High School Football: Hand Named Tops In Area; Darien No. 1 In State

It didn’t take very long for Dave Mastroianni to return the Hand High of Madison football team to a role it knows well: state champion.

Following a disappointing 2016 in which the Tigers went 2-8 in longtime head coach Steve Filippone’s final year at the helm, the 2017 season was a resurgent year that resulted in a Class L title after a 35-21 win over Masuk-Monroe. That gave Hand the No. 1 spot in The Courant’s final area rankings. Darien was named the No. 1 team in the state with Hand third after No. 2 St. Joseph-Trumbull.

“It’s a great feeling and I’d argue we should be the No. 1 team [in the state]. Our guys have earned it,” Mastroianni said. “Every accolade they get, they’ve certainly gone out and earned it in every game. We’re on an 11-game win streak and we’ve gone out and beaten teams and beaten them solidly. All I’ve asked of these guys is to get better every week and they did it.”

Darien earned the state’s top rating following a third straight Class LL title after defeating previous No. 1 Greenwich, 33-21. The Blue Wave defense was the story on the field, but the off-the-field issues with the arrests of quarterback Matt Joyce and safety Brian Minicus left a cloud over the title run.

“With the adversity we’ve faced, we’ve had to pull out a little bit of a Houdini against three high school football teams in the playoffs, especially Greenwich,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said after the title win on Saturday.

South Windsor, which lost to Greenwich in the Class LL semifinals, finished No. 2 in the area and 10th in the state. Middletown, despite a disappointing Class L quarterfinal loss to New Canaan, finished third among area teams.

State

1. DARIEN (12-1): Despite the end-of-season controversy, the Blue Wave still went out and won the games when it mattered, bringing home a third straight Class LL title. Previous: 2.

2. ST. JOSEPH-TRUMBULL (12-1): The Cadets’ passing attack is seriously dangerous, as David Summers and company showed Ansonia in a thrilling come-from-behind win in the Class S championship. Previous: 7.

3. HAND-MADISON (12-1): The Tigers rode a punishing defense and an opportunistic offense to a 12th state title with a Class L victory over Masuk. Previous: 10.

4. GREENWICH (12-1): The former No. 1 had an undefeated season snapped in the title game by Darien. They still had a great season under John Marinelli, and should make waves again next season. Previous: 1.

5. KILLINGLY (13-0): The only undefeated team in state, Killingly romped through all three Class M playoff games on the way to winning the third state title in school history, this time behind Spencer Lockwood and a robust running game. Previous: Unranked.

6. MASUK-MONROE (11-2): After a disappointing Thanksgiving loss to Newtown, Masuk trounced New Canaan to reach the L final. Previous: Unranked.

7. ANSONIA (12-1): After steamrolling through opponents all season, the Chargers held a halftime lead against St. Joseph, but the Cadets had too much and handed Ansonia its only loss. Previous: 3.

8. WEST HAVEN (9-3): The Westies got some revenge when they trounced Shelton in the LL quarterfinals before running into Darien in the semis. Previous: 9.

9. NEW CANAAN (9-3): The Rams suffered two early season losses and playoff hopes were on life support, but upended then-undefeated Darien on Thanksgiving and then-undefeated Middletown in the L semis. Previous: 10.

10. SOUTH WINDSOR (10-2): The Bobcats lost to Greenwich in the LL semis to end a remarkable season in a closer game than the final score would suggest. Previous: Unranked.

Area

1. HAND-MADISON Previous: 3.

2. SOUTH WINDSOR Previous: 4.

3. MIDDLETOWN (10-1): The Blue Dragons went undefeated in the regular season for the first time since 1985 but had their title hopes cut short by New Canaan in an L quarterfinal. Previous: 1.

4. EAST HARTFORD (9-2): The Hornets had a dream season that included knocking off Southington, before losing to Darien in an LL quarter. Previous: 5.

5. WINDSOR (10-2): Despite a speedy and dominant defense, the Warriors struggled to score behind a young offense in their L semifinal loss to Hand. Previous: 2.

6. ROCKY HILL (11-1): The Terriers ran through opponents all season but couldn’t slow down the St. Joseph passing attack in the S semifinals. Previous: 7.

7. SOUTHINGTON (8-2): The Blue Knights just missed out on the LL playoffs after Fairfield Prep’s upset win over West Haven. Previous: 6.

8. MALONEY-MERIDEN (9-2): After missing the playoffs last year, Maloney returned only to be shut out by Windsor in an L quarterfinal. Previous: 8.

9. BERLIN (9-3): Berlin had plenty of offensive options but couldn’t stop the Killingly run game in an M semifinal loss. Previous: 9.

10. STAFFORD/EAST WINDSOR/SOMERS (11-2): The Bulldogs won their first-ever playoff game in the S quarters over Bullard-Havens, and gave Ansonia a scare for a half in the semis. Previous: Unranked.

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