STAMFORD — Ever since an opening loss to St. Joseph, the last three weeks have been the New Canaan football team’s version of Groundhog Day.
Start slow. Quickly gain momentum. Win big. Coach Lou Marinelli talks about how the Rams are still a work in progress.
New Canaan stuck to the script tonight. There was a turnover on its first offensive play, then touchdowns on the next three possessions, including a pair 21 seconds apart in the second quarter.
The end result was a 49-7 win over Westhill at Boyle Stadium that improved the Rams to 3-1 heading into a bye week.
“We probably should have had another score early in the game and let it get away, but then we came back,” Marinelli said. “I think we’re getting better, but we are not where we want to be by any means yet.”
The Rams relied on the big play on offense and again dominated defensively. They held the Vikings, who came into the game 3-0, to 179 yards, an average of just 3.2 a play, and had a number of sacks and four interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns by Charlie Hane and Zach Miller to account for the final points.
“Westhill is really fast and we had to make sure we stayed behind them, make sure no one got by us and once the ball was in the air break on the ball,” Miller said of the play by the Rams’ secondary. “Other than that it’s just pursuit.”
Marinelli even had some motivation to ensure that the Rams came out strong to start the second half. The Vikings, trailing, 28-0, were stopped at the New Canaan 1-yard line on what appeared to be the final play of the first half. With no timeouts, the clock ran out as the officials tried to set the ball and the Westhill players rushed to the line.
With part of the New Canaan team already in the locker room, the officials huddled and put two seconds back on the clock. Westhill quarterback AJ Laconna hit Nicholas Nunes for a score.
“We certainly did mention it,” Marinelli said with a smile about his halftime speech.
JR Moore started the third quarter with his second touchdown run for the Rams, from 14 yards. The defense was unyielding the rest of the way.
“That’s one of the fastest teams in the league,” Miller said. “Our pass rush was really good. This is really an important game. Westhill was undefeated and we had to stop them in their tracks.”
New Canaan quarterback Drew Pyne attempted just 14 passes and completed eight, but they amounted to 232 yards and a pair of long touchdowns. He hooked up with Quintin O’Connell from 85 yards and, after a Sean Knight interception on the ensuing play, found Justin Greco on a 49-yard play.
This is one of the Vikings’ most skilled and athletic teams, and despite problems with turnovers, they were able to overcome them in their prior games. That was not the case against New Canaan. They were able to hit a few big plays, but Laconna was under constant pressure.
“We got the test but we have to pass it,” Westhill coach Frank Marcucio said. “I told the kids before the game they had to play a perfect game. Learn from it, turn the page and play next week.”
Asked what his team needed to do to play at the level of consistency he expects, Marinelli said, “Running the ball, I think we can do a better job. I think our pass protection can certainly be improved. We’re not there yet. It’s a process. We’re better than we were and I was proud of the way we came out and took care of business, but I think we can do things better.”
The Rams have some time off to prepare for one of their biggest games of the season, against Greenwich in what has become known as The Marinelli Bowl. The Cardinals are coached by Marinelli’s son, John.
“We’ve got the bye week to try to get healthy and work on some of the things we still are lacking in,” Marinelli said.