Cascione returns, leads New Canaan to eighth FCIAC championship

Nick Cascione runs the ball in the first half of the FCIAC championship game. He finished with 117 yard rushing and two touchdowns to go with his 141 yards passing and a touchdown. (Photo Mary Albl)

Nick Cascione runs the ball in the first half of the FCIAC championship game. He finished with 117 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go with his 141 yards passing and a touchdown. (Photo Mary Albl)

TRUMBULL >> It wasn’t the prettiest of victories for the No. 1 team in the state, but when push came to shove, New Canaan answered.

Tied at 14 with No. 6 St. Joseph (9-2) at halftime of the FCIAC championship game Friday night at McDougall Stadium at Trumbull High, the Rams’ defense held the Cadets to one score, while the offense, led by senior quarterback Nick Cascione, did the rest en route to a 31-20 victory.

It was the Rams’ first conference title since 2008 and eighth overall.

“It kind of shows you the character and the fight that they have, not to give up and not to panic,” New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli said. “They stuck to the offense and they stuck to the defensive plan.”

The story of the night and week, was if Cascione would even play in the game. After suffering a concussion two weeks ago his status was uncertain. But after being cleared to play on Friday, he made the most of it from the opening play. He tossed a 76-yard score to teammate Kyle Smith for the 7-0 lead.

“It felt great,” Cascione said of making the play. “I mean I really don’t want to miss a championship for my life. Coming out after two weeks, I was a little nervous. And (when) the first play of the game was a touchdown, I was like, ‘All right’.”

Cascione, who was named the MVP of the game, did his most productive work when it mattered most. He paced the Rams with three touchdowns, highlighted by two second-half rushing scores, including a 1-yard TD late in the third quarter to give New Canaan the 21-14 advantage.

He was accompanied by Frank Cognetta who was a force to reckon with. He had 167 yards rushing yards on 25 carries and one score for the Rams. Cascione finished with 119 rushing and 141 passing yards.

“The ‘O’ line kept us moving, and opened holes in the run game,” Cascione said. “We were running the ball all over them. Then the defense did a great job all game.”

Frank Cognetta runs for yardage in the first half of the FCIAC championship game. (Photo Mary Albl)

Frank Cognetta runs for yardage in the first half of the FCIAC championship game. (Photo Mary Albl)

What appeared to be headed for a shootout in the last two quarters fell short. As Cascione directed the offense in the second half, it was the Rams’ relentless defense that took over in the final 24 minutes and held the Hogs.

“We just didn’t make plays,” St. Joseph head coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “We had guys that were wide open, we just didn’t finish stuff. I thought we ran the ball well. They’re (New Canaan) a terrific team.”

St. Joes, kept pace with the Rams for the first 24 minutes, as quarterback Jordan Vazzano threw two first half touchdowns, including engineering a 97-yard drive late in the second quarter that started off with a fumble by New Canaan fullback Connor buck.

Vazzano connected with Shane Miller for 79 yards and then a play later found Mark Hirschbeck to tie the game at 14.

“We felt really good about what we did in the first half,” DellaVecchia said. “We did everything we wanted to do, in our first time here. It would have meant a lot to our program to win this. We didn’t make enough plays.”

Vazzano finished with 227 yards and two picks, but was limited to just two passing completions in the second half. The Cadets did move the ball well on the ground as they were paced by Mufasha Abdul-Basir’s 186 yards, which included a 50-yarder late in the fourth quarter.

“He’s one of the best backs I’ve seen,” said Marinelli of Abdul-Basir.

New Canaan made it a 24-14 game early in the fourth as Peter Swindell added a 32-yard field goal. Cascione extended the lead with a short 6-yard TD to seal the deal with 4 minute left and give the Rams the 31-14 lead.

FCIAC Championship
at McDougall Stadium, Trumbull
ST. JOSEPH 0 14 0 6 — 20
NEW CANAAN 7 7 7 10 — 31
NC–Kyle Smith 76 pass from Nick Cascione (Peter Swindell kick)
SJ–Lars Pedersen 8 pass from Jordan Vazzano (Kevin Bortnick kick)
NC–Frank Cognetta 8 run (Swindell kick)
SJ–Mark Hirschbeck6 pass Vazzano (Bortnick kick)
NC–Cascione 1 run (Swindell kick)
NC–Swindell 37 field goal
NC–Cascione 7 run (Swindell kick)
SJ–Mufasha Abdul-Basir 50 run (Bornick kick)
Team records: St. Joseph 9-2, New Canaan 11-0



  1. Football fan says

    I checked the gsme out tonight. Both teams had great skilled players and good linemen on both sides of the ball. Not sure if they played nervous, but both teams made many mistakes. Mufasha Abdul-Basir’s 186 yards showed that NC is susceptible to stopping the run. I would love to see how Newsome would do against these two defenses. We will never know.
    Hats off to NC for winning the FCIAC.

