The ride over was not usual. It was the quickest and quietest of the season.

"We came over on the bus, and I noticed we had no one talking for the entire ride," Rams senior Joe Costigan said. "We haven't had that for any of our games. There was zero kids talking. You could tell everyone was tuned in."

The return trip, I'm guessing, wasn't so tame.

The Rams showed no mercy in the 81st iteration of the Turkey Bowl, beating in the brains of the Blue Wave with a 42-14 win.

That, my friends, is karma in its most pure, sport-borne form.

This Thanksgiving Day contest wasn't a contest at all.

After five Darien players concocted up one of the dumbest conceivable pranks possible, the New Canaan's football team wasted little time in taking away as much drama from the game as it could.

The drama surrounding the game? That couldn't, and still isn't, be subdued. Arrest warrants are/were expected to be handed out this week for the more-than $4,000 worth of damage to Hawes Plaza.

It is drama and it is storytelling that will live on beyond this week or even this winter. Destined to turn into a tale with exaggerations and embellishments, the law-breaking that happened when New Canaan High property got defaced in the dark of the November night is something that will be talked about decades down the road.

That's how devastating one ill-timed, stupid action was to Darien's FCIAC season -- and how it kept New Canaan's alive.

After the crushing loss that swiftly ended the Blue Wave football team's undefeated campaign, the scene on the field was as quiet as a funeral. While New Canaan's players posed and smiled with the Turkey Bowl trophy for photographers, their (innocent) Darien counterparts were on one knee, 15 yards opposite, quietly taking their medicine.

The 42 points the Blue Wave allowed was the most in this rivalry in 22 years. It's hardly a coincidence that Rams were able to put up a forty burger on the Blue Wave in this of all years.

New Canaan, however, didn't crow or get too boisterous over winning not only the Turkey Bowl for the seventh straight year, but also clinching a berth in the state playoffs, which it could only do with a win over its previously unflawed rivals.

"As a team we decided not to comment, but we kind of haven't really focused on it at all," senior Macari said. "Coach Marinelli is good at keeping the distractions away, and that's what we did."

God bless Kevin Macari. He did the dignified thing and tried to remain politically correct, but when I called him out for that cookie-cutter response, he cracked a smile.

"It wasn't about them. It's about us," Macari said. "We're the only team that can beat us. We proved that at St. Joe's. We were motivated just by the fact that, if we lose [against Darien], we're handing in our pads."

You try and figure how one Turkey Bowl could ever mean more to New Canaan than the past two, when FCIAC championships and state playoff berths were on the line.

And then this happens.

Fortunately, a few other players weren't as reserved as Macari when talking about what's ever-increasingly being referred to as "the incident."

"It was horrible," senior Conor Hanratty said. "It was a really emotional time. For them to do that to our stadium? It's like our sanctuary almost, with the donors, the memorial (bricks) and all that stuff. It was really horrible, and we used that to amp us up for this game."

Hanratty, per usual, also dealt with some trash-talking on Facebook. He's been chased down via the Internet in a number of ways this year; the lead-up to Darien was no different.

"That stuff happens every game," Hanratty said. "And I proved them all wrong, and I'm going to continue to do so. I don't care, really. I think it's funny."

Costigan noticed the damage as soon as he got the doors of the high school and his hand touched blue paint which dried only hours earlier -- if that.

"We had such motivation because of that," Costigan said. "At first it was, `Win, win, win' all week in prep for states. And then we get a little more motivation that sent us to the top. ... It's been awesome, because we grew up from fourth grade, always watching this game, everyone's always pumped. We had that little distraction," said Costigan, a smile as wide as the gap in points between the Rams and the Blue Wave.

Head coach Lou Marinelli said the vandalism wasn't a motivator for him, but quickly added,"I'm sure it was to them, our kids."

Absolutely. These are teenage boys, after all. They are walking hormones. For as dumb as the not-so-spontaneous looting of Hawes Plaza was, the anxiety and desire it planted within the New Canaan football team was even more powerful. At the high school level, in this era of mobile media and technology, teams often have to find motivation through what's written or said on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

When one team goes retro and physically insults another like what Darien did? A caged Doberman gets released.

Making matters worse, Darien was already hobbled by injuries to a few players.

Because of all that, Marinelli felt bittersweet in the immediate aftermath of his team's 47th win against Darien.

"It's a shame, and I mean this from the bottom of my heart, that those ... that this had to happen," he said. "It's a little tarnished by not having those kids and not having them at full strength. And I feel for (Darien head coach) Rob (Trifone). I hope their kids and our kids learned a lesson from this. It doesn't help anybody, it really doesn't. As much as the rivalry is, it's all that's good about high school football with two communities that are proud about their football programs. I'm glad we got in [the state tournament] -- we always want to be Darien -- but it's a little tarnished what happened."

Marinelli is always pointed after a game. He'll often be self-deprecating and funny, but he usually gets it right when addressing a bad situation.

With this win, the Rams believe they are the best team in the FCIAC. Who knows if that's true. What is known: Darien blew its chance to negate that statement and sentiment by making the dumbest statement -- off the field -- it possibly could.

And the New Canaan football program and players couldn't have come out looking any better or classier than they did.