“This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.” – Ned Beatty as Daniel Ruettiger in “Rudy” (1993)
NEW CANAAN - After their tough loss to Darien last weekend, a New Canaan Red 3 player was overheard telling his dad, “I actually had a lot of fun even though we lost. I can’t wait to see what it’s like when we win.”
And now he knows.
Behind an air-tight defense and quick-strike offense - reminiscent of their NCHS counterparts - the Red 3’s won their first game of the season, beating Wilton White 3’s 20-8 Saturday evening at Dunning Field. New Canaan was victorious despite several player injuries, including QB Giovanni Cascione, who shook off a sprained knee to score 2 TD’s on the day.
“I haven’t lost my huge smile since the last tick of the game clock,” said Red 3 head coach Bill Besgen. “We are so very proud of the boys and how far they have come since putting on their pads the first day of camp.”
New Canaan set the tone from the opening defensive series. Solid tackling from Will Larson, Cooper Dinan and Matt Salmini set up a fourth-and-long for Wilton. When a long pass fell incomplete - thanks to the outstanding coverage of Sean Watchmaker, Colin Tiscornia and Trey Hartnett - New Canaan had the ball back near midfield.
On first down, Cascione ran for 11 yards, dragging 3 Wilton players along for the ride along the right sideline. After a 5-yard offside penalty, Cascione ran for 11 more yards, setting up a second-and-4. From there, Max Budnick took a handoff 26 yards for a TD. After Salmini slammed home the 2-point conversion, New Canaan had an 8-0 lead with 4 minutes left in the first half.
On Wilton’s next possession, the defense would come through again. On second down, a pitch to the White RB was mishandled. New Canaan's Griffin Gentner pounced on the loose ball to recover the fumble, setting up the Reds on the Wilton 17-yard line. Two plays later, Cascione ran it in for New Canaan’s second TD of the game and a 14-0 lead with less than 2 minutes left in the half.
Taking over at their own 20, the Wilton 3’s were once again unable to move the ball on the ensuing drive. A bone-crushing tackle by Ryan Connelly on first down and a bottleneck stop by Gentner and Hartnett on second down set up a third-and-six. Andrew Rittenberry then crashed through the line and sacked the Wilton QB for a 9-yard loss, ending the drive and sending NC to the locker room with 14-0 halftime lead.
In the second half, New Canaan’s ‘D’ picked up right where they left off. On the very first play from scrimmage, Larson stripped the ball from the Wilton RB and Charlie Besgen fell on the fumble at the Wilton 15.
Although the ball was given back to Wilton on the very next play, the defense would not break. After a remarkable series by Ryan Connelly - three consecutive tackles for losses by the NC defensive end- Wilton was pinned deep into their own territory, and New Canaan was once again set up with amazing field position at the Wilton 33.
New Canaan was content to chew up valuable clock with a ground-and-pound game, nearly doubling Wilton in time of possession. Solid runs by Rittenberry and Cascione behind amazing blocking from Charlie Harrison, Matthew Cutler and Brian Balkun prevented the Wilton offense from taking the field for the majority of the 3rd quarter.
From there, the Red defense continued to dominate, getting excellent pressure from Matthew Mercede, Jason Pastushan and Richie Whitcomb. After another Will Larson tackle stopped Wilton short of a first down, New Canaan took over at the Wilton 38, setting up the play of the game.
On the first play of the drive, Cascione hit a wide-open Trey Hartnett with a deep bomb along the right hashmark. Hartnett outraced the Wilton secondary to the end zone, and New Canaan had an insurmountable (apologies to Dallas Cowboys fans) 20-0 lead with 7:17 left in the game.
Wilton was able to spoil the shutout with a 4th quarter TD, but it was too little, too late. New Canaan ran out the rest of the clock, preserving the 20-8 lead, and getting one in the win column.
1 2 3 4 TOT
WILTON 0 0 0 8 8
NEW CANAAN 0 14 0 6 20
NC – Budnick 26-yd. run (2-pt. conversion good)
NC – Cascione 17-yd. run (conversion failed)
NC – Hartnett 38-yd. pass from Cascione (conversion failed)
W – Preisano 44-yd. run (2-pt. conversion good)
The NC Red 3’s will next be in action on Sunday, October 13th as they take on the Wilton Blue squad at Fujitani Field in Wilton. Kickoff is at 10:30am.