By Dave Ruden
NEW CANAAN — Lou Marinelli gathered the members of the New Canaan football team for their pregame speech prior to Tuesday night’s final home game of the year.
The theme was bouncing back from adversity.
In a sense, their coach’s words were superfluous: the Rams have been waiting to rebound for five days, ever since the final whistle sounded following their holiday- and perfect-season ruining 28-24 loss to Darien.
“It was pretty antsy,” said New Canaan linebacker Cole Harris. “We just wanted to go out and put that game officially behind us.”
The third-seeded Rams did just that, to the tune of a dominating 46-0 win over Farmington in the Class L quarterfinals. It was a reprisal of the first 10 games in a season-opening 11-game winning streak before Thursday’s loss.
“We can finally put that to bed,” Harris said. “It is really good for us to turn the page.”
While Marinelli had no doubt about his players’ motivation, though a prohibitive favorite, he said he entered Tuesday’s game with some trepidation.
“I didn’t know how we’d react,” Marinelli said. “The practices haven’t been that focused. Especially since Thanksgiving. We were very concerned.”
Concern quickly turned to relief, which morphed into confidence. Or, as defensive lineman Connor Buck aptly put it, “We executed our assignments well. We did everything we are coached to do and got a little bit of our swagger back today.”
New Canaan scored on its first possession, had a 12-0 lead after the first quarter, 19-0 at halftime, and then picked up speed, with four third-quarter touchdowns.
The Rams amassed 583 yards and allowed just 115 in pitching a shutout. Their biggest concern came in the final period, with everyone’s least favorite words: score management.
“We bounced back,” Buck said. “After a game like (Darien), you just want to get another win. Plain and simple, they played their best game and we played our worst. We just didn’t show up. We hope to see them again in the finals.”
Each team is one win away from making that happen. The top-seeded Blue Wave advanced with a win over Daniel Hand — a team New Canaan defeated to open the season.
To reach the state finals for the seventh time in the last eight years, the Rams will next have to defeat a team that Darien has already defeated, No. 7-seeded North Haven.
The next four days will be a lot smoother for the Rams than the interim before Tuesday night’s game. Maybe at least something good comes out of losing a perfect season. If they run the table and add a state title to their league championship, the chance to refocus comes at a relatively inexpensive price.
“It would have been good to have an undefeated season, but onto the next one,” Buck said. “We still have something to play for. We got punched in the face. We are going to be a lot more ready now.”
The New Canaan defense was again swarming to the ball, while the offense had good balance, accumulating 352 yards in the air and 231 on the ground.
Nick Cascione was sharp, completing 21 of 32 passes for 326 yards and a couple of scores. Nine different players caught passes, including Michael DiCosmo and Teddy Bossidy, better known for their work on the other end of the ball. Even Michael Root and Cole Harris got touches.
It was a night both for stabilization and setting the foundation for what is now — the Rams hope — a two-game season.
“I definitely would have liked to be 15-0,” Harris said. “That would have been nice. Now I just want to get to the state championship game.”