When New Canaan lost to Darien in the Turkey Bowl, it changed the collective mindset of the Rams, as well as their opponents in the state playoffs. Most felt that New Canaan was the top team in all of Connecticut regardless of class, but the loss to the Blue Wave knocked the Rams down a peg and gave Class L teams around the state, including Darien, hope that they could once again be beat.
“We’ve been working hard all year and after that loss, we’ve really focused and worked hard through the rest of the playoff run,” said New Canaan quarterback Nick Cascione. “We were too high on ourselves. We were humbled after that loss and we started working hard and from the ground up. That’s all we did. We came together as a brotherhood and, ultimately, we started from scratch.”
As the old saying goes, revenge is a dish best served cold. And it’s even sweeter with a little snow, too.
New Canaan took home its first state championship since 2009 on Saturday, defeating Darien, 44-12, in a snowy game at Boyle Stadium in Stamford. The Rams led 17-0 at halftime and were never really threatened.
“This environment was unreal,” said Cascione, who ran for 96 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and threw for 210 yards and two touchdowns on 14-of-23 passing. “I’m from Florida, I’ve never dealt with this kind of stuff. It feels great to pull it out in the snow like this. I can’t say much, I’m just happy.”
Alex LaPolice (four catches, 85 yards and a touchdown; 42-yard punt return for a touchdown) got New Canaan off and running, returning the opening kick 75 yards to the Darien 15, which was then brought back to the 30 on a hold at the end of the play. Frank Cognetta (14 carries, 58 yards) punched in a 1-yard touchdown minutes later to give the Rams an early lead.
The return was sparked by senior captain Cole Harris, who executed a big block to lead the way.
“That was the first time they really let me go on kick return," said Harris, who added two sacks and a forced fumble. "Mike Root and I made a nice little lane and it was gone from there. This is amazing; it’s quite a turnaround from last year. To lose a state semifinal like that heartbreaker and come back and be state champions and go 14-1 is great.”
Cole Turpin added four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown in the victory while Root had an interception and two sacks. Zach Allen had a 47-yard interception return for a touchdown and Cass Knox, Beau Santero and Connor Buck each had sacks.
Darien (12-2) never really recovered after giving up the early return and didn't score till the third quarter. Silas Wyper ran for 46 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries and was 10-for-34 passing for 108 yards. Myles Ridder ran for 12 carries on 44 yards while Hudson Hamill and Will Hamernick each had interceptions. Mark Evanchick added a sack.
“Let me set this straight: (New Canaan) is the number one team in the state,” said Darien coach Rob Trifone. “I know the people up in the valley don’t want to hear that. Unfortunately because we beat them, they’re not going to get the number one nod. Let’s have Ansonia come down and play that team and let’s see how they do.
“Most teams in the state of Connecticut cannot beat that team once; you’re asking us to beat them twice,” Trifone continued. “It’s one of the best New Canaan teams I’ve ever seen. They were by far the better team today.”