New Canaan Handed 34-10 Loss In Class L State Championship

Matt Milano passes for 357 yards for Rams, who finish 11-2 after losing in the state final for the second straight year

Until Saturday, New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli had the upper hand on Steve Filippone, his good friend and counterpart from Hand, but that changed on a chilly afternoon at Rentschler Field.

Kevin Frey set an early tone with two long runs in the first five minutes and rushed for 211 yards on 22 carres as the Tigers defeated the Rams 34-10 in the Class L state championship game.

Filippone had been 0-3 in head-to-head meetings with Marinelli in the postseason, including two previous losses in the state finals and a 39-21 setback in the Class L semifinals last season.

Saturday's victory gave Hand (13-0) its 10th state championship, tied with St. Joseph for second-most all-time, and first since 2005.

"They were bigger, faster and stronger and they kicked our butts," Marinelli said. "There's really nothing else you can say. They took it to us."

Appearing in its sixth straight final, New Canaan's offense got untracked after going three-and-out on its first three possessions and finished with 357 total yards, almost all of it through the air.

But the Rams (11-2) twice turned the ball over on downs inside Hand's 15-yard line in the first half and managed just three points on three trips inside the red zone.

New Canaan was unable to overcome an early 14-0 deficit and settled for its second straight runnner-up finish. Last year, the Rams lost to Masuk 50-20 in the state final.

Frey's brother played on the 2007 Hand team that lost to New Canaan 34-30 in the Clas MM state final.

"This was kind of a revenge game," he said. "I felt I owed it to him to be on the first Hand team that beat New Canaan."

The Rams, who had to rally from fourth-quarter deficits in their previous two playoff games, found themselves in a hole just over a minute into Saturday's contest.

After Hand forced a three-and-out on the game's opening possession, Frey stunned the Rams by racing 74 yards up the middle for a touchdown on the Tigers' first play from scrimmage with 10:53 left in the opening quarter.

Later in the first period, Frey's 58-yard romp set up Henry Foye's 12-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Anderson that made it 14-0 just five minutes into the contest.

The Rams' finally got going, but Kevin McDonough was stopped for no gain by the middle of Hand's tough front line on 4th-and-1 from the Tigers' 11.

In the second quarter, New Canaan also came up empty as Matt Milano's 6-yard completion to Connor Kilbane failed to pick up a first down on 4th-and-7 from Hand's 10.

Robert Distler's interception gave the Rams another chance at Hand's 39. This time, Marinelli played it safe as Collin Shapiro booted a 26-yard field goal with 1:36 remaining.

But Foye engineered a killer two-minute drive, as his 11-yard TD strike to Nicolas Vitale gave the Tigers a 20-3 lead with seconds left in the half.

Foye completed 18 of 31 passes for 127 yards with two TDs and two interceptions. Vitale was Hand's top receiver with 11 atches for 87 yards.

Hand extended its lead to 27-3 on Vitale's 28-yard TD run with 9:34 left in the third quarter as the Tigers continued to wear down the Rams with a punishing ground attack that churned out 321 yards on the ground.

"We absolutely expected it to be a dogfight right to the end and the final score was surprising," Frey added.

Hand's fellow Southern Connecticut Conference member Xavier, which will face Staples in the Class LL title game later Saturday, has been No. 1 in the state for most of the season, yet Marinelli thinks consideration should be given to the Tigers. Hand and Xavier did not play during the regular season.

"All you (media) guys who vote for the No. 1 team in the state, I think you are overlooking (Hand)," Marinelli said. "We got beat by a better team, and they're well-coached. Steve isn't one of the best coaches in the state without a reason."

With the Rams's running attack virtually non-existent (16 yards on 22 carries), Milano was forced to pass 63 times. He completed 38 for 357 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Peter Kraus was New Canaan's leading receiver with 10 grabs for 131 yards.

Milano's 30-yard TD strike to Duke Repko pulled New Canaan within 27-10 with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter before Hand capped the scoring on Matthew Walsh's 1-yard TD with 7:29 remaining in the game.







Hope December 11, 2011 at 02:50 AM
A good run for New Canaan. Thank you!!
James December 12, 2011 at 03:44 PM
Since most college or pro teams would be replacing a coach who lost the championship two seasons in a row, is it time for New Canaan to consider replacing coach Lou Marinelli? I mean, we put a lot of money behind his football program and we expect results. Comments?
Elmcrest December 12, 2011 at 04:52 PM
No. It's not a college or a pro team, it's a sport offered through our local high school. And the results have been very good, year in, year out, for 31 years. If the "results" you "expect" are to win the state championship every single year, you're going to be disappointed no matter who your coach is. There are probably some who say forget the FCIACs and States, anyway -- did he beat Darien? And there are others who will ignore the wins/losses altogether and simply ask, did he help instill good values in his players that will help carry them through life? Replace a coach who goes 11-2? Replace a coach who's gracious in victory, and gracious in defeat? No thank you.


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