Stormy weather over the last few weeks threw a wrench into a lot of plans and schedules.
Just ask the Darien High School football team, who now has to cram in a game against Bassick High School of Bridgeport on Friday night that was missed earlier in the season due to weather challenges.
The bright side is that it is a home game, so at least they won’t have to travel far to play — just to Norwalk.
A home game in Norwalk, you might ask? But wouldn’t Darien play a home game at Darien High School?
Not at night, because Darien High School’s field is not equipped with lights.
The field can be used short-term at night during the season for practice with temporary lights, but as per the permits granted, the lights are not permitted to be used for games.
Darien’s football coach Rob Trifone says the current practice lights are not high enough for a game, even if the team was permitted to play one under them.
The battle over permanent lights at Darien High School has gone on for years, with neighbors objecting to the impact on the local high school neighborhood — citing light, noise, traffic, and litter, among other issues.
A compromise was reached when the Darien Junior Football League proposed using temporary lights at both Holahan Field at Town Hall and Darien High School with limitations on height, hours and weeks they can be used — including that they can only be used for practice.
Trifone said for a high school team, there are many advantages to actually being “home” for a game.
“I think in football, almost more than any other sport, the home field advantage is significant. You tend to draw larger crowds as well as just having familiar surroundings,” Trifone told The Darien Times Tuesday.
In addition to the actual game’s advantages, Trifone said meeting in the team’s high school building, familiar class rooms, and white boards to modify plays, help a team prepare at a home game.
“That’s the home field advantage off the field,” he said.
Trifone said he didn’t want to blow the home field advantage “out of proportion.”
“I’m not going to say it is worth two touchdowns, but there is a familiarity and comfort with playing at home,” he said.
Trifone said he did try to talk to the school administration about having the game at a different time at Darien High School, but with Daylight Saving Time, it would require a game to start while school is still in session.
“We’d have to kick off at 1:30 p.m., so the administration couldn’t do it. I don’t blame them, as it would be a disruption to the school day during the week. I did not argue with them, but I had to ask,” Trifone said.
“But it is awkward now to have to go to Brian McMahon and play a home game,” he said.
The Friday night game is a regular FCIAC game that was supposed to be played a week ago and got pushed back, Trifone said.
If the team loses Friday night, Darien is out of the playoffs. In addition, Trifone said there is also an Eastern division trophy at stake that, while less important, could also mean losing out on that trophy.
Trifone said his approach to his players is to tell them that it “doesn’t matter if you play this game on your home field or the moon, you still have to perform.”
“But there’s no question, that the athletes, psychologically, are thinking, ‘Why are we playing this home game in Norwalk’,” Trifone said.
Trifone is not the only coach that is impacted by the lack of field lights at Darien High School.
Darien’s girls’ field hockey coach Mo Minicus, who was named 2010’s National Field Hockey coach of the year, and 2011’s Fairfield County sports person of the year, also expressed frustration with the situation.
“We have never and can never host a post-season final four or championship game,” she told The Darien Times.
“With the number of final fours and championships all of our teams have participated in the last 10 years, it is such a shame that the teams’ skills cannot be showcased at home,” Minicus said.
“The pride of playing on ‘home turf’ is not even given a chance,” she said.
Minicus added that in addition to playing post-season at home, it would be “very nice to simply give back to the FCIAC and CIAC,” and offer to host a post-season game.
“To showcase any of our sports at home, even if a Darien team isn’t playing in the games, is a great thing for our sports teams, and more importantly, for our community,” Minicus said.
“Every single school in the FCIAC and CIAC has ‘covered’ for us over the last 10 years, at least, because we do not have lights,” she said.
Minicus said she is speaking from her 13 years’ experience as a high school field hockey coach.
“After so many years without lights, Darien is in the ‘Dark Ages’ (literally) when it comes to this issue, and given how robust and competitive our youth and high school programs are it makes absolutely no sense,” she said.
Kick-off for Darien’s “home game” at Brien McMahon High School on Friday, Nov. 16 is at 6 p.m. After Friday, Darien takes on New Canaan in the annual ‘Turkey Bowl’ at Darien High School on Thanksgiving at 10:30 a.m.