Time To Take Snow Out Of Equation

Southington Wins Game That Almost Wasn't

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WEST HAVEN — Southington won its first state football championship since 1998, which, come to think of it, was about the time this CIAC Class LL title game was first scheduled.

Stephen Barmore and the Blue Knights, who ultimately staged a remarkable second-half comeback Thursday night to defeat Fairfield Prep, 52-34, were supposed to face the Jesuits back on Saturday at 6 p.m. The meteorological projections of a snowstorm saw the CIAC reschedule the game for 1:30 p.m.

Weathermen, like railbirds at the racetrack, only tell you when they guess right. The storm hit earlier than expected Saturday morning, postponing the Class LL game until Sunday and causing the Class L game between Darien and New Canaan at Boyle Stadium in Stamford and the Class M game between St. Joseph and Brookfield at Arute Field in New Britain to be played in the snow.

Kevin Duffy, sports columnist for Hearst Connecticut, had an excellent question in his critical piece the next day. If it hadn't been Saturday, would there have been school that day?

The answer, of course, was no. The CIAC inadvertently put travelers at risk and played the games in far less than desirable conditions. It was not a good day.

The Class LL game was re-rescheduled for Sunday at 3 p.m. in West Haven. Only the fluffy snow was no longer fluffy. The field grew too icy to play. The CIAC sent out notification that the bleachers at West Haven were too icy, unsafe for spectators, and area roads were still being cleared, making travel difficult.

So the game was re-re-rescheduled for 7 o'clock Monday night. The sun was supposed to come out and melt the ice. Only the sun didn't come out. An inspection of the field Monday morning deemed it unplayable and it was postponed yet again.

"It was just a roller coaster of emotions," said Barmore, who threw four touchdowns, ran for one and returned an interception 67 yards for the TD that ultimately buried Prep. "You get up and you get ready to play and then it gets canceled at 10 o'clock in the morning.

"You're in school, you're wearing your jersey to school and you hear over the intercom that the game is canceled. You get kind of deflated."

Call it unlucky?

No, call it mid-December.

And you know what?

It could happen next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.

The CIAC has got the basketball state championships down just about perfect. That weekend in March at Mohegan Sun is a beautiful thing and the some of the games last season, the ones involving the Granby and Woodstock boys and the Mercy girls, were nothing short of terrific.

The CIAC can't seem to get this football thing down. And this year, it became borderline ludicrous.

The re-re-rescheduled game for Monday night was called off and, with another snowstorm on the way, the game was pushed back yet again all the way until Thursday night at 6:30. So now it's Dec. 19 and the only football teams playing are in the NFL and the college guys in warm bowl locations.

"We couldn't get mad over what we couldn't control," Barmore said. "We took it as we've got to play it eventually."

Or maybe not. The CIAC originally had said the latest possible date for the championship was Dec. 15, only the rule was amended by the CIAC board to extend the season to Friday. If the conditions did not allow the game to be played by Dec. 20, co-champions would be declared and, yes, it would officially be winter.

Nobody wants co-champions. Everybody wants a result.

The CIAC knows it can always count on the folks at West Haven to help bail them out. They have a turf field. They have held a number of state championship games there over the years. West Haven also has a press box not equipped to handle enough media — not that anybody cares. Thankfully — check that — mercifully, the night started out relatively balmy at 40 degrees. Unfortunately, the recording of the national anthem wasn't piped out to the fans, so the fans sang the anthem themselves.

Of course, when this game was first scheduled, Francis Scott Key was alive to sing it himself.

Something has to be done.

When the CIAC reduced the number of classes from six to four and a quarterfinal game was added in 2010, it pushed the finals to the second weekend in December. It's too late for the Northeast. Others states wrap it up earlier. And as exciting as this Class LL game turned out to be, with Southington erasing a 28-14 deficit with 38 second-half points, it came dangerously close to never happening. Too close.

Every hour past the first week in December is begging for Mother Nature to ruin things.

Look, if there was a simple, perfect solution the CIAC and its various committees would have figured it out. I don't want to throw rocks and call them rock heads. They're not.

Few people have an appetite for eliminating Thanksgiving football. It's a beloved tradition. It's also a nice gate for many schools to help defray the costs of sports programs. If there was no Thanksgiving football, obviously you could push back the start of the season a week and have the whole thing wrapped up before December.

That's not going to happen. Too many folks love turkey and football and more turkey and more football.

And with too many football folks unhappy that 8-12 basketball teams make the state playoffs yet 8-2 football teams were excluded by a points system, it's hard to envision a rush to return to the four-team, six-division playoff setup.

So what's left?

The best alternative is to follow something along the lines of what Massachusetts has done in the past. The playoffs begin after a seven-game regular season, with leagues getting automatic berths and some wild cards. Approximately 55 percent of the schools qualify.

There is a sectional playoff in the eighth week and a sectional championship the 10th week and the state semis take place the weekend before Thanksgiving. The teams that do not qualify for the playoffs and the ones eliminated from the playoffs have games assigned by a scheduling committee. The traditional Thanksgiving Day games are not changed.

The plan was approved by the Mass. schools by a vote of just 161-131, so there is far from universal agreement. There are shortcomings. Schools could play each other multiple times. Teams not in the playoffs have less to play for, etc. I'm not saying the plan can't be retooled to fit Connecticut. I'm just saying the alternative now for the games that matter most is snow, snow, snow and kids missing the beginning of the basketball season.

Barmore, the hero of this night, a hero bound for Yale, had a basketball game for Southington Wednesday night.

"We have a game [Friday] night, too, and I'll play if my coach lets me," Barmore said. "The game [Wednesday] night, I sat on the bench and watched. So the transition will be a little short."

Back in the first half Nicholas Crowle broke a bunch of tackles and broke off a 53-yard touchdown run. In celebration, he pantomimed ripping his jersey open like Clark Kent does. Of course, if Crowle really was Superman he would have been able to change weather patterns and not have this dragged this out to near disaster.

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