NEW CANAAN — The New Canaan football team, coming off a disheartening loss and a surprisingly lackluster week of practice, was put on its heels early tonight as Danbury took the opening kickoff and moved down the field with a pair of first downs.
Then, on an emotional evening, the Rams went through a sort of cleansing. The defense stiffened, the offense scored five plays later and before you know it they had a 42-0 lead.
Playing the reserves with a running clock in the second half, New Canaan coasted to a 42-6 win over the Hatters.
“It was probably the worst week I can remember. We were just out of sync last week,” said New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli, referring to a season-opening loss to St. Joseph for the second straight year. “It was good to see us come back and put things back together again, even with all the penalties tonight. It wasn’t perfect but we’re getting better, so that’s good.”
Drew Pyne threw four touchdown passes to three different players, including a pair to Quintin O’Connell, while the defense held Danbury to just 128 total yards.
“A tough week of practice obviously after last week but it’s the game of football,” said O’Connell. “You have to have a short memory. We had a better mindset today than we did coming into last week. Who knows what happened last week. We went into this game with a clearer mindset and something to prove. I think Coach Coop had a lot to do with it.”
The Rams had a pregame ceremony to honor Jason Cooper, a former star for the program who was an assistant coach for both the football and girls lacrosse teams before passing away this summer from a heart attack.
O’Connell is wearing jersey No. 22 this year in Cooper’s memory.
“After the game last week there was a little too much feeling sorry for ourselves but Coop brought the sunshine on us today,” O’Connell said. “We bounced back tonight. We knew we just needed a game and to finally play again. It was a weird week. You can’t make excuses. We had a bad week and didn’t show up but we showed up yesterday and again tonight.”
O’Connell finished with six catches for 91 yards, many coming after refusing to go down after the first and second hits.
“He’s a good player,” Marinelli said of O’Connell. “He played with a purpose. He doesn’t wear 22 for nothing. They were close and he played like Jason Cooper tonight.”
Pyne threw scoring passes of 2 yards to O’Connell and 25 yards to Wyatt Wilson two minutes apart midway through the opening quarter.
Pyne, who spent most of the St. Joseph game facing heavy pressure, connected with O’Connell again late in the period.
After JR Moore made the score 28-0 early in the second quarter with a 36-yard run, the Rams scored nine seconds apart late in the half. Pyne first threw an 18-yard pass to Luke Morton. The Hatters fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Christian Sibbett recovered it in the end zone.
“The defense settled in and offensively we finally settled in and Drew hit a couple of big ones,” Marinelli said.
Jack Pompea scored on a 34-yard run late for the Hatters (1-1).
Marinelli told O’Connell before the game how Cooper’s family had spread some of his ashes on the sideline earlier this summer.
“Football is a game but a lot more comes with it,” O’Connell said. “Emotion and the power brought with it. Coach Coop is a leading example. Tonight we were playing a game but we were playing for someone bigger and someone who gave his all for this entire community. I’m proud to wear his number in his honor and do a little something in his name.”
The Rams return to Trumbull next Friday night to play the Eagles.
Ask if the ship was righted, Marinelli said, “A little bit. We will find out next week against Trumbull. It is always good to get that loss behind you. St. Joseph is a good team. Danbury is deceptive, we just jumped on them early.”
The only negative tonight for New Canaan was a familiar one from a year ago: 10 penalties for 88 yards, with two negating scores.
“I’d love to say the boys are back in town but we had 100 yards in penalties,” O’Connell said. “We’ll get ready for Trumbull.”