New Canaan’s Vin Cognetta the last of four brothers to suit up for Rams

NEW CANAAN — Vin Cognetta is, in the words of coach Lou Marinelli, “Mr. Everything” for the New Canaan football team.

A key tackle, an interception, or a long run for a touchdown — no worries, Cognetta has it all covered for the Rams.

In fact, Marinelli feels he could put Cognetta, who has played linebacker and running back, just about anywhere and the senior co-captain would thrive.

“He’s one of those kids who’s just a true football player,” Marinelli said. “He can play linebacker, he can play running back, he could play center, quarterback, defensive tackle — wherever you put him, he’ll play well.”

Cognetta’s versatility has made him a centerpiece of an 8-1 season which is about to heat up when New Canaan hosts the annual Turkey Bowl game against rival Darien, the state’s top-ranked team, at 10 a.m., Thursday, at Dunning Field..

The contest will mark the end of an era for the Cognetta family, as Vin is the youngest of four brothers to play in the annual holiday game.

He had the opportunity to watch older siblings Frank, Matthew and Michael take the field against Darien and understands the magnitude of the moment.

“It was always so cool,” Cognetta said. “Even though I was just a kid, I knew what they were playing for and how much that game meant to them. After they lost and they’d come back for Thanksgiving (dinner), they were sad and they didn’t want to eat. That just makes me want to work harder and win this game for us.”

The connection to New Canaan football also extends to the father, with Mike Cognetta coaching the Rams’ freshman team.

“They’ve all played important roles for us,” Marinelli said. “We’re blessed to have the Cognettas on our team and the dad is our freshman coach, so it’s a true football family. Certainly they’ve had a great legacy here at New Canaan as football players.”

Mike Cognetta said watching his youngest son play on Thursday will be “bittersweet.”

“Thanksgiving is either very good or very bad at my house,” he said. “When it’s good, it’s great and when it’s bad, it’s pretty emotional.”

It’s been quite a run of success for the Cognettas.

Frank, a 2015 New Canaan graduate, is the eldest and helped the Rams win state championships over Darien in 2013 and 2014. A running back, he had 2,239 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns during his career.

Twins Michael and Matthew are 2016 graduates of New Canaan. During their senior year, Michael, a strong safety, had 57 tackles and four picks, and Matt, a running back, had 1,432 all-purpose yards and 11 TDs. Matt also had 225 rushing yards and two TDs in the Rams’ wild 42-35 win over North Haven in the 2015 Class L final.

Wins were plentiful for the elder Cognetta brothers, but one thing their resume doesn’t include is a Turkey Bowl victory.

Vin hopes to change that this week.

“My brothers never won a Turkey Bowl, so I’m hoping to be the first one,” Vin said. “It’s going to be a great game, we’re going to have to come out and fight, and we’re going to play the best that we can.”

Mike said he and his older sons agree that Vin may be the best of the group.

“They did a lot but they don’t do as much as he’s doing,” he said. “He’s on both sides of the ball, offense and defense, and he’s at two key positions. He’s being asked (to do more) than those other guys. Vin’s on every snap and he’s been getting it done.

The Rams carry a three-game win streak into the Turkey Bowl. That run includes a 14-7 victory in Greenwich, a key moment as it came on the heels of New Canaan’s only loss of the season. Vin ran for 108 yards and a touchdown in that game.

New Canaan’s strength has been its defense, which has allowed just 79 points, an average of 8.8 points per game.

Cognetta is a big part of that performance, leading the Rams in tackles (70), interceptions (3) and forced fumbles (3). He also has five sacks, ranking second on the team behind Chad Russo’s 12.

“It’s amazing,” Cognetta said. “Our D-line is big and strong and they get pressure on the ball, and then our linebackers make plays when we need them to. We’re playing really well right now.”

That defense will be tasked with slowing down a Darien offense which is averaging 44 points per game.

New Canaan’s offense has looked a bit different than in recent years when gunslingers such as Drew Pyne and Michael Collins were at quarterback.

Senior co-captain Henry Cunney isn’t as prolific a passer, but he is mobile and that’s added a different dimension to the Rams’ attack.

It’s also meant more chances to run the ball, with Cognetta leading the team with 578 rushing yards and five touchdowns. He’s topped 100 yards rushing three times, including in the Rams’ two biggest wins: Daniel Hand (164 yards) and Greenwich (108).

For the coaches, Cognetta opens up a lot of possibilities as a plug-and-play kind of athlete.

“He does it in such a quiet, modest way,” Marinelli said. “Never really talks a whole lot, he just says “Yeah coach, I’ll do whatever you need.” He’s really a coach’s dream.”

“I like it all,” Cognetta said. “I like making tackles, I like scoring — I’ll do whatever we need.”

As always, the hype has been in overdrive in New Canaan leading up to the Turkey Bowl.

After seeing his brothers in this moment, Cognetta is now experiencing it himself.

“Everyone around school has been talking and asking how we’re going to do, and of course, I tell them we’re going to do great,” Cognetta said. “Seeing all the fans for New Canaan and Darien here, it’s going to be so exciting. Of course, there will be some butterflies but that will get out of the way after the first couple of seconds of the game. I can’t wait.”; @dstewartsports