Mistakes, New Canaan's speed hurts Cadets

The St. Joseph High football team lost to New Canaan High in a battle of unbeaten teams by the score of 62-21 on Friday night.

“Compared to others, they are faster and they don’t make too many mistakes,” was St. Joseph High football coach Joe Della Vecchia’s assessment of the difference between New Canaan and other teams his Cadets have faced this season. “Their overall speed team separates them.

The biggest momentum swing of the night before a packed crowd at Dunning Field, came on the first play of the second quarter with St. Joseph driving down 17-7 and was turned in by the Rams’ unlikeliest fastest player — Connor Buck.

Cadet quarterback Jordan Vazzano rolled to his right in an attempt to escape Cole Harris, but he knocked the ball loose and Buck collected the fumble and the 6-5, 244-pounder raced untouched 56 yards for the score.

“Connor is a sprinter on our track team and I think he is the fastest player on our team,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “Whenever a defense can score, what a difference that makes.”

“That crushed us,” Della Vecchia said of the turn-around, after the host Rams improved to 8-0 with the win over his 7-1 squad.

“We gave them 17 points off turnovers and we dropped three touchdown passes.

“They created (chances) and finished. We had opportunities and didn’t finish.”

New Canaan quarterback Nick Cascione passed for 378 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed for a score and a two-point conversion.

The Rams’ Peter Swindell opened the game with a 34-yard field goal (after an interception) and ended the first half with a 45-yard boot and a 34-14 lead.

Vazzano threw a six-yard touchdown pass to Lars Pedersen to make it 10-7, after the first of three Kevin Bortnick PATs, with 4:16 left in the first quarter.

New Canaan used a 24-yard scramble by Cascione to spark a 73-yard drive to go up 17-7 on Alex LaPolice’s touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone.

Vazzano completed passes of 27 yards to Pedersen and later hit Shane Miller with a seven-yard curl pass for a first down at the New Canaan 29.

That’s when Harris and Buck teamed up to turn the score to 23-7.

St. Joseph moved the ball from its 33 to the New Canaan 19 on its next series.

Miller took a jet sweep for 19 yards, with Pedersen providing the key block, to get the drive started.

Mufasa Abdul-Basir had a pair of tackle-breaking runs and Vazzano snuck for a first down with a five-yard pickup to the 19.

Harris split a gap to drop Abdul-Basir for a three-yard loss, and after a pair of dropped passes, including one in the end zone, New Canaan got the ball back on downs.

Mike Schuchman and Dylan Ryan pressured Cascione into intentionally grounding the ball on the next play, but New Canaan recovered to drive 89 yards in eight plays, as its fleet of receivers earned separation to catch passes of 16, 9, 47 and 18 yards to go up 31-7.

St. Joseph mixed running plays in with passes to answer with a 60-yard drive, which culminated with a one-yard scoring run by Abdul-Basir with 2:26 left in the half.

The Rams responded quickly behind Cascione’s passing, and Swindell drilled his 45-yarder to end the half.

Konrad Piszczatowski, Cameron Ryan, Matt Laveneziana and Alex Pinto forced New Canaan’s first punt of the game to open the third quarter, but after a Cadet three-and-out, the Rams scored in three plays to take a 41-14 lead with 6:43 left in the period.

The Cadets mounted a long drive from their 20, but another dropped pass in the end zone gave New Canaan back the ball at its seven.

Vazzano found Miller open on a wheel route, and the senior made a great catch on the run between two defenders for a 37-yard gain to the nine.

Pedersen worked himself free on fourth-and-goal to catch Vazzano’s pass to the outside shoulder for seven yards and the score with 9:25 remaining.