I promise I didn’t intend to do this.
I had no intention of topping the Rewind with an item on Score Management, the so-called 50-point rule (is an explanation even necessary?), which is hated both for its existence and now even more for being discussed so frequently.
I’m not even going to rehash the story of Norwich Free Academy’s self-imposed one-game suspension of coach Jemal Davis following Saturday’s 51-0 win over Stamford.
If you are unfamiliar with it at this point, you probably don’t know that there is a presidential election in a couple of weeks. Or you can go back two and three posts on this blog.
So why are the dreaded SM (no jokes!) words even here? I intended to top this with some thoughts on New Canaan’s impressive 27-21 win over St. Joseph last Saturday. Until the Rams’ coach, Lou Marinelli, bumped his team back to the next item.
I was eating brunch this morning and got the idea to call Marinelli, a staunch advocate of SM, to see if the events last weekend changed his mind. Reading the tea leaves, I was getting the feeling that there was finally a good chance that the CIAC football committee would do away with SM in favor of some kind of running clock, or nothing at all. I had no intention of doing anything more than tweeting something briefly.
Until Marinelli made his most passionate defense yet to keep score management.
“I believe in it now more than ever,” Marinelli said, his voice occasionally rising. “Someone has to teach some of these guys a lesson.”
Marinelli had harsh words for Davis: “He would have scored 70 points if he could have without this. It’s why we have the rule. I’m sure the feeling up there at Norwich was we are going to show the FCIAC. Things like that drive me crazy. If you have to beat a team by more than 50 points, then something is wrong.”
When asked if there was any chance he could be swayed to abandon his position, Marinelli said, “Absolutely not. It is up to the winning coach to manage things. It is not about the points. It is about teaching kids.”
So for all the SM critics hoping for a rule change, there won’t be a position change coming from one of the state’s strongest and most respected voices.
And that’s that.
New Canaan proves Ram tough
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.
For those who wrote off the Rams after the loss to Trinity Catholic, they had two words to say Saturday afternoon: “We’re back.”
“This was a really big game for us,” New Canaan quarterback Nick Cascione said following a critical 27-21 win over St. Joseph. “We really needed to win it.”
Cascione, who for now seems to have emerged as the Rams’ primary quarterback, rushed for 148 yards and passed for 143 more, accounting for all three offensive touchdowns. He also had three turnovers.
“It was a good thing the defense came through,” Cascione said. “They rejuvenated the offense a little bit.”
Cascione’s performance is a microcosm of the current state of the Rams. There is a lot of talent, and there are moments when the team looks capable of reaching a state final for the seventh straight year. But there are a lot of first-year starters, and mistakes of inexperience, some that keep getting repeated.
“Sometimes it looks like we don’t practice all all, but I swear we do,” Marinelli said with a chuckle. “It’s been a difficult year in that we’re so young and dumb at times. It just does my heart so good to see this young team getting better every week.”
This was a critical game since each team came in with a loss. The Cadets have the personnel to contend for a state title, but now there is no margin for error just to qualify for the playoffs.
A lot has been made about whether St. Joseph would have won if quarterback Jordan Vazzano did not get hurt in the second half — the same debate, interestingly, that occurred last year with the Rams, when their star Matt Milano was injured early in a loss to Stamford.
“He’s certainly one of the better quarterbacks in the league,” Marinelli said of Vazzano. “When you don’t have your guy, the guy you’ve hung your hat on, it’s just a little bit different.”
With a favorable schedule the rest of the way, the Rams’ playoff hopes received a big boost last week. Whether the team can continue to mature and cut down on mistakes are the keys to their long-term goals.
“We’ve been getting written off a little bit lately and it feels good to get one back, and that we are still who we are and who we’ve been,” Cascione said after the St. Joseph game.
Game of the Week
Staples (5-0) at Darien (4-2), Saturday, 1:30. This game lost some of its intrigue after the Blue Wave lost to Trumbull. This is one of the few remaining tests on the Wreckers’ schedule, and a must-upset if Darien has any hopes of qualifying for the state playoffs.
The Fab 5
1. STAPLES (5-0). The Wreckers have amazingly scored at least 49 points in each of their wins. A sixth straight time would be another loud warning shot to the rest of the state.
2. GREENWICH (5-0). A game against Westhill that looked like a lock when the schedule came out has a bit of a storyline now that the Vikings have become one of the league’s surprise teams.
3. RIDGEFIELD (5-1). Nary a word has been said about the Tigers since their opening-night loss to Greenwich. I am guessing they kind of like it this way.
4. TRINITY CATHOLIC (6-0). Maybe the best feel-good story of the FCIAC fall sports season. The Crusaders won’t look past Bassick before their season-defining stretch of games with Darien, St. Joseph and Wilton.
5. NEW CANAAN (5-1). Are the Rams for real? During the first half against St. Joseph, you would have said no. After the game, you said yes. Expect the see-saw to continue, though their final four games are against teams that have also been up and down at various times this year.