The Class L state football final had all the makings of a great comeback when New Canaan erased a 16-point deficit Saturday and entered halftime trailing Masuk by just three points. But the wheels came flying off in the second half as the Panthers scored 27 unanswered points to put the game away. The hapless Rams witnessed firsthand the fury of junior quarterback Casey Cochrane and undefeated Masuk's top-ranked offense as they were thrashed 50-20 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. New Canaan was going for its fifth straight state title.
After Masuk staked out a 16-0 lead, Rams quarterback Matt Milano and star wide receiver Kevin Macari seemed to be finding their stroke, connecting for two quick touchdowns in the second quarter. Milano then led an incredible 80-yard drive in the final 1:50 of the first half, hitting Patrick Newton for a 13-yard touchdown. The Rams entered the locker room trailing 23-20, but sloppy play in the second half doomed their title chances.
Milano fumbled a bad snap out of the shotgun on New Canaan's first possession of the second half, and the Rams were never the same, shooting themselves in the foot with a whopping 10 penalties. Milano was also sacked a season-high six times.
"Right now I feel like I got hit in the head with a sledgehammer," New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli said. "[Masuk] is up there among the best teams I've seen in my 30 years here. You can't expect to beat a team that good and give up field position with penalties. They don't practice all week to make us look good."
Masuk piled up an incredible 529 yards of total offense -- including 309 yards passing by Cochrane, 115 yards receiving by Thomas Milone, and 174 yards rushing by Colin Markus. While Cochrane was expected to light up the field, it was Markus who proved to be the Rams undoing.
New Canaan's offensive and defensive lines, which had been so effective in the first two rounds of the playoffs, were decimated by the Panthers. Masuk's 224 yards rushing was the most allowed by the Rams this season. The pocket seemed to constantly collapse around Milano, making him scramble and throw short to the outside.
"I want to come back and do this again," Masuk's Cochrane said. "How we responded to them coming back at the half shows the character of our team. It was a great team effort."
Despite being only a junior, Cochrane is already being recruited by Boston College.
It was just the third time New Canaan has lost in the title game , the last being an equally bruising 55-6 loss to Bloomfield in 2000. The Rams finish the season at 12-2.
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