New Canaan crushes St. Joseph in FCIAC final rematch
TRUMBULL -- In a statement game against a fellow top-10 team, one of the loudest declarations was made by New Canaan's Alex LaPolice during the coin toss. In the simplest of ways, it caught Rams coach Lou Marinelli off guard.
The tendency, Marinelli later said, has been for the Rams to defer the opening kickoff. They did the opposite on Saturday.
"I looked at Alex and Alex said, `Oh yeah, we talked about it -- we're going to receive,' " Marinelli said.
New Canaan made its presence felt in a hurry, marching 76 yards in nine plays for a game-opening touchdown. The rhythmic drive was, more than anything, a preview of what was to come.
The Rams stormed out to a 28-point lead and crushed St. Joseph 41-14 on Saturday to stay undefeated.
"We were pushing them around up front and we were breaking tackles all day," said Frank Cognetta, who rushed for 201 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "The run game was really gelling, so we just kept hammering it."
The passing game made an impact, too. Mike Collins threw for 202 yards and two scores as the Rams outgained St. Joseph 423-83.
St. Joseph (6-2) trailed 28-0 at halftime, and it didn't get much better after that for the state's sixth-ranked team. Three quarterbacks combined to throw for a measly 10 yards on 12 attempts, while running back Mufasha Abdul Basir was held to a modest 59 yards rushing on 15 carries.
The Cadets had repeated miscues on snaps with starting center Jack Ganser out with a foot injury. More often than not, though, the Rams' size up front made a bigger difference.
"Good football by them, bad football by us. That's about it," St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. "We couldn't get a snap off. Any time we seemed to get anything going, we'd have a major bad play."
An 18-yard run by Wildcat quarterback Lars Pedersen brought St. Joseph within 28-14 with 1:59 left in the third. A missed 35-yard field goal by New Canaan's Peter Swindell just minutes later provided some hope, but St. Joseph's offense followed with a three-and-out.
Kyle Smith hauled in two touchdown passes, including a 46-yarder to put New Canaan up 34-14 with 8:03 left in the third.
"They're a great team, but we played football the way we know how to play football," Cognetta said. "When we're playing at our best, I don't think there's anyone who can stop us."
New Canaan, which is ranked behind only Southington and Darien in the state poll, moved to 7-0. The Rams made a rather loud -- and quick -- statement along the way, too.
"It was kind of like last year, when (former linebacker) Cole Harris decided to kick off, and we ended up kicking off twice to Daniel Hand in the first game," Marinelli said of the Rams taking the opening kick. "I think the kids wanted to make a statement."
The Rams remain one of the three remaining unbeatens in FCIAC play, joining rival Darien and upstart McMahon. The Cadets, barring a dramatic surprise, won't be returning to the FCIAC final this year.
The Cadets were outscored 21-0 in the second quarter after a LaPolice run and catches by Smith and Zach Allen for touchdowns.
"We were just a bad football team in the first half," Della Vecchia said.
NEW CANAAN 7 21 0 13 -- 41
ST. JOSEPH 0 0 14 0 -- 14
NC -- Frank Cognetta 11 run (Peter Swindell kick)
NC -- Alex LaPolice 1 run (Swindell kick)
NC -- Kyle Smith 34 pass Mike Collins (Swindell kick)
NC -- Zach Allen 8 pass LaPolice (Swindell kick)
SJ -- Pat Battista 15 pass Lars Pedersen (Seamus Keating pass Pedersen)
SJ -- Pedersen 18 run (run failed)
NC -- Smith 46 pass Collins (pass failed)
NC -- Cognetta 31 run (Swindell kick)
Records: New Canaan 7-0; St. Joseph 6-2.