St. Joseph knows road to FCIAC championship goes through New Canaan
Published 7:46 pm, Thursday, October 30, 2014
TRUMBULL -- With New Canaan and Darien two of the three remaining unbeatens in FCIAC play, the Turkey Bowl could again serve as the league's football final. St. Joseph, however, would like to shake up those plans.
In order to have an opportunity to play for a league title, the Cadets, in all likelihood, need to win out. They can't afford to lose any of their final four games, starting with Saturday's clash with the Rams.
"We never really look ahead through opponents, but we knew that this was going to be a big game," St. Joseph wide receiver Lars Pedersen said.
Despite graduating core players from last year's Class M title team, the Cadets are 6-1 and ranked sixth in the state poll. However, one loss -- 21-17 at Darien on Oct. 2 -- was enough to drop them behind perennial powers New Canaan and Darien and upstart McMahon in the conference standings.
"We actually started talking after Darien that we had to win out to have a chance to get back in the game," Cadets coach Joe Della Vecchia said. "We need this to get in that game."
More InformationNew Canaan (6-0) vs. St. Joseph (6-1)
WHEN: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: St. Joseph High School, Trumbull
LAST MEETING: New Canaan won 31-20 in FCIAC final on Nov. 22, 2013
PLAYERS TO WATCH: New Canaan -- Jr. QB Mike Collins (1,226 yards, 15 TD, 3 INT), Sr. WR/DB Alex LaPolice (20 catches, 288 yards, 8 TD), Sr. LB/TE Zach Allen (48 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 INT). St. Joseph -- Sr. RB/DB Mufasha Abdul Basir (1,131 rushing yards, 10 TD), Sr. WR/S Lars Pedersen (29 catches, 436 yards, 13 TD), Jr. LB/P Cam Ryan (65 tackles, 1.5 sacks).
St. Joseph has dropped its last four meetings with New Canaan, including last year's FCIAC final.
Like the Cadets, the Rams have stayed among the state's elite this year despite graduating several key pieces from last year's championship team. At 6-0, the Rams sit third in the state poll.
New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli believes that his team's recent success against St. Joseph will serve as motivation for the Cadets.
"We beat them twice last year," Marinelli said. "They have all kinds of motivation to do well. The revenge factor, I'm sure they're preaching that up there this week."
Or maybe not.
"I don't think so," Della Vecchia said. "Kids are different than we (coaches) are -- they think differently.
"Maybe they think they're supposed to have a revenge factor, but we had our chance at revenge in the FCIAC championship."
The Cadets have tweaked their offense since then. While they still feature star running back Mufasha Abdul Basir (1,131 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns), they've introduced receiver Lars Pedersen as a Wildcat quarterback. Pedersen's already passed for a touchdown this year, to go along with 13 total rushing, receiving and kick return scores.
"You've got Mufasha, who I think is probably the best back in the state," Marinelli said. "And then you've got Lars, who's got to be one of the best players in the state."
Pedersen rewarded the Cadets last week with four touchdowns, including two rushing, in a 43-8 rout of Trinity Catholic. Junior Kevin Trefz and sophomore Cory Babineau shared snaps at quarterback in the conventional spread offense.
"We've been doing it all year, working on it," Della Vecchia said. "It was just time. We needed a spark and we need to get him the ball as much as we can. That was just one way that we could do it.
"He runs it well. Our other quarterbacks don't have the explosiveness that he does."
The versatility, Pedersen said, has benefitted the Cadets' offense.
"You don't really know who's going to be playing quarterback," Pedersen said. "You don't know who's going to be running the ball, who's going to be throwing the ball, who's going to be catching it."
"They don't make mistakes," Della Vecchia said of the Rams. "They're extremely disciplined with their assignments everywhere -- offense, defense, specials.
"I'm very impressed with the quarterback. He's gotten a lot better from a year ago."
Marinelli believes the same, concerning Collins.
"He looked like he had potential. ... I think he's getting used to the offense, able to do a few more things," Marinelli said.
The Rams hope that translates into more wins. They have four games left, concluding with a trip to rival Darien (7-0) on Thanksgiving. McMahon is 5-1 overall and unbeaten against FCIAC opponents.