The bus carrying the New Canaan football team home from Saturday’s game broke down for over a half hour.
That was probably the high point of the day.
In an opener that was also one of the biggest regular season games of the season, St. Joseph, the preseason No. 3 team, dominated No. 1 New Canaan 28-0. The outcome was not shocking. The manner in which it was achieved certainly was.
Rams coach Lou Marinelli has a self-deprecating sense of humor. I have seen him find a way to be sarcastic after state championship losses. I have never seen him so down after a loss as he was Saturday.
“It was only because, not that I expected to blow them out, but going in I thought we had a good gameplan and we spent a lot of time on it,” Marinelli said.
Referring to the former great Wilton coach, Marinelli added, “I hate being No. 1 in the state when we haven’t done anything. Two years in a row now. Tom Fujitani told me the longer you coach you’ll experience everything. This was something I hadn’t experienced.”
And it could have been worse. St. Joseph dominated field position early but could not score because of three interceptions.
“St. Joseph did a great job and they are deceivingly a lot faster than we are, especially on defense,” Marinelli said. “I thought defensively they played exceptionally well. They really covered us up and they did a really good job of taking away what we have always done well. All of a sudden you get where you are shooting yourself in the foot, and they did a good job and we can’t move the football and we keep giving it back to them. It could have very easily been 50-something to nothing.”
St. Joseph’s defense was stifling. The play up front by Mike Morrissey, Jermaine Williams and Cayden Porter led to constant pressure on New Canaan quarterback Drew Pyne, who completed 18 of 29 passes but for just 164 yards, with two interceptions. Because of sacks, the Rams rushed for minus-1 yard.
It was a perfect storm for New Canaan because its two FBS linemen, Jack Conley and Jack Stewart, were limited in the preseason with shoulder and back issues, respectively. Because the Rams have had trouble at center, Conley, the backup, was forced to play the position and had difficulty with snaps.
“Football is a game you have to practice and practice together,” Marinelli said. “It’s not like baseball where you put a guy in left field. The center position has been inconsistent. Conley never had a nose guard in front of him, and their nose guard did a great job against him.”
The Rams’ defense was a little more successful. Summers was 11 of 30 on a rare off day, though he still threw two touchdown passes and rebounded from his slow start. The Cadets averaged 3.1 yards per carry.
“I thought our defense played well,” Marinelli said. “I thought Summers did a tremendous job. His passing accuracy … when they needed to complete a third down, the timing of those patterns and the throws were right there. We are in the area but we weren’t there enough to make a play on the ball. We are just going to get back on the horse and see what happens.”
The Cadets are in an enviable position. They host Darien a week from Saturday. A win would put them in a tremendous position to run the table and have an undefeated season.
New Canaan meanwhile must again start in an early hole for the second straight fall. It lost to St. Joseph a year ago 38-35, bounced back to reach the Class L playoffs and lost in the semifinals.
The Rams have moved up to LL this year and still have to face Greenwich and Darien. Their margin for error again has been reduced.
One of the biggest yellow lights with football at any level is to make too much of an opening week outcome. Was this just one really bad game for the Rams that will be forgotten in a few months? Or perhaps some foreshadowing?
“It’s nothing we haven’t done to ourselves,” Marinelli said. “I just want to win one game. I’m not worried what goes on after next week. We just want to win one. I don’t think you can look ahead. If we don’t win enough games and there are better teams out there so be it.”
The Rams have their home opener Friday against Danbury. They will be under the microscope.
Asked if he still has confidence in his team and what it can accomplish, Marinelli said, “Absolutely. We have some really good kids. One game doesn’t make a season. There is still a lot of excitement, a lot of things going on so we’ll see.”
— In Greenwich’s 42-7 win over Trumbull, sophomore AJ Barber scored three touchdowns in his debut. Barber is the son of former Giants star Tiki Barber.
— The seven new (if Trumbull’s Marce Petroccio counts) league coaches had a record of 3-4, with one head to head meeting. Congratulations to Danbury’s Augie Tieri, Wilton’s EJ DiNunzio and Staples’ Phil Treglia. Either DiNunzio or Treglia will be 2-0; they go head to head (I have a really good name for this game, but here we will just call it the battle of the teams with the most demanding adult fan bases) Friday in what is probably the best of a weak slate of games.
— I have become a huge fan of podcasts. I like listening to them while driving and working out, and I really enjoy hosting one (and I am happy to report I invested in some real equipment today, so the sound quality will soon have a marked improvement). It is good to see others getting into the act.
If you haven’t already, you can check out the yet-to-be named GameTime podcast with Sean Patrick Bowley, Pete Paguaga (who steered me in the right direction to purchase equipment) and Kyle Brennan, and the debut today of Polecat Ned Griffin’s Lonesome Podcast.
Hopefully fans will listen to all three; podcasts are a terrific format and complement what you read and watch.
1. Greenwich (1-0). I voted the Cardinals second in the opening poll and they didn’t do anything wrong to deserve getting leapfrogged. Except for penalties they impressed against Trumbull.
2. St. Joseph (1-0). The Cadets certainly made a strong case for the top spot with an absolutely dominant performance. Their defense was terrific. You don’t over or under react based on one game, but 13-0 would not be surprising.
3. Darien (1-0). A solid start for the Blue Wave against Ridgefield. I love their receivers, Connor Fay is relentless and the defensive line looked pretty good.
4. New Canaan (0-1). Saturday was the most shocking performance by the team I can remember. It is too early to sell your Rams stock. We will now see what they are made of.
5. Norwalk (1-0). This spot is a hard one to pick at this point. For week one it goes to the team with the most impressive victory. The Bears earned it with their successful business trip to East Lyme.