By Dave Ruden
STAMFORD — He is a member of what he calls one of the best receiving corps in school history, a group that takes turns sharing the spotlight.
On Saturday, in New Canaan’s 44-12 win over Darien for the Class L championship, it was Alex LaPolice’s chance. The junior set the tone by returning the opening kickoff 80 yards. Though a penalty moved the ball back to the Blue Wave 30, the Rams scored seven plays later to take a lead they would not relinquish.
That was just the appetizer. His 33-yard reception set up Peter Swindell’s 30-yard field goal that made the score 17-0 at halftime.
LaPolice reached the end zone twice in the second half, first on a 49-yard pass in which he came back to the ball and then made a great run after the catch. That was followed by an electric 43-yard punt return that made the score 31-6 and effectively secured the outcome.
“It seems I like the biggest games the most,” said LaPolice, who finished with 4 catches for 86 yards. “I like to play on the big stage. When you play with guys like this, it makes your job a lot easier. We have unbelievable receivers.”
LaPolice gave a foreshadowing of his skills on opening night, when he scored the Rams’ first two touchdowns of the season in a 50-21 win over Daniel Hand.
On Saturday, in the snow at Boyle Stadium, he added a football state championship medal to the one he won with New Canaan’s baseball team last spring.
“It’s the state final, it’s snowing and it’s Darien,” LaPolice said. “There’s no better equation for a football game. It’s unbelievable.”
It all started on the opening kickoff.
“It was incredible,” LaPolice said. “We practiced it all week. Michael Root had a huge block for me. It was pretty easy to run through the huge seam the guys made and I just took it from there.”
The punt return initially gave New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli angst. The kick was short, and on the risk-reward scale the safe play would have been to let the ball go.
“I almost killed him,” Marinelli said. “I was standing right there and he gets the punt and I’m going no, no, no, no, go, go, go, go. The next thing you know, he’s in the end zone. He makes things happen like that.”
LaPolice said he heard special teams coach Dante Correnty on the sideline instructing him to make a play.
“I probably shouldn’t have picked it up,” LaPolice said. “Dante said go for it. I went for it and Alex Dobbin and Seth Neeleman made huge blocks that sprung me for 6.”
Of his touchdown catch — tying Cole Turpin for a team-leading 10th of the year — LaPolice said, “Nick found me on a huge ball down the sideline and I was able to score. Nick threw the ball great today.”
LaPolice finished the season third on the team in receptions (35) and second in receiving yards (619) on a unit with Turpin, Jack Gilio and Kyle Smith.
“Alex LaPolice is one of those kids who wants the ball,” Marinelli said. “He’s not afraid of anything. He wants to step right up and show what he can do. He’s so good.”
LaPolice will be one of the leaders next year of a team that will both be hit by heavy graduation losses but still has a lot of talent coming back.
“This was all about the seniors, because it is their last game,” LaPolice said. “But this is something I will never forget.”