    Hats off to NC for winning the FCIAC.

    • Josh Boone says

      81 of those 186 came on their last drive, when NC was in their Nickel/Prevent/Nothing Deep. Just like the last Game, He had some time to stat pad just where he made the yards he gained a whole lot worse than it looked.

  2. Big Dog says

    Fan,St.Joes has a balanced offense…when they are clicking they are very hard to slow down…..Vazzano had a bad 2nd half but credit NC defense…Basir had a great game but alot of yardage came late when NC went to prevent…Newsome is a great back for sure and would get his yardage but Ansonia is much easier to prepare for than Joes…NC kept the game close in first half with a couple fumbles inside the 10 as Lou tried to get to cute and give the ball to a lineman…I am sure that will not be in the playbook as they go forward.Watching the game both teams would give Ansonia a fit as Fan said they are big and skilled at every posistion.

    • GO NOLES!! says

      Both teams would move the football and score some points against the Ansonia defense, which has been vulnerable and inconsistent at times this season.
      But the Ansonia offense, and Newsome in particular, would have their way against either the NC or St. Joe’s defense. Big O-line, too much speed, and more weapons than just Newsome.

      Frankly, at this point in the season, I think West Haven is better than either NC or St. Joe’s.

  3. Big Dog says

    Noles,the Westies struggled with Xavier and a depleted Shelton team the last few weeks if you recall…I look for Prep to beat them on Turkey Day.The Westies are good but are vulnerable on defense and have little to no passing game.NC and Joes would shred them with their balanced attack.Also,assuming you are a Fla St fan you have a better chance winning vs Alabama than Ansonia would vs NC

    • GO NOLES!! says

      Well, we can agree that FSU has a good chance of taking down Bama in Pasadena, if they meet!

      While I agree that both WH and Ansonia can be scored against, you are giving too much credit to NC’s offense on the basis of their carving up a poor St. Joe’s defense.
      And extraordinary backs like Newsome and Phillips put tremendous pressure on defenses that cannot duplicate that speed and elusiveness in practice. The thing is you can bottle either player up for chunks of a game (maybe). But all it takes is a single missed tackle, or single instance of lack of gap discipline, and they are going to the house.

      Look, New Canaan/Ansonia would be an incredibly compelling match-up. For fanatics on either side to claim it would be one-sided is just plain foolish.

  4. aok says

    Ansonia could not stay with either team, does not have the depth NC has and by third quarter game over. How can any one say what could happen as opposed to what did happen, NC beat top team twice while Ansonia beat Woodland, NC line much bigger than Ansonia, more of them, way to deep a team for Ansonia to hang with. I’ve seen them both, sorry boys Ansonia very good but could not hang with these guys remember they play at this level every week.

    • GO NOLES!! says

      You are obviously entrenched in your opinion, and that’s fine. But when you declare that Ansonia “could not stay” with either team, you just sound foolish, and make me skeptical that you actually saw Ansonia play.

      But just some food for thought:
      New Canaan is “much bigger”? Umm, OK I guess. Ansonia is not small on the line, so I guess NC must be massive. But what does that mean? Size, strength and technique really dictate line play. If bigger is always better, then Morgan, which has a HUGE line, must be the best team in the state!
      Because NC has “more of them”, and is “way too deep”, means what in a single game? I’m pretty sure NC can only play eleven at a time. And I’m equally sure Ansonia’s eleven on the field are awfully difficult to play against. So who cares if NC has more bodies on the sideline, or has fewer kids going both ways. Does that make a difference over the course of a season with a demanding schedule? It sure could. But for one game, it is irrelevant.

      • Just Sayin says

        New Canaan has an offense and a defense playing one way.
        This tends to keep players fresher than those going both ways, doesn’t it?.
        Does Ansonia?
        I’ve also seen both play and would agree that Ansonia is not playing at the same level.
        But then, you said it’s irrelevant, so it must be true.

