NEW BRITAIN >> During post game interviews a fellow New Canaan player came over and pointed to Rams senior Ryan O’Connell and said that O’Connell was the best player in the FCIAC.
O’Connell sure played like it in the Class L state championship game against Windsor.
O’Connell ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass and made eight tackles as No. 2 New Canaan defeated No. 1 and previously unbeaten Windsor 35-20 to win the state title Saturday at Veterans Field.
It was the fourth straight title for the Rams (12-1) and 12th overall, all under head coach Lou Marinelli, who, according to reports, tied former West Haven coach Ed McCarthy for the state record for wins with 331 with this victory (Although, that number might be incorrect by one win. See below).
New Canaan was playing in the final for the 10th time in 11 seasons. The Rams haven’t lost to a team other than Darien since the 2012 Class L semifinals vs. Windsor. New Canaan’s only loss this year was to Class LL champ Darien in the regular season finale.
With the score tied at 14, O’Connell caught a 26-yard touchdown pass from freshman Drew Pyne to give the Rams the lead for good and a 21-14 advantage with 1:32 left in the first half. O’Connell and his fellow seniors won a state title all four years during their high school careers.
“It’s unbelievable, I can’t put it into words,” O’Connell said. “It’s something that I dreamed about growing up. It’s fantastic. I am so excited. I am at a loss for words.”
Teddy Hood scored on a 2-yard run and Pyne threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Graham Braden to give New Canaan a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.
Windsor then rallied. Jahkari Grant scored on a 12-yard run and Tim Gardner plunged in from a yard out to tie the game at 14 with 2:40 left in the second quarter.
But the Rams struck again right away when Pyne and O’Connell connected on the 26-yard touchdown to put their team up 21-14. It was a lead New Canaan never relinquished.
“I think that we could have played better,” Windsor coach Rob Fleeting said. “We could have played better. I expected us to play better, defensively.”
Windsor had allowed just 76 points entering the state final.
“We played good defensively all year,” Fleeing said. “I actually thought we would have more trouble offensively, but it seemed like our offense had a better day than the defensive side of the ball.
“I think they (New Canaan) moved the ball at will on offense. Even when they sputtered a little bit, they got right back on track and continued to do what they do. They’re a very good program.”
Grant threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Gardner in the fourth quarter for Windsor (12-1).
Jason Pinnock caught seven passes for 73 yards for the Warriors, who are now 1-3 in state finals. Windsor was held to just 13 yards rushing on 33 carries and 198 total yards on 60 offensive plays.
“Our defense did a great job today,” O’Connell said. “I give our defense a lot of credit. That being said, their offense (Windsor’s) was unbelievable. I think Pinnock, No. 4, was probably the best player I ever had to cover. He’s a stud.”
Pyne completed 10 of 13 passes for 137 yards and two touchdowns. Grant Morris kicked field goals of 31 and 21 yards for New Canaan. O’Connell finished with seven catches for 94 yards. Braden ran for a game-high 186 yards on 24 carries.
New Canaan 35, Windsor 20
(at New Britain)
New Canaan 14 7 6 8 — 35
Windsor 0 14 0 6 — 20
N—Teddy Hood 2 run (Grant Morse kick)
N—Graham Braden 8 pass from Drew Pyne (Morse kick)
W—Jahkari Grant 12 run (Eric Foster kick)
W—Tim Gardner 1 run (Foster kick)
N—Ryan O’Connell 26 pass from Drew Pyne (Morse kick)
N—Grant Morse 31 FG
N—Grant Morse 21 FG
N—Ryan O’Connell 11 run (Braden pass from Williams)
W—Tim Gardner 8 pass from Jahkari Grant (Foster kick)
Team records: Windsor 12-1; New Canaan 12-1
Video via CT Sports Now on Vantage Sports Network
Note: Previous GameTimeCT stories have West Haven coach Ed McCarthy at 332 victories, while the state record book lists him at 331.