New Canaan football hosts Greenwich Saturday
Saturday's FCIAC football showdown between New Canaan and Greenwich features a Rams team coming off two impressive wins to start the season and a Cardinals squad that experienced a pair of frustrating losses. Yet Rams longtime coach Lou Marinelli, who is on the cusp of achieving a milestone, knows records won't mean much when the teams meet at Dunning Stadium.
"For us, it's the worst possible scenario," said Marinelli, whose team celebrates its homecoming Saturday. "Greenwich is 0-2 and they are never 0-2, so they are going to come into the game with renewed vigor to try to turn this thing around. I was hoping they would win one of their first two games, because at 0-2, they are really going to be fired up. We are a relatively young team, so we have to see how our players react to their intensity."
A victory against Greenwich would give Marinelli the 300th win of his career -- a tenure that's lasted 34 seasons and has seen the Rams win five FCIAC titles and nine state championships.
"Being close to No. 300 means I've been in this place a long time," said Marinelli, whose Rams won the CIAC Class L title in 2013. "It certainly has more to do with the kids and the town. I've been fortunate to work in a town where football is important and I've had the pleasure of coaching some of the greatest kids in the world. They have dragged me toward this milestone and whenever it happens, I'll be glad it's over with."
More InformationGreenwich (0-2) at New Canaan (2-0)
WHEN: Saturday, 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Dunning Field, New Canaan
LAST SEASON: Scoring 28 second-quarter points, New Canaan seized a 38-6 halftime lead and cruised to a 66-20 victory over the Cardinals. Cass Knox keyed the Rams' second-quarter surge, returning a blocked punt for a touchdown. Alex LaPolice had a 29-yard touchdown reception in the win.
SEASON RECAP: New Canaan -- A strong defensive effort led New Canaan to a 21-14 win over Daniel Hand in its season-opener. The Rams upended Bassick on the road in Week 2, 43-6.
Greenwich -- The Cardinals lost a road game to West Haven in Week 1, 35-22, and was edged by Darien at home a week ago, 33-26.
-- DAVID FIERRO
The Cardinals, of course, hope Marinelli gets his 300th victory at a later date. Off to an 0-2 start for the first time since 1992, Greenwich can ill afford another setback.
"We need a win," said GHS coach Rich Albonizio, whose Cards suffered a 66-20 defeat to the Rams last fall. "A win gets us back in the hunt, while a loss would put us behind the 8-ball."
After playing formidable West Haven and Darien, Greenwich, which hasn't lost three consecutive games since 2010, faces another foe with a potent offense. Despite graduating a wealth of talent from last season's championship squad, the Rams have been sharp on both sides of the ball.
Junior quarterback Mike Collins has thrown for 383 yards with six touchdowns and just one interception through two games.
"They throw the ball really well, so they get you playing the pass so much that it's hard to also cover the run," Albonizio said. "Their offense includes a lot of play action. Their quarterback, who looks very good, reads the linebackers and has the option of calling a run or pass."
Marinelli is pleased with Collins' development.
"He worked very hard in the offseason," Marinelli said. "He's been in the system for a few years now, so he's pretty familiar with the offense, and he has a pretty strong arm."
Led by junior defensive end Scooter Harrington, senior linebacker Jack Weigold and senior strong safety Griffin Tiedy, Greenwich's defense played well for stretches against West Haven and Darien. But the Cards were done in by big plays in key moments.
"Our first two games were winnable games," Albonizio said. "Up front, our defensive tackles and ends were pretty strong as well as our linebackers. Coverage have been our nemesis though. We've shown a lack of discipline in certain situations. I thought our kids played very hard the first two games, but we self destructed with mental mistakes and penalties.
Senior Frank Cognetta, who was slated as the Rams' top running back, broke his foot during 7-on-7 camp this summer and has been sidelined. Marinelli said there's a chance Cognetta may return to action Saturday, but his younger brother Matt (21 carries, 109 yards through two games) has filled in admirably. Senior Alex LaPolice, who will play at Harvard next fall (11 rushes, 61 yards), has also helped get the Rams' running game going.
"They can certainly run the ball," Albonizio said. "They have a big, physical offensive line that's well coached and they're a really solid group."
LaPolice, senior Michael Kraus, junior Kyle Smith and senior Northwestern University-bound Zach Allen have been Collins' favorite targets. The Cardinals counter with a versatile offense as well with senior slot receiver/running back Austin Longi, senior running back Ryan Pasquali and senior quarterback Matt Marzulla leading the way.
The Fordham University-bound Longi scored on spectacular touchdown receptions of 57 and 37 yards against Darien, while Pasquali churned out tough yards between the tackles. Marzulla threw for 259 yards in the loss against the Blue Wave with three touchdowns, including an 80-yard scoring strike to sophomore wideout Anthony Ferraro.
"Greenwich offensively has Mr. Outside in Longi, who can break a big run anytime he touches the ball, and Mr. Inside with No. 11 (Pasquali) who can pound the ball with his tough running style," said Marinelli, whose defensive leaders the first two games have been linebackers Teddy Dumbauld (15 tackles), Cass Knox (18 tackles), David Strupp (16 tackles) and Allen (12 tackles).
"Their offensive line comes off the ball well, so up front we have to match what they're doing," Marinelli said. Their quarterback and tight end are also very good. They have a lot of talent, it just hasn't clicked for them yet. Hopefully for us, they'll click next week, not this week."