STAMFORD -- The New Canaan football team wrote a fitting final chapter and closed the book on its 2013 journey to the Class L state title on Saturday at Stamford High School. And if the 44-12 triumph over border rival Darien for the Class L title wasn't the perfect ending, it was pretty darn close.
"It's just magical. You honestly could not ask for a better way to go out," captain and defensive lineman Connor Buck said. "It's a revenge game, it's a rivalry game, it's a championship game. Everything good about a state championship and everything you can imagine happened today."
Competing in a steady snowfall for much of the game, No. 3 New Canaan (14-1) avenged its only loss of the season to take down the top-seeded Blue Wave (12-2) behind its explosive offense and its shutdown defense, which yielded its only 12 points of the state playoffs, all in the second half to Darien.
Right from the opening kickoff, the Rams were off and running, as Alex LaPolice faked a reverse and carried the ball down to the Darien 30, setting the stage for a big day from the junior wideout.
Three plays later and faced with a fourth-and-4, quarterback Nick Cascione threw over the middle to find Kyle Smith, who made a one-handed catch for the conversion. The circus catch led to Frank Cognetta's one-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead for the only points of the first quarter.
"That was fantastic. That fourth down catch by Kyle Smith was a one-handed catch and it was a hell of a catch," said Cascione, who played a stellar game, passing for 226 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for a game high 76 and a score. "It's not a sophomore grab, but that really gave us some momentum and helped us score on that drive."
New Canaan needed just two plays to go 46 yards in the second quarter following a Darien three-and-out. Cascione hit Cognetta for a 31-yard gain and followed it up with a 22-yard bomb to Cole Turpin in the back-right corner of the end zone, and the senior receiver stayed in bounds in for the score and the 14-0 lead.
After the teams traded punts, Darien moved the ball to the New Canaan eight on the strength of a 33-yard catch and run by Nick Lombardo. However, the Blue Wave turned it over on downs when quarterback Silas Wyper was sacked by Graham Wagner.
Trailing 17-0 early in the second half, Darien's Will Hamernick picked off a pass and set his team up on the New Canaan 35. On the very next play, Wyper went up the middle on a designed quarterback run, bouncing off two defenders before racing into the end zone to give the Blue Wave life, cutting the deficit to 17-6.
"We've done it all year long, especially in the last four weeks," Darien coach Rob Trifone said. "You come out and score and think you're going to get on the magical roll that we've had, but this time the opposition was just too damn strong."
With the Rams facing third-and-9 on the Darien 49 on their next possession, Cascione rolled to his left and launched a pass down the sideline for LaPolice, who sidestepped a defender and went all the way for the score and a 24-6 lead.
"It looks like a broke play, but it's a designed play that they work on," New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. "The offensive staff did a tremendous job putting the game plan together. I think we had something to prove, but Darien is a great team. I'm just thrilled to win this game for these kids."
LaPolice put the game all but out of reach when he returned a punt 46 yards to pay dirt at the start of the fourth quarter, boosting the New Canaan lead to 31-6.
Wyper concluded a 17-play Darien drive with a six-yard touchdown run, but Cascione countered with a 41-yard touchdown run of his own, and linebacker Zach Allen capped off the scoring when he deflected Wyper's pass to himself before sprinting 42 yards for the pick six. Read Full Article
"I said `Look, I know you're hurting right now physically and emotionally, but don't let this tarnish what has been a magical ride from a group that people expected to be 6-5,'" Trifone said. "I know it doesn't help right now, but it was an incredible season from a group that graduated everyone last year."
"It's unbelievable. The leadership of the seniors is incredible," LaPolice said. "Guys like Joao Rocha, Connor Buck, Nick Cascione, the captains, Cole Harris. It's one of the greatest feelings in my life, and if it weren't for them I wouldn't be here today, so I'm just happy to be part of the ride."
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New Canaan 44, Darien 12
DARIEN 0 0 6 6--12
NEW CANAAN 7 10 7 20--44
Records: New Canaan 14-1; Darien 12-2
NC--Frank Cognetta 1 run (Peter Swindell kick)
NC--Cole Turpin 22 pass Nick Cascione (Swindell kick)
NC--Swindell 30 field goal
D--Silas Wyper 35 run (run failed)
NC--LaPolice 49 pass Cascione (Swindell kick)
NC--LaPolice 46 punt return (Swindell kick)
D--Wyper 6 run (pass failed)
NC--Cascione 41 run (kick failed)
NC--Zach Allen 42 interception return (Swindell kick)