STRATFORD, Conn. — For the past three seasons, the New Canaan Rams have been a model of football success in the state of Connecticut. Now, the 2009 team has put its mark on the still-growing dynasty.
Quarterback Turner Baty threw for four touchdown passes, three to senior co-captain Cody Newton, and the defense was impenetrable as the Rams shut down East Lyme, 28-0, to win their fourth consecutive State Class MM championship in the rain and snow at Bunnell High in Stratford on Saturday afternoon.
This year’s group had a lot to live up to after the 2008 squad went a perfect 13-0 and finished as the top-ranked team in the state. In the eyes of head coach Lou Marinelli, who claimed his eighth state title, this group came up big when it mattered most.
"The great thing for me was seeing this group of kids win a game like that," Marinelli said. "They’re like the little brother, trying to live up to the big brothers who went before them. They’re always trying to live up to the past and they turned around and wrote their own legacy with a stamp on it."
The Rams (11-1) have put themselves in elite company.
New Canaan is one of just five teams to have won at least four consecutive state championships. Cheshire holds the record with six straight from 1992-97, while Bloomfield (1998-2002) and St. Joseph (1980-84) each won five straight. Ansonia (1981-84) won four straight.
The state title was also the eighth for Marinelli, who has coached at NCHS since 1981. Baty took MVP honors in the final after throwing for 213 yards and four TDs. He was 19-of-32 passing with an interception, and ran 14 times for 58 yards. Newton also had a big day in the spotlight, catching nine passes for 90 yards and three TDs, while senior co-captain Willie Ouellette had five catches for 73 yards and a touchdown.
On the ground, senior Peter Park carried 12 times for 64 yards, and senior Tim Robustelli had 10 carries for 31 yards. The defense had a huge night, led by senior co-captain Cole Duncan, Chris White, James Cody, Ryan Shullman and John Sullivan.
The East Lyme Vikings (10-2), who put up 39 points in their semifinal win against Vinal Tech/Coginchaug last Tuesday, were kept off the scoreboard. New Canaan forced five turnovers and surrendered 143 yards, including only 33 in the second half.
The Vikings’ strong running combo of Kevin Miao and Jordan McCoy managed only 96 yards in total, with Miao rushing 15 times for 49 yards and McCoy rushing 10 times for 47 yards. On the other side of the ball, East Lyme could do little to slow the Rams’ attack, which amassed 382 yards with a solid balance of 169 rushing yards and 213 passing yards.
New Canaan opened the game with a steady drive that covered 70 yards on 12 plays in 2:57. Baty ran four times for 40 yards and passed for another 30 yards on the drive, which was capped with a 9-yard reception by Newton in the front-left corner of the end zone.
The Rams started their final drive of the half at their own 37-yard line with 2:45 and marched 63 yards on seven plays for another score. The big play during the possession was a 23-yard completion from Baty to Newton, which moved the ball to the Vikings’ 20 with just over a minute to play.
A 6-yard run by Park and a 4-yard run by Baty gave New Canaan a first-and-goal at the 10, and Baty quickly cashed in with a 10-yard TD pass to Newton with 18.8 seconds left on the clock. Colin Shapiro’s second PAT made it 14-0 at halftime.
"We were on the same page," Newton said. "(Baty) was throwing great balls — four touchdowns in one game is amazing — and it was very fortunate to hit me three times. My corner was good, but I happened to get open a few times and he hit me."
In the second half, Baty hooked up with Newton for a 23-yard touchdown and then found Ouellette for a 19-yard TD to finish off the scoring.
Class LL: Cheshire ends Staples’ championship dream in OT
The bigger they come, the harder they fall, and on a weekend filled with dreams both realized and broken, no one suffered a harder defeat than the Staples Wreckers.
The Wreckers reached the Class LL final against Cheshire with an undefeated record and would have secured the No. 1 ranking in Connecticut with a victory. Both goals went out the window as the Cheshire Rams scored on the opening possession of overtime and then forced a fumble by Staples senior Matt Kelly to win, 28-21, at Ken Strong Stadium in West Haven on Sunday.
The 28 points were the most allowed this season by Staples (12-1), which had held its opponents to 91 points through the first 12 games. Cheshire (11-1) had allowed just 29 points in its previous four games, and suffered its only loss when it fell to Class L champ Notre Dame-West Haven, 40-36, in Week 4.
As they did during their FCIAC championship game win over Bridgeport Central, the Wreckers rallied in the fourth quarter versus Cheshire. Trailing 21-7 with under five minutes remaining in the game, Staples scored twice in the final 4:45 to force overtime.
Senior QB Keith Gelman hit WR Brendan Rankowitz for a 12-yard touchdown to make it a 21-14 game, and after the defense forced a three-and-out series, Staples drove 66 yards on five plays and tied the game on a 1-yard TD run by Gelman with 1:44 remaining.
In overtime, junior RB Mike Skibicki carried the ball for the first time in the game and scored on a 2-yard run to put the Rams back in front. The PAT by Kyle Pulek made it 28-21. Staples then had its shot in OT, but Kelly fumbled on the second play and Cheshire recovered to end the game.
