GREENWICH >> New Canaan linebacker Cole Harris doesn’t have much use for offense. Sure, he’ll play there in a pinch. But defense is his love and his passion.
“It’s hitting and tackling, that’s what the game’s all about,” he said. “And I can do that a whole lot more on defense than offense.”
Besides, as Harris amply demonstrated Saturday in an anticipated FCIAC clash with rival Greenwich, you can always score on defense.
Harris, a 6-foot, 211-pound all-state linebacker, returned an interception for a touchdown and blocked a punt which led to another touchdown as New Canaan scored 28 unanswered points in the second quarter in a 66-20 rout of Greenwich at Cardinal Stadium.
Nick Cascione ran for three touchdowns in the first half and threw a pair of touchdowns in the second as New Canaan, the No. 2 team in the GameTimeCT.com/New Haven Register poll, improved to 3-0.
While much of the postgame talk centered on New Canaan’s offensive afternoon, it was Harris and the New Canaan defense which made it all happen.
“It’s defense that turned this thing around,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “We’re over there trying to figure out (offensive) schemes, this, that and the other thing and we turned around and we’re scoring.”
Greenwich (1-2) mustered no more than 50 yards of offense in the first half and didn’t score an offensive touchdown until New Canaan had a 46-point lead in the second half.
After an anxious first quarter during which Greenwich hung around thanks to Austin Longi’s 75-yard kickoff return touchdown, Harris — almost single-handedly — turned the game on its ear.
He picked off a lob pass throw by Greenwich quarterback Jose Melo and took it 25-yards the other way. On Greenwich’s next possession, Harris blocked a punt which was scooped by teammate Cass Knox and taken for a 12-yard touchdown.
In a blink, the score went from 17-6 to 31-6.
“He just has a knack for coming up with a big play,” Marinelli said of Harris. “He has a good sense of where his drops are and where the ball is going. I’m glad he’s playing for us, I can tell you that.”
New Canaan intercepted Melo twice more before the half ended. Mike DiCosmo’s pick led to Nick Cascione’s third touchdown run of the day and a 38-6 halftime lead. Robby Paul also had an interception.
“It certainly makes my job easier when (the defense) is putting points on the board,” Cascione said. “I can kind of catch my breath, get my arm warmed up and just go out and execute.”
Alex LaPolice added a 29-yard touchdown pass from Cascione to start another onlsaught of points in the third quarter. It was 52-6 before Greenwich scored again.
Melo, who had a rough afternoon at quarterback, was moved to receiver in the second half and caught a touchdown pass. After rallying to beat West Haven in the season-opener, the Cardinals have lost two straight by a combined score of 108-41.
Afterward, Marinelli took several stunned glances at the scoreboard. “It doesn’t happen very often down here, I can tell you that,” he said.
After outscoring its opponents 158-61 in three victories, New Canaan is beginning to feel something special is afoot.
Then again, they say they’re far from perfect.
“We can do a whole lot better,” Harris said. “…And that’s scary.”
New Canaan 10 28 14 14 — 66
Greenwich 6 0 13 0 — 20
NC– Peter Swindell 32 field goal
G–Austin Longi 75 kickoff return (kick failed)
NC–Nick Cascione 4 run (Swindell kick)
NC–Cascione 4 run (Swindell kick)
NC–Cole Harris 25 interception return (Swindell kick)
NC–Cass Knox 12 punt block return (Swindell kick)
NC–Cascione 6 run (Swindell kick)
NC–Alex LaPolice 29 pass Cascione (Swindell kick)
NC–Frank Cognetta 13 run (Swindell kick)
G–Tom Rappa 15 run (pass failed)
G–Jose Melo 14 pass Matt Marzulla (Peter Heerdt kick)
NC–Jack Gilio 31 pass Cascione (Swindell kick)
NC– Morgan Carson 8 run (Swindell kick)
Team records: New Canaan 3-0, Greenwich 1-2