    • Josh Boone says

      For Those who’ve seen Middletown play, What is there passing game like?, all I hear about is how their QB runs ~20 times a game at some points, yet, don’t hear too much about him putting it up in the air. If they are as One Dimensional as i’ve read about, I don’t see them being able to have a whole lot of success when NC could bring another guy into the box.

    • Jim says

      Middletown beat farmington easily i was at that game. they also beat Bristol eastern (currently #8) 40-0. Don’t forget they were in the top 4 for 6 weeks until the New London game which middletown led until the last 2 seconds. They also Beat Platt in the Preseason

  5. Kyle says

    Ansonias sophomore RB would be best player on either team, please depth is a joke. We have 4 skill guys better than anyone you have

  6. Bubba says

    Heres your Championships: LL WestHaven vs. Prep, L NC vs. Hand, M Ledyard vs. St. Joes, S Ansonia vs. Woodland. Remember this post, Im the H.S handicapper. I suppose you want the winners, need a little more time.

  7. RAY BROWN says

    luckily i was able to see all three conference title games—my take is NEWTOWN might not even be a top ten team—–i know theyre undefeated and i had em ranked 3 before i actually saw them—–way overrated. on the st.joes—nc game-st.joes defense against the run was couldnt stop st.joes running game either.neither teams rbs were remotely even close to ansonias speed.mcknight and newsome run faster backwards.both teams had very good receivers,however to be honest the NVL has 4 qbs that throw better than both.why the sjs coaching staff didnt stay on ground is beyond me.ansonias big o-line and newsome would run ball down both teams throat.theres not as big of gap between nc and ansonia as haters think. wow

    • Pat McGroin says

      4 QB’s – name them please. And if this was the first match-up between joe’s and nc, then you’d be right, however this is a rematch, in a championship game nonetheless. This isn’t woodland. Fact – Vazzano had a bad day – Cascione didn’t play fantastic yet last time I checked, a bad day and his offense puts up 31?

      • RAY BROWN says

        marchi—-krygier—-kingsley—-naugy qb whose name escapes me——nc put up 31 cuz st.joes cant tackle——-excuses are like as….es.ansonia runs both teams into ground

        • Pat McGroin says

          Marchi I’ll give you cause he has a scholarship – Dunn, Wyper, Vazzano, Cascione, Roberts – better than all qb’s in NVL – Marchi, overrated, won’t see field at UCONN, that was a total gift to keep ct coaches happy by taking him as a scholarship player.

          And Ansonia can’t stop NC’s offense, on a bad day they scored 31 points…. Against a top 10 team… On a bad day, Ansonia scored 21 points… against a .500 team

          And it was a rematch game, those are tougher than anything else… Ray, will all due respect, you’re wrong – and you are trying to find the glimmer of the light in this 31 point bad day to give Ansonia credit

          • bgarf says

            I would take Cascione and Krieger over any of the other QBs you listed (have seen all of them but Roberts).

  8. jeb says

    Why knock yourself out trying to compare. Nc, ansonia and west haven. They won’t play each other so it’s a mute point. I personally think that st.Joe’s is the second best team in the state. They can run..pass…and they have great skill players. Nc..even though they almost self-destructed are just a better team.

    • JB says

      St Joes was the #2 team for sure when it was “warm”, but something has happened. I don’t think they would beat Darien or Ridgefield right now, they are not playing very well. Not sure why. Joes may not even be the #2 team in the FCIAC in my opinion. Ridgefield destroyed McMahon and St Joes barely escaped … one week apart.

  9. Bubba says

    @ RAY Brown Your creditabity is questionable at Best. Any post I read of yours lacks objectivity, and most regulars just laugh at the nonsense.

  10. Bubba says

    Here’s some reason’s why Ansonia would have a tough time staying with NC.
    Tempo, Tony Frankin multi scheme, formation system. They have an answer for every D formation, blitz package etc. One way players, no two platton at NC. Ansonia is good but basic, NC would force them into 3rd and predictable. Player for player they are close to equal. coaching staff are both very good. It breaks down to details and a system that is difficult to prepare for.

  11. P-Daddy says

    NC is like Alabama. They are not as sexy as Oregon (Xavier) and don’t have the win streak of Ohio State (Ansonia), nor do they have the top player, but they play the toughest schedule and beat the living snot out of you on defense and across the line of scrimmage. Given their schedule and margin of victory neither Ohio State/Ansonia, or Northern Illinois/Platt can justifiably claim what the Tide/NC has earned. Not just the schedule, but the stunning and repeated margins of victory. Do the math.

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