WINDSOR — For a New Canaan Rams team that has had a historic offense this season, it was the defense that propelled it to victory in the Class L quarterfinals Tuesday night.

The No. 6 Rams defeated third-seeded Windsor 21-6 to snap the Warriors 22-game win streak, advancing to the semifinals, where they will host No. 7 Notre Dame-West Haven Monday at Dunning Stadium.

With a constant downpour throughout the contest, the Rams offense and star quarterback Michael Collins (one touchdown, two interceptions) never quite got clicking, but the defense more than made up for it, registering four turnovers — one on a fumble recovery and three via interceptions by Andrew DeFranco, Ryan O’Connell and Kyle Smith.

“There’s the reason right there,” Lou Marinelli said pointing to his defensive coordinator Chris Silvestri. “He’s the guy that put together the whole game plan with the other coaches and he did a tremendous job. To stop that offense ... I can’t tell you how well coached and what a great job (Windsor coach Rob Fleeting) does with those kids and to come here in this weather and win.”

DeFranco’s pick at his own 7 stopped what appeared to be a promising opening drive for Windsor and New Canaan capitalized when Collins hit Peter Swindell for an 18-yard score.

On the ensuing possession the Warriors fumbled the snap on a punt and New Canaan took over at the Windsor 2. One play later Mike Cognetta found pay dirt on a run up the middle.

Windsor would go on to make it a one possession game at the half after Isaiah Huff (two INTs) picked off Collins and returned it to the Rams 26 where Tyler Coyle would eventually haul in a 14-yard pass from Jakhari Grant to make it 14-6 at the break.

New Canaan played most of the second half without the Cognetta brothers, Matt, the team’s leading rusher, and Mike, a starting safety and running back, both of whom went down with injuries and that forced New Canaan to use O’Connell and Smith in unfamiliar roles.

“I played safety, I never played that ever in my life and I haven’t played running back since middle school,” said Smith, who had a 55-yard run and a touchdown as well as the pick. “Coming in at halftime I knew this wasn’t my last high school football game ever. Those two have been my best friends since they moved here in fourth grade, Mike came in at the half crying saying, ‘That’s my twin, but that’s everyone’s brother we have to play for him,’ and we stepped up and got the ‘W.’ ”

For Marinelli the decision to go with O’Connell and Smith to put the game away was an easy one, he saying he just put the game in the hands of his best players and allowing them to make plays.

“We went with the kids who have been our stalwart guys,” Marinelli said. “And they came up big tonight.”

For Windsor the loss came down to the trenches. The Rams dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, twice forcing a turnover-on-downs inside their own 15 yard-line.

“We just got handled on the line, simply put,” Fleeting said. “We couldn’t get the running game going, couldn’t pass protect and we couldn’t handle up front; they’re a good football team and sometimes it doesn’t matter what you do if you’re not executing.” @reportedbytheAP


NEW CANAAN 7 7 7 0—21

WINDSOR 0 6 0 0—6

NC—Peter Swindell 18 pass from Michael Collins (Swindell kick)

NC—Michael Cognetta 2 run (Swindell kick)

W—Tyler Coyle 14 pass Jakhari Grant (pass failed)

NC—Kyle Smith 1 run (Swindell kick)