NEW CANAAN—For weeks, New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli has said, if his team could just find a way to squeak into the state playoffs, he knew they could make some noise.

Well, they found a way in.

And, if there was any doubt that the Rams belonged after a cloudy situation resulted in a 27-0 win over Darien on Thanksgiving, that was put to silence Tuesday when New Canaan downed top-seeded Middletown 24-9 on the road in the Class L quarterfinals.

Now the Rams are just two wins away from their fifth-straight Class L crown. While this team hasn’t been as dominant as teams’ past, it’s pretty remarkable that they find themselves as probably the front-runner for the state title.

After all, just over a week ago, it looked as if they wouldn’t even qualify for the playoffs. Marinelli knew all along that all it would take was an entry ticket in order for the Rams to make their mark.

It may be the lowest seed in the tournament, but New Canaan proved Tuesday nobody wants to play it when it matters.

Now comes a meeting on Sunday at 12:30 at No. 5 Masuk. The Panthers have an axe to grind with the Rams, who eliminated them from playoff contention a year ago. With star running back Jack Roberge and the rest of the team eager to exact revenge, it’s easy to see how Masuk could pose a legitimate threat to New Canaan.

However, it’s all easy to see why, despite the No. 8 next to the Rams name, it’s their tournament to lose.

Winning the last four grants you that luxury.

As does having a defense playing the best it has all year, an effective run game and a sophomore quarterback that already has a state title under his belt.

I wouldn’t want to face them.

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP