NEW CANAAN — Down 22-7 in the second quarter at Greenwich last week, New Canaan’s Griffin Arnone jumped a Cardinal screen play, intercepted the ball and took it 40 yards to the end zone, seemingly breathing life into the Rams.
As Arnone and his teammates celebrated, the referees were calling a roughing-the-passer penalty, negating the play.
Fast-forward to the third quarter, now with the Rams trailing 22-14. Quarterback Drew Pyne drops back and hits Patrick Metzger on a perfect post route and Metzger takes it 46 yards to make it a two-point game with the extra point pending.
Not so fast.
Again, New Canaan was whistled for a penalty. This time, it was an illegal shift that cost the Rams six points — and Greenwich eventually pulled away for 36-21 victory.
In New Canaan’s two losses — the other at the hands of St. Joseph, 38-35, in the season opener — the Rams have combined to commit an astounding 36 penalties.
“It’s had every effect,” said Ram coach Lou Marinelli of the mistakes’ impact on his team’s 3-2 record. “Not to take anything away from St. Joe’s or Greenwich, they’re certainly great teams and certainly deserved to win both games, but I think we beat ourselves. I’m surprised, I can’t remember a year like this really where we’ve been so undisciplined and shooting ourselves in the foot the way we have.”
The problem with the Rams’ Achilles heel this season is that it’s not something easily corrected in practice — it’s constant mental lapses.
Because of that, captains Sean Knight, Jake Ciancio, Seamus O’Hora and Grant Morse have taken it upon themselves to instill a change.
“We’ve tried a lot of things,” said Knight, a senior safety. “It’s tough, but we’re leading by example. We’re trying to go out there and do our best to not make those mistakes and we are getting on teammates to not commit mental mistakes … if they make a mistake we do pushups or run the play a couple more times. We’re just making sure we keep practicing until we get it right.”
The good news is that after the season-opening loss to St. Joseph, New Canaan rebounded to defeat its next three opponents — Danbury, Trumbull and Westhill — by a combined 152-28 margin. Something Marinelli need his team to replicate starting Friday with a home matchup against Trinity Catholic (2-3).
“I hope so, certainly this is different territory that we’re in right now,” Marinelli said. “We’ve had a pretty good week of practice and hopefully our guys are ready to get back on track again. We’re playing a good Trinity Catholic team, so we have to see how we do. I’m anxious to see how we do.”
The bad news is that the Rams, winners of the last four Class L titles, are one loss away from having virtually no hope to make it to the postseason.
In Knight’s opinion however, playing with their backs against the wall might be just what the doctor ordered
“I honestly think we need it,” Knight said. “I think it’ll be a wake-up call and it will be good for us. We’ll be playing every game scratching and clawing with our hearts on the line. It’s literally our season, every game is make or break, we don’t have a second chance, we have to give it everything we got and I think guys know that.”