Playoff preview: St. Joseph to take on New Fairfield

St. Joseph is seeded seventh and will play at No. 2 seed New Fairfield on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 6:30 p.m. — David G. Whitham photo
St. Joseph is seeded seventh and will play at No. 2 seed New Fairfield on Tuesday, Dec. 1, at 6:30 p.m. — David G. Whitham photo

When St. Joseph High head football coach Joe Della Vecchia breaks down New Fairfield’s offense strengths to his team in preparation for the Cadets’ Class M state quarterfinal game with the Rebels at 6:30 on Tuesday night, he’ll begin with Zach Tripodi.

Tripodi is both the alpha and the beta for coach Anthony Fata’s New Fairfield 9-1 team that is seeded second in the eight-team bracket. Alpha and beta are both risk ratios that investors use as a tool to calculate, compare and predict returns. Tripodi has had the lion’s share of rushes (253 of 389) for the Rebels and has garnered 1,763 (of 2,469) rushing yards.

Tripodi has gained more than 100 yards in 9-of-10 games and 24 times he has found the end zone.

“We’ll have to get him at the line of scrimmage,” Della Vecchia said about stopping the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Tripodi. “He keeps his legs going and we’ll have to gang tackle him.”

Cadet defenders’ Cam Ryan, Mike Jones, Brian Harner, Spencer Lucas, Jared Mallozzi, Liam Seperack and Nick Osborne will make Tripodi there must-stop.

The quarterfinal will be a match-up of two run-oriented teams.

The Cadets’ Christian Trefz, who missed the second half of the 17-10 Thanksgiving Day win over Trumbull with a shoulder injury, has run for close to 1,200 yards with 15 touchdowns. He is also a receiving threat (400 yards, three scores) out of the backfield. Kevin Trefz is another top option running the ball.

Jack Ganser, Tim Beyer, Joe Kucky, Alec Pelletier and Nick Crocco will be out to control the line of scrimmage when the Cadets have possession.

St. Joseph, the No. 7 seed at 7-2, is slightly more balanced (190 rushing, 159) passing than New Fairfield (247/114).

Cadet junior quarterback Cory Babineau has thrown for 13 touchdowns, with three interceptions.

New Fairfield’s Mike Zanca is 46-of-79 passing the ball for 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

Rudy Sarro (19 catches, 318 yards, 3 TDs) is Zanca’s top receiver. Greg Radovic has turned nine catches into five scores and Mike Farrell five receptions into four touchdowns.

“They like to throw off play-action or on the option,” Della Vecchia said. “They pound, pound, pound then pull up and throw and try to catch you off guard.”

The Cadets’ balanced receiving group includes Kevin Trefz, Colton Lillemoe, Seperack, Mallozzi and Mike Sudora.

St. Joseph’s losses have come at the hands of Class LL qualifiers Darien High and Staples-Westport.

New Fairfield’s only loss was to Class M defending champion and repeat qualifier Brookfield (27-13) in the season opener. The Rebels posted the season’s only victory over Class L qualifier Newtown High (13-7).

They are both aggressive (22 quarterback sacks) and opportunistic (15 interceptions) on defense. Russell Howard has six sacks. Sarro has picked off four passes and Radovic three.

Michael Handlmaier is 25 for 30 on conversion kicks. The senior has missed both field goal attempts.

Nick DiCairano has been money for St. Joseph kicking the ball, making 33 of 36 PATs with field goals from 27 and 34 yards out.

The winner will play either No. 3 Ledyard (9-1) or No. 6 Bacon Academy (8-2) in the semifinals on Monday, Dec. 7, at the site of the higher seeded team.