‘It’s Something You’ve Dreamt About’: Rams Football Wins State Championship


The New Canaan Rams celebrate after state championship win vs. Darien on Dec. 9, 2023. Credit: Chris Harrison

On Saturday, December 9th, the New Canaan Rams defeated the Darien Blue Wave 28-21 to win their 2nd straight Class L Championship and 14th CIAC championship.

Quarterback Luke Robinson helps the Rams defeat Darien in the state championship. Credit: Chris Harrison

The win “shows how hard we worked throughout the year, and it is amazing to be able to see that work pay off,” according to junior quarterback Luke Robinson. 

“The seniors on the team and their leadership were a big reason why we were able to reach our goals, and I’m glad we were able to send them off the right way,” Robinson said.

The game was instantly historic, but to truly understand the story of the Rams’ remarkable season, we must return to their first game.

On September 8th, barely two weeks into the new school year, the reigning state-champion Rams traveled to face the Shelton Gaels. Expectations were high, with GameTimeCT ranking New Canaan as the preseason number-two team in the state. However, the Gaels sent a message on that opening night, defeating the Rams 26-23.

New Canaan lost to Shelton in its first game of the season. Credit: Chris Harrison

“Going into the game as defending champions, we thought we were going to walk through everyone,” junior receiver and quarterback Alex Russey said. “That loss was definitely a punch in the mouth, but maybe a necessary one. You could see the difference in practice the next week, as I think we all realized that winning another championship would not be easy.”

Things only got worse for New Canaan when their senior linebacker, Charlie O’Connor, broke his leg during the game and was declared out for the season. 

“It’s hard getting injured that early and knowing that you won’t be able to help the team succeed,” said senior captain Alex Benevento, who missed last year’s season due to an injury. “Throughout the year, we just tried to remind Charlie of how much we loved him and how we were by his side throughout his recovery.”

Alex Benevento intercepts the football to help the Rams defeat Darien in the Turkey Bowl, 2023. Credit: Chris Harrison

After the Shelton loss, New Canaan won their next eight games in a row. This included a 20-13 overtime victory against top-10 in the state Wilton, setting up for a pivotal Turkey Bowl game against Darien. The Rams went into the game with an 8-1 record compared to the Blue Wave’s 7-2, creating an intense atmosphere with major playoff implications. 

However, the classic rivalry game and Thanksgiving tradition was over in a matter of minutes. Benevento returned the opening kickoff 89 yards, and then Russey broke off an 82-yard run, setting the tone for a 31-17 New Canaan victory. 

“The game had been circled on our calendars all year,” senior linebacker Thomas Garcia said. “So to win that game in that fashion was definitely super exciting.”

After dismantling Killingly 49-14 in the first round of the state playoffs, the Rams snuck away with an 11-8 victory in the semifinals against last season’s runner-up, Maloney. The Rams won on the last play of the game via the leg of kicker Tucker Stevens. The Darien transfer’s kick sent his new team, New Canaan, to face his old team, Darien, in the state finals.

“I was still upset that I missed an earlier kick,” Stevens said, “but the moment was special because it meant we got to play in the state championship, and I would face off against some of my old friends on the biggest stage.”

The state championship and Turkey Bowl rematch saw no change to the adversity that the Rams had faced all year long. New Canaan trailed Darien 21-14 late in the fourth quarter until Robinson found senior Will Langford in the back of the endzone to tie the game with 5:03 to play. 

“It’s something you’ve dreamt about since you were a little kid,” Langford said of his game-tying catch. “But credit to Luke for throwing an unreal ball, and credit to the offensive line and the rest of the team for putting us in that position to tie the game.”

On the next possession, senior Ryan Barnard stripped Darien’s quarterback, giving the Rams the ball back at Darien’s 16-yard line. After four plays, Benevento walked into the end zone and gave the Rams a 28-21 lead and the state championship victory.

To one Rams player, the victory felt a little bit sweeter. On the last two plays of the game, Coach Lou Marinelli subbed in the injured O’Connor, who was able to take his last snaps for New Canaan in the state championship game. This act “meant the world” to Benevento and company as they could share the field with their teammate and friend one last time.

Fourteen state championships make this team great, but the teamwork and shared bond are what will make these Rams go down in the history books.

4 thoughts on “‘It’s Something You’ve Dreamt About’: Rams Football Wins State Championship

  1. Congrats to this wonderful coaching staff and team! The New Canaan Community is filled with a ton of joy for your efforts all year long! Congratulations, Rams!!

  2. I always like to read of the success of another New Canaan Ram football team. It’s been a number of years since I was invited up to the booth by the previous athletic director because he appreciated my knowledge of the players from being the EMT for New Canaan Pop Warner for ten years.

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