NEW CANAAN – For much of the season, the mantra for the New Canaan Rams has been “turn the page.” In most instances it meant putting a blowout win in the rearview mirror and preparing for the next victim.
After their humbling loss to Darien on Thanksgiving in the Turkey Bowl, the saying took on a different meaning. Suddenly finding themselves seeded #3 in the Class L playoff bracket, New Canaan would have to prove for the first time this year that they could rebound from disappointment and adversity.
Consider the page turned.
In perhaps their most dominant, complete performance of the year the Rams blanked #6 Farmington 46-0 in the Class L quarterfinal.
“You never know how your kids are going to react after a devastating loss like that,” said New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli. “I think our kids wanted to make a statement. Yeah we lost the Turkey Bowl, but 46-0…that says a lot.”
New Canaan outgained the Indians 583-115 in total offense, but it was a defensive play that ignited the Rams’ attack.
On the game’s opening drive, senior captain Michael Root picked off Farmington QB Jeremy Buck on a deflected pass, setting New Canaan up at the Indians 29 yard-line.
“I just kind of dropped back into my regular pass zone and I saw him scrambling,” said Root. “I think it was Zach Allen who tipped it, and I was in the right place at the right time.”
Six plays later, New Canaan was on the board, courtesy of a 4-yard run from junior RB Frank Cognetta. A two-point conversion failed but New Canaan was out to a quick 6-0 lead with 8:11 left in the 1st quarter.
After stopping Farmington on a three-and-out, New Canaan mounted another scoring drive. An eight-play, 66-yard series was capped off by QB Nick Cascione’s 7-yard run. After another failed conversion, the Rams had a 12-0 lead with 5:07 left in the 1st quarter.
After trading punts, mixed in with a Farmington INT, a beautiful punt by Farmington’s all-purpose star Ivan Guadalupe pinned New Canaan at their 1-yard line. Time was winding down in the opening quarter, and Rams had not yet established a comfortable lead with momentum starting to slip away.
It did not slip far.
In what would be the turning point of the game, New Canaan drove the length of the field behind Cascione’s deadly accurate passing and Cognetta’s clutch third-down running and receiving. Moving 99 yards in 15 plays, the Rams finished the drive with Cognetta’s 13-yard TD run, extending the lead to 19-0 with 8:11 to go in the half. The score would hold there after a rare missed FG by Peter Swindell at the end of the half, perhaps the only thing that did not go New Canaan’s way tonight.
The Rams came out of the intermission on a mission, scoring TD’s on their first four consecutive possessions of the second half. Cascione bookended TD passes of 46 and 8 yards to Cole Turpin and Alex LaPolice around a 1-yd. TD run from Morgan Carson to give New Canaan a 39-0 lead. Sophomore Mike Collins, who relieved Cascione late in the 3rd quarter, hit Graham Wagner for a 26-yard TD pass for a 46-0 lead, ending the scoring with 1:49 left in the 3rd quarter.
Meanwhile, the defense continued to dominate Farmington in the second half. Interceptions by senior Mike DiCosmo and junior Trey Gesing helped stymie the Indians, who were never able to cut into the Rams lead. The shutout was the first of the season for the vaunted Rams D, who closed out the final home game of the season in style in front of a packed Dunning Field crowd.
“I think that’s a hell of a statement for our seniors,” said Marinelli. “They’ve worked really hard. I just hope we can carry it over to Saturday, and carry it on from there.”
The Rams put up some gaudy individual stats as they improved to 12-1 on the season. Cognetta scored two TD’s while gaining 77 yards on just 9 carries, good for an 8.6 YPG average. Nine different players had receptions in the game with Turpin leading the way with 8 catches for 126 yards and a TD.
Perhaps most significantly for New Canaan, Cascione had his best game since returning from a concussion two weeks ago, completing 21 of 32 passes for 326 yards and 2 TD’s. He also picked up 52 yards and a TD on the ground. The 378 yards of total offense was the second-highest total of Cascione’s career.
“Ever since Nick came here we’ve always had good chemistry,” said Turpin. “He just develops great chemistry with all the receivers. And it’s just awesome to have him back at full confidence.”
1 2 3 4 TOT
FARMINGTON 0 0 0 0 0
NEW CANAAN 12 7 27 0 46
NC – Cognetta 4-yd. run (2-pt. conversion failed)
NC – Cascione 7-yd. run (2-pt. conversion failed)
NC – Cognetta 13-yd. run (Swindell kick)
NC – Turpin 46-yd. pass from Cascione (kick failed)
NC – Carson 1-yd. run (Swindell kick)
NC – LaPolice 8-yd. pass from Cascione (Swindell kick)
NC – Wagner 26-yd. pass from Collins (Swindell kick)
NC – 12-1 F – 9-3
The #3-seeded Rams will take on #7 North Haven (10-2) in the Class L semifinal at Jonathan Law High School in Milford on Saturday, 12/7. Kickoff is scheduled for 2pm.