EAST HAVEN, Conn. — Call them the New Canaan Houdinis.
Despite five turnovers, including four interceptions thrown by quarterback Matt Milano, the New Canaan Rams overcame yet another deficit in the fourth quarter. This time, kicker Collin Shapiro provided the heroics, booting a game-tying field goal with 3:50 remaining and a 33-yard shot with four seconds to go to give New Canaan a 27-24 victory over Class L’s top-seeded and previously undefeated Windsor Warriors.
Shapiro had a feeling the game would come down to field goals after Windsor nailed a kick in the first quarter. The senior said he never doubted he’d hit the winning kick, though he had some second thoughts after he saw the ball get tipped at the line of scrimmage.
“If I was nervous, I knew I was gonna miss it,” said Shapiro, receiving hugs from family and New Canaan fans who made the trip to East Haven. “I stayed clear and painted a picture of it going in. After it got tipped, it was kind of one of those ‘Oh dang’ moments.”
The kick capped a comeback of major proportions. New Canaan put itself in a deep hole courtesy of turnovers. One of Milano’s four interceptions was returned for a TD by Windsor and gave the Warriors a 24-7 lead with 8:15 remaining in the second quarter. Milano had an uncharacteristically rough day, going 17-for-33 and 176 yards along with those four picked off passes.
A late turnover by Windsor proved the catalyst for New Canaan’s comeback. Windsor muffed a New Canaan punt deep in the fourth quarter. New Canaan recovered at the Warriors' 25. Three running plays and a Shapiro kick helped New Canaan tie it up.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Bobby Distler and a 2-point conversion courtesy of a Milano pass to Connor Kilbane brought the Rams to within three in the third quarter. Distler, who rushed for 70 yards, said his teammates never lost faith. “Even in the first half, when we were down, there was no time I thought we were going to lose this game,” Distler said. "The whole time I was saying, 'We can do it.' We’ve come back from big deficits before. It was really not a question that we were gonna lose the game. It was how were we gonna win it.”
New Canaan head coach Lou Marinelli said if any team can come back from a 17-point deficit, it’s this year’s Rams. But how does a team that allows five turnovers win? “Uh, we go to church,” Marinelli joked. “I don’t know what team can have five turnovers and still win. But it shows our kids that if you keep on fighting, you never know what’s going to happen.”
The win vaults the Rams to the Class L championship game at Rentschler Field, where they will play Daniel Hand. It will mark New Canaan’s sixth consecutive trip to the title game. Masuk defeated New Canaan for the title last year.