FCIAC Football Week One Outlook: All 17 teams in action, two games live on HAN

The first official weekend of the high school football season is upon on us and all 17 FCIAC teams will be in action over the next two days.

You can catch two of the games live on the HAN Network, which will carry Friday’s St. Joseph at New Canaan contest, and Saturday’s meeting between the Greenwich Cardinals and Trumbull Eagles at Sacred Heart University.

Coverage Friday will start with FCIAC Tailgate at 5 p.m., and kickoff for St. Joseph-New Canaan is at 7 p.m. Saturday’s kickoff time is 2:30 p.m., and HAN’s coverage will begin at 2 p.m.

Both games will be available on-demand after their completion.

Here’s a look at the entire slate of games for Week One:

Friday, Sept. 8 (Records are from 2016)

Danbury (2-8) at Trinity Catholic (6-4), 6 p.m.

The game which officially kicks off the new FCIAC season features the conference’s largest school in terms of enrollment against the smallest. It’s also the first game for the Trinity Crusaders on Gaglio Field, their new artificial turf stadium.

Head coach Donny Panapada’s Crusaders started last season 1-3 before rallying to win five straight, moving to within striking distance of a state playoff berth before falling to Wilton on Thanksgiving. They graduated 19 seniors — an issue for a team which has less than 40 on the roster — but had an influx of 22 freshmen, which should help recharge the team.

Danbury, meanwhile, has gone 3-16 the past seasons, including 2-8 last fall, and graduated a lot of seniors in the spring. The Hatters will be look to get things moving in the right direction with new quarterback Diante Vines, a senior and an All-FCIAC Second Team safety last year.

St. Joseph (10-3) at New Canaan (12-1), 7 p.m.

HAN Network game – Click here for details

A huge opening night game for both teams — one of two contests to feature a pair of 2016 state finalists. New Canaan won its fourth consecutive state title last year, tying a program record, while St. Joseph made a run at the Class M crown before falling to Hillhouse 42-21 in the final.

New Canaan is led by second-year quarterback Drew Pyne and his favorite target in junior wide receiver Quintin O’Connell. The Rams are huge on both size of the lines, led by Jack Stewart and Jack Conley.

St. Joseph features All-State selection Jared Mallozzi at wide receiver. Mallozzi caught 100 passes for 1,514 yards and 20 TDs last year. With Corey Babineau having graduated, junior David Summers, a transfer from Warde, will take over at quarterback. The Cadets will also feature Phil Pasmeg at receiver and Jaden Shirden at running back.

Darien (13-0) at Ridgefield (10-3), 7 p.m.

A rematch of last year’s Class LL final, which saw Darien top Ridgefield 28-7 to secure the state’s No. 1 ranking for the second consecutive season. The Blue Wave has not lost since the 2014 state final and carries a 26-game win streak.

The Wave will feature a new signal-caller with Jack Joyce at quarterback. Joyce takes over for the graduated Brian Peters, and adds a running dimension to the position. While Darien did graduate a lot of key players, there’s still a veteran presence with WRs Nick Green and Brian Minicus, and RB Mitch Pryor, among others.

Like Darien, the Tigers surrendered a lot of talent to graduation and hope to reload with some capable athletes. Greg Gatto takes over at quarterback and, at 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, will be a big pocket presence. He also has experience, starting four games when then-QB Drew Fowler was injured last fall. Gatto’s top target will likely be WR Jackson Mitchell, a two-way senior who is drawing D-I interest. Junior Ben Seward and sophomore Max Bornstein are the RBs for the Tigers.

Bridgeport Central (2-8) at Staples (5-5), 7 p.m.

Staples started last season by winning five of its first six games, then fell on hard times, losing four straight to playoff-bound team and finishing at .500.

Senior RB Harris Levi headlines the returning Wreckers, having rushed for more than 1,000 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall. Danny Thompson, another senior, will take over at quarterback after starting a couple of games last year. One area of concern is the offensive line, which will be completely revamped for 2017.

The Central Hilltoppers, meanwhile, were 2-8 last year, splitting their final four games after opening 0-6. The Toppers have plenty of seniors, and showed an ability to put up some points offensively, even scoring 28 against Greenwich in an early loss.

