Football Embracing expectations
NEW CANAAN — It’s just a part of donning the uniform at New Canaan. There are certain expectations to uphold each season.
Even so, those expectations couldn’t be higher at Dunning Stadium in 2018.
The Rams have four players — Jack Conley (Boston College), Jack Stewart (Michigan), Drew Pyne (Notre Dame) and Garrett Braden (Rice) — committed at the Division I level, and the entire team still has a salty taste in its mouth from falling short of a state title a season ago.
New Canaan will jump into Class LL for the 2018 season, not looking only to dethrone rival Darien — winners of the last three LL titles — but also to expel its own demons.
“We’re very fortunate to have the kids that we have,” Rams coach Lou Marinelli said. “The expectations are high, but they’re always high here and they should be. We want them to be high and let’s see what we can do.”
It starts with the Rams not beating themselves. In each of New Canaan’s three losses last season, there was a common theme —penalties and turnovers — and improving on those has been the focal point of the preseason.
“We just have to improve on how undisciplined we were last year,” Marinelli said. “It’s not that we got beat. We gave games away of our own undoing, so we have to improve on that. Who knows what’s going to happen? But I know this, the kids are anxious to get started, and it doesn’t get any better than this.”
With Pyne at the helm in his third year as a starter, there looks to be no ceiling for what the Rams offense can accomplish in 2018. The Grip It and Rip It tournament held at New Canaan earlier in the summer was a perfect example, as the Rams walked away with the crown over a stacked field.
Yes, passing leagues aren’t the real thing, but adding a line that is book ended by two Division I tackles should provide Pyne with a clean pocket every time he drops back.
“It’s definitely second-nature,” Pyne said of his familiarity with the offense. “Freshman year I came in and learned all the offense, but by now me and (offensive coordinator Dante Correnty) have worked hard to have one mind together. If he calls a play, I know exactly why he’s calling it and who we’re thinking about on that play. For us to do that we had to put a lot of work in and I think we’re doing pretty well so far.”
There’s a saying that iron sharpens iron and with that in mind, the New Canaan defense has no better tool to improve itself than facing that offense in practice every day.
“You couldn’t ask for anything more,” Braden said. “The offense is giving the defense the best look they can give us and it’s vice versa. I think both units thrive off the competition and we have something really great where we can both give each other that competition and reps.”
At practice, New Canaan looked to be loose and having fun. Yes they have a goal in mind, and yes there’s a ton of expectations from both inside and outside the program, but to the Rams, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I’ve heard that pressure is a privilege,” Pyne said. “So, it’s a privilege to be where we’re at and we’re working hard to keep being where we’re at.”