New Canaan football again looks strong
Updated 9:29 pm, Thursday, September 7, 2017
NEW CANAAN — Lou Marinelli knows what a good team looks like.
After winning the past four Class L championships, he knows that, theoretically, this season’s team should be a good one.
However, he also knows there’s a big difference between theory and practice.
“On paper, it looks like we should have something,” Marinelli said. “We haven’t really done it yet, but it’s early.”
Using last year as an indicator, Marinelli should be able to rely on the right arm of highly touted sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne.
“He’s a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger,” Marinelli said of Pyne. “Last year he was a freshman coming into a place like New Canaan and wasn’t really sure and our seniors last year did a tremendous job bringing him under their wing because our starting QB broke his ankle in the first game. He stepped in and never looked back. Now he’s had a year, he’s been in school, he’s established himself and taken more of a leadership role as a quarterback, which is great.”
Pyne echoed that sentiment, and has the added benefit of his top receiver from a year ago, Quintin O’Connell, returning for his junior year.
New Canaan Rams
COACH: Lou Marinelli (37th season)
CONFERENCE, CLASS: FCIAC, L
2016 RECORD: 12-1 (FCIAC runner-up, Class L champion)
TOP RETURNEES: Soph. QB Drew Pyne (6-1, 175, 2,347 yards, 26 TDs); Jr. Quintin O’Connell (6-0, 190, 695 yards, 7 TDs); Jr. LB Garrett Braden (6-2, 200, 7 sacks, 70 tackles); Sr. LB Grant Morse (6-1, 190, 85 tackles).
REASON TO SMILE: Quarterback Drew Pyne and receiver Quintin O’Connell should form one of the most prolific pass combinations in the state. With those two leading the way, and a slew of other weapons, the New Canaan offense should once again shred FCIAC defenses.
REASON TO WORRY: The defensive secondary is a question mark, and with the departure of leading rushers Ryan O’Connell and Graham Braden, the running back position will have anew look.
DID YOU KNOW?: Since 2013, the only team that New Canaan has lost to is rival Darien, and none were by more than one score.
KEY GAME: At Greenwich, Oct. 14, 4 p.m. The third annual Marinelli Bowl will be a stiff midway test for the Rams.
OUTLOOK: New Canaan is New Canaan. The offense should be able to light up the scoreboards in southwestern Connecticut, and defensive coordinator Chris Silvestri always gets the most out of his players. The FCIAC has plenty of talent, but there’s no reason to think the Rams won’t be in contention come playoff time.
Anthony E. Parelli
“We call each other the connection, he’s one of my best friends,” Pyne said. “We hang out all the time. Off the field really translates to more success on the field as teammates. He’s an unbelievable guy and a great player. Both of us stay after practice and run and throw extra routes, him and I work so hard together and we’ve really seen progress this offseason and, hopefully, that will translate into games.”
Aside from O’Connell, the offense returns very few skill-position players from last year, but Pyne isn’t worried.
“Being in New Canaan, like other major schools around here, we really reload,” Pyne said. “Coach Marinelli gets the next guy ready and we really have that mentality.”
Pyne has been offered scholarships by over a dozen high-powered college programs already. Since Florida State offered him as an eighth-grader, Pyne has figured out how to keep the off-the-field noise distractions away.
“I really don’t let anything get to me,” Pyne said. “It goes in one ear and out the other. I’m just focused on the season and making my team better and, hopefully, defending a state championship.”
Defensively, Marinelli stuck to the same script he has virtually every preseason — saying he’s not sure what he has in the unit.
Every year, however, the defense ends up one of the best in the state, a testament to the coaching of coordinator Chris Silvestri.
“Chris has been with me for almost 15 years now,” Marinelli said. “He played here and was the Gatorade Player of the Year, and as good a player as he was — and he was a great player — he’s a better coach and teacher. I can’t say enough about him.”
Pass rushers Garrett Braden and Grant Morse should provide a solid base for Silvestri, but the secondary is still a bit in flux as the Rams wait for newcomers to step up.
“We’re not totally settled back there yet, but we have a little time to figure out who’s who,” Marinelli said. “I like our team on paper; I think we’re good. I just hope we can get them to play to that level.”