New Canaan shuts out North Haven, gets Darien rematch in Class L final

New Canaan running back Frank Cognetta Splits North Haven defenders Mike Siwek and Ethan Suraci for a large yardage gain during the New Canaan Semi Final win against North Haven. The Rams defeated the Indians 17-0 for a berth to the Class L state final.

New Canaan running back Frank Cognetta Splits North Haven defenders Mike Siwek and Ethan Suraci for a large yardage gain during the New Canaan Semi Final win against North Haven. The Rams defeated the Indians 17-0 for a berth to the Class L state final. (John Vanacore / For the Register).

North Haven Running Back tries going over the top of a New Canaan defender during the Indians Class L Semi Final loss to the Rams John Vanacore for the Register

North Haven Running Back Cole Pecora tries going over the top of a New Canaan defender during the Indians Class L Semi Final loss to the Rams
John Vanacore for the Register

MILFORD >> North Haven’s deliberate and methodical offense performed as expected in the Class L state semifinals against New Canaan.

The seventh-seeded Indians, as they have all season, controlled the tempo with several long drives. But unlike prior games, North Haven just couldn’t find the end zone.

North Haven drives stalled on four occasions in New Canaan territory, including once in the red zone, as the Indians’ season ended with a 17-0 loss to the No. 3 Rams Saturday at Law High.

“We have to score when we have chances,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “We can’t chew clock and come up empty; that’s working against us. But you certainly have to credit New Canaan. They were a very, very physical team. They rose to the occasion. They knew what we were about and buckled up.”

[Photos: New Canaan vs. North Haven]

New Canaan (13-1), ranked fifth in the Register Top 10 Poll, returns to a state final after a one-year absence. The Rams will attempt to win their first title since 2009, and ninth overall, when they face Darien in the championship game on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. at CCSU’s Arute Field. It will be a rematch of a regular-season contest won by Darien 28-24 on Thanksgiving. New Canaan reached the semifinals for the ninth straight season.

“This is huge,” New Canaan senior quarterback Nick Cascione said. “We missed (going to a final) last year for the first time in a long time (since 2005). It means the world that we can finally come back and finally right the wrong that we had last year (losing in the semifinals).”

Just before halftime, and trailing 10-0, a North Haven pass fell incomplete on fourth down at the New Canaan 6. In the third quarter, North Haven drove 56 yards on 18 plays to the New Canaan 24 on its second possession of the second half before turning the ball over on downs.

“Once they have the ball, we can go on vacation over here,” said New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli with a smile, “because they keep it for long periods of time. They have the right formula for beating our offense. But then, as you get down (to the red zone), the closer they get, everything gets a little bit tighter. I think our kids really hung in there today. To our kids’ credit, they kept on fighting.”

The Indians also missed out on an opportunity on their first possession of the game. North Haven drove to the New Canaan 17, fumbled and the Rams recovered.

New Canaan, which entered having averaged 46 points, was slowed offensively by North Haven’s style. The Rams, though, also did an effective job of moving down field on the ground. Junior Frank Cognetta led New Canaan with 25 carries for 136 yards. Cascione added 74 yards on 14 carries.

“We just took what they were giving us,” Cascione said. “They only put five in the box, so that opened up the run game for us.”

Cascione, who was named the game’s most outstanding player, completed 8 of 19 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown. Cascione connected with Alex LaPolice on a 15-yard touchdown pass to give New Canaan a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. Peter Swindell added a 30-yard field goal to up the Rams’ lead to 10-0 at halftime. Morgan Carson then scored on a 4-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

The Rams had just four offensive possessions in the second half.

“It’s one of the most frustrating things in the world,” Cascione said about waiting to get back on offense.

Senior Mike Halloran rushed 10 times for 97 yards, junior Cole Pecora gained 85 yards on nine carries and senior Ethan Suraci carried 11 times for 74 yards for North Haven (10-3), which rushed 40 times for 278 yards.

Despite falling one victory shy of advancing to its first state final, it’s been an impressive season for the Indians. North Haven earned the program’s first playoff victory with a 35-0 win over Platt in the quarterfinals, and defeated three-time defending champion Xavier during the regular season.

“I have nothing but praise and respect for our team, and especially our seniors,” Sagnella said. “I don’t think that there was a lot of expectation around the area for our team to be as good as it was. I think a lot of that falls on the shoulders of our seniors, how hard they worked; how hard they dedicated themselves. We’re really a team that doesn’t have a star. Every kid, his role is vital and important. I think the reason we got as far as we did was because of our senior class.”

New Canaan 17, North Haven 0
(at Milford)
North Haven 0 0 0 0 — 0
New Canaan 7 3 0 7 — 17
First quarter
NCA—Alex LaPolice 15 pass from Nick Cascione (Peter Swindell kick)
Second quarter
NCA—Peter Swindell 30 FG
Fourth quarter
NCA—Morgan Carson 4 run (Swindell kick)
Team records: New Canaan 13-1; North Haven 10-3


    • Kahona says

      Yes the NH FOOTBALL program played as tough and with as much heart as they had. To say they surrender reenforces the fact you are still looking 4 ALICE FROM WONDERLAND. And I will attend the L ciac final between 2 great teams it shall be a good one

    • Crocodile Devlin says

      Ray Ray you are a beauty. There was no surrender in anyone today. I went to game and if you think NH quit you sir are an asshole. They had a score called back and stopped the vaunted NC offense on many occasions. The Italian remark pains me. You must have gotten your ass kicked by the Italians on your hill when you where a kid.

  1. Kevin says

    Real adult Ray. North Haven played New Canaan very tough. They amassed yards, gained first downs, but couldn’t score. The INdians proved today they could play with anyone in the state and deserve to be listed in the top 10.

  2. Mooncake says

    I’m not sure NH will ever win the really big game with that offensive philosophy. It was interesting to watch but can you be dynamic enough to win real tough games. The coach and fans must be really patient with that offensive and wait for it to break a run for long yds.

    Both teams played hard. NH defense was very good. Gave up very few big plays. NC had to work on offense. NH offense could not score inside the 20. Could not keep NC honest on defense when they were close to a score. Very interesting game.

    Congrats to both teams.

  3. aok says

    defense is there, running game is there, imagine if NH could complete a pass. watch out once they figure that out…..pipeline is full in NH, program will be back, heads held high NH

  4. Get A Life says

    The only loser here is you and everyone on this blog knows it.
    Indians showed no quit and fought till the end as always.
    Taking shots at every kid and every town and hiding behind this blog
    just shows you to be the COWARD that you really are.

    • T says

      Darien and New Canaan would both beat Ansonia by a couple of scores. Darien vs New Canaan promises for a much better game. I predicted NC would beat North Haven by 3 scores and predicted a Darien win in a close game against Middletown. Darien/NC are coached well enough to beat predictable one dimensional teams. They would take Ansonias back out of the game and make them pass. North Haven/Middletown both lost because Darien/New Canaan took away their running games after second half adjustments. If Darien played North Haven again it would nearly as close.

  5. Jeb says

    North haven should be very proud of their football team . They gave us new Canaan fans all we could handle. Two tough teams who fought hard. The final against Darien will be a good one .

  6. Matt Glaszmattglasz says

    Congrats to North Haven on the most successful season in program history. Pucci, nailed it in this article as the Indians squandered multiple opportunities. Seeing the replay of the phantom holding call that negated the early Indian touchdown confirmed my disgust, as the blown call was even worse than it appeared live.

    I’m not insinuating that the call cost NH the game but, as stated by many prior to the match up, it was critical for North Haven to grab a lead early. Combine that with the NH fumble inside the NC red zone on their opening possession and the failed 4th down pass on the Ram 6 yard line just prior to halftime and it was just too much for NH to overcome.

    Hats off to New Canaan; they were as advertised with big, strong and athletic kids who were, as always, very well coached. I really like their chances in the finals.

