NEW CANAAN — It says something about the expectations of a football program when an opening-week two-touchdown victory is treated like a defeat.
Such was the case for New Canaan after last Saturday’s 20-6 win over Trinity Catholic. The Rams didn’t score enough and didn’t dominate enough for a three-time defending state championship accustomed to putting up 20 points in minutes.
Football teams by the nature of the schedule are viewed through different prisms, measured by the week, and what a different view it is in New Canaan today after a 41-21 win over Ridgefield.
The Rams scored six touchdowns, accumulated 549 yards, got a game for the ages from Ryan O’Connell and a strong performance from freshman quarterback Drew Pyne in his first start.
“We definitely came out with a mentality today that we had something to prove,” said O’Connell, who let his actions do the talking to the tune of 127 yards rushing, 124 receiving and two touchdowns. “People around the FCIAC, people around the state were saying hey, New Canaan is not the same team they used to be. We felt like we had something to prove and we did.”
It was a statement made in indelible ink against a Ridgefield team that scored 29 straight points at the end of a 46-33 win last week against Trumbull.
“We came out with a lot of different packages,” O’Connell said. “We knew the way they won that game last week was off of big plays. Third and 19s, fourth and 9s. Third and forever. We said if we shut down the deep ball or the big play I think we’re going to be all right. I think we stepped up.”
The Tigers were hurt by the loss of quarterback Drew Fowler midway through the second quarter. Fowler was hit hard after throwing a pass and left the game. He had a sling on his shoulder after halftime and Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said Fowler was in a lot of pain and that the extent of the injury was still unknown.
Fowler, who threw for four touchdowns a week ago, hooked up with Shane Palmer for a 67-yard score on the fifth play against New Canaan and was 9 of 13 for 183 yards before departing.
Ridgefield has been decimated by season-ending injuries to key players in recent years, and the loss of Fowler would be a crushing blow.
Callahan would not use the loss of his quarterback as an excuse, other than it hindered trying to keep up with the Rams’ offense.
Pyne, who led the team’s lone scoring drive against Trinity, showed poise in the pocket, did many more good things than bad and certainly earned the right to maintain the starting job. He completed 20 of 35 passes for 281 yards and a pair of scores, and afterward named every one of his offensive linemen and the team in assessing the reasons for his play.
Asked what adjustments he made during practice once he learned he would get the start after a leg injury to James Crovatto, who got most of the playing time against Trinity, Pyne said, “It didn’t change at all, mentally I prepared the same, I really just do everything the same every day.”
Pyne has been put in an unfair position because of the fanfare after receiving offers from major Division I programs as an 8th-grader. He is being judged not as a freshman, but as next week’s starting quarterback at Florida State.
Asked where he felt he most needed to improve, Pyne said, “I missed a couple of passes. Every practice I get 10 times better. With the help of the team. I’m excited for the rest of the season.”
After Friday night, so is the rest of New Canaan.