NEW CANAAN—The expectations surrounding the New Canaan football program is something that remains constant year in and year out.
As quarterback Drew Pyne put it earlier this offseason, “pressure is a privilege.”
It’s a privilege that the Rams have earned in Lou Marinelli’s tenure with the program, and one that is ever-growing, especially this season as New Canaan makes the jump to Class LL and boasts four Division I commits.
Even still, the Rams have something to prove this year after falling in the Class L semis a season ago, snapping their four-year title run.
With all that outside noise, it can be easy to press and play tight.
But, at one of the Rams early spring practices, that’s exactly the opposite of what was happening.
The Rams were loose and methodical. The turf at Dunning Stadium was filled with all classes, practicing in helmets and shorts. At the south end zone, varsity starters were participating in 7-on-7 drills.
At one point, Notre Dame-bound junior Drew Pyne hit his best friend and No. 1 receiver Quintin O’Connell on a perfectly executed post route for a score. O’Connell ran the ball through the back of the end zone and dunked it over the goal post before hustling back to the huddle.
A few minutes later, the New Canaan defense picked off a pass and that side of the ball went nuts, screaming and hollering for each other like it meant something.
And, maybe it did.
What New Canaan showed in that brief time in practice is that it’s not letting that outside perception affect it.
It was much more fun and casual than practices I’ve seen in the past.
Coach Lou Marinelli was all smiles, laughing about the playlist that was on and commenting that his vote was for all Aretha Franklin to commemorate her death.
Marinelli isn’t the state’s winningest coach for no reason.
He learned last season that playing under that much scrutiny can affect the team negatively. In their two regular season losses last year the Rams were plagued by self-inflicted mistakes. First in the opener against St. Joseph where penalties and turnovers were the difference in a one-score game and later against Greenwich where they had two touchdowns called back.
Like this season, the Rams had no shortage in talent, it was simply a question of execution.
It’s clear to me Marinelli is invested in not letting that happen again, preaching discipline but allowing the players to enjoy themselves.
One assistant came up to Marinelli during that practice and said it just felt different around there.
If that difference carries over to the field, the rest of the FCIAC should be on high alert.