WESTPORT — Faced with seeing long-term goals cut off just a little past the midpoint of the season, the New Canaan football team bounced off the ropes tonight and summoned its best half of the year.
The Rams pitched a second-half shutout at Staples and finished by scoring the final 24 points to close out a 41-21 win.
Confronted so far by injuries and humbling losses, the Rams excelled in all facets, playing like the team the coaches and players envisioned back in early September.
It was the second straight win for New Canaan (4-2) since a 58-14 loss to St. Joseph.
“I don’t know if you ever regroup after St. Joe’s but I think we’re getting better,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “It’s a process. It was a good team win.”
Taking advantage of strong play by a young and rebuilt offensive line, John Wise carried 25 times for 190 yards and three touchdowns, giving him seven the past two weeks. Zach LaPolice had five catches for 75 yards and scored on a pair of spectacular plays, a 73-yard punt return and a 28-yard reception. He also had an interception.
And quarterback Drew Pyne, given time most of the night, was 11 of 17 for 125 yards.
“Just clicking on all cylinders,” LaPolice said. “Johnny played a hell of a game, our line did, Drew played awesome, our receivers did. I’m just thankful to have those guys behind my back to make plays for themselves and for me.”
Most impressive was the Rams’ defense, which sacked Staples quarterback Jake Thaw six times in the second half after he proved as difficult to grasp as a wet bar of soap in staking his team to a 21-17 lead late in second quarter.
“I feel like we had a good gameplan,” LaPolice said. “We came in the first half a little bit short. We didn’t want to start out like that. As soon as the second half started we knew our gameplan. Make sure the quarterback didn’t get to the edge. Keep contain. Play great coverage. Our defense made a lot of great plays. I’m really proud of them.”
Thaw, the Wreckers’ starting quarterback a year ago, made his first start at the position after being moved this season to receiver. The change proved a major boost to the offense, as Thaw made plays with his elusive moves and got players like AJ Konstanty, a dangerous tight end, involved in the offense.
Thaw threw for 158 yards and two scores, both to Konstanty, and ran for 102 and another touchdown.
“He played very, very well,” Staples coach Adam Behrends said. “He can pull the ball down, he can make plays running, he can make plays throwing it, leaving the pocket. He settled down really well.”
Thaw dazzled the Wreckers’ large homecoming crowd, as well as the New Canaan coaching staff, which knew it had to prevent him from getting outside in order to prevent the game from continuing as a shootout.
“We had to contain that kid because if he gets out there forget it,” Marinelli said. “They made some adjustments at halftime and that worked out for us.”
The Rams used some trickery to seize the momentum away. Thaw’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Konstanty gave Staples a 21-17 lead with 1:05 left in the half. A double pass, with Pyne throwing to Christian Sweeney, who in turn hit Kyle Russell, went for 53 yards and set up a short Wise scoring run to put New Canaan up at the half.
Wise scored from in close to end a long drive to open the second half, Pyne found LaPolice, who darted, spun and fought his way into the end zone and Nick Radman made his second field goal to send the Rams off feeling as confident as they have been this season.
“We have guys going both ways but I’ll tell you what, they battled through,” Behrends said. “Hats off to New Canaan. That’s the best game I’ve seen them play this year.”