By Joe Morelli
Special to CIACsports.com
NEW CANAAN, Conn. – Drew Pyne completed 22-of-31 passes for 182 yards and two touchdowns for No. 2 seed New Canaan, which defeated No. 6 Notre Dame-West Haven 20-17 Monday night at Dunning Field.
It was the second straight season the Rams (11-1) eliminated the Green Knights (8-4) in the Class L semifinals. Last year, New Canaan won 51-27.
This year, New Canaan trailed at halftime (9-7) and didn’t take the lead for good until the third quarter.
“First of all, how about their defense? I mean we’re averaging 39 points per game and we struggled to get 20,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “That says volumes about those guys, certainly tough kids, see it in the films, how tough they are. … Somehow our kids rose to the occasion and met their toughness and we were able to pull this thing out. I think it was a great high school game.”
The Rams stopped the Green Knights twice deep in their own territory in the second half, once at the 1 and the other at the 10. Notre Dame didn’t score int the second half until there was 22 seconds left.
“I tip my hat to their defense,” Marcucci said. “We had a lot of opportunities to score, too many, and we couldn’t convert and their defense did. They know we’re just as good as they were, it’s as simple as that.”
Notre Dame stopped New Canaan late in the fourth quarter. The Rams lined up in punt formation on fourth down and 2 from their own 28, but Grant Morse took off for 9 yards and the crucial first down.
“It’s a rugby-style kick, and I’ve got my three personal protectors rolling out with me and I have the option to kick or run, and I saw the opening,” Morse said. “There was one guy in my way so it as like, ‘I might as well take it.’”
Graham Braden (game-high 169 yards on 18 carries) busted through the Green Knights’ defense for 51 yards down to the Notre Dame 12.
Ryan O’Connell scored three players on a 6-yard run to put New Canaan up 20-9 with 1:22 left.
New Canaan 20, Notre Dame-West Haven 17
(at New Canaan)
Notre Dame-WH 3 6 0 8 — 17
New Canaan 0 7 6 7 — 20
NDWH—Jared Gallbronner 21 FG
NCA—Ryan O’Connell 14 pass from Drew Pyne (Grant Morse kick)
NDWH—Nico Ragaini 61 punt ret
NCA—Jack Hoelzer 11 pass from (pass failed)
NCA—Ryan O’Connell 6 run (Morse kick)
NDWH—Christopher Elias 9 run (Michael Piechota pass from Elias)
Rushing: Notre Dame: Josh Witkowsky 13-29; Chris Elias, 8-26; Nico Ragaini 7-16; New Canaan: Graham Braden 18-169; Drew Pyne 9-38; Ryan O’Connell 7-35; Grant Morse 1-9.
Passing: Notre Dame: Chris Elias 16-36-1-206;New Canaan: Drew Pyne 22-31-2-182
Receiving: Mike Piechota 7-101; Nico Ragaini 5-54; Justin Morehead 2-18; Jordan Gargiulo 1-9; Josh Wikowsky 1-6; New Canaan: Graham Braden 6-34; Jack Hoezler 4-55; Ryan O’Connell 4-37; Justin Greco 4-40; Quintin O’Connell 3-12; Jack Rechtemann 1-2.