If there were odds set at the beginning of the season which Marinelli would be coaching Saturday in a state championship game, father Lou and New Canaan would have been a prohibitive favorite over son John and Greenwich.
Of course that is not the way it has played out. The Rams had their run of four straight titles ended last week in the semifinals against Masuk. And Lou Marinelli said it has been an unusual week.
“Yes it is weird,” he said. “We got flat-out beat against Masuk so I am not making any excuses about that. But it is weird. I didn’t really see that coming. I thought we had things ready and we were prepared to continue. When we got beat it was unsettling to say the least. We had to postpone some of the end of the season things we do like the burning of the shoe because we expected to do that Friday night. We’re 9-3 and we accomplished a lot of things but we came up short in the end. I feel like a fish out of water this week.”
The blow has been been softened somewhat by Marinelli adopting the role of a proud parent as John, also his former offensive coordinator, gets ready to lead the Cardinals in their first championship appearance in a decade, Saturday’s Class LL final against Darien.
“I’m excited for him and I know he’s working hard,” Marinelli said. “I’ve talked to him a couple times but I know how hard we works and how important this is to him. I’m the father, and how many times you’ve watched your kids in big moments and it’s killing you inside because you want to be able to help. I know he is going to have his kids ready and it is going to be a great game, and it’s a foe that he knows. I’m nervous inside.”
Marinelli plays Darien every season in the Turkey Bowl. The Rams won this year, 27-0. Earlier in the season, son got the better of father for the first time as the Cardinals defeated New Canaan, 36-21.
Marinelli agreed to break down Saturday’s game for The Ruden Report.
Greenwich Offense vs. Darien Defense. That’s one of the best defenses in the state. Those guys are well drilled. (Defensive coordinator) Mike Forget has done a really good job of having those kids read their keys. One of the reasons we were able to do it was we had two pick-sixes against them. It wasn’t that we ran all over them. Even with a limited crew they had us pretty well contained.
Johnny’s offense is a little bit more wide open than ours was. I think he’ll come up with some things that will help Greenwich control the ball. It is always a matter of the turnovers. Ultimately every football game, no matter who’s playing, it’s all about securing the ball. If you don’t turn it over you have a really good chance to win.
Darien has to try to get them off track. It’s not quite as hard for Darien. Their offense stays on track. It is more methodical. Johnny it is not quite a disaster if it is third and eight or third and 12 because there’s a lot of ways they have to make that, but they have to convert. As it goes back and forth, the longer you have it the more chances of scoring you have obviously.
Darien Offense vs. Greenwich Defense. They rely a lot on timing patterns, they are built to be on schedule and they have a number of things they go to in a number of situations to control the ball. They’re happy picking up four yards, five yards, six yards and controlling the ball. And I think (Darien coach Rob Trifone) plays a field position game where he tries to move the ball down as far as he can, try to get it up to the 50 and if you don’t convert punt it down and now you try to go the long way.
When you’re on the other side of that you need to have ways to get on schedule, which (Marinelli) has shown in the past that he’s able to do.
The Greenwich defense has been the surprise of the year. I think (defensive coordinator) Bryan Hocter has done a really good job with the kids this year and he has some kids you can tell they love playing there. They have motors and they run around and they don’t slow down. They’re going to have to make sure that they are disciplined, read their keys and not try to do too much. Play fundamental football. They are going to try and stretch the secondary for sure.
Special Teams. Generally in big games like this it comes down to special teams. I think Johnny’s kicker is pretty good and (Darien’s) kicker is good as well. It should match up to be a great high school game as long as the snaps are there and you don’t block punts or things that will change the game.
I’m sure when it is said and done it will be because of something that happens. Either a kid fumbles or a punt gets blocked or a field goal gets blocked or a kid will kick a 30-something yard field goal.