On picture perfect day in front of a packed Homecoming crowd, the New Canaan Rams not only bested rival Greenwich on the gridiron—head coach Lou Marinelli also notched a milestone win in one of the most illustrious careers in New Canaan sports history.
Kyle Smith caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown and also had an interception that set up New Canaan’s first score, as the Rams defeated Greenwich 35-20 Saturday afternoon at Dunning Field. The win was the 300th career victory for Marinelli, who saw his team improve to 3-0 on the season.
“I’ve been looking forward to playing for coach since third grade,” Smith told NewCanaanite.com. “It’s all I wanted to do. I came to every game—home games, away games. To be part of something like this and do it against Greenwich … it’s awesome.”
Marinelli said of his milestone win: “It means I’m getting old. I do what I love every day, and when you do that you just keep coming to work and all of a sudden someone says, ‘Oh by the way, it’s your 300th.’ The whole thing was accomplished by a group of great coaches … Joe Ditolla, Bo Hickey, Billy Kurtz for the years he was here, my son Johnny, Chris Silvestri who played for me and is now defensive coodinator…all of those guys really dragged me through this whole thing.”
Greenwich–playing without star running back Austin Longi who was sidelined with a shoulder injury–dropped to 0-3 on the season.
The Rams got on the board first as Smith’s pick of Greenwich quarterback Matt Marzulla was returned to the Cardinals 19-yard line. Two plays later New Canaan quarterback Mike Collins hit Smith across the middle for a 29-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead with 7:54 left in the first quarter.
Greenwich would answer back after a fumbled New Canaan punt return set them up at the New Canaan 28. Seven plays later Greenwich running back Luke Bienstock powered his way in for a 9-yard touchdown, tying the game at 7 with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
The game remained a stalemate until New Canaan took advantage of a poorly timed Greenwich penalty on what appeared to be a Peter Swindell field goal. New Canaan accepted the holding call, and Collins promptly found Michael Kraus for an 11-yard touchdown pass and a 14-7 lead with 5:03 left in the half.
On the ensuing Greenwich drive, Zach Allen intercepted Marzulla at the Cardinals 13-yard line and ran it in for a touchdown, giving New Canaan a 21-7 lead that they took to halftime.
The Cardinals would score touchdowns on their first two possessions of the second half to cut the score to 21-20, but a missed extra point preserved the New Canaan lead with 9:33 to go in the game.
New Canaan took over and moved the ball 55 yards in four plays, highlighted by a spectacular 36-yard reception by Kyle Smith. On the next play Collins found Matt Cognetta for a 14-yard touchdown and a 28-13 Rams lead with 8:22 left.
Greenwich would move the ball to the New Canaan 38 on the next offensive series, but an intentional grounding call on fourth-and-8 would give New Canaan possession with 4:40 left in the game.
Matt Cognetta then ran a jet sweep around the left end and raced untouched down the sideline for a game-clinching 58
-yard touchdown, giving New Canaan a 35-13 lead that held as the final score.
“The Greenwich kids deserve a lot of credit,” Marinelli said. “They have Longi out, they have two other captains out, and they came and could have won the game.”
But in the end, the win belonged to New Canaan and to Mr. 300 – Lou Marinelli.
“I love our town,” Marinelli said. “I think our town thinks football is important. Not just football, but the whole athletic department. I’ve been blessed to be in a great place that allows me to work.”
*NC—Mike Collins to Kyle Smith, 29-yard TD pass (7:54, 1st Qtr)
*G—Luke Bienstock 9-yard TD run (3:02, 1st Qtr)
*NC—Collins to Michael Kraus, 11-yard TD pass (5:03, 2nd Qtr)
*NC—Zach Allen intercepts Matthew Marzulla, runs back for TD (4:13, 2nd Qtr)
*G—Bienstock 5-yard TD run (5:30, 2nd Qtr)
*G—Marzulla, 1-yard TD run (9:33, 4th Qtr)
*NC—Collins to Matt Cognetta, 14-yard TD pass (8:22, 4th Qtr)
*NC—Matt Cognetta, 58-yard TD run (4:27, 4th Qtr)
Key NC stats:
*Mike Collins: 15-30, 260 yard, 3 TDs
*Matt Cognetta (rushing only): 6 carries, 65 yards, 1 TD
*Kyle Smith: 5 receptions, 122 yards, 1 TD
*Zach Allen: 10 tackles, 2 blocked passes. Allen's pick-six was the third defensive TD of his career.