    With regards to Ray Brown, I realize that some enjoy your schtick but I find it juvenile and tiresome. People visit these pages because they enjoy high school football and debating opinions. All posters should exhibit the respect that the coaches and student athletes deserve. Brag about the team you support all you want, but there is simply no need to disparage the efforts of KIDS and coaching staffs who are largely unpaid VOLUNTEERS who put in months of hard work.

    You are representative of the ugly side of high school athletics; an adult who acts like a child and places far too much emphasis on all the wrong things. Enjoy being “the straw”.

  7. aok says

    ref’s parked next to NH tailgate, 2 of the 5 had New York plates?????? explains a lot!!!!! Not crying but TD called back, tackling our D line, chains not spotted before NC ran a play, bad crew, I’m sure NC can complain to but it was a bad crew….NC just wore us down, ,, NH had chances….. see ya next year with a passing game.. 2 playoff games 0-17 -3 int is the difference

    • JB says

      I wouldn’t change the NH offense very much. Its built for our December playoffs. Look at how teams are winning in the playoffs most every year. Powerful OLs with a strong running back and a shutdown, bad ass Defense. That combination wins state championships.

    • Mooncake says

      C’mom the refs were fine. I thought they did a good job. The holding call was right in front of me. It was a hold. The refs were from the CCC. I asked them as they walked onto the field. Also what about the pass interference in the end zone that would of put NC at NH 1 yr line. Always would of, should of, could of…

      It was a very competitive game by my account it seemed like NC was in control the whole way.

  8. says

    watched nh—-new caanan game on t.v.——-you scc people are dillusional——-the only thing i got from watching was that the FCIAC is head and heels better than SCC.

    • Mooncake says

      Ray, I’m an fciac fan…but hold the phone. This year fciac is good but top teams in SCC are always the gold standard. The prior three years makes us fciac fans very humble. No smack from us…

    • T says

      Records dont mean anything with all the garbage conferences so we can ignore the Max Preps article. Greenwhich/Staples/New Canaan should be 1,2,3. Ray Brown- Ansonia is a three loss team in the FCIAC. When is the last time they beat an FCIAC team? When is the last time they played a team from out of state? I remember in 2008 Greenwhich played the number one team in the country outside of Florida and looked competitive. Darien beat a stacked Delaware team led by QB David Stills a couple of years ago. Ansonia’s coaches know they would never have a shot against teams outside of Class S or their conference so they save themselves the embarrassment.

      • JB says

        T – Ansonia has the claim to be the best SMALL team in CT … but not anything else. We listen to all the b-s every season, but when it comes down to it, we all know they play a bunch of cupcakes. Kind of makes them irrelevant come the playoffs. That is why RAY is on this blog trying to influence everyone to think otherwise. But when it comes down to it, Ansonia is always irrelevant in the playoffs playing all those S-level cupcakes. The best teams are playing competition relevant to a #1 state-wide ranking. Ansonia will destroy Woodland again … and who really cares? Just another over-matched opponent.

        NC will be #1 team come the end of the season. Why? Because they will be better tested and deserving of the recognition. Ansonia is only proving they are irrelevant.

  9. Crocodile Devlin says

    MaxPreps loves Ansonia and you loved it. Now u don’t care bout them. Kinda convenient ……… Btw did you see who was second on list.

  10. bgarf says

    aok’s post above got me thinking so I wrote a long one while watching these fun NFL games being played in the snow…

    Fit me for a tinfoil hat and I’ll wear it proudly, because there’s no remaining doubt in my mind: CIAC games are influenced in an intentional and pre-meditated manner.

    I’ve been watching this closely and objectively for many years and the patterns that exist have become undeniable – plus I had a recent conversation with a respected former coach who said it’s a fact, not a theory, and that it impacts all sports, not just football.

    Besides the tweets from yesterday saying stuff like Coach Mac was giving an earful to the refs heading into the locker room at half, Middletown was called for at least five 2nd-half penalties after finally playing a clean 1st half, here’s what I’ve observed firsthand (many are Ansonia examples because I see them the most, but now with so many games televised I can observe many others).

