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Wednesday, December 19 High School Sports

Fairfield Prep and New Canaan to clash in Class LL semifinals

The last time Fairfield Prep played in a CIAC state championship football game was 2013, but the last time it won a state title was back in 1988.

Let’s look back on 1988 for a moment.

The title for Prep was the third CIAC state championship won by the school on the gridiron. At the time, that gave them two more CIAC state titles than New Canaan who had only won one to that point, in 1982.

In the time since Prep’s last title, New Canaan has won 11 CIAC state championships, appearing in 15 championship games. The Rams have won state championships in four of the last five years, all in Class L.

Now, New Canaan is looking to get to its first Class LL championship game, having moved up to the top division this season.

Prep feels this version of its team is good enough to not only get it back in the championship game, but to win it all.

CLASS LL SEMIFINALS

No. 8 NEW CANAAN (9-2) at No. 5 FAIRFIELD PREP (10-1)

WHEN: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

WHERE: Rafferty Stadium, Fairfield University

The only time the two met on the field was in 1985 during a regular season clash won by the Rams.

A lot has changed since then, but both programs sit on the precipice of getting back to a final.

They will meet Sunday at 12:30 in Rafferty Stadium on the Fairfield University campus in the CIAC Class LL semifinals.

No. 8 New Canaan reached the game by upsetting No. 1 Shelton 42-34 in the quarterfinals while No. 5 Prep went to No. 4 Southington, winning 28-21.

That win coupled with New Canaan’s upset gave Prep one more home game and a chance to host a playoff game.

“That’s a special cherry on top of the sundae,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “We’ve had games with playoff atmosphere here, whether it was Thanksgiving against West Haven or something like that, but to officially have a CIAC game, hosting, here — especially a semi, because this is the last time you can be a home team — that’s a very special thing for our guys, to hopefully close out their career on this field well, but hopefully not close out their career all the way.”

If New Canaan is to reach the finals, it will do so having not played at home since beating Norwalk on Nov. 2.

The Rams played at Ludlowe, took on Darien at Boyle Stadium in Stamford, traveled to Shelton and now pack up the buses once again heading to Rafferty Stadium.

“It’s better to be home with your own locker room and facilities and where you’re comfortable, but we’ve been on the road a few weeks now so, we are getting used to it,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “The hard part now is getting everyone ready on a short week after a tough game at Shelton. But, it is hard for everyone still playing right now. We are just trying to mentally prepare for another tough opponent just like Shelton. It becomes a battle of attrition at this point in the season.”

Marinelli said watching Prep on film, there is not much they do not do well.

“They are as well balanced of a team as we will face all year,” Marinelli said. “They are strong at quarterback, receiver, the running backs are obviously very good and they are tough and physical on defense. This is going into another game similar to the one Shelton gave us. This is going to be a very tough game start to finish.”

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Jesuits running back Doug Harrison has run for 955 yards and 14 scores; senior receiver Finn Duran is averaging 22.4 yards per catch and has scored 14 TDs while Junior QB JP Iaropoli has thrown for 1,702 yards.

New Canaan counters with Junior QB Drew Pyne who has thrown for 2,262 yards and 28 TDs and just three interceptions while moving to the top of the Rams all-time passing list. Quintin O’Connell, one of the state’s top receivers racking up 72 catches for 1,039 yards and 14 TDs while breaking Ram legend Pete Demmerle’s marks as New Canaan’s all-time leading receiver in catches, yards and touchdowns.

“Very talented. The quarterback’s an excellent player, with his feet and with his arm,” Hellstern said. “Definitely a big team, a physical team. Always well-coached. They’re the gold standard. They’ve had a tremendous amount of success, and we have all due respect for everything they’ve done. That’s, for us, competing, that’s where we want to compete, with the best, because we want to be the best.”

The opportunity is in front of both teams, now they just have to grab it.

Sericson

@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports

Scott Ericson|Sports Writer/Podcast Host

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