STAMFORD — As football coach Frank Marcucio has been building the program at Westhill, he has looked at what the most successful programs in the state do to get there.
One of the programs he has tried to emulate is the state’s best, who also happen to be Westhill’s geographic neighbors, New Canaan.
The two teams meet Thursday night at 7 p.m. at Boyle Stadium.
Thought the schools are separated by just 7.3 miles, they two football programs could not have been moving further apart the last 30 years.
As New Canaan has piled up FCIAC and state championships, Westhill has struggled to reach .500 every year.
Over the last few seasons, Westhill has improved and slowly built itself into a team that opponents can no longer look past.
If you need evidence of that, look at Westhill’s first 3-0 start in recent memory. MaxPreps stats go back to 2004 and Westhill was never 3-0 in that time.
The Vikings know there is still much work to be done but they now feel that they are moving in the right direction.
“When you are building a program, you aspire to be like a program like (New Canaan),” Marcucio said. “They are one of the best teams in the state every year. They have skill and speed and they play disciplined football. They execute everything they are doing and we are still struggling with that. It is the difference between being good and being great.”
The improvements at Westhill have not gone unnoticed by New Canaan.
“I think this is the best Westhill team that I can remember,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “They are undefeated and we know they will be very anxious to play us because they are riding high right now. The days of taking Westhill lightly are over. They are athletic and very skilled and can strike very fast on offense.”
While the Vikings come in unbeaten on the young season, the Rams come in having seen their winning streak against teams not named Darien snapped in an opening night loss to St. Joseph at home.
Since that loss, New Canaan rolled over Danbury and Trumbull but Marinelli still sees plenty his team needs to refine.
“We need to be more fundamentally sound,” Marinelli said. “We need to be more consistent and not just rely on the big play. Sometimes we get more concerned with getting touchdowns instead of getting first downs. We need to settle down and move the ball down field. Improving in the season is a long process. The team you saw against St. Joe’s will be different than the team you see Thursday night. It is a week-to-week balancing act.”
Marcucio said something similar about his team.
The Vikings have struggled with turnovers and penalties at times, things they cannot do against the Rams.
“If we are going to win we have to be perfect,” Marcucio said. “We need to limit mistakes and not have any turnovers and we have to capitalize if they make any mistakes. If you look back at the big games we have played the last few years, penalties and turnovers have killed us.”
Can Westhill play the perfect game? Are the Rams back in state-championship caliber form yet? Those questions will be answered Thursday at Boyle Stadium.