New Canaan and Darien football squads prepare for Turkey Bowl
Certainties in life: Death, taxes and a packed house for the New Canaan vs. Darien Turkey Bowl game every Thanksgiving morning.
The wildly-anticipated showdown between the Rams and Blue Wave - which kicks off at Darien High School at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday -- will conclude the regular season for a pair of teams which took decidedly different routes to the Turkey Bowl.
As New Canaan quarterback Teddy Bossidy put it, both teams would desperately want this game "even if we were both 0-10."
"I think they're definitely coming full bore. That's how much it means for both schools, so we're not expecting anything less from them," Bossidy said. "We're just counting down the hours. We've been waiting for this one for a while, and we're definitely really excited."
Darien captain and linebacker Andrew Maley concurred.
"Pretty much this is our Super Bowl right now," Maley said. "I know we're going to be giving it our all on every single play. It's the last game and we've got to be throwing our bodies into every single play."
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Both teams entered the 2012 campaign with their typical lofty expectations, up to and including postseason play, championships and perfect records. And while neither team will compete for the FCIAC title and only New Canaan will participate in the Class L state tournament, Rams-Wave is arguably the golden standard of FCIAC football rivalries.
With a win, New Canaan will boast its second consecutive one-loss regular season campaign. Its only defeat came on the road against Trinity Catholic in a 31-28 overtime tilt in Week 2. The Rams have reeled off seven straight wins since the overtime setback, and sound intent on boosting the win streak to eight before entering state tournament play.
"Losing is not an option in our minds," New Canaan center and captain Dylan Karnedy said. "There's no talk of losing because we know that we're not going to lose. We have to keep the tradition going because this is the most important game."
For the Blue Wave, there is no tomorrow. The final game of the season will indeed be when they host the Rams on Thanksgiving morning unless they receive an extraordinary amount of help from other teams currently in state tournament position.
New Canaan has dominated the rivalry in recent years, having won nine consecutive meetings between the squads, including a 42-21 victory last season.
The last time the Rams failed to defeat the Blue Wave was in 2003, a 14-14 tie. Darien's last victory was two years earlier in 2001 by a final score of 24-21.
And even though recent history has been soundly in New Canaan's favor (including the state championship and FCIAC championship in 2008), the current Blue Wave crew sounds intent on bucking the trend.
"(Winning) would mean everything for us. This is what we work for. It's the thing we wait for all season," Maley said. "We take each game one at a time, but it's still in the back of your mind that you're playing New Canaan in the last game of the season. "
Darien will have to prepare for New Canaan's two-quarterback system of Nick Cascione and Bossidy, something which the Rams hope will prove problematic for the Wave.
"One right, one lefty (quarterback), so I think it makes it harder for them to pick a strong side," Bossidy said. "They've got a really big, athletic d-line. They're backers are a bit undersized, but they fly around. They're d-backs are as good as we'll see all year, so it will be a tough test for us."
"You have to prepare for two different styles instead of one," Darien coach Rob Trifone said. "The thing that makes it difficult is that as much as they're different, they're similar. They're both excellent runners and they both can throw the ball short and long."
For the Rams, stopping the Blue Wave attack won't be a walk in the park either. Darien has shown a tendency to get a wealth of skill position players involved early and often. If Darien continues to spread the ball around, New Canaan may not be able to key on only one or two Darien "go to" players.
Quarterback Henry Baldwin seems to have a new favorite target each week, as players such as Nick Lombardo, Ian Vanderhorn and Peter Gesualdi have all hauled in several long touchdown passes this season. Darien will also get hard-running fullback Christian Bognar back into the starting lineup.
"We always try to feature whatever you're going to give us," Trifone said. "We have enough weapons, as do they, that if you try to take away two or three of them, then we go to the fourth one. I'm sure there will be some unsung hero on both sides of the ball."
"It gets a lot more serious the week that we play Darien because we have to beat them no matter what," Karnedy said. "This is the most important week of the season for us."
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