Unbeaten New Canaan hands Norwalk first loss
NORWALK -- The start of New Canaan's Friday night seemed like one of those premium cable shows that get repeated over and over during the course of a month.
Norwalk needed just five plays following the opening kickoff to take a quick lead, and a familiar storyline was unfolding: the Rams fall behind quickly against a heralded underdog looking to break into the old-money elite of FCIAC football.
But in a twist from the previous two weeks, when it needed late rallies to avert upsets, New Canaan scored four straight touchdowns and rolled to a 28-14 win over the Bears at Testa Field.
"At least we weren't running for our lives at the end," said New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli, whose team was coming off consecutive come-from-behind wins over Brien McMahon and Fairfield Warde. "It's almost like we have to spot everyone a touchdown and then we play."
Quarterback Matt Milano threw for three touchdowns and ran for another as the Rams, who led at the break, 21-7, scored on their opening possession of the second half and improved to 5-0.
Milano was afforded plenty of time to pass by his line and went through his progressions until receivers got open, completing 22 of 36 passes for 293 yards.
"We just executed," Milano said. "I was doing the worst thing you can do as a quarterback, going back and forth."
The Rams continued to make mistakes, turning the ball over three times and jumping offsides on a field goal attempt, but the defensive unit, which was without star linebacker Kevin McDonough, who was out with a high ankle sprain, played well after the opening series.
"It was nice to play with a lead for a change," Marinelli said. "There were a lot of big efforts. I think the defense got better."
The Bears had been the surprise team of the league through the first month, and were playing in their biggest game since 1999, when first-year head coach Sean Ireland was in his second season as an assistant.
"We got a little shell-shocked in the beginning," Ireland said. "The kids started to overanalyze things and shot themselves in the foot."
Like many opponents, the Bears had a difficult time slowing their opponent's hurry-up spread offense.
"You can't relax against that team on defense," Ireland said. "When they get on a roll they are almost impossible to stop."
The Bears (4-1) got off to a quick start behind the tandem that had played prominent roles in leading them to four straight wins to open the season: quarterback Delshawn Wilson completed a 43-yard pass to Derek Edwards. That set up Kenny Francois' 3-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead just 90 seconds in.
New Canaan turned the ball over on its first possession, a fumble by Patrick Newton at the Bears' 23-yard line.
The Rams quickly got the ball back, and Matt Milano hit Newton on a crossing pattern that went for 45 yards. Milano scored six plays later, on a 1-yard run, to tie the game with 1:29 left in the opening quarter.
Milano used his arm to put the Rams ahead for good, hitting Connor Kilbane on a 29-yard scoring play and, after an exchange of three interceptions in a nine-play sequence, finding Kilbane alone over the middle from 31 yards out to make the score 21-7.
Milano had a strong half, completing 14 of 23 passes for 205 yards. Kilbane had seven receptions for 108 yards in the half, while Newton had four catches for 88 yards.
Dave Ruden can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @DaveRuden.
NEW CANAAN 28 NORWALK 14
NEW CANAAN 7 14 7 0--28
NORWALK 7 0 0 7--14
N--Kenny Francois, 3 run (Jon Wilkins kick)
NC--Matt Milano, 1 run (Collin Shapiro kick)
NC--Kilbane, 29 pass from Milano (Shapiro kick)
NC--Kilbane, 31 pass from Milano (Shapiro kick)
NC-- Grady Lynch, 13 pass from Milano (Shapiro kick)
N--Derek Edwards, 5 pass from Delshawn Wilson (Wilkins kick)
Records: New Canaan 5-0; Norwalk 4-1.