Update: According to the state’s attorney, the case against Jack Joyce was dismissed.
STAMFORD — The landscape of high school football in Connecticut underwent a dramatic change over four quarters at Boyle Stadium on Thursday morning.
The No. 1 ranked team in the state was taken down, it’s nearly three-season long winning streak was snapped and a four-time defending state champion went from missing the playoffs to a shot a fifth straight title.
New Canaan’s 27-0 win over No. 1 Darien was the shot heard round Connecticut Thursday morning as the Rams clinched the eighth and final spot in the Class L playoffs and won their first Turkey Bowl in five years. Darien’s winning streak ended at 34 games.
The game took a turn on Wednesday night when Darien quarterback Jack Joyce and safety/receiver Brian Minicus were arrested on charges stemming from an assault earlier this month, rendering them unavailable for the game.
The Blue Wave were also without the services of LB/WR Nick Green, but coach Rob Trifone offered no reason for his absence.
New Canaan (8-2) took advantage of the shorthanded Blue Wave in a hurry on Thursday when Jake Ciancio picked off the first pass off the game and returned it for a touchdown. The rout was on from there.
“That’s really what we wanted,” said Rams coach Lou Marinelli, whose team will play at No. 1 Middletown in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. “I’m so proud of our seniors. They’ve been maligned since they walked through the door as freshmen … so for them to dig down and do this against a team like Darien, I’m so proud of them.”
Darien (9-1) meanwhile dipped to the No. 3 seed in Class LL — where it’s won the last two titles — and will host East Hartford.
“Now that we have a few days to get ready for East Hartford,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said, “I think you’ll see us back in our normal strut.”
After the pick-6, both defenses stood tall, with the only other first-half points coming courtesy of a Grant Morse 24-yard field goal late in the second quarter.
The Rams started the second half with a 23-yard touchdown run from Owen Shin and Morse added a 44-yard field goal in the fourth.
The Rams put the exclamation point on the afternoon with a minute left when Zach Miller intercepted his second pass — and the team’s fourth — returning it 42 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m just thinking that was the play I’m supposed to make and I’m happy I made it,” Miller said. “Our backs were against the wall and everybody on the team felt it. Everyone came together, it was beautiful to watch.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Shin, New Canaan. The senior running back set the tone for the Rams offense, rushing 27 times for 120 yards and the Rams only offensive touchdown.
“Owen Shin was unbelievable,” Marinelli said. “He took some hard hits but he kept on going. He’s a tough runner and allowed us to run the clock.”
DRIVE THAT MATTERED
Leading 10-0, New Canaan opened the second half with a drive that included a third-and-33 conversion on a terrific pass from Drew Pyne to Griffin Arnone. However after three offensive penalties the Rams were forced to punt, but a roughing the punter penalty on Darien keep the drive alive, setting up Shin’s 23-yard touchdown.
“We’re going to meet when we get back to the school and talk about how to regroup,” Trifone said. “Obviously, we had very little time to do that, but when you coach high school athletes and teenagers there are bigger lessons than winning a football game. We are educators, and although it was difficult and hard love, we did what we needed to do.”
NEW CANAAN 27, DARIEN 0
NEW CANAAN7 3 7 10—27
DARIEN0 0 0 0—0
NC—Jake Cianco 25 interception return (Grant Morse kick)
NC—Morse 24 field goal
NC—Owen Shin 23 run (Morse kick)
NC—Morse 44 field goal
NC—Zach Miller 42 interception return (Morse kick)
Records: New Canaan 8-2, Darien 9-1.