    -Oftentimes, the refs call a game fairly/evenly but at a critical juncture will make a single, significantly influential call…specific examples include yesterday’s holding call on North Haven’s called-back TD run…and just about every close game Ansonia has played in the playoffs (remember, many of their games have been lopsided affairs).

    In LL title game vs. Amity, Ansonia trailed 21-20 at half, in 2nd half had ball on Amity 1 yard-line and a phantom call by all accounts backed them up so no easy Oseski QB-sneak.

    At Boyle Stadium, an AHS team that went 8-3 in NVL action vs. #1 seed Darien with their great lineman that went to Michigan…Luke Richmond leads an exciting 4th-quarter comeback but a holding call negates his short touchdown pass that would have tied it 26-26.

    AHS with one senior, Dobbs, ties Matakevich-led St. Joe’s 35-35 on final play of 3rd quarter – an 8-yard run – but a holding call negates it.

    North Branford goes up 7-0 last year, Ansonia scores next two TDs and on ensuing kickoff, a bizarre “inadvertent” whistle negates an Ansonia fumble recovery deep inside NB territory.

    Griswold upset of AHS…I can still see Coach Hunt infuriated, even by his intense standards, with one old ref who himself threw 4 flags on Ansonia’s final drive when they were down 7-6.

    Also many regular-season examples over the years but most egregious was phantom call that brought back Fran Hendricks’ long run in monsoon-conditions at Municipal. That Holy Cross team then got blown out by Curtis Eller’s Stratford team which is a good segue to the next type of examples.

    -Other times, the CIAC/ref agenda seems to be to foster blow-out results…in that Stratford game, HC was obviously an inferior team BUT almost every time they got something going a momentum-killing flag was thrown. I saw a similar situation in Platt-North Haven quarterfinal this week, NH was obviously a stronger team and had things in hand but two big plays (not touchdowns but long runs) that could’ve made things more respectable were called back by penalties. I also recall the Seymour-New Canaan game at SCSU in which New Canaan won fairly big but also benefitted by Seymour being called for 7 holds.

    In kind of its own category, I attended the Seymour-Darien title game at Ken Strong and a single ref seemed to be trying to counter the rest of his crew…he was the only one throwing flags benefitting Seymour and many of his calls immediately followed one helping Darien. It was fascinating watching this because you could tell he was truly trying to even things out – and without that ref, no way Seymour overcomes the several dubious calls against them.

    And lastly, prior to the 50-point rule Bloomfield had two late TDs called back vs. New Canaan after they were already up 50-something to 7. The calls were as phantom as they get and had the obvious intention of preventing an absurd final score.

    -The refs are mindful of all this…how do I know? Because in almost every Ansonia playoff game that was a romp, they have actually benefitted from perplexing calls. Most recently, Hyde and Ledyard were on the wrong end – but it was impressive that their fans reacted so furiously because the games were already well in hand.

    So why write all this up…because it pisses me off that this good-ol-boy-network type of bs filters down to even high school sports, because it’s simply wrong and unethical, and because I’m hopeful the added transparency from blogs, social media, and more games being televised, high schoolers will finally get to compete on an even playing field.

    • The Truth Hurts says

      Was it Sacred Heart or Holy Cross that lost to Stratford in the Final in late 1980’s @ Trumbull High School

      • bgarf says

        You’re right, it was Sacred Heart in 1988, my bad. My memory is obviously not what it used to be so I’ll stick to more recent examples of my theories going forward :-)

  11. Kahona says


    • Mooncake says

      C’mom Guys…

      I agree the NC play should not of been run until they chains were set. BUT…the down indicator was set at the line of scrimmage when they snapped the ball, only the 10 yd chains were not. It was no big deal…

  12. jeb says

    Biggarf. Please think what you are saying… the officials don’t care who wins the game in any sport. Most officials are ex players and they know how important the game means to the players coaches and fans. There is no good op boy network. The team that plays the best usually wins the game

    • bgarf says

      I’m sure many refs are fair-minded, jeb. I do have many more examples, though, just that my post was already too long.

