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Rams, Wave Seek Turkey Bowl Triumph

New Canaan looks to improve to 9-1.

It's safe to say  that football coaches Lou Marinelli of New Canaan and Rob Trifone of Darien, along with their staffs and players, will be checking the weather forecasts for Thursday's Turkey Bowl with more than just a passing interest.

Both teams are hoping for a dry track since both offenses are predicated on a strong passing game. The Rams, however, throw it more, with quarterback Turner Baty averaging 210.7 passing yards per game and 218.1 total yards.

Baty has a host of quality receivers he can choose from: Cody Newton, Will Ouellette, Kevin Macari and Peter Gronseth. Tim Robustelli, Peter Park and Joe Costigan lead the running attack.

Blue Wave quarterback George Benitez is the team leader in three categories: passing (121.6 per game), rushing (73.9 per game) and total yards (195.4 per game). Benitez has ripped off big gainers this season when he's been chased outside the pocket. He's fast and athletic and he presents a problem for defenses, especially when he improvises. He's got some fleet running backs in Graham Maybell, Bobby Nolan, who combines speed and strength, and Michael Wohlberg.

One of Darien's strengths is the kicking game. John Gardner has a strong and accurate leg. If the game comes down to a field goal, Gardner is a big weapon.

New Canaan's only loss this season was a 42-7 drubbing on a rainy, windy night in Bridgeport to Bridgeport Central. Shabashe Mcintosh, Central's star running back said after the game,"When I woke up in the morning and looked out the window and saw the heavy rains I smiled because I knew it would be our type of field. We could run—our strength—and they would have trouble passing—their strength."

In terms of another kind of strength, strength of schedule, the Rams had the more difficult road. Their 8-1 record included wins over four teams that had plus .500 records at the time they played. Three of them were undefeated at the time (3-0 Ludlowe,  3-0 Warde and 5-0 St. Joseph's). Greenwich was 6-1 when the Rams played them. 

Darien didn't beat a plus .500 team, but that doesn't detract from what they accomplished after the 1-2 start. They had to take care of business and they did.

While it's dangerous to put too much emphasis on the numbers, Thursday's game boils down to one meaningful statistic for Darien. A win and they're in the state playoffs; a loss and it's get ready for the winter sports season.

For New Canaan, the loss to Central prevented them from playing for the FCIAC title after winning the championship last year. It also ended the Rams 24-game winning streak and prevented Marinelli from picking up his 250th career win.

New Canaan leads the all-time series 45-33-2.

New Canaan beat Darien in last year's Turkey Bowl 28-20 for its seventh FCIAC championship and then completed its undefeated season by winning its third straight Class MM title by beating Darien again, 26-7 in the championship game.

Thursday's game at New Canaan's Dunning Field has been pushed back to a 10:30 a.m. starting time.

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