CIAC 2016 Football Class L Championship Preview

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By Joe Morelli
Special to

The New Canaan football team has now reached a state championship final in 10 of the last 11 seasons. The Rams won eight championships in that span and go for No. 9 Saturday at Veterans Stadium.

“Every year that’s what you want to do,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “Every year in the beginning of the year, we tell the seniors, ‘What are you going to do to write your legacy?’”

New Canaan’s legacy is pretty secure no matter what happens Saturday. The second-seeded Rams face top-seeded Windsor for the Class L state title at 2:30 p.m. It would be the fourth straight for New Canaan (11-1) if successful.

These two teams have history in the CIAC tournament. The Windsor Warriors (12-0) were the last team to beat Rams in Class L, 27-21 in the 2012 semifinals at Bunnell High.In 2011, New Canaan, the No. 5 seed, stunned top-seeded Windsor 27-24.

And last year, New Canaan rode the No. 6 seed to the title, beating No. 3 Windsor in the quarterfinals 21-6.

Windsor is coming off its best game of the season, beating Middletown for the second time this season, 40-14 in the semifinals. Tailback T.J. Gardner had a career-high 202 yards and five touchdowns against Middletown, putting him over 1,000 yards on the ground and at 16 touchdowns.

Quarterback Jakari Grant has thrown for almost 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns. Jason Pinnock has 52 catches for 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“It’s weird. I feel there’s less pressure because I don’t think people expect us to be successful,” Windsor coach Rob Fleeting said. “But our staff and our kids believe in themselves and we expect to have a great game.”

Freshman Drew Pyne has thrown 24 touchdown passes for New Canaan, including two in the 20-17 win over Notre Dame-West Haven in Monday’s semifinals. Pyne has thrown touchdowns to nine different receivers.

With his 169-yard effort against Notre Dame, Graham Braden went over 1,000 rushing yards this season.

Also, if New Canaan is victorious Saturday, it will give Marinelli victory No. 331, putting him just one win behind former West Haven coach Ed McCarthy, the all-time victories leader in CIAC history.

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