Parelli: FCIAC may get some much needed parity in 2016
In any sport, at any level, parity is what makes games interesting.
If you live in Birmingham it’s easy to watch and root for the Alabama football machine to squish a small mid-major school that has only subjected themselves to share the field with the Crimson Tide in exchange for the promise of monetary compensation in the six-figure range.
But why should those without personal ties to the school care?
That’s exactly what happened in Connecticut football last year with the Darien and New Canaan teams playing the role of Bama and virtually every other school playing the role of punching bag--and it was something to behold.
The Ram’s Michael Collins tossing touchdown after touchdown, rewriting every quarterback record not just at New Canaan but in Connecticut.
Darien’s Mark Evanchick brushing off left tackles like mosquitos on a hot day and pummeling wide-eyed quarterbacks virtually at will.
But then the second half would start, Collins and the rest of the Ram starters would don their sideline caps, Evanchick and the Wave stars would laugh and cheer for the reserves and the games got, well, boring.
On average Darien and New Canaan combined to outscore their opponents 45-12 (excluding the teams’ only meeting, a 28-21 Darien victory at the Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving for the FCIAC title) and it could have been much worse if not for the now defunct Cochran Rule that prevented a team from winning by 50 or more by suspending the coach if such an event were to occur.
Plus, Lou Marinelli of New Canaan and Rob Trifone of Darien are good enough men to take their foot off the gas in a blowout game; it is high school after all and in their storied careers both have been on the other end of a drubbing, although not for some time.
The Turkey Bowl game was the best of both teams. A matchup of the Ram’s left tackle Lucas Niang (now at TCU) and Evanchick; Collins and the high-flying Ram attack against Darien’s ‘no-fly-zone’ secondary; student sections literally chomping at the bit to celebrate a victory.
It was everything high school football should be. But it was one game.
Darien rolled after Thanksgiving, blowing out Staples, Southington and Shelton en route to the Class LL crown.
New Canaan had a slightly more challenging path, providing a glimpse of what playoff football could, and should, be about—defeating Windsor 21-6, Notre Dame-West Haven 51-27 before a grueling Class L championship which the Rams pulled out 42-35 over North Haven.
Before one game a Darien assistant joked with me, saying maybe I’d actually get to watch an interesting second half. I didn’t.
After games I would go to interview losing coaches, we’d look at each other and just shrug; what is left to say at that point?
The burden of finding a story lies with the reporter and at times that proved to be near impossible; how many ways can you say a team is really good before it becomes drivel.
This sounds like I’m blaming the two schools for being good—I’m not.
What we saw was a perfect concoction of stars, role players, athleticism and coaching coming together at the right time.
Heading into 2016 both teams have a few more question marks.
New Canaan went into the offseason with a wide-open quarterback competition, trying to replace the seemingly irreplaceable Collins. Darien is without Evanchick as well as QB Timmy Graham, and all four members of the vaunted secondary.
There’s change coming—will both teams be above average? Of course. They both have Hall of Fame coaches, plenty of bodies and enough veterans that played on champion teams to know what it takes to win.
But it seems there will be some parity in the league. It should no longer be a question of how much Darien and New Canaan will win by, but what they need to do well to win.
Games in late October and early November will have meaning, not just be warmups for the Turkey Bowl.
Competition is good for the league.
It will never be a completely even playing field and that’s OK, but in 2016 I’d just like to see a fourth-quarter that matters.
And it appears I just might.