In an electrifying contest at Rentschler Field, New Canaan secured a dramatic 28-21 win over Darien in the CIAC Class L State final. Throughout the game, the Rams demonstrated a commanding grasp of both offensive and defensive tactics, navigating pivotal moments that defined the dynamic ebb and flow of this championship clash.
Under the leadership of quarterback Luke Robinson, the Rams’ offense displayed brilliance, emphasizing adaptability. Robinson’s 15-for-22 performance, amassing 169 yards and two touchdowns, was highlighted by his precision passing and decision-making. Down 21-14, Robinson played an incredible 74-yard drive culminating in a game-tying 12-yard touchdown pass to Will Langford.
A standout in the offense was senior Alex Benevento. His impact on the game extended beyond traditional roles, with a remarkable 24-yard touchdown showing not only his catching ability but also his ability to break through the Darien defense.
The offensive line, featuring players like Cooper Smith, faced the Darien defense head-on. Their role in providing Robinson the necessary protection and creating opportunities for the running game cannot be overstated.
New Canaan’s defense was a bedrock of their success in the finals. Led by Ryan Barnard, the defensive unit showcased an ability to disrupt Darien’s plays, applying consistent pressure on the quarterback and ensuring the opposition never settled into a rhythm.
Barnard’s fourth-quarter forced fumble and recovery was the pivotal moment that swung the game in New Canaan’s favor. This play was symbolic of the defense’s skill in creating opportunities and turning the tide at critical junctures. The defensive line, led by Tucker Stevens, relentlessly pursued excellence, disrupting Darien’s offensive schemes.
The secondary line, featuring players like Thomas Garcia and Cooper Smith, displayed exceptional coverage and playmaking skills. Smith’s interception was yet another of his significant plays, showing the defense’s ability to seize opportunities and dictate the flow of the game.
In crucial situations, particularly in the red zone, New Canaan’s defense stood strong, denying Darien at points.
In the fourth quarter, down 21-14, the Rams’ offense engineered a remarkable 74-yard drive. Robinson’s poise and precision were on full display, culminating in the game-tying touchdown pass to Langford. This play epitomized the offense’s ability to perform under pressure.
Barnard’s forced fumble, recovered in the fourth quarter, became the turning point of the game. It set the stage for Benevento’s game-winning six-yard run, underscoring the defense’s resilience and its capacity to influence the outcome of a championship contest.
With the game tied at 21 in the final minutes, New Canaan’s defense faced a critical test. The team, led by Barnard and supported by an unwavering secondary, denied Darien the opportunity to regain the lead.
In the pivotal fourth quarter, with the game hanging in the balance, Robinson’s strategic talents came to the forefront. The offense faced a crucial third-down situation, deep in their own territory. Robinson’s precise pass to Benevento extended the drive, showing the quarterback’s ability to thrive under pressure.
Barnard’s forced fumble was a pivotal event that echoed through Rentschler Field. The defensive end’s lightning-quick reaction and ball-strip not only secured possession for the Rams but also injected a surge of energy into the entire team. As Barnard emerged from the scrum, clutching the football, the collective roar from the New Canaan faithful reverberated across the stadium.
The defensive stand that followed demonstrated the collective determination of the Rams. Facing a strong Darien offense, the defensive unit, anchored by Barnard and the secondary, stood firm. Key tackles, intelligent coverage, and a refusal to yield ground marked this critical juncture. As the clock ticked down, the Rams forced a turnover on downs, setting the stage for the decisive drive.
Benevento’s game-winning run was the culmination of an entire season’s worth of dedication, training, and unwavering belief. The offensive line’s push, the precision of Robinson’s handoffs, and Benevento’s sheer determination encapsulated the essence of championship football. As he crossed the goal line, arms raised in triumph, the eruption from the New Canaan sideline and stands was a cathartic release of the tension that had gripped the stadium.
The championship clash between New Canaan and Darien was a spectacle, a roller-coaster ride of emotions and football prowess. Darien’s initial lead, answered by the Rams’ resilience, set the stage for a captivating battle.
Briggs McGuckin’s early 3-yard run for Darien was met with a swift response from New Canaan, with Luke Reed’s 1-yard touchdown run leveling the score. Robinson’s connection with Benevento for a 24-yard touchdown showcased the offensive fireworks. However, Darien’s Charlie Thom responded with two 1-yard touchdown runs, setting the stage for a tense fourth quarter.
The seesaw battle reached its zenith with the game tied at 21. The Rams, guided by Robinson, orchestrated a comeback, tying the game in the fourth quarter. Barnard’s forced fumble and recovery then paved the way for Benevento’s game-winning touchdown run.
The intensity, pivotal plays, and dramatic twists made this game an instant classic. As the final whistle blew, the Rams emerged victorious, etching their names in the annals of Connecticut high school football.
The CIAC Class L final was a showcase of New Canaan’s unyielding determination, offensive brilliance, and defensive tenacity.
The offense, led by Robinson and supported by playmakers like Benevento, demonstrated resilience and strategic prowess. The defense, anchored by Barnard and a stalwart secondary, showcased discipline and an ability to dictate the flow of the game.
As the confetti rained down and the championship plaque was hoisted, the Rams added another chapter to their storied legacy.
Photos by Chris Harrison