      I didn’t have this mindset when I was younger but when you start seeing the same types of calls in the same types of situations with the same types of teams involved, you start to wonder.

      I remember one of the past Bloomfield-Ansonia match-ups…I was sitting next to a Bloomfield guy who was complaining about even the most obvious calls and I remember feeling actual disgust for his true victim-mentality. And I’m always preaching personal responsibility to any young person I’m around, but again, when you see the see the same types of calls in the same types of situations with the same types of teams involved…

  13. bgarf says

    Correction on that Boyle Stadium example, the called-back TD would’ve brought Ansonia to within six (24-18) heading into 4th quarter.

  14. jeb says

    Bgarf..all officials are from Ct. They are neutral officials. If north haven is playing against new Canaan then officials from a different part of the state will officiate. The officials for the nc vs. Nh game were probably from the litchfieldcounty board or the Hartford county board. I thought they did a great job.

  15. Pat McGroin says

    It’s called tempo – nc has the perfect offense to get refs in shape… calls were fair on both sides, the calls and the non calls – for the most part they let the kids play, in a state game, that’s all you can ask.

    Law however… terrible place to hold a state game. Can we get a working scoreboard?

  16. Dave says

    The officials didn’t cost us..NH… the game. Its not even worth mentioning here. Suggesting otherwise is foolish. We had our chances. We’ll be back!!!….I promise!

    • indians-no arrows says

      The refs did not cost Nh the game, bad calls hurt the losin team more in every game,

      NH lost due to the inability to complete a pass..great team just needs a QB coach, No one would bet on a team to get this far going @ 35/110 -15 pic’s for the season!
      great job in every other department.

      • Kahona says

        Thanks bgarf know 1 is saying the refs lost the game 4 NH. As a spectator who has to pay 10 per person expects the REF 2 wait 4 the chain gang 2 spot the ball be4 the next play gets off.I DONT THINK NH FANS AND PARENTS ARE FOLISH AT ALL

  17. jeb says

    Very impressed with this North Haven team. They gave New Canaan all they could handle. New Canaan was the better team but they knew they were in a game. It appears to me that the states two best teams will be playing each other this weekend. T he winner of the New Canaan vs. Darien game should be declared the states best team. Ansonia has a legitimate argument that they should be the best and it’s hard to argue with their logic being that they will finish undefeated. Does it really matter who the states best team is? It’s only an opinion-win it on the field. The CIAC must do something about their locations of semi-final games-too many fields had scoreboard problems . How about West Haven hosting three games at 11:oo, 2:00 and 5p.m. Move the other semi-final to SCSU or UNH especially if the westies are still playing.

    • willie says

      ansonia is a great program and i have nothing but respect for them. however, no matter who wins this weekend it would be simply silly to rank ansonia number one.
      maxpreps was remarkably adept at predicting the winners in these state playoffs. if you looked at the rankings before the playoffs for LL and L, the only game they did not predict was ridgefield over newtown. much more accurate than the polls and the pundits.
      maxpreps current rankings after two playoff games:
      st joes
      west haven
      north haven

