Class L quarterfinals: Rams, Panthers set to square off
Published 3:26 pm, Tuesday, November 29, 2016
NEW CANAAN — The challenge, or perhaps in this case, the beauty, of the Connecticut football state playoffs is the almost immediate turnaround after the regular season.
Less than a week ago both No. 7 Masuk and No. 2 New Canaan suffered emotional losses to rivals.
The Panthers fell to Newtown 35-28 last Wednesday and New Canaan lost an overtime heartbreaker to Darien 37-34 on Thanksgiving morning.
Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in New Canaan, the teams will face off in the quarterfinals of the Class L state playoffs looking for redemption, as well as a chance at a state title.
“I’m not going to lie, emotionally it took a lot out of our kids,” Rams coach Lou Marinelli said. “As I explained to them, stuff like this happens in life all the time.
“It’s a great lesson for kids — you never want to lose the one game on your schedule you shoot for all year, and to lose it in that fashion; tragedies happen all the time and you have to shake yourself off and get back in there. I think we’re going to be OK, but we’ll see.”
No. 7 MASUK (7-3) AT No. 2 NEW CANAAN (9-1)
LOCATION, TIME: Dunning Stadium at New Canaan High School, Tuesday, 6:30 a.m.
STORYLINES: Both teams are coming off tough losses to rivals on Thanksgiving and both have offenses that are capable of scoring in bunches. In six of its seven wins, Masuk has toppled the 40-point threshold but Tuesday it faces one of the top defenses in the state. It will be up to the New Canaan defense to maintain that status and not falter early, as it did to Darien Thursday.
PLAYER TO WATCH, MASUK: Nicholas Dellapiano (Sr., 5-11, 165). Dellapiano, a captain, is one of the few senior skill-players on Masuk and will have to step up both on the field and on the sideline to keep his team grounded and efficient against the stingy New Canaan defense. Dellapiano can hurt teams both on the ground and in the air. The senior playmaker has rushed for 431 yards, averaging an impressive 13.9 yards per carry, and seven touchdowns on the ground. As a receiver, Dellapiano has 561 yards and nine touchdowns.
PLAYER TO WATCH, NEW CANAAN: James Freyre (Sr., 5-9, 175). New Canaan captain and middle linebacker Freyre may be undersized, but he is a terror for opposing defenses. Freyre leads the Rams in tackles and excels in blitz packages as well as dropping back in coverage. If the New Canaan defense is going to slow the impressive Panther attack, expect No. 2 for the Rams to be heavily involved.
QUOTABLE: “Losing the Turkey Bowl was tough; but we’re on to bigger and better things with the state playoffs arriving so quickly.” — Rams RB/CB Ryan O’Connell
LAST MEETING: The two squads last met way back in 2010, with Masuk running over New Canaan 50-20 for the Class L state title.
Anthony E. Parelli
New Canaan will be trying for its fourth-straight Class L title, while Masuk is looking for its first since 2010 which came via a 50-20 romp over the Rams.
The Rams are led by a largely senior core with one exception, freshman quarterback Drew Pyne.
Both will look to control the game on the ground for the Rams and open it up for Pyne, who, after a rocky start Thursday, rebounded to erase a 24-point deficit and send the game to overtime, where New Canaan would eventually fall.
On the other side, Masuk features senior captain Nicholas Dellapiano (16 touchdowns) and a stable of young studs. Junior quarterback Matthew Hersch has thrown for 31 touchdowns this year, but will have to take care of the ball, as he also has tossed 17 picks.
“I know Joe Lato and he’s one of the best coaches in that league, if not the state,” Marinelli said. “What we’ve seen from film is that they’re very well-coached, and they’re young; they have a good young quarterback, and their running back is only a sophomore, and they’ve done a tremendous job in that league — we’re going to have our hands full.”
With two offenses capable of putting up points in a hurry, momentum will be key early, and that stems from each trying to get off to a fast start — something New Canaan failed to do last Thursday.
“Certainly we kind of slept-walked through the first half and things happened where we didn’t react very well,” Marinelli said. “But I’m proud of the way the kids bounced back and hopefully we can bounce back again for Tuesday night.”