NEW CANAAN – Everyone who has watched a New Canaan football game this season knows that Nick Cascione has been an integral cog in the Rams machine.
What many may not know is that Cascione might not have ever come to New Canaan had it not been for his extended family, along with a little bit of serendipity.
The stats back up his importance on the field.
The senior quarterback has thrown for more than 2,500 yards, 31 touchdowns this season. He has completed nearly 58 percent of his passes and has only thrown 6 interceptions en route to an eye-popping 119 quarterback rating. Cascione is also the team’s second-leading rusher, having gained 617 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. His 3,130 total yards ranks as the 3rd highest campaign in school history. Going into Saturday’s state championship game against Darien, Cascione sits just 80 yards of total offense behind Matt Milano’s single-season record of 3,210 set two years ago.
These same statistics might have been achieved elsewhere had it not been for some fortuitous family ties.
Cascione’s cousin Mike Covino, Jr. was the Rams’ starting quarterback on the 2003 state championship team. Back then, the Cascione family still lived in Hollywood, Fla., and would often head north to visit. Sometimes they would venture to Dunning Field to take in a Rams football game. Watching his cousin play was all Cascione needed to get hooked on football.
“Ever since he could walk he could throw a ball, it was the only thing he ever wanted to play with,” said Covino, Jr, who went on to play college football at Fordham, Iona and Occidental. “When he was three or four years-old, we taught him a three-step drop, five-step drop. We were just joking around, telling him that he was going to be a quarterback someday never realizing that it would come to fruition.”
Unhappy with the local schools in Florida, Cascione’s parents Nick, Sr. and Anne began looking to relocate the family, which by then included two more boys, Anthony (10) and Giovanni (8). After selling their local business, the Casciones were ultimately enticed to move to New Canaan by the same opportunities that drew the Covinos to town more than a decade earlier – a close-knit community with a great school system and top-notch football program.
“We always knew the town was a special town, a special place,” said Nick Cascione, Sr. “And having the cousins here, they always talked it up.”
There was, however, one major obstacle to clear.
“The climate was a big thing,” said Mike Covino, Sr. “My cousin doesn't like the cold. But he realized that he wanted to make a sacrifice for his family, so they made the commitment, found a home and relocated.”
After mostly playing on special teams as a sophomore, Cascione split time at quarterback with Teddy Bossidy as a junior, leading New Canaan to the state semifinals in 2012. This season, after Bossidy moved to defensive back, Cascione grabbed sole possession of the starting job. Aside from a concussion that sidelined him for a week, he hasn't looked back since. A strong, accurate arm combined with exceptional speed makes Cascione the ultimate dual threat at quarterback and a perfect fit for the up-tempo Rams offense that has averaged more than 43 points per game.
“I ran a very good play-action, and I made pretty good decisions, but I wasn’t anywhere close as fast as him,” said Covino, Jr. “I didn't have half the arm he has. He’s a great athlete and a competitive kid, so those two go very well together.”
Cascione’s lofty numbers have been especially impressive considering several early exits due to blowout scores. Even so, 2013 has been a dream season for Cascione and the 13-1 Rams, as they continue a tradition of winning - something Mike Covino, Jr. knows all about.
“My class at New Canaan worked their tails off to get to where we ended up,” said Covino, Jr. “You look at all the state championships, all the FCIAC championships and all the wins that Coach Marinelli has put together and it’s just remarkable.”
And while following in his cousin’s footsteps is a dream-come-true for both the Cascione and Covino families, there is still one step to be taken. Winning a state title against Darien tomorrow would not only cement Cascione’s season as one of the greatest in New Canaan football history, it would bring the dream full circle.
“Once again, the stars have to align,” said Mike Covino, Sr. “Football can bounce any direction, so it’s got to bounce our way.”