NEW CANAAN - Coming into tonight’s game, I knew only one thing about New Canaan’s opponent, Chicopee (MA) High School - my uncle, Ron Ziemba, is a CHS alum.
And after the 48-20 drubbing the Rams handed the Pacers, Uncle Ron might deny the connection.
Behind one of the most dominant performances this season by the much-heralded New Canaan defense, the Rams held Chicopee to -26 yards of total offense and zero first downs in the 1st half. And with the New Canaan offense taking full advantage of excellent field position, the Rams scored TD's on their first 7 possessions of the game, quickly building a 48-0 lead by halftime.
“The first four touchdowns we scored, I think we got the ball inside our 50 every time,” said New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli. “And there were times where we were inside the 40 and inside the 30. So if you can do that and you can move the ball… it was hard for them to defend that.”
After holding Chicopee to a three-and-out on the first series of the game, New Canaan scored on their opening possession. A Nick Cascione-to-Jack Gilio 10-yard TD pass gave the Rams a 7-0 lead with 8:05 left in the 1st quarter.
On the ensuing series, the Rams defense pinned Chicopee on their own 11-yard line. And after Alex LaPolice returned the punt 26 yards to the Chicopee, New Canaan was knocking on the door again.
Four plays later, defensive lineman Connor Buck got the call he’d been waiting for all season. The senior captain suddenly found himself in the Ram backfield, where he pounded the ball into the end zone for his first career TD, giving New Canaan a 14-0 lead with 4:41 left in the 1st quarter.
“That was awesome, I was psyched, said Buck. “(NC Offensive Coordinator) Johnny Marinelli’s always telling me, ‘we’re gonna get you a touchdown’ and I always think he’s lying to me, just telling me that. But I got a touchdown, and it was awesome.”
Also awesome was the Rams continued defensive presence, completely dominating the line, and flying upfield to stop any Pacer unfortunate enough to carry the ball. Chicopee’s Wing-T, run-dependent offense never had a chance.
“Having run the Wing-T myself and you can’t throw, if you go into those long yardage situations, it’s hard because you’re not used to throwing the ball,” said Marinelli. “Whereas in the spread, we’re throwing it all the time.”
Having a star QB like Nick Cascione certainly helps the cause.
The senior signal caller had another flawless – yet quick – game, completing 6 of 9 passes for 104 yards and 2 TD’s in only one half of work. It was also the rare game where Cascione - who came into the game as the team’s third-leading rusher - did not have to rely on his feet, instead content to hand the ball off to Frank Cognetta. The junior RB scored New Canaan’s third and fourth TD’s of the night on runs of 9 and 18 yards for a 27-0 Rams lead.
With 8:15 left in the half, Cascione threw a perfect 48-yard TD pass to Cole Turpin for New Canaan’s 5th score, giving the Rams a 34-0 lead. Less than 3 minutes later, New Canaan was in the end zone again, as senior captain Mike Root scored on a 3-yard run.
On the next Chicopee possession, a tipped pass fell into the hands of senior captain Cole Harris, who returned the interception to the Chicopee 2-yard line. Following the trend of fellow captains and defensive mates Buck and Root, Harris’ number was called for the Rams goal-line offense, finishing the drive with a 2-yard TD plunge.
“You put those three guys with the guys up front, it’s a pretty powerful group,” said Marinelli. “Connor Buck is a sprinter on the track team, so besides being 6’2” and 240 pounds and strong, he’s also quick.”
New Canaan’s scoring was capped at 48 points with 24 seconds left in the half.
Chicopee finally got on the board with three unanswered touchdowns against the New Canaan second-team defense. By that time the outcome of the game was sealed, and New Canaan could start looking ahead to next week’s marquee matchup against two-time defending FCIAC champion, Staples High School.
“Whenever Staples and New Canaan play, it’s always a battle,” said Marinelli. “Marce (Petroccio) does such a good job coaching, and his staff is as good as anybody, if not the best in the state. I know we’re going to have our hands full.”
“It’s a huge game, a huge rivalry and we’re all really pumped,” said Buck. “It’s one of the biggest games we’ve been waiting for all season, and we just want to come out and play our best.”
1 2 3 4 TOT
CHICOPEE 0 0 0 20 20
NEW CANAAN 20 28 0 0 48
NC – Gilio 10-yd. pass from Cascione (Swindell kick good)
NC – Buck 2-yd. run (Swindell kick good)
NC – Cognetta 9-yd. run (kick failed)
NC – Cognetta 18-yd. run (Swindell kick good)
NC – Turpin 48-yd. pass from Cascione (Swindell kick good)
NC – Root 3-yd. run (Swindell kick good)
NC – Harris 2-yd. run (Swindell kick good)
C – Malone 1-yd. run (kick good)
C – Jackson 1-yd. run (kick failed)
C – Green 40-yd. run (kick good)