#TrainingCampTour Day IV: New Canaan

Rams 3-Peat Hopes Lie In Capable Hands

Lou Marinelli can expect the best yet from Mike Collins in 2015; one that might lead New Canaan to a third straight state title.

Mike Collins is 6’5″, 205 lbs. Teammates and coaches used to call him “Bambi”. He sure began his high school career as a lanky quarterbacking novice, but has bulked up considerably if you factor in a naturally thin frame. Collins no longer goes by the “Bambi” moniker.

“Not particularly, not the biggest fan of it,” answered Collins when approached about the former jab used by his peers. “No nickname. Just Mike.”

Mike enjoyed a coming of age season in 2014. Mike completed 154 passes for 2,624 yards. Mike tossed 32 touchdown passes, while only lobbing 8 interceptions in that first year as a starting quarterback. It was also Mike that tossed two of the most special touchdown passes you will ever see in a Connecticut high school football game last December to overcome a 13-point second half deficit in a 2014 CIAC Class L-Large championship victory over Darien.

“Our line was doing a great job against Darien’s all-state line last year,” said Collins. “I was really pleased with a great team effort. It was just an awesome way to end the season last year.”

Collins showed great command of his teammates during my stay at Rams training camp. He led the pack of skill-position sprinters on the turf field at Dunning Stadium. He implored his teammates to join him for one more go. He inspired his teammates with a pep talk before they headed off to the weight room. Collins should be rewarded for his tenacity in the upcoming season by playing behind a tough-as-nails offensive line. Will Conley (6’6″, 255 lbs), Gardner Read (5’10”, 271 lbs), and Lucas Niang (6’6″, 295 lbs), all stalwarts from the 2014 title team, return in 2015 for another run at a championship.

It’s conceivable that Lucas Niang could have a ring for all three years on the offensive line in New Canaan. The 6’6″, 295-pound giant is poised for a big year.

Speaking of Niang, the guy has like 30 scholarship offers from colleges around the country, at least that is what Coach Lou tells me. He is a very humble young man with an intense work ethic. Squats, crunches, and leg lifts…now that is a super set! Niang’s natural gift, plus the other experience from the incumbent Rams offensive line, should not only give Collins a boost, but also jump-start the running game led by the Cognetta twins. Matt and Mike will take the lion’s share of carries in the Rams backfield in the wake of their older brother Frank’s graduation. The elder Cognetta rushed for 678 yards and 8 touchdowns in 2014. Mike Cognetta did not rush into the end zone, while Matt picked up 3 scores.

Collins can use all of the help that he can get since Alex LaPolice now attends Harvard. LaPolice had 10 receiving touchdowns last year, along with 8 rushing touchdowns. Michael Kraus pitched in with 7 touchdown receptions, but also graduated. Kyle Smith (31 rec, 722 yds, 10 TD) is the lone wide-out weapon of Collins from 2014 to return. Coach Marinelli anticipates that the Cognetta’s will be prove to be valuable in catching passes out of the backfield.

“I have to credit my son,” said Marinelli. “I think Johnny did a tremendous job developing him. He is impressive and he’s a great leader. He’s a great student (will play at Penn). I couldn’t ask anymore of him. He’s a coaches dream!”

This is an opportune time to bring up the fact that the Marinelli’s will be on opposite sides in 2015. John accepted a job at Greenwich as head coach back in April. Which begs the question pondered by many: which side will Lou’s wife and John’s mom choose? Who will win one woman’s affection during the 2015 “Frances Bowl” on October 24th when New Canaan visits Greenwich?

“I know one thing: she will be wearing red,” offered Lou. “She is going to be torn for sure. I think she will be leaning more towards him, but this {New Canaan} has been home for a long, long, long time {1981}, so I know there will not be any winners in the Marinelli house that night,” stated Lou.

Follow the #TrainingCampTour as it happens on Twitter. Please check in to cptvsports.org nightly for other team training camp recaps. For more on the New Canaan football team, tune in to the 2015 High School Football Training Camp special on September 4, 2015. Watch Friday Night LIVE Football on CPTV Sports beginning September 11 at 7:00 p.m.

On Elm Street…

The “High School Special”. Can you ask for a better item to be included in a “High School Football Training Camp Special”???

I had been to Chicken Joe’s once before: back in May when CPTV Sports brought you Glastonbury/New Canaan girls lacrosse. But it wasn’t like this…

We showed up today during PEAK summer hours with the place absolutely jumping. The stakes were higher too, as cameraman Mike Dunphy was in the house to capture it all. Yeah I had once eaten a “High School Special”, but not in the name of spreading culinary joy to the masses.

Chris, Mark, and Rich were the perfect hosts for my epic encounter with a paper bag full of seasoned french fries and monstrous chicken nuggets. There were awful jokes delivered (by me). There was a fried food feast. You will have to watch the 2015 High School Football Training Camp Special to see for yourself what happened today in Ramland. Just be sure to have some Sweet Tangy BBQ sauce on stand-by to wash it all down!

Tender chicken and french fries kissed by sweet seasoning…I can’t think of a better way to have a BBQ party…