The Thanksgiving holiday is over and most teams have packed away the football gear with an eye on basketball, wrestling and other winter activities.
However, the Simsbury is still at work on the gridiron. Simsbury (9-1) will be making their first CIAC playoff appearance since 2009 when they host No. 5 Cheshire (8-2) on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Holden Field in the Class L quarterfinals.
It’s been a long journey at Simsbury for the Trojans and fifth-year coach Dave Masters. Simsbury was 1-9 in his first season in 2015, giving up a school record 371 points. When this season kicked off, the Trojans were focused on getting off to a good start. The previous two seasons, Simsbury began with records of 1-3 and 0-5, respectively.
“I really didn’t know what we had because there were too many missing pieces, particularly at the quarterback position,” he said. “You want to make sure you take care of business as it comes. It’s hard to win football games.”
Simsbury outlasted Hall in the season-opening contest, 9-3 in overtime. Hall’s Noe Ruelas kicked a state record 56-yard field goal to give his team the lead late in the fourth quarter. But Simsbury kicker Caden Lill, cut from the soccer team just a few weeks earlier, tied the game with a 27-yard field goal with 6.2 seconds left. The Trojans prevailed in overtime.
“That was a fun one,” Simsbury coach Dave Masters said after the win. “It was a good win for us. We needed that type of win, gut it out.”
That helped catapult Simsbury, which won their first six games. Junior Aiden Boeshans grew into the role at quarterback, Dan Sohn provided solid support in the running game and the Trojan defense was sharp and tough to breach.
Boeshans has thrown 17 touchdown passes – the second most in school history — and more than 1,300 yards. His favorite targets have been Jeffrey Coleman (30-470, 4 TDs) and Zack Gilbert (29-535, 10 TDs).
Southington beat Simsbury, 35-7 in early November but the Trojans finished with three straight wins. Masters and Simsbury would welcome another opportunity to face Southington – an opportunity that could only occur in the Class LL championship game. “They took advantage of some things we should have done differently,” Masters said.
The Trojans are facing a Cheshire team with a long history of CIAC playoff success with six straight state titles from 1992-97 and a 12-2 record in playoff games. But the Rams haven’t been to the playoffs in 10 years since 2009.
Cheshire, which dropped a 22-21 overtime decision to Southington on Thanksgiving, is led by QB Jason Shumilla, who has completed 80-of-151 passes for 1,169 yards, 13 TDs and three interceptions. The big back for the Rams is Jake McAlinden, who has run for 989 yards and 19 TDs.
Alec Frione is Cheshire’s leading receiver with 24 receptions for 579 yards and 5 TDs. McAliden has caught 17 passes for 54 yards while Colby Griffin has pulled in 15 passes for 199 yards and 3 TDs.
Defensively, he Rams are led by Chisom Okoro with 75 tackles and Griffin with 70 tackles and three sacks. Frione has four interceptions while McAliden has intercepted three. The Rams have forced 27 turnovers (17 interceptions, 10 fumbles).
“We have some learning to do because we’re new to the (playoff) party so we’ll take our time, get advice and learn what we need to do,” Masters said. “I know my coaches will have the kids prepared.”
Cheshire (8-2) at Simsbury (9-1)
Date: Tuesday, Dec. 2, 6:30 p.m., Holden Field
Series: Began 1957. Cheshire leads, 3-0
Of note: Both schools are making their first appearance in the Class L tournament since 2009. … The two schools have met twice before in the state tournament. Cheshire beat Simsbury in the 1993 Class L championship game, 7-0 and repeated the achievement a year later with a 45-27 win in the 1994 Class L title game. It was part of a six-year run when the Rams won six straight state championships. … This will be the second CIAC playoff game in school history at home for the Trojans, who hosted Newington in the 2008 Class L semifinals.
Simsbury in 2019
Simsbury 9, Hall 3, OT
Simsbury 49, Amity 13
Simsbury 39, South Windsor 0
Simsbury 33, New Britain 22
Simsbury 32, Conard 0
Simsbury 28, Manchester 14
Southington 35, Simsbury 7
Simsbury 56, Enfield 27
Simsbury 14, Glastonbury 7
Simsbury 47, Avon 10
Cheshire in 2019
Cheshire 35, Hillhouse 14
Hall 35, Cheshire 28
Cheshire 35, Fairfield Warde 20
Cheshire 24, Shelton 12
Cheshire 52, Masuk 22
Cheshire 37, Wilbur Cross 0
Cheshire 48, East Haven 14
Cheshire 40, Sheehan 13
Cheshire 48, Harding 28
Southington 21, Cheshire 20, OT
Class LL tournament
(8) NFA (7-3) at (1) Newtown (10-0)
(7) Ridgefield (8-2) at (2) Southington (9-1)
(6) Greenwich (9-1) at (3) Darien (9-1)
Sunday, Dec. 8 semifinals
Simsbury/Cheshire winner vs. NFA/Newtown winner
Ridgefield/Southington winner vs/ Greenwich/Darien winner
Saturday, Dec. 14 championship