New Canaan receiver Wyatt Wilson keeps his eyes on the ball while Greenwich’s Ryan Raybuck defends during the Class LL football final on Saturday, Dec. 8, at Boyle Stadium. — Dave Stewart photo
The emotions were overflowing following the Greenwich Cardinals’ 34-0 win over the New Canaan Rams in the Class LL football final at Boyle Stadium on Saturday.
On the one side, there were the Cardinals, celebrating their first state championship since 2007.
On the other, there was New Canaan, which saw its wild ride ride through some of the toughest opponents in Connecticut come to a close.
For the departing Ram seniors, this season is not something they’ll not soon forget.
“This is the closest I’ve ever been with a group of people before,” senior co-captain Garrett Braden said. “Nothing’s going to change that. We’re brothers for life.”
“Obviously we all wish that we were able to close the season out on a high note with a championship,” senior co-captain Jack Conley said. “We might not have gotten the ring, but we got to be with our brothers for a maxed out 13 games. We all love each other so much and we’re sad to see it end.”
When all was said and done, the Cardinals (13-0) simply had too much for the Rams (10-3), racking up a 27-0 lead by halftime en route to the win. Greenwich’s offense gained 428 yards, while the defense held New Canaan to just 142.
Greenwich had several stars, with receiver A.J. Barber delivering a huge performance, catching 10 passes for 138 yards and three touchdowns, and throwing for another TD. Quarterback Gavin Muir passed for 242 yards and three TDs, and RB Tysen Comizio had 23 rushes for 140 yards.
It was a dominating performance, and one with mixed emotions for head coach Lou Marinelli, who was facing his son, John, the head coach of Greenwich.
“As his father, I’m happy for him, but it doesn’t make it any easier,” Lou Marinelli said. “My seniors have done so much for us. I feel for them.
“We really didn’t have any answers for a lot of the things they were doing. It was a great coaching job; there’s no doubt about who’s the best team in the state. They haven’t had a game that’s any closer than 28 points and they certainly did a tremendous job against us.”
The loss brought an end to a remarkable run for New Canaan, which was 3-2 after a week five loss to Greenwich and nearly didn’t qualify for the state tournament. The last time the postseason didn’t include New Canaan was in 2004.
The Rams regrouped, refocused and went on a run, qualifying for the Class LL tournament on the final day of the regular season when they topped rival Darien 17-14 in the Turkey Bowl.
New Canaan then went out and knocked off No. 1 Shelton 42-34 in the state quarterfinals, and dominated Fairfield Prep in a 38-7 semifinal win on Dec. 2 at Rafferty Stadium.
The magnitude of those three victories wasn’t lost on the Rams.
“It would’ve felt a lot better with a win here, but to finish off our careers with a few amazing wins before this game, beating Darien, Shelton and Prep, was great,” Conley said. “I’m just happy I was able to play a full season, a full 13 games, with my brothers. I love them all so much.”
“I’m so proud of these guys,” Braden said. “I’ve been trying to keep it together for them but this is tough. To put in all the work for this and then to have it end — we were doubted at 3-2 and we’re here now. We made it to a state championship and not many people can say that.”
As is usual for New Canaan, the team will graduate a large group of seniors — a group which includes co-captains Braden, Conley, Jack Stewart and Quintin O’Connell.
While they may have played their last games for the Rams, the family feeling will remain.
“I wish the best of luck to the juniors and sophomore because they’re a special group, and to the seniors, we’re brothers for life,” Braden said. “I’m so glad I grew up with these guys and it meant the world to me. I’m going to cherish that for the rest of my life.”
Class LL Final – Greenwich 34, New Canaan 0
Sat., Dec. 8, at Boyle Stadium
New Canaan 0-0-0-0 0
Greenwich 13-14-0-7 34
G – AJ Barber, 2-yard pass from Gavin Muir (Toby Turnbull PAT)
G – Barber, 60-yard pass from Muir (PAT failed)
G – Hunter Clark, 27-yard pass from Barber (PAT failed)
G – Muir, 7-yard run (Lance Large pass from Muir)
G – Barber, 9-yard pass from Muir (Ben Howarth PAT)
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