Kelly had opened the scoring with a 2-yard run in the first quarter, but the Rams came back with 21 unanswered points in the second quarter. Senior quarterback Greg Palmer connected on an 8-yard TD pass to senior Brian Havlicek to tie the score, and Palmer then scored on TD runs of 10 and six yards in the final 51 seconds of the first half. The final score was set up by an interception from Havlicek.
For Staples, Gelman was 16-of-18 passing for 261 yards and a TD, while Kelly ran 13 times for 46 yards and caught three passes for 77 yards. Rankowitz had eight catches for 121 yards and junior TE Pat Murray had five catches for 53 yards.
The Wreckers’ defense had eight sacks, including three from senior lineman Devin Graber, who also had 13 solo tackles and three assists. Senior LB Jake Santora wrapped up a stellar career with 24 tackles, including 20 solo, and two sacks, while junior LB Rob Gau had 19 tackles, including 15 solo.
Class L: Notre Dame rings Pomperaug’s bell for title
The Pomperaug Panthers received big games from seniors Ben Crick and Wade McNamara, but it wasn’t enough as Notre Dame-West Haven Green Knights scored a 28-21 win for the Class L championship Saturday in Shelton.
The state title was the Knights' first since 2001, as they improved to 11-1 this season. Pomperaug, the SWC champion, suffered its only loss of the year and finished 12-1.
The game turned on three unanswered Notre Dame touchdowns spanning the second through fourth quarters. With Pomperaug leading 14-7, a pair of Notre Dame juniors hooked up for a scoring play, as QB Sean Goldrich three a 70-yard TD pass to WR Tirrell Young-Williams with seven minutes to play in the first half. The Knights then took the lead for good when Goldrich scored on a 1-yard keeper with 22.5 seconds left in the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Notre Dame struck again when junior RB David Rose scored on a 1-yard run to make it a 28-14 game.
Panther QB Andrew Clements hit McNamara for a 10-yard TD pass with 3:57 remaining, and Pomperaug’s defense got the ball back to the offense with just over two minutes remaining, but Clements was intercepted for the third time as Conor Keniry came up with a pick in Notre Dame territory to end the contest.
Pomperaug senior RB Ben Crick had 11 carries for 131 yards and a TD, while McNamara ran 12 times for 88 yards and caught five passes for 52 yards and a TD. Clements struggled in the foul weather and completed just 10-of-21 passes for 112 yards.
Notre Dame’s Young-William had a big day, catching two passes for 78 yards and a TD, and also returning an interception 96 yards for a touchdown.
Senior RB Justin Willis carried 18 times for 67 yards, Rose ran 14 times for 53 yards, and Goldrich completed six-of-13 passes for 122 yards and a TD.
Class M: Delorenzo runs for 334 yards as Berlin routs Bethel
Berlin’s Max Delorenzo was unstoppable in the Class M final, as the junior running back ran 44 times for 334 yards to lead the Berlin Redcoats to a 46-6 win over the Bethel Wildcats at Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium last Sunday.
Delorenzo, who also caught four passes for 55 yards, found the end zone four times, three times rushing and once on a 35-yard pass from senior QB Dan Hackett. Hackett was 10-of-15 passing for 162 yards and a TD. Senior RBs Taylor Taverozzi and Dave Campagna also ran for TDs, as Berlin finished 11-2.
Class SS: Matakevich’s two TDs pave way for St. Joe’s championship
Junior Tyler Matakevich scored on a pair on 1-yard rumbles in the fourth quarter, as the St. Joseph Cadets claimed their first State title in 19 years with a 14-3 win over Montville in the Class SS final Saturday at West Haven’s Ken Strong Stadium.
Matakevich was named the game MVP after rushing 33 times for 135 yards and the two TDs. Junior QB Joe DellaVecchia threw for just 18 yards on a stormy day, but also had 34 rushing yards on just six carries. Montville had a 3-0 lead when kicker Ben Middel booted a 47-yard field goal on the final play before halftime. The score remained there until the fourth quarter, when Matakevich tied the score with 11:14 remaining.
Matakevich added the game-winner with 2:23 remaining. Kicker Casey Olayos kicked both PATs for the Cadets. The state title was St. Joe’s first since 1990 and the program’s ninth overall. Both the Cadets and Montville finished with 10-2 records.
Class S: Howling Wolves shutout Indians for championship
The Howling Wolves of Hyde Leadership scored their fourth State title in as many tries when they defeated the Northwest Catholic Indians, 21-0, in the Class L final on Saturday in Waterbury.
Hyde, which finished 11-1, won championships in 2000, 2004 and 2005, while Northwest Catholic was denied its first state crown and finished 10-2. Hyde scored twice in the first half — first on a 60-yard option pass from RB Joe Lambert to DeShawn Murphy and then on a 44-yard pass from QB Kendall Groon to Lambert. Justin Williams added a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to finish off the scoring.
Dave Stewart, the Sports Editor of the New Canaan (Conn.) Advertiser, is a MaxPreps.com writer and photographer. He may be reached at 203-966-9541 or at email@example.com.