By Dave Ruden
NEW CANAAN — Lou Marinelli said his offensive line could have offered a little better protection, his defense could have wrapped up a few more tackles and his players could have kept their mouths quieter to cut down on the penalties.
In other words, the New Canaan High School football team could have played a better game against St. Joseph on Friday night.
This was 24 hours too late for a Halloween tale, but a scary thought nonetheless after the Rams turned the most hyped FCIAC regular season game of the year into just another obstacle to easily clear following an impressive 62-21 win.
In many respects this was New Canaan’s most complete effort of the season, given the quality of the opponent and the decisiveness of the outcome.
At 8-0, there are potentially seven more games to go for Marinelli to give a fully informed answer to a question he was asked as he walked off the field: is this the best team he has ever coached?
“We have to play this thing out,” Marinelli said. “For the first eight games, I’ve never been involved with something like this. It’s impressive. It’s a complete team.”
This was a night when the New Canaan offense wrested center stage back from the defense for a night, no easy task given that linebacker Cole Harris, who has been magnetized to the ball this year, forced a fumble that Connor Buck returned for a touchdown and recovered another one.
Quarterback Nick Cascione had arguably his best performance in two years, completing 20 of 26 passes for 379 yards and six touchdowns. He also ran for another score.
“We were just clicking like we always do,” Cascione said. “Just moving the ball. The defense gave us great field position as usual. It was business as usual tonight.”
Cascione was as nonchalant after the game as he was accurate with his throws during it. A week after Staples forced the Rams to go to the ground, Cascione completed passes to nine different receivers, and five different ones for touchdowns, including two to Alex LaPolice.
It was apparent early the Rams thought they would have success with long passes. Cascione completed five for over 30 yards, including one of 74 yards to Jack Gilio.
“He was really on,” Marinelli said. “He read coverages well and he was able to pick up the receivers. He works hard. He’s done a tremendous job so far. The receivers are not the biggest, but they’re quick and run good patterns.”
Cascione shared the starting job with Teddy Bossidy last season. This year the job has been his outright, a good thing because Bossidy has done an outstanding job in the secondary.
Cascione, as is customary, deflected any credit.
“The line gave me great time,” he said. Everyone gave a great collective effort. The receivers caught passes, the line blocked for me. They made it easy for me.”
New Canaan came in as the No. 2 team in the state, one spot ahead of the Cadets (7-1), who are still on the fast track to the state playoffs but might have lost the chance to play for their first league championship.
St. Joseph had some success on offense. Jordan Vazzano threw for 224 yards, and if not for a number of dropped passes that total would have been higher. Mufasa Abdul-Basir ran for 134 yards and averaged 5.4 a carry.
And if the Cadets could have been in a position to give Abdul-Basir more carries, the game might have been closer.
But “if” has been the key word used by the Rams’ opponents this season.
With the score 10-7, New Canaan scored three unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter to remove the suspense, and forced St. Joseph to try and score points in a hurry.
In was not a winning combination.
“We put the ball in a little more than we usually do,” Cascione said. “We aspire to get to 70. We looked at this as just another game, not 2 versus 3. It was just a different opponent. Just a different person on a different day.”
But the story stays the same.