SIMSBURY, Nov. 28 – The New Canaan High football team has played in six straight state championship games and has qualified for the CIAC football players for eight years in a row. But at halftime, the visiting Rams were a little rattled in Wednesday night’s Class L quarterfinal game against undefeated Avon.
Avon had a seven-point lead after two quarters and they had held the high-scoring Rams to no points, 46 yards on the ground and just 25 yards through the air. New Canaan came into the game averaging 33.7 points per game and nearly 200 yards a game on the ground.
“All the players were a little freaked out,” said New Canaan quarterback Teddy Bossidy, who started in place of starting QB Nick Cascione, who hurt his ankle in last week’s loss to Darien on Thanksgiving. “The coaches did a good job of calming us down and relaxing us.”
New Canaan held Avon to minus four yards rushing in the second half and gave up just two first downs as they rallied for a 16-7 victory. The Rams scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns and converted twice on two-point conversions to earn the victory and advance to Sunday’s Class L semifinals.
Avon ends the season at 10-1.
“Everyone was telling me and telling the kids that (Avon’s) league stinks and we’re going to run over them,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “So, they come in and all of sudden that No. 5 (Colin Moore) runs down the field.”
Moore gave the Falcons a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when he broke free down the right sideline for a 49-yard touchdown run with 9:39 gone in the first period. Moore ran for 69 yards on four carries on Avon’s first drive. He finished with a game-high 111 yards on 18 carries but he was held to just five yards in the second half on three carries.
“I can’t say enough about our defense,” Bossidy said. “It’s not often you can win a game putting up only 16 points. This one definitely goes to them. They played unbelievable.”
Avon started the game strong, marching 71 yards on five plays to take a 7-0 lead. And then the Falcon defense stood tall.
Late in the second quarter, New Canaan marched to the Avon six-yard line on strong running from Frank Cognetta (4-57) and Bossidy. But Avon’s Jimmy Murphy came up with a key six-yard sack of Bossidy and Justin Reichler batted down an attempted pass.
With 47 seconds left in the half, New Canaan tried a 29-yard field goal but it was wide right enabling Avon to take a 7-0 lead in the locker room at halftime.
And on New Canaan’s opening possession of the third quarter, the Rams marched to the Falcon 20-yard line. But a five-yard motion penalty and a four-yard sack of Cascione by Chappy Wingo moved the Rams backwards. On third down, a Rams receiver dropped a potential touchdown pass in the end zone and on fourth down, Joey Murphy batted down a pass from Cascione into the ground with 6:54 left in the third quarter.
“I have to tell you that is a hell of a football team,” Marinelli said. “Very well coached. Those kids played their rear ends off.”
On New Canaan’s next possession, the Rams were able to move the ball downfield with a mix of running plays and passing from Bossidy. On third down and nine, Bossidy hit 5-foot-10 receiver Andrew Read between two defenders for a 15-yard touchdown with 11:01 gone in the game.
Because New Canaan’s holder on extra point attempts, Casey Ouellette, had gotten hurt early in the game, Marinelli decided to go for two points. Bossidy pitched the ball to Cascione, who looked like he would try to run the ball around the end. But he stopped short and tossed the ball to Jack Gilio to give New Canaan its first lead, 8-7.
On Avon’s next drive, New Canaan’s Connor Buck sacked Falcon QB Noah Hahn for a 10-yard loss and Avon punted.
New Canaan marched 45 yards on 10 plays, scoring on a pretty nine-yard strike from Cascione to Cole Turpin with 3:53 left in the game. Cascione and Bossidy shared duties at QB in the second half. Graham Wagner pulled in a conversion pass from Cascione for a 16-7 lead.
Trailing by nine, the Falcons went to the air with Hahn completing three passes to drive Avon to the Ram 23-yard line before the drive stalled. On fourth down, Michael DiCosmo batted away a potential TD pass to Justin Reichler in the end zone.
“There weren’t a lot of adjustments at halftime,” Bossidy said. “It was just a matter of execution. Our coaches told us all of our stuff was there. We just needed to execute.”
Avon coach Brett Quinion didn’t have a lot to say after the game. For the second time in three playoff appearances, the Falcons led at halftime only to see their chances slip away in the second half. Avon had a five-point lead on Brookfield in the 2009 Class L semifinal before falling.
“You have to play a perfect game against a team like that and we played a perfect half,” he said. “We had a perfect first drive but we didn’t get it done. They were a lot quicker than we were but we’ve faced that all year. Usually, we can find some things to do (to move the ball).”
Marinelli said the fact that New Canaan had more depth helped the Rams. “If we didn’t, I don’t know if we would have been so fortunate.”
Even afterward, Quinion could see the chances that slipped away from Avon. “We held them to 16 points, which was terrific,” he said. “But it is about focus and execution.”
GRID NOTES: New Canaan’s 16 points was its lowest point total of the season and its lowest offensive performance since scoring just 10 points in a loss to Hand-Madison in last fall’s Class L championship game. … Avon led by five before falling to Brookfield in the 2008 Class M semifinals, 35-19. …. A year later, Avon gave up 28 points in the first quarter before rallying in a 35-28 loss to Berlin in the Class M semifinals. Avon had the ball in Berlin territory trying to tie the game in the final five minutes of the game.
New Canaan 16, Avon 7
New Canaan (9-2) 0 0 0 16 – 16
Avon (10-1) 7 0 0 0 — 7
A: Colin Moore 49 run (Mitch Cappello kick), 9:39
NC: Andrew Read 15 pass from Teddy Bossidy (Jack Gilio pass from Nick Cascione), 11:01
NC: Cole Turpin 9 pass from Cascione (Graham Wagner pass from Cascione), 3:53
MISSED FIELD GOAL: Peter Swindell (NC) 29 wide left
RUSHING: Avon – Colin Moore 18-111, Noah Hahn 5-minus 7, Jimmy Murphy 2-3, Mitch Cappello 2-3, Ian McDonald 1-2; New Canaan – Teddy Bossidy 7-5, Frank Cognetta 14-57, Louis Hagopian 13-66, Nick Cascione 7-26, Jack Gilio 1-4
PASSING: Avon – Noah Hahn 6-12-1, 69, Chris Suttmeier 1-1-0, 26; New Canaan – Teddy Bossidy 10-17-0, 56, Nick Cascione 1-3-0, 9
RECEIVING: Avon – Chris Suttmeier 3-22, Colin Moore 2-36, Justin Reichler 2-26; New Canaan – Grady Lynch 1-minus 8, Jack Gilio 2-5, Robby Paul 1-1, Andrew Read 5-58, Louis Hagopian 1-0, Cole Turpin 1-9
RETURNS: Kickoffs – Michael DiCosmo (NC) 2-24, Jimmy Murphy (A) 2-42, Dylan Marquis (A) 1-15; Punts – Alexander LaPolice (NC) 2-10
SACKS: Graham Thalacker (NC) 1½-18, Zachary Allen (NC) 1½-12; Jimmy Murphy (A) 1-6, Chappy Wingo (A) 1-4; INTERCEPTION: Mike DiCosmo (NC) 1-3; Passes batted down – Reichler (A) 1, Joseph Murphy (A) 1
PUNTS: Zach Bruno (NC) 4-163 (40.7), Dylan Marquis (A) 2-70