NEW CANAAN — With an average victory margin of over 35 points per game, the New Canaan football team has been devoid of any pressure moments this fall.
That likely could change on Thursday morning, when the Rams face Darien in the annual Turkey Bowl, with the FCIAC championship at stake. And if the game were to come down to a last-second field goal attempt, well, that would be just fine with Peter Swindell, the Rams’ kicker.
“When I get the chance to kick I take full advantage of it,” Swindell said during a recent practice.
Swindell’s time has been otherwise occupied this fall: he is part of a stable of four receivers who have caught between 21 and 23 passes for New Canaan, which is 8-0 heading into what could be the conference’s final title game. With 10 of his 21 receptions going for touchdowns, Swindell has made a big impact on the Rams’ success in ways he has not in the past.
“He’s the type of kid, whether it’s lacrosse or football, he wants to be involved,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “He doesn’t want to be just a kicker.”
Still, it is Swindell’s foot that could prove an intangible factor for New Canaan, which has lost the last three Thanksgiving games to its biggest rival. Though he has attempted — and made — just four field goals this year, Swindell broke the state mark for a career and now has 19. Even more underrated is his work as a punter. Many credit his special teams play, giving New Canaan good field position on a windy day, with helping it win the state championship rematch with Darien last year.
“Every kick I do this year, whether an extra point in a blowout game or a field goal, or if it is a long one that could tie a game, I have to have the same mindset and not overthink it or I will make a silly mistake,” Swindell said.
Swindell was supposed to play the same split role a year ago, but suffered a high ankle sprain in the preseason and focused on his kicking solely when he returned. This season, Swindell said, practices have been much different.
“I’m not going to say it has been more difficult to kick during practice, but having the receiving aspect of it I do more of that because it is what I do more of during the majority of the game,” Swindell said.
Swindell estimated that he works on his kicking just 40 percent of the time now, but that his accuracy and distance have not suffered.
He said he feels as assured of how he would handle a possible game-deciding kick as he ever has.
“With all the practice I have had this year it makes me more confident to make a kick like that, and if it does come down to a field goal I can trust all the practice I have been through and make sure all the techniques I use are perfect,” Swindell said.
With most of last year’s receivers graduated, Marinelli said the versatility of Swindell’s contributions have been critical to what New Canaan has thus far accomplished, and that he could play an even more integral part going forward.
“You look at this year and what he’s done and he’s gone above and beyond what we expected,” Marinelli said. “He’s been one of the best receivers we’ve had.”
Swindell will get a test against a veteran Darien secondary that has not allowed a scoring pass this year. But if it turns out the outcome of the biggest game of the year comes down to his foot rather than arms, he said he will welcome the opportunity.
“Of course you hope that we never have to get down to a game of that type,” Swindell said. “We’d like to win easily. But if it does happen, which it could in this game, I’ll be ready.”