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Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield top final state football poll

Football teams from the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference were voted the top three teams in the state in the final 2016 GameTimeCT/Register Top 10 Football Poll which was released Dec. 12.

In the same exact way as how it finished last year, perennial FCIAC powers Darien and New Canaan won state championships in their respective classes and were voted No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

And for good measure, befitting the strength of the FCIAC, Ridgefield was ranked third.

Ridgefield’s Tigers made a strong run to the championship game of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class LL Football Playoffs, where they lost by a 28-7 margin to Darien.

Inevitably, it was Darien’s wild and frantic 37-34 overtime victory over New Canaan in their annual Thanksgiving Day showdown which was pivotal in determining the top-ranked team in the state after both teams won their state championships.

Coach Lou Marinelli and his New Canaan Rams won their fourth consecutive state championship with a 35-20 victory over Windsor in the Class L final. They finished 12-1.

Coach Rob Trifone and his Darien Blue Wave went undefeated for the second straight year, finishing 13-0 after the victory over Ridgefield, and they will take a 25-game winning streak into next season.

Darien’s last loss was by one point to New Canaan, 21-20, in the 2014 Class L-Large championship game. That showdown was a rematch from the previous year when New Canaan prevailed by a 44-12 margin in the 2013 Class L championship to avenge a loss to Darien a few weeks prior in the FCIAC championship on Thanksgiving.

Darien ascended to the Class LL last year and won that state title with a convincing 39-7 victory over Shelton to finish 12-0. New Canaan won the Class L championship last year as the sixth-seeded team with a 42-35 victory over top-seeded North Haven.

So, unbelievable as it may seem, these two programs have a combined 97-7 record the last four years since the beginning of the 2013 season. Darien has a 49-3 record and New Canaan’s Rams have a 48-4 record in that span, suffering just one loss a year to Darien in their Turkey Bowl showdown each year and then going on to eventually win those four straight state championships.

Darien finished 12-2 and ranked fifth in the final state poll in 2013, and two years ago Darien finished 12-1 and No. 4 in the state.

New Canaan has been ranked second in the final Top 10 in each of the last four years. The Rams finished 14-1 and ranked behind Ansonia in 2013, and in 2014 they were 11-1 and No. 2 behind Southington.

Darien was voted first unanimously this year by all 28 members of the voting media pollsters and it racked up 840 points.

New Canaan had 784 points and Ridgefield had 650 points.

Coach Kevin Callahan’s Ridgefield Tigers finished 10-3 this year, with their previous two losses occurring during the regular season at New Canaan (41-21) on Sept. 16 and at Trinity Catholic (38-33) on Oct. 15. They reeled off seven straight victories before losing to Darien in the Class LL final.

Darien and New Canaan were ranked first and second, respectively, in the pre-season Top 10 and they maintained those spots in that same order through most of the season.

After New Canaan’s Rams suffered that heartbreaking Thanksgiving loss they flip-flopped spots with West Haven and dropped to third.

Shortly after that poll came out after the end of the regular season and West Haven was No. 2 going into the postseason, seventh-seeded Ridgefield stunned second-seeded West Haven, 28-21, in the first round of the Class LL playoffs on Nov. 29.

West Haven (10-1) dropped to No. 5 in the final Top 10 behind fourth-ranked Windsor (12-1).

Hillhouse (12-1) finished with the No. 6 ranking after winning the Class M championship with a 42-21 victory over St. Joseph, one of the four FCIAC teams which advanced to a state final.

Undefeated Ansonia (13-0), the Class S champion, finished No. 7 and was followed in the Top 10 by Southington (11-1), Shelton (9-3) and Notre Dame-West Haven (8-4).

Southington was eliminated by Darien, 38-7, and Ridgefield defeated Shelton, 44-41, in the Class LL semifinals.

Darien opened up with a 29-3 victory over fellow FCIAC foe Greenwich in the Class LL quarterfinals so the Blue Wave outscored its opposition in the state playoffs by a combined 95-17 margin. Darien dominated its foes by a 129-21 margin during last year’s three state playoff victories so the Blue Wave has a 6-0 record and outscored its foes 224-38 during these last two Class LL state playoffs.

New Canaan defeated Notre Dame-West Haven, 20-17, in this year’s Class L semifinals after the Rams advanced there with a 31-28 quarterfinal victory over Masuk.

St. Joseph (10-3) received the 12th most points from the pollsters as the FCIAC had three of the 16 teams in the “Others receiving votes” category this year.

Greenwich (7-4) received the 15th most points and Trumbull (7-3), which did not play in the postseason, received the 18th most points. Trumbull concluded its season Thanksgiving Day with an impressive 39-7 victory over crosstown rival St. Joseph.

The Darien Blue Wave celebrates its second straight CIAC Class LL championship in West Haven on Dec. 10. Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield swept the top three spots in the final state football poll. — Darien Athletic Foundation photo

The Darien Blue Wave celebrates its second straight CIAC Class LL championship in West Haven on Dec. 10. Darien, New Canaan and Ridgefield swept the top three spots in the final state football poll. — Darien Athletic Foundation photo

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