DANBURY — It seems laughable to discuss a game in Week 2 having any long-term relevance for usually mighty New Canaan.
But after last Friday’s 38-35 season-opening home loss to St. Joseph, the Rams need a strong showing Friday night at Danbury in a big way.
“I think we should fire the head coach, he needs to go,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli joked. “Things that happened in that game were kind of crazy, but it was one of those nights where we weren’t as sharp as we should have been and they were. I’m not taking anything away from them, they did a tremendous job, their kids played tough.”
It was the first time the Rams lost to a team other than Darien since 2012. New Canaan committed 18 penalties and turned the ball over twice.
“We have to play better if we expect to do anything this year,” Marinelli said. “It was a harsh wake-up call. On paper we’re pretty good, but we haven’t played that way yet.”
According to junior receiver Quintin O’Connell, that wake-up call has been answered this week in practice.
Part of the change in momentum in the second half was the play of the defense, which started getting to the quarterback with more consistency than it had early on. New Canaan finished the game with seven sacks, four of which came courtesy of linebacker Garrett Braden.
“That’s what we pride ourselves on, getting to the QB,” Braden said. “If we can get pressure then we’ll give our secondary more time to figure out the coverages. (In the second half), I realized that I had to go back to basics, we were making things way too complicated at first and once we just started playing it worked out.”
There’s a reason Marinelli has led New Canaan to four straight state titles, and if the Rams are going to contend for a fifth, it starts with getting on track Friday night.
“Sometimes when you do something for a long time you take things for granted, partially that’s my fault,” Marinelli said. “Things don’t always work out in life the way you want them to, you just have to adjust and go back out there and try again.”
NEW CANAAN RAMS (0-1) AT DANBURY HATTERS (0-1)
When/Where: Friday at Danbury High School, 7 p.m.
Player to watch, New Canaan: RB Owen Shin. The senior and first-year starter had a breakout game in Week 1, rushing 12 times for 126 yards and a score. If Shin can be a constant factor it will take pressure of sophomore QB Drew Pyne.
Player to watch, Danbury: QB Diante Vines. If Danbury is going to pull off the home upset and keep up with New Canaan’s offense, Vines will have to make plays both with his arm and his feet.
Storyline: New Canaan should be as motivated as ever after last week’s upset against St. Joseph. If the Rams can clean up their mistakes, it could be a long day for the young — but athletic — Hatters.
“The practice has totally changed, and the attitude we bring to practice,” said O’Connell, who had three touchdowns in Week 1. “If you watch the film of the St. Joe’s game — they’re a great team, don’t get me wrong — but we seem to have taken almost the entire first half off, and one of the things that was preached by the coaches is we can’t just flip a switch. A lot of it stems from tougher practice and more discipline during practice.”