Stamford (3-7) at Warde (3-7), 7 p.m.

After going through a strange season in 2016, the Black Knights are looking to take a step forward under head coach Jamar Greene. Stamford features a solid defense, led by linebackers Jake Heerman, Matt Doyle and Brendan Fahey, all senior standouts. Running back Cam Freckleton, a senior, will star on the offensive side of the ball.

Warde, which was derailed by injuries early last season, is looking to avoid that same fate and get some early victories in pursuit of its first winning record since 2014.

Norwalk (4-8) at Hamden (2-8), 7 p.m.

The Bears have one of the league’s top offensive players in senior WR A.J. Hall, an All-FCIAC FIrst Teamer last year, and a promising new QB sophomore Kyle Gordon, who was impressive during the summer 7-on-7s.

They’ll get a true test in a non-conference game, facing a Hamden squad which features plenty of veterans.

Brien McMahon (0-10) at Wilton (7-3), 7 p.m.

Brien McMahon’s season spiraled out of control last season when it finished winless, so the Senators would like to get off to a winning start to 2017.

That won’t be easy against a Wilton Warriors’ squad which came very close to qualifying for the Class L tournament last fall. The Warriors can pound it on the ground behind Kyle Phillips and Harvey Alexander, while Brian Calabrese takes over at QB.

Saturday, Sept. 9

Ludlowe (0-10) at Westhill (4-6), 1:30 p.m.

This will be the first game for Ludlowe’s new head coach Mitch Ross, the former offensive coordinator at Darien. It may take some time for the Falcons’ to hit their stride.

Westhill, meanwhile, is coming off a solid 4-6 season during which they nearly knocked off one of the FCIAC powers, Greenwich, early in the year. The Vikings could continue to rise this season, especially with a veteran offense which features a complete returning O-line, and a pair of top-notch receivers in Noldylens Metayer and Wyklend Turrene.

Greenwich vs. Trumbull at Sacred Heart Univ., 2:30 p.m.

HAN Network game – Click here for details

The two teams finished tied in the Class LL standings last year, with Greenwich getting a state tournament nod on a tiebreaker, and Trumbull heading home after Thanksgiving. This early game could again be key to both of these teams’ playoff fates.

Greenwich is in its third year under head coach John Marinelli, and will be relatively young with only 22 seniors out of 112 players. Gavin Muir, a junior, takes over at QB, and he has a key target with wide receiver Henry Saleeby, a senior. Lineman Nick Mcintosh and LBs Robert Lanni and Finbar Doyle, all seniors, lead the defense.

Trumbull has Markeese Woods back at running back, and he should be the focal point of the offensive attack. There is also some new blood on offense, with junior Colton Nicholas taking over at quarterback. Defensively, the Eagles senior Odai Dayob at tackle, and junior Joe Turner at linebacker.

For some great football previews, click the links below:

New Canaan football set to begin its drive for five state titles (NC Advertiser)

Ridgefield looks to remain among state’s best (Ridgefield Press)

Rebuilt offense will be key to success for Wilton (Wilton Bulletin)

Trumbull Eagles open season against Greenwich at SHU (Trumbull Times)

St. Joseph to open season at New Canaan (Trumbull Times)

Unbeaten since 2014, Wave stays the team to beat (Darien Times)

Darien puts streak side, focuses on Ridgefield (Stamford Advocate)

Young Greenwich football team looks to mature quickly (Greenwich Time)

Westhill football preview (Stamford Advocate)

Trinity Catholic football ready to battle in FCIAC (Stamford Advocate)

Black Knights aim to eliminate penalties, ride ‘Dark Side’ defense (Stamford Advocate)

McMahon football captains look to turn program around (Norwalk Hour)

A tight and talented Norwalk football team could surprise (Norwalk Hour)

Staples enters season confident in stacked FCIAC (Westport News)

Danbury football set for step forward (Danbury News Times)

New Canaan’s Quintin O’Connell in action against Westhill last fall, The Rams will host the St. Joe’s Cadets in their season opener on the HAN Network at 7 p.m., Friday. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo