Football

Upon Further Review: Marinelli Looks Back On Some Of His Most Memorable Wins

New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli reacts to a call during a loss to St. Joseph on Sept. 11. Marinelli became the state’s all-time leader in wins on Friday night. (Photo: Gregory Vasil)

New Canaan football coach Lou Marinelli earned the 332nd win of his career Friday night following a 42-7 victory over Danbury. That moved him past West Haven’s Ed McCarthy into the No. 1 spot in state history.

Marinelli has a treasure trove of memories. He arrived at New Canaan in 1981, with the school coming off three seasons with a combined record of 0-29-1. He won the first of his 12 state titles in his second year, and currently has led the Rams to four in a row. There have also been five FCIAC championships.

Marinelli yesterday afternoon looked back on some of the victories that stand out the most in a number of different categories.

The win that meant the most: You’re going to think I am crazy but my first game at New Canaan against Rippowam, against Brian Usher. We had no right winning, of beating them. They had just come off a state championship. We kicked off to them and the kid ran it back for an 80-yard touchdown or something like that. I looked at (athletic director) Vinny Iovino, who hired me, and he said ‘Welcome to Connecticut football. I said, ‘What have I done?’

I remember that win because they hadn’t won in a long time and coming back the bus pulled in front of the movie theater and the kids got off the bus and all the townspeople were there. It was a real experience.

The next win would probably be the state championship the next year against Naugatuck. That was a great class. When I finally got this win more people probably texted me from that class than anybody. They’re still very close. Those are some of the first ones I can remember. I’ve had a charmed career.”

The game you thought you were going to lose and afterward said ‘How did we win that game?’: It might have been that first state championship game against Naugatuck. There’s a bunch more ‘how did we lose that game.’

The other one, in no particular order, that was one of the best games that I’ve been a part of was (the 2015 state championship game) with Michael Collins against North Haven. We kind of switched roles and we became the running team and they became the passing team.

The most difficult win: It had to be against (son) Johnny (at Greenwich) that first year. Emotionally…we had a much better team than they did, but their kids and he managed to keep it close and had a chance to win. It’s a difficult game, it’s a game I wish I could get rid of.

The win that made you proudest of your players: The (2014 state title) game against Darien where we were down 20-7 at halftime and won it 21-20. At halftime I’m looking at their eyes and I said we had it, there is just no way. Alex LaPolice pulled me aside and said ‘Just throw me the ball.’ I really thought we were in trouble there. To have the kids gut it out the way they did, and also some key calls. (Assistant coach) Chris Silvestri sort of asked me about the onside kick, I don’t know if I was paying attention or not and he called it and I said ‘Why did you do that for?’ We got the ball and I said ‘Good call.’

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They’re all pretty special but I haven’t had that feeling in a while. There is also one years ago, I don’t remember which one, when Mike Sangster was the Darien coach and Mike Brown was the quarterback and one where we were underdogs. I think we won 21-19 or something like that. It was just a thrilling game and Mickey Lione was with me and Bo (Hickey) and all those guys. There were also some heartbreaking losses against Darien too.”

The wins over a non-Darien rival: In the beginning, when I first got there, (Ridgefeld coach) Guido Maiolo was a real thorn in my side. I remember down at Mead Field his being up and the game was basically over and he was running two-minute offense down the field and he scored again, he put another one in, and I never forgot that. I think that might have been the last time he beat us because from that point on…

The next year I was like a lunatic. I had broken everything down. I had given an exam like a week before and the night before. I was calling kids up. We were fortunate to beat them and I did the same exact thing to him but when I got down to the 2-yard line we took a knee and I went over to him and said ‘That’s what you’re supposed to do.’

I don’t know if I should have said all that because I don’t want to offend Guido, or his family that are still around. I have former players that actually work with Guido’s son. Guido’s son was a good player and they are all nice. From a personal standpoint though…

Fab 5

1. Darien (2-0). The Blue Wave enjoyed their first taste of home Friday Night Lights. Next up is Saturday Dream Matinee: a game against St. Joseph that is their biggest non-Turkey Bowl regular-season game in recent memory.

2. St. Joseph (2-0). The Cadets avoided a trap game against Fairfield Warde. Now they try to knock off the No. 1 team in the state polls for the second time in three years.

3. New Canaan (1-1). The Rams after a slow start found their groove against Danbury. A test for the defense comes Friday night against Trumbull, which should be getting Markeese Woods back.

4. Greenwich (2-0). The Cardinals have scored 119 points in two games. Now they are off two of the next three weeks with byes.

5. Ridgefield (1-1). Was the Darien opener an aberration? After Bridgeport Central this weekend come back to back games against Staples and St. Joseph.