the way for the Eagles at quarterback, through the air and on the ground, although running backs Collin Cook and Jon Glick can help take some of the pressure off.
O'Brien Tech (5-2) at Prince Tech (6-0), Saturday, noon
Why it's big: Two of the top three teams in the CTC square off with Class S playoff implications on the line.
Overview: O'Brien's old-school single-wing offense rolls into Hartford to take on a Prince Tech squad averaging nearly 35 points a game.
About O'Brien Tech: The Condors are small (just 35 players on the roster) but they gave undefeated Bullard-Havens its biggest challenge of the season last week and are one of six teams with at least five wins looking to crack into the Class S playoffs.
About Prince Tech: The Falcons, currently fourth in Class S, have a big game against Bullard-Havens in two weeks and can't overlook O'Brien. Running back Alex Higgins and QB Trondell Thomas will need to continue their strong play.