New Canaan football team pulls away from St. Joseph to capture FCIAC championship
Updated 8:38 pm, Tuesday, November 26, 2013
TRUMBULL -- With starting quarterback Nick Cascione questionable before the game, recovering from a concussion, the New Canaan football team worked on a gameplan to run the ball.
The focus of that running attack was Frank Cognetta and the junior was up to the challenge, rushing for 176 yards and one touchdown on 25 carries.
"We had a plan to run the ball," Cognetta said. "I don't think we were planning on running the ball as much as we did but game time, you have to make decisions and that decision was made and we were able to do what we needed to do."
They had to work for it, but the Rams captured their eighth FCIAC championship Friday night, beating St. Joseph 31-20 at Trumbull High School's McDougall Field.
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New Canaan (11-0), which beat St. Joseph by 40 points during the regular season, entered halftime tied at 14 with the Cadets, shooting itself in the foot with two turnovers inside the 10-yard line.
Cascione, who was cleared to play Friday morning, did it all for the Rams, rushing for 117 yards and two touchdowns while passing for 141 yards and another score to earn MVP honors.
For St. Joseph (9-2), quarterback Jordan Vazzano threw for 227 yards, a pair of first-half touchdowns and two interceptions. Running back Mufasa Abdul-Basir ran for a game-high 186 yards for St. Joseph, including a 50-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
New Canaan's defense was able to shut down the Cadets attack in the second half while taking better care of the ball on the offensive end.
"We were able to calm down, first of all," New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. "We turned the ball over more than we have all year long and I think it is not easy to play a good team like St. Joe's twice. You can tell the kids `it's going to be a different game,' but all of a sudden they are in a fight."
The game was somewhat sloppy with New Canaan fumbling twice and throwing an interception and St. Joe's tossing two interceptions of its own.
The most costly Cadets' turnover came in the third quarter with the game tied 14-14.
The Rams had just turned the ball over on a fumble, giving the Cadets the ball on their own 8-yard line but two plays later Vazzano threw a pass down the right sideline that was picked off by Michael DiCosmo, who returned it to the 7-yard line.
Two plays later, Cascione dove into the end zone, giving the Rams a lead they would not give back.
St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said his team had chances, but could not finish the job.
"We just didn't finish stuff," Della Vecchia said. "I thought we ran the ball well and I thought the passing lanes were there that we thought would be there. I don't know, we just didn't get it done."
Peter Swindell padded the lead to 24-14 with a 37-yard field goal with 8:29 left and another touchdown run by Cascione with 4:00 locked up the Rams eighth FCIAC title.
The Rams had a chance to go up two scores late in the second quarter but fumbled inside the 10 trying to run a play with defensive lineman Connor Buck getting the ball, but Buck fumbled and the Cadets recovered.
Not content to sit on the ball, Vazzano dropped back to pass, connecting with Shane Miller on a 79-yard pass before throwing a 6-yard scoring strike to Mark Hirschbeck with 18 seconds left, sending the teams into halftime 14-14.
For Cognetta hoisting the FCIAC trophy is a special feeling, something the Rams have not done since 2008.
"It's a great feeling," Cognetta said. "It's not easy to get here and this is really good payment for the season."
FCIAC football championship
New Canaan 31, St. Joseph 20
NEW CANAAN 7 7 7 10 -- 31
ST. JOSEPH 0 14 0 6 -- 20
Records: NC 11-0; SJ 9-2
NC -- Kyle Smith 76 pass Nick Cascione (Peter Swindell kick)
SJ -- Lars Pedersen 8 pass Jordan Vazzano (Kevin Bortnick kick)
NC -- Frank Cognetta 8 run (Swindell kick)
SJ -- Mark Hirschbeck 6 pass Vazzano (Bortnick kick)
NC -- Cascione 1 run (Swindell kick)
NC -- Swindell 37 field goal
NC -- Cascione 7 run (Swindell kick)
SJ -- Mufasa Abdul-Basir 50 run (Bortnick kick)