Youth sports in New Canaan include—and go far beyond—the thrilling championship games for our celebrated varsity sports teams out of New Canaan High School. Youth sports and the local businesses and residents behind them, private programs, recreational programs and New Canaan’s rich history with standout athletes are the foundations of sports in our town, so they form the foundations of our coverage.
It’s March—and that ushers in a very special time of year for basketball fans. Long ago someone aptly called it “March Madness,” and for the parents and players of the New Canaan Chargers this Fairfield County Basketball League Tournament was most definitely madness, New Canaan style. Having never played together as a team and under the guidance of a new coaching staff, the Chargers surprisingly got off to a quick start with three wins and one loss as they kicked off the 2018-2019 campaign.
But the back end of season was not pretty, as the boys finished the regular season with five losses over the last six games by an average margin of 14 points. Opposing coaches realized that the Chargers could not handle full-court pressure. No lead that the boys built in any game was safe and the team’s winning ways seemed a distant memory.
Three senior captains of the New Canaan High School football team on Wednesday signed letters of intent to play football in college.
Garrett Braden (Rice University), Jack Conley (Boston College) and Jack Stewart (University of Michigan) participated in a National Letter of Intent signing ceremony in the Wagner Room at NCHS.
Along with senior co-captain Quintin O’Connell, who last month signed his own letter of intent to play lacrosse at North Carolina, the trio led a tenacious Rams team to a Turkey Bowl win against Darien and all the way to the state Class LL championship game.
After a 3-2 start that saw many write off the Rams as overrated, the team went on a winning streak and, in New Canaan’s first-ever season in the larger Class LL, lost only in the title game to a powerful Greenwich High School squad. Braden, a linebacker and edge rusher with a nose for the football who led the team in sacks, was named to the Class LL All-State defensive team. Conley, who like Stewart played on the line on both sides of the football, was one of the biggest and best linemen in the state, and was named as an All-State Class LL offensive lineman. Stewart, a ferocious player with a knack for the big play who played a tough and physical game that often saw his uniform bloodied, was names to the CHSCA All-State first team. We asked each of them about how they chose their respective colleges.
Saying “heavy online ticket sales” led to concerns about a single venue accommodating two high-attendance games, the organization that oversees high school sports in Connecticut announced Wednesday that the widely anticipated New Canaan-Greenwich state football championship will be played in Stamford.
The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference Class LL final will be played at 10 a.m. at Boyle Stadium.
CIAC Executive Director Glenn Lungarini said in a statement that the organization’s policy “remains to not alter championship predetermined venues or schedules based on the geography or requests of the participants, but in this instance the circumstances of having a predetermined site change late in the process and another venue becoming available led to the decision to make this change.”
“As always, the focus is on providing the best and most appropriate championship experience possible for the qualifying teams, and we believe this decision provides that opportunity and we are grateful for those facilities that have offered their sites for our championship contests.”
Originally, the game was to be played at Shelton High School. Officials from both New Canaan High School and Greenwich High School had requested the change of venue, noting that Boyle was available and saying it would better serve local students and their families, as well as each team’s legions of fans. This year’s final is unusual in that it pits New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli’s Rams against his son John’s Cardinals for the first time in the postseason. John Marinelli, a NCHS graduate and varsity football team alumnus who later worked as its offensive coordinator under his father, was named head coach of Greenwich in 2015. Each team has won two games in four regular-season contests.
Saying it’s the best thing for local students and their families, officials from New Canaan and Greenwich are asking the organization that oversees high school sports in Connecticut to consider moving a state championship football game this weekend closer to home. The Rams and Cardinals will square off Saturday for a widely anticipated Class LL championship after advancing in the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference tournament.
As it stands, the game is likely to be played at Shelton High School, though NCHS Athletic Director Jay Egan said officials from both lower Fairfield County high schools are asking whether it could be moved to Stamford’s Boyle Stadium, which is available. “Greenwich and New Canaan are advocating for a venue that would be most advantageous for our students and our fans to see the game, so they will not have to travel so far and all the reasons that make sense,” Egan told NewCanaanite.com. “Both schools are interested in what is best for the school and communities.”
Referring to the high schools’ advocating for a nearby venue, he added, “We would be remiss if we did not do that.”
CIAC officials could not be reached for comment. Asked what reasons CIAC officials have for not playing a New Canaan-Greenwich football game at a venue that’s halfway between them, Egan told NewCanaanite.com that the organization has said championship game sites are set before the season, that they’re chosen carefully with all potential teams in mind and that making a last-minute change could set a bad precedent.
NCHS head coach Lou Marinelli’s Rams have played against a Cardinals team coached by his son, John, four times since the latter took the helm at Greenwich High School in 2015.
Rather than failing to plan for New Canaan’s athletic facilities or leaving the big job of fundraising to one-off volunteer groups, the town should partner with a single, existing nonprofit organization ready to map out a long-term strategy, collect private dollars and ensure that fields and facilities are playable, officials said last week. The New Canaan Athletic Foundation would establish a much-needed endowment for future turf replacement at Dunning Field, under a new agreement with the town, as well as hold additional accounts for operating expenses and, separately, for fundraising in support of new athletic complex-related capital improvements, according to Leo Karl III, who had been tasked to study town fields by the first selectman. “This is our chance as a town to build an endowment that is lasting and that does what it should,” Karl told members of the Town Council at their regular meeting. “There are a lot of reasons this makes a lot of sense,” Karl said at the meeting, held Nov. 14 at Town Hall.