NEW CANAAN — Drew Pyne was not lacking for reasons to be more animated than usual during tonight’s game against Wilton. As it turned out, sentiment was at the forefront for New Canaan’s four-year starting quarterback.
Playing at Dunning Field for what could be the final time, Pyne threw for three touchdowns — including the 100th of his career — and ran for two others in a 38-20 win over the Warriors that moved New Canaan to the brink of a state playoff berth following a 2-2 start.
“You never know what’s going to be your last, and I’ve had so many good memories thanks to Coach Marinelli and my teammates the last four years,” said Pyne, referring to Rams coach Lou Marinelli. “Playing on this field is something special and I’ll cherish it for the rest of my life. Potentially having tonight being the last time I play here, all the seniors brought out their best effort and it showed.”
New Canaan (7-2) jumped out to a 24-0 halftime lead only to see the Warriors get within 10 points in the third quarter before pulling away.
The Rams, currently fifth in Class L, will return to the state playoffs with a win on Thanksgiving against Darien, a path they have taken the previous two years.
“A lot of our seniors expected more of themselves coming into it but the fact we’ve won five in a row, we’re excited,” Marinelli said. “Every New Canaan team and every Darien team is excited to play Thanksgiving day.”
Wilton (6-3) is ninth in Class L. It could still qualify with a win over Trinity/Wright Tech but now needs help.
Few expected two months ago that tonight’s game would have such significance but that was the position the teams found themselves in.
The New Canaan defense, led by Andrew Morse, set the early tone. The Rams sacked Wilton quarterback Jimmy O’Brien twice and held the Warriors to minus-21 yards on their first three possessions.
After Pyne (20 of 35 for 277 yards) ended the Rams’ first drive with a 1-yard score, Morse wrapped up O’Brien in the end zone. O’Brien threw the ball away but was called for intentional grounding, giving New Canaan a safety and a 9-0 lead.
Before the half was over Pyne threw touchdown passes to Christian Sweeney and Luke Morton.
But it was a pass Pyne threw that resulted in a score that drew his ire. The Warriors came out inspired after halftime. Their first drive resulted in Drew Phillips’ nine-yard touchdown run. Then Pyne was short with a pass that John DiRocco intercepted and returned for a touchdown that made the score 24-14.
Pyne came back and found his favorite receiver, Zach LaPolice (six catches, 84 yards), for what became a 59-yard score.
There were ups and downs,” Pyne said. “We had a great first half and then things happened. I threw a pick-six and then we come right back and respond and that’s just who we are. Kind of the definition of our season. We face adversity and we come back from it. I love this team and I can’t wait for the future.”
Pyne showed the most emotion after adding a fourth-quarter touchdown run of 40 yards, shouting excitedly as he returned to the sideline.
Wilton’s Kyle Hyzy (four catches, 139 yards) took a pass from Grant Masterson 80 yards in the closing seconds.
“We closed it a little bit,” said Warriors coach EJ DiNunzio. “You can’t start the game off the way we did. They hit two big plays over the top and we knew we couldn’t give that play up, and coming back against a team like this is very difficult. I just feel bad for the seniors. We were hoping for more today.”
The countdown to the Turkey Bowl begins tomorrow. In one manner, tonight was Pyne’s first Thanksgiving.
“It’s kind of surreal thinking this is my last game here,” he said. “This has been my life every second for the last four years. It’s really coming to light how lucky and thankful I am to be here.”