For years, fans of the FCIAC and Southern Connecticut Conference have argued about which football league is superior.
Conference bragging rights once again will be on the line Saturday in a pair of state championship games at UConn's Rentschler Field in East Hartford involving the powerhouse leagues.
At 2 p.m., No.5 seed New Canaan (11-1) and No. 2 seed Hand (12-0) clash in the Class L title game, followed by the Class LL battle between No. 2 Staples (11-0) and top seed Xavier (12-0) at 5:30 p.m.
The Class L final will be broadcast on WELI 960 AM and also can be heard on the Internet via Sportingnewsct.com. MSG Varsity will televise the game on a taped delay basis.
Since 2004, FCIAC teams have claimed 10 state titles with the SCC right behind at nine. Of course, the SCC will point out that the FCIAC championships have been concentrated in the hands of four teams (New Canaan, Staples, Greenwich and St. Joseph) while six different schools from the SCC have won crowns during that span.
Recently, New Canaan has been the FCIAC's standard bearer as the Rams are appearing in their sixth consecutive final and seeking their ninth overall title, which would tie Hand for third all-time behind Ansonia (16) and St. Joseph (10).
Last season, New Canaan was dethroned by Masuk 50-20, ending the Rams' four-year reign as state champions. They were bracing for a title-game rematch against the Panthers, but Hand had different ideas.
Instead, New Canaan gets a rematch of last year's semifinals, won by the Rams, 39-21.
Last week, the Tigers defeated Masuk 35-14 in the semifinals, blanking the state's highest-scoring offense (52.3 ppg) in the second half after the contest was tied 14-14 at the intermission. The loss snapped Masuk's 24-game winning streak and ended the career of UConn-bound quarterback Casey Cochran, who was named the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year for the second straight season.
Hand's Henry Foye completed 23 of 31 passes for 249 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Nicolas Vitale had 13 catches for 152 yards and a touchdown and Kevin Frey rushed for 155 yards on 27 carries.
Defensively, the Tigers surrendered only 9.1 points per game during the regular season. Linebacker Peter Gerson has 12 sacks.
New Canaan quarterback Matt Milano has broken Kurt Horton's previous school records for career passing yards and touchdowns with 5,975 and 74, respectively, although he has had a pair of sub-par games in the playoffs.
While New Canaan certainly knows how to win in the postseason, this year has been like a high-wire act for the Rams. They defeated New London 27-26 in the quarterfinals when they stopped a two-point conversion in the final two minutes, then got past top-seed Windsor 27-24 on Collin Shapiro's 33-yard field goal with four seconds remaining.
Milano threw four interceptions last week, one of which was returned for a score, and was held without a touchdown pass for the first time all season.
Saturday's contest features two of the state's most successful coaches. New Canaan's Lou Marinelli, in his 31st season, boasts a career mark of 255-85-7 with a Connecticut recording-tying eight state championships (tied with Jack Cochran, the former New London coach and father of the Masuk quarterback).
Hand's Steve Filippone, in his 23rd season, is 187-61-5 with five state titles. However, he is 0-3 all-time against Marinelli.
New Canaan also beat Hand in the 1993 Class M final (35-14) and again in the 2007 class MM final (34-20). Hand's last state championship game in 2005.