STAMFORD, Conn. – John Benalcazar nailed a field goal on third down in overtime Saturday to give Trinity Catholic High School a stunning 31-28 upset of New Canaan, the 17th-ranked team in the state.
Trinity Catholic’s victory was monumental for fourth-year football coach Pete Stokes.
“It’s the best football game they’ve played and the best game I’ve coached,” he said, with tears in his eyes after the captivating victory that occurred only after New Canaan missed a short OT field goal try of its own.
New Canaan rallied to tie the game, 28-28, late in the third quarter after a double penalty on a Rams punt return. Stokes was called for unsportsmanlike conduct after a late-hit penalty, and the referee marked off more than 30 yards against Trinity (ranked 63rd going into the game). That gave the Rams the ball on the Crusaders' 18-yard line, and the Rams scored the tying touchdown on the next play on a pass from junior quarterback Teddy Bossidy to junior Jack Gilio.
“That double penalty was uncalled for,” Stokes said. “I was embarrassed by it and, if we had lost, it would have been on me.”
The penalty, combined with a third quarter injury to Trinity senior quarterback Danny O’Leary, put New Canaan in the driver’s seat, yet it could not capitalize.
Eliminating the Crusaders’ passing game forced them to rely entirely on the run. Senior Shaquan Howsie had a strong game on the ground, scoring three touchdowns, but he was unable to keep up the pace after O’Leary’s injury as New Canaan was able to concentrate on stopping him. But the Trinity defense stepped up and shut down New Canaan’s attack.
Stokes attributed the victory to the defense, which held New Canaan scoreless in the fourth quarter and stymied its drive in overtime.
“They came out and took it to us,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “They outplayed, outhustled and outhit us. We had our opportunities, but we have a young team and you can’t expect them to perform the way we have in the past.”
New Canaan takes its 1-1 record to Fairfield Warde next Saturday for a 10:30 a.m. game. Trinity Catholic, 2-0, hosts Harding at 1 p.m. Saturday.