New Canaan routs Trinity, clinches spot in FCIAC title game
STAMFORD -- It was the best way to start a game. It was the worst way to start a game. Trinity Catholic high football coach Donny Panapada still isn't sure.
On the fourth play of Saturday's game against undefeated New Canaan, Trinity quarterback Anthony Lombardi and receiver Randy Polonia hooked up for a 54-yard touchdown. Just 1:49 into the contest, the underdog Crusaders were seven points up on the state's No. 1 team.
"That was great ... but ..." Panapada said, "it may have helped them. I had hoped they'd come out flat and not wake up until the middle of the second quarter. That woke them up."
New Canaan quickly tied it before rolling to a 47-16 victory to earn a berth in the FCIAC game. The defending champion Rams (9-0, 8-0 FCIAC) will face arch-rival and fellow unbeaten Darien at Boyle Stadium at 10:30 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
"I don't know if we took them lightly at first; they were a 6-3 team," New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. "But that first score might have been good for us. Maybe we were looking ahead a little but we came right back after that."
New Canaan quarterback Michael Collins, who threw for 349 yards and three touchdowns, led the Rams on a 62-yard, 10-play drive that ended on the first of Alex LaPolice's three touchdowns. A 26-yard LaPolice run, an 86-yard kickoff return by Michael Kraus and a safety gave New Canaan a 23-10 halftime lead.
By the time Collins had tossed his third TD pass of the second half, the Rams could start thinking about Darien.
"We're happy to be there," LaPolice said of the upcoming showdown. The NC senior had three touchdowns on just six touches (four carries for 37 yards; two receptions for 107). "But I don't think we were looking ahead."
LaPolice capped his fine day by hauling in a 91-yard bomb from Collins, who also connected with Kraus and Kyle Smith for scores. But LaPolice dominated on defense as well, holding talented Trinity receiver Randy Polonia in check after the initial score.
"Covering Polonia is not easy," LaPolice said.
LaPolice and Zach Allen led the Rams defense, holding TCHS workhorse back Courtlyn Victrum to 11 yards on 16 carries.
"LaPolice and Allen are two of the best players in the state," said TC's Lombardi, who threw for 204 yards and two touchdowns (also a three-yarder to Tom Costigan) while rushing for 69 yards. "It could've been closer, like 14-10 at halftime. We wanted to score quickly and did but it might have helped them."
The game might have been the final one played at Alumni Field. Plans have not yet been finalized for a new stadium that would open next fall.
"There is still some uncertainty so we didn't play that up," Panapada said. "If it was the last game it would've been nice to win, but we knew beating New Canaan would be a tall task."
New Canaan 47, Trinity 16
NEW CANAAN 14 9 10 14--47
TRINITY CATHOLIC 7 3 6 0--16
TC--Randy Polonia, 54 pass from Anthony Lombardi (Sam Ruzzi kick)
NC--Alex LaPolice, 4 run (Peter Swindell kick)
NC--LaPolice, 26 run (Swindell kick)
TC--Ruzzi, 31 field goal
NC--Michael Kraus, 86 kickoff return (Swindell kick)
NC--Safety, Trinity's Courtlyn Victrum tackled in end zone
NC--Kraus, 22 pass from Michael Collins (Swindell kick)
NC--Swindell, 31 field goal
TC--Tom Costigan, 3 pass from Lombardi (pass failed)
NC--LaPolice, 91 pass from Collins (Swindell kick)
NC--Kyle Smith, 34 pass from Collins (Swindell kick)
Records: New Canaan 9-0, 8-0 FCIAC, Trinity 6-4, 4-4