      looks good. darien should be higher but otherwise fair enough.
      Now on what possible basis can the voters honestly select ansonia as number one at the end of all this?
      ansonia has a great in class s.
      i have nothing against them but we are talking about designating a team best in the state..shouldnt the voters try to be fair?
      not ansonia’s fault as they play their schedule, but ansonia does not play anyone good. does anyone want to argue that point. Ray-does ansonia play anyone any good??? no-even ray concedes that ansonia does not play anyone any good..not a single team. so it is hereby stipulated into evidence that the team folks want to appoint number 1 does not play a single good team (i dont mean top 15, i mean top 35). isnt this ridiculous?
      how can one compare ansonia to nc, darien, st joes, prep, wh? teams that played say 5-6 games against the best 15 teams in the state..while ansonia played woodland and nagautuck? not even top 30..maybe top 45. isn t this a silly exercise. shouldt the discussion be over?
      now lets look at it in a different way. lets say the number one team should be 1. the team you think would beat any other team and/or 2 the team with the “best body of work” over a season…and then lets throw in 3. a few other factors eg head to head games, a team that improved and ended the season strong etc etc.
      ok concerning factor 1, would ansonia beat nc, st joes, darien, prep, west haven etc? well we will never know of course so we just have these silly we dont play anyone but if we did we would win conversations..and the voters say our “opinion” which is just an opinion is that ansonia is number 1 ie they would beat each of these teams. but lets face it the voters dont really hold this opinion.they dont believe this. this is nonsense. put all the coaches and media in a room, lock them up and say you have to bet your car on who wins nc or say wh, on the one hand, or ansonia, on the other, 90% of the media and coaches bet nc and wh, correct? of course! because they are not stupid and they dont want to lose their house.
      ok factor number two. what does “body of work” mean? no idea.lets say it means which team if they played the same schedule as the other would do the same or better in terms of wins and loses? so lets say prep or st joes, just to pick a couple, play ansonia’s schedule=15,-0 no question..same with any of the top 10 above. just for the record, does anyone seriously doubt whether anyone of the top 10 teams above goes 15-0 if they play ansonia’s schedule?? no.
      now on the other hand, lets say ansonia plays lets say preps schedule eg st joes, hand, shelton, xavier,west haven (twice), ndwh, glastonbury, not to mention the cheshires, amitys etc etc….or st joes schedule, is ansonia undefeated and in the running for number 1? do the bet the car exercise voters. of course not. 100% would bet no ansoonia would not be undefeated and number 1. would ansonia be 11-2 like prep and st joes? bet the car again…90% of media and coaches would bet they do not do as well as 11-2..more like 8-5 maybe..why? because they dont want to lose the new buick..
      now, factor 3, head to head?..well ansonia does not play any top 30 teams head to head so this is not a factor. play well at end of season? for ansonia how would we even know?

      • bgarf says

        At least you finally put some thought into a post…where you and the rest of the crew in this thread who confuse their opinions as facts lose credibility is not looking at each year’s personnel and instead stick to close-minded blanket statements like Ansonia would always lose 3 games in the FCIAC or SCC. There are some years I would have to agree but this ain’t one of ’em – too much size, speed, and experience up and down the roster.

    • says

      West Haven should never be allowed to host a night playoff game. The lighting there is awful – uneven and slow refresh rates – and not up to standard on brightness. And that’s when the usual 10-20% of the bulbs aren’t burned out.

  18. Derpytank says

    The best NC team in 25 years…… lol. My opinion the NC team from 2008 was the best and didn’t they go undefeated and beat Darien twice in the FCIAC championship and the State championship….. and yes Ansonia is overrated, next year if they don’t play either NC, Darien, Staples or Greenwich in a preseason match then Shame on them. If they lose in a preseason match it doesn’t count to their regular season stats so why don’t they come out of the turtle valley shell and play with the big boys of FCIAC football.

  19. T says

    Hope Darien wins again but you’re spot on. NC is loaded. Both the Lou and his son took FCIAC coaches of the year. After watching them a couple times this season- I have to disagree. Coaching was the difference in the Darien/NC game. NC is loaded with talent and the coaches cost them the game.

  20. T says

    Ill give the nod to this NC team over the 2008 squad but ill agree that everyone has short memories. New Canaan beat Darien a second time with Darien’s best player out with a torn ACL (I hate excuses and they did win twice so take it with a grain of salt). NC is much tougher in the LB/Defensive line this year than ’08. I will give the edge to NC’s skilled players on the 2008 team.

  21. uncle leo says

    Darien did go into that final not at full strength….the running back was hurt in the Hillhouse game. No one knows who would have won but injuries are part of the game.

  22. JonnF says

    Middletown outplayed Darien in the semi no doubt. Middletown was lights out on defense, and very much the same as Darien on offense. Unfortunately it came down to a few missed calls by the officials that decided the game, like a first down for Darien late in the that was clearly at least a yard short, and the officials refused to measure

    • ciacfollower says

      John F,
      if Middletown ‘out played them’ then they would be playing @Arute Field in the finals this weekend.

Leave a Reply