The CIAC’s high school football season kicks off this weekend with Southington ready to defend its Class LL state title they won last year. It was the Blue Knight’s first state championship since 1998, but it looks like they won’t have to wait as long before winning another. There are plenty of other teams looking to have a the top spot come December, so let’s take a look at the 54th annual New Haven Register High School Football poll, along with my thoughts on each team.

1. Southington – Class LL
Last year – 12-1, defeated Fairfield Prep 52-34 in Class LL Championship.
This year – I was at that Class LL championship and Southington was a completely different team in the second half. If the Blue Knights can have that kind of intensity all season, they’ll easily repeat. Having a bunch of returning starters from last year helps too.

2. Daniel Hand, Madison – Class L
Last Year – 8-4, Lost to Darien in Class L quarterfinals.
This year – Hand wasn’t in the preseason Top 10 last year, but they have the No. 2 spot mostly because they have quarterback Nick van Dell coming back, as well as their entire offensive line and secondary.

3. Fairfield Prep – Class LL
Last year – 11-3, lost to Southington in Class LL Championship.
This year – Reasons for Prep being so high on this list include returning players like quarterback Colton Smith, receiver John DelliSanti, and linemen Anthony Palazzolo. Prep is part of a dangerous SCC conference and it seems that every year their Thanksgiving Day contest with West Haven has playoff implications.

4. Darien – Class L
Last year – 12-2, lost to New Canaan in Class L Championship.
This year – Darien is ranked higher than rival New Canaan this year, despite New Canaan winning the title last year. Darien may have the best defense in the state, and looks to avenge their loss last year.

5. Ansonia – Class S
Last year – 15-0, defeated Woodland 50-12 in Class S Championship.
This year – Last year’s preseason No. 1, the Chargers will have to keep their 43 game winning streak up without running back Arkeel Newsome who graduated last spring. As always though, Ansonia is stacked everywhere else on the field, so a 4th straight state title isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

6. Greenwich – Class LL
Last year – 8-3, failed to reach postseason.
This year – September will be a tough month for Greenwich as they kickoff their season facing West Haven, Darien, and New Canaan in that order. It’s all downhill from there, but facing a possible underrated West Haven, Darien’s defense, and defending champion New Canaan means Greenwich could possibly be out of the playoffs before the month is over.

7. Newtown – Class LL
Last year – 12-1, Lost to Ridgefield in Class LL quarterfinals.
This year – Don’t let their record from last year fool you, their conference wasn’t the most competitive. However, the Nighthawks did give Ridgefield a run for their money in the Class LL quarterfinal. Newtown is favored to win the SWC, which doesn’t mean much, but having a host of all-state-caliber players will get them back in the playoffs.

8. Middletown – Class L
Last year – 11-2, Lost to Darien in Class L semifinal.
This year – Middletown will have the state’s reigning Gatorade Player of the Year Dario Highsmith returning, but he is switching positions from quarterback to running back. Shouldn’t be an issue for the Blue Dragons.

9. New Canaan – Class L
Last Year – 14-1, defeated Darien 44-12 in Class L Championship.
This year – New Canaan graduated 28 seniors. That’s half of the team that won the Class L title last year. Despite that, New Canaan is still a favorite in the FCIAC and should get a playoff spot come December.

10. Windsor – Class L
Last year – 6-4, failed to reach postseason.
This year – With the addition of Bennie Fulse, who transferred from Capital Prep, Windsor will have a much better season than last year, and could make a run in the Class L playoffs.

That’s this year’s New Haven Register High School Football preseason Top 10, courtesy of All season I’ll be keeping you up to speed on what’s going on, who’s in, and who’s out.

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