Turkey Bowl Breakdown: Greenwich Coach John Marinelli Analyzes Darien-New Canaan

Darien receiver Colin Minicus is a gamebreaker the New Canaan defense will have to contain. (Photo: Darien Athletic Foundation)

Darien receiver Colin Minicus is a gamebreaker the New Canaan defense will have to contain. (Photo: Darien Athletic Foundation)

No one currently outside the Darien and New Canaan football teams is better equipped to analyze Thursday’s Turkey Bowl than John Marinelli. He spent the last few trying to solve the Blue Wave defense as the Rams’ offensive coordinator.

This year, in his first season as the Greenwich coach, Marinelli had to face both teams.

Marinelli agreed to break down the game, which is also the 50th FCIAC championship, for The Ruden Report

Game Week

The excitement level of the kids is different. But the process in which you gameplan has to stay the same, no matter who you are playing. The worst team in the league, the best team in the league, an NFL team, it doesn’t really matter. The kids know who they’re playing and they know what happens once the game starts so the excitement level is by far the only thing that changes. You have to treat every game the same. Otherwise when you do get in the big games then all of a sudden you change the way you gameplan the kids notice and if you do it with a lesser team the kids might take the other team lightly. From a coaching perspective I try to gameplan every opponent the same and make sure the kids stay focused on their assignments.

Poll/Contest: Who Will Win The Turkey Bowl: Darien Or New Canaan?

New Canaan With The Ball

The key is the secondary. Everyone is going to talk about Mark Evanchick and the sack leader and everything, and obviously he can make plays, but during the course of the game Mark is going to provide his presence. In the state championship game Mark had four sacks and we still won the game. Mark is going to get his plays and have his chances but can the secondary hold up? They are the best secondary in the league. Will they lock on receivers and make Mike Collins throw the ball in tight spots? If they can do that it is going to allow Mark to do his thing up front and that’s where he can be more of a game-changer. Can the secondary make Mike make the throws he doesn’t want to make? And Mark can help that by making him throw the ball quicker or sooner than he really wants to. That is going to be an interesting chess match.

New Canaan has to spread the ball out and make (Darien) tackle. You have to make Darien defend sideline to sideline. They do have two very good defensive ends and they are good at stopping the run, they always have been. You don’t have to run for 9,000 yards against them, you have to establish a little bit of a run game and make their linebackers do more. If New Canaan can force them to make plays, whether it is screen passes or an intermediate passing game. If you can get the linebackers involved I think New Canaan can have a lot of success. But the way Darien plays in the secondary is going to make it difficult for New Canaan to just pick on linebackers.


Darien With The Ball

Darien has a lot of weapons. (Colin) Minicus and Shelby Grant might be the best running back-wide receiver combination in the league and Timmy Graham is also obviously very good. If I were a defensive coordinator I am going to make Timmy Graham beat us. I am not going to let Shelby Grant run on us, I’m going to try and stop Shelby as much as I possibly can and force Timmy Graham to throw to his receivers and let them make plays, which they can. If you are going to take away one thing, it is the devil’s advocate, Timmy can throw the ball, right, and Timmy has great weapons out there but ultimately Darien’s offense gets into a rhythm when they are able to run the football. They can pass the ball very well too. If you take away their run game I think you get them into situations where they don’t want to be and that’s just throw the ball on every down. New Canaan can throw the ball on every down. That’s kind of been the philosophy of their offense and the philosophy of what they do. I don’t know if Darien, if that’s their philosophy, especially with a stud like Grant in the backfield.

Will the Darien defense be able to slow down quarterback Michael Collins and the New Canaan offense? (Photo: Chris Cody)

Will the Darien defense be able to slow down quarterback Michael Collins and the New Canaan offense? (Photo: Chris Cody)

The defense of New Canaan versus the offense of Darien is like the ultimate chess match, like the game itself. I don’t think you can let Colin Minicus beat you and I don’t think you can let Shelby Grant run the football. I think you let anybody else do it. With Timmy Graham you don’t have to sack him, you don’t have to hit him every play but you have to let him know you’re there and you have to let him know you’re coming. You have to get him out of his comfort zone. They run a timing offense and if you can get their timing off, whether it is jamming receivers at the line of scrimmage or chasing the quarterback, those things will definitely affect Darien’s offense. At the same time Timmy also has become a very mobile quarterback. So after things break down and you make them adjust and he is running out of the pocket you have to be aware because he is capable of getting yardage. Collins is too but I think Timmy is a little bit better at escaping the pocket than Mike.


Peter Swindell is the intangible. He kicks field goals from anywhere, he is also a phenomenal punter. He can put the ball in the end zone on kickoffs. When you see two teams that are pretty evenly matched, I think both offenses are better than the defenses that they’re facing, when it comes down to games like that special teams play a huge factor in field position. Hudson Hamill is an intangible as a returner. With what he’s able to do is New Canaan able to get down to cover punts and is New Canaan’s offense able to get Peter Swindell involved in the kicking game?


I think it is going to be one of those games that comes down to the last possession. Turkey Bowl and the FCIAC championship, now there’s no states. I remember being in those games the last few years and not really wanting to show things then that come back to bite you in the butt. Now this is it. You are not meeting each other after this game. I think you are going to see two teams diving into their playbooks and trying to win the game.