Drive for 5 still alive
Published 2:34 pm, Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Defense gets it done in the mud; Rams will face No. 2 Hand Saturday at 7
NAUGATUCK -- On a night when its dynamic passing combination again provided the highlight-reel plays, it was the underrated defensive unit that ensured the New Canaan High School football team would keep the hopes of a fifth straight state title alive.
The sixth-seeded Rams bent but refused to break against a Naugatuck team that entered Tuesday night averaging nearly 37 points a game, dominating the line with six sacks and forcing three turnovers for a 21-12 win in the CIAC Class L quarterfinals.
"We really came through when we needed to," said Ryan Shullman, the Rams' 155-pound nose tackle, who sacked Naugatuck quarterback Erich Broadrick three times. "Not getting all the attention has its benefits. We just do what we need to do."
Perhaps the most appreciative member of the New Canaan team was the player who does receive all the attention.
"The defense did an unbelievable job," said Kevin Macari, the defensive back better known for his work on the other side of the ball. Tuesday night he accounted for all of New Canaan's scoring, catching three touchdown passes to give him 19 for the season.
"The defense just kept coming up with stop, after stop, after stop," Macari said. "That was probably the most athletic team we've faced all year. We just stepped up when we needed to."
The Rams (10-1) will face No. 2 Daniel Hand in Saturday's semifinals.
After a scoreless third quarter in which the Rams held onto a 14-6 lead, the turning point came on the first two plays of the final period.
With the third-seeded Greyhounds (9-2) facing fourth and 15 from the New Canaan 27, Shullman relentlessly chased down Broadrick for a 24-yard loss.
On the next play, Macari got behind the defense for his third touchdown, a 49-yard pass that made the score 21-6.
"What can I say? We had Macari," New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. "Macari and the defense. It was ugly but we will take it. I'm a little surprised how they shut us down."
Naugatuck got within 21-12 on Broadrick's 1-yard sneak with 8:40 remaining and were driving again. But after making a catch and eluding one defender, Marquan Williams had the ball knocked into the air at the Rams' 15 and Matt Brady caught it to secure the win.
Macari finished the game with five catches for 155 yards. New Canaan's point total was a season low.
Both teams were slowed by an extremely muddy track on a rainy night.
After an exchange of possessions to open the game, Naugatuck took over on the Rams' 43 and two plays later jumped out to a 6-0 lead when Williams took a swing pass on the right side and turned it into a 31-yard score.
"That's what we set out to do, to get on top early and get the momentum going," Naugatuck coach Rob Plasky said. "At the end, Marquan took that hit or else we score, try an onside kick and who knows what happens."
New Canaan took over after the Greyhounds' opening touchdown and went 78 yards in 13 plays before Matt Milano's pass to Macari on fourth down from the 2 fell incomplete.
The Rams, who are averaging 42 points a game, were held scoreless until early in the second period, when their most explosive player took over.
Milano found Macari in the left corner of the end zone from 11 yards out for a 7-6 lead with 10:04 left in the half. It was Milano's 34th touchdown pass of the season, breaking the school record set by Kurt Horton in 1971. The play was set up by a 40-yard bomb to Macari two plays earlier.
The same combination struck again after Willie Gould intercepted Broadrick. Macari caught a pass over the middle, broke a tackle and streaked past the defense for a 62-yard score and a 14-6 advantage.
New Canaan had several chances to widen its lead, but turned the ball over three times in the course of five plays late in the half. Milano was intercepted twice, the first in the end zone by Tyler Conklin after the Rams had recovered a fumble at the Naugatuck 17.
"They did a good job shutting us down," Marinelli said. "We are going to have to do a better job Saturday."
The Rams' 7 p.m. game Saturday night against second-seeded Daniel Hand (10-1) will take place at West Haven High School. Hand defeated No. 7 North Haven Tuesday night, 19-7. On the other side of the Class L bracket, fifth-seeded Darien, after knocking off Wethersfield 31-7, plays in Shelton against No. 1 Masuk, which is undefeated this season after beating Bristol Eastern, 49-23.