Football: St. Joseph shuts out No. 1 New Canaan
The last time the New Canaan football team was shutout, it was 2006 and Curt Casali was the Rams quarterback, George W. Bush was President of the United States and Jaden Shirden had not yet started kindergarten.
Fast forward to 2018 and Casali is catching for the Cincinnati Reds, Donald Trump is in the White House and Shirden gained 108 yards on 31 carries and scored two touchdowns for No. 3 St. Joseph, as the Cadets shocked the top-ranked Rams with a 28-0 blanking at Dalling Field in Trumbull.
“It doesn’t get any better than that,” St. Joe’s head coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “You play the number-one team again, a great program and rich tradition that they have, and we played lights out.”
Shirden, coupled with a flawless performance from the Cadet defense, did most of the heavy lifting as the junior running back helped offset a rare off game from senior quarterback David Summers. The Maryland-bound signal caller worked around three first half interceptions, eventually settling down in the second half.
“We were too emotionally charged so we just calmed down and tried to see what Jaden could do,” Della Vecchia said. “If we give Jaden the ball, some positive things are going to happen.”
Meanwhile, the usually high-powered New Canaan offense never found a rhythm. Despite junior quarterback Drew Pyne’s solid 18-for-29, 164-yard passing performance, the Rams seemed completely out-of-sync offensively throughout the contest.
“We had all year to get ready for this game and for us to play like that — I don’t believe what I saw,” New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli said. “Take your hat off to St. Joe’s, they did a hell of a job.”
The Cadets set the tone of the game from kickoff, driving down to the New Canaan 10-yard line. And although that opening drive resulted in a missed 35-yard field goal attempt, St. Joe’s had the early advantage in both momentum and field position.
New Canaan’s first possession was a harbinger of things to come.
On just their third offensive snap the Rams fumbled the ball away on their own 27-yard line with Cadet senior linebacker Jesse Lawson coming up with the recovery.
Three plays later, Summers appeared to have found Will Diamantis in the end zone but New Canaan senior co-captain Quintin O’Connell ripped the ball away for a touchdown-saving interception.
After trading punts with the Rams over the next three possessions, St. Joe’s had another prime scoring opportunity, driving down to the New Canaan 19-yard line. Senior defensive back Nate Sibbett’s interception foiled the Cadets, however, and kept the game scoreless as the first quarter ended.
St. Joe’s broke through in the second.
Junior linebacker Cole DaSilva stepped in front of a Pyne pass for an interception, giving the Cadets possession at the 50-yard line. Five plays later, Shirden plunged into the end zone from two yards out to give St. Joe’s a 7-0 lead, after the first of four Luke Kirby conversion kicks, with 9:55 to go in the half.
Less than seven minutes later, St. Joe’s scored again as Summers hit Diamantis in stride for a 40-yard touchdown, extending to a 14-0 lead with 3:08 left in the second quarter.
New Canaan came out of halftime with what would end up being its best drive of the game, marching 60 yards in seven plays to the St. Joe’s 13-yard line.
That was as close as the Rams would get however, as New Canaan could not convert a fourth-and-11, giving the Cadets possession on their own 19.
The next drive sealed the game for St. Joe’s.
The Cadets marched 81 yards, converting three third downs, and were helped by a New Canaan roughing the kicker call on what would have been a 31-yard field goal.
As a result of the penalty, St. Joe’s regained possession on the New Canaan 7-yard line.
Two plays later, Shirden had his second 2-yard touchdown run of the game to put the Cadets up 21-0 with 2:30 remaining in the third quarter.
Another Cole DaSilva interception ended the next New Canaan possession at the Rams 34. Five plays later, Summers scored from two yards out on a QB keeper to make it 28-0 with 10:27 left to play in the game.
The Cadets outgained New Canaan 299 yards to 163 in the game and had a 4-3 edge in takeaways.
The St. Joe’s defense also sacked Pyne five times, as the down-linemen trio of Mike Morrissey, Cayden Porter and Jermaine Williams were constantly infiltrating New Canaan’s backfield.
Senior receiver Phil Pasmeg led the Cadets with four catches for 69 yards, with Diamantis and senior Jesse Bike chipping in with three receptions apiece.
It was a dominant overall performance for the defending Class S champs, now bumped up to Class M in 2018.
“I told the guys before the game they’re the same kids we played against last year,” Della Vecchia said. “You can have four Division 1 guys but we’re going to play like a team and take 60 guys and get after it. I think that was the difference — that our guys just hung together the entire time.”
Meanwhile for New Canaan, O’Connell had a great individual performance, catching eight passes for 106 yards with an interception on defense. Senior J.R. Moore had four receptions for 20 yards and junior Luke Morton hauled in three catches.
The Rams will try to regroup Friday night at home against Danbury.
“For the second year in a row our kids are reading about how they’re number one in the state, maybe they were a little overconfident,” Marinelli said. “But we didn’t prepare them the way we could have. For us to play like that, I’m just baffled.”