The New Canaan football team stormed out of the starting blocks Wednesday, never looking back in its season-opening 50-21 victory over visiting Daniel Hand. The game was essentially over by halftime after the Rams scored touchdowns on five of their first nine possessions to take a 36-0 lead into the break. The Rams’ starters were out of the game by early in the fourth quarter.
New Canaan ran a school record 88 offensive plays and racked up 492 yards of offense.
“We like to go fast and we like to get as many plays as we can,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “We’ve been doing that for a few years, but I think we’re a little bit faster this year than we’ve been and that’s what happens when you’ve got some experienced guys.”
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Despite the lopsided final, the Rams, by their own admission, did not play a perfect game. In his postgame speech, Marinelli emphasized that it’s still a long season.
Quarterback Nick Cascione, who went 18-for-29 for 173 yards and three scoring strikes, also was quick to point out a few things his team could have done better. The first two touchdown passes went to Alex LaPolice and the third was hauled in by Jack Gilio.
“We ran a lot of plays which is ultimately our goal. It could have gone a little better. We had some blunders,” Cascione said. “We had a dropped pass, and the interception that I threw. We had a fumble that we lost. We shot ourselves in the foot a few times and we really might have been able to put another 21 points – if we got lucky – on the board.”
TOUGH BETWEEN THE TACKLES: Frank Cognetta consistently chewed up tough yards between the tackles and rarely went down at first contact, finishing with 17 carries for 102 yards.
“It helps out tremendously when you have two really good running backs in Morgan Carson and Frank Cognetta that are both ground-and-pound guys,” said Cascione, who added another 84 yards on 11 carries. “It takes a lot of stress off me and it helps. They both complement each other very well.”
Chris Andrews came on for some mop up duty and scored New Canaan’s final touchdown on a 10-yard run. On that drive, he carried the rock seven times for 63 yards.
ONE QUARTERBACK: Due to Cascione’s hot start and Teddy Bossidy’s finger injury, the latter did not take a snap at quarterback in Game 1. Bossidy broke up a pair of passes on defense before exiting in the second quarter.
Frank Cognetta and Thomas Williams saw time at quarterback, but neither attempted a pass, likely due to the enormous lead.
BAD TIMING FOR HAND: This may not have been the ideal year for FCIAC vs. SCC in Week 1 for Daniel Hand, which brought back just five players from last season’s varsity team, according to coach Steve Filippone.
Of course, with two consecutive undefeated Class L state championship seasons, it was only fair for the Tigers to open with the Rams. Nevertheless, their inexperience did not help their cause, and their 26-game winning streak came to a halt.
“We didn’t execute with offense and we certainly didn’t play with any intensity on defense. They’re an exceptional football team, but that’s not an excuse for getting one first down in the first half,” Filippone said. “The willingness to stick your nose in, take a hit, give a hit – we didn’t have it. Part of it is youth. If we give them time and we bring them along, by midseason we can be competitive.”
DOMINANT DEFENSE: When your first team defensive unit outscores the opposing offense, you’re probably in good shape.
Cole Harris had a lot to do with the feat, dropping Hand running back Conor Dowd in the end zone for a safety and an early 2-0 lead and returning an interception 37 yards to pay dirt, boosting the Rams’ lead to 15-0. That’s nine points for the New Canaan first-team defense compared to only seven allowed on a 36-yard touchdown run by Hand quarterback Nick VanDell in the third quarter.
New Canaan consistently won the battle in the trenches. Other standouts included Connor Buck, Beau Santero, Michael Root and Zach Allen. Michael DiCosmo also picked off a pass and Root forced a fumble that was recovered by LaPolice.
“I don’t by any stretch of the imagination think we played our best. I think we can get better and we’ve just got to keep on working,” Marinelli said. “I think it’s a tremendous job by our defensive staff. They’ve been studying Hand going way back to the first times we started playing them.”