CIAC Class LL quarterfinals, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m.
No. 5 Norwalk (8-1) at No. 4 Conard (9-1)
Overview: Sean Ireland has definitely gotten off to great start in his first season as head coach at Norwalk, leading the Bears into the CIAC playoffs for the second time in program history. This will be Norwalk’s first appearance since 1998 when the Bears suffered a 34-22 setback against Southington.
Conard is back in the playoffs for the fourth time in the last five seasons.
Both teams have athletic quarterbacks, love to run the ball and play solid defense, so this one should be a physical, hard-hitting affair.
Norwalk is coming off a 17-0 win against city-rival Brien McMahon while Conard has had 10 days to think about it’s 20-0 loss to West Hartford city rival Hall on Nov. 19.
Norwalk’s only loss came against New Canaan, 28-14. The Bears are looking to prove this season is not the product of a soft schedule, coming in with wins against Stamford (25-12) and Class LL quarterfinalist Ridgefield (27-12).
Conard is looking to get over the hump after losing in the first round in each of their last three playoff appearances.
A Norwalk win would bode well for the Bears since Conard lost to the eventual state champions in each of the last two seasons, Trumbull in LL last year and Notre Dame of West Haven in L in 2009.
When Norwalk has the ball: The Bears are led by dynamic starting quarterback Delshawn Wilson, who has thrown for 1,176 yards and 12 touchdowns while rushing for 499 yards and another score. Norwalk’s rushing attack is led by John Anzalone (469 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Tomar Joseph (409 yards, 7 touchdowns) while Derick Edwards serves as the team’s top playmaker at wide receiver. Edwards, who has caught 36 passes for 504 yards and seven touchdowns, is also a dangerous return man.
The Bears will have to be wary of Conard’s defensive secondary, which has collected 15 interceptions, six of which have been returned for touchdowns. Anhtony Lugo has three of those.
When Conard has the ball: The Chieftains love to run the ball behind its two powerful backs in 190-pound senior Ricky Cotton (1,158 yards, 13 touchdowns) and 6-foot-1, 240-pound Dominic Spaulding. Junior quarterback Owen Snyder has thrown for 574 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception.
Norwalk is led on defense by linebackers Dave Klein (89 tackles), Gil Araujo (86 tackles) and Bobby Stringfellow (92 tackles). Wilson leads the team with six interception as a safety.
Prediction: Norwalk 16, Conard 7