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“We’re done with letdowns”

Turkey Bowl 2012 again hottest ticket in two towns

COOL QB — Quarterback Henry Baldwin, with a steady pulse under pressure, leads the Darien High attack with 22 touchdown passes, and is the stark difference between the two teams. Difference being, the Rams don’t have him. (Mark Maybell photo)

FOOTBALL

Anticipation is high.

Anything short of a win at Turkey Bowl leaves DHS with a letdown of a 6-4 season.

It was supposed to have been better than this.

And now, it seems that it still could well be. It seems, Darien’s all done with the doldrums.

“We’re done with letdowns. We’re going to finish the season strong and let the chips fall where they may,” said Wave coach Rob Trifone going into the tail end of what had been a bit of a tailspin season.

That was until the Wave’s epic win over, until then undefeated FCIAC contender Trinity, 26-20 on Nov. 10.

Darien finishes in seventh place in the FCIAC, a dent put in its season from missing a couple of key players, offense and defense, for way too long.

There’s no question that the dramatic victory gave our team its legs and life again.

— Rob Trifone

And you forget, since the success and league title of recent years, that the annual Turkey Bowl vs. New Canaan — at Darien Stadium Field 10:30 a.m. Thursday — had often been “the unofficial championship game” for the Wave. Most often.

That was something to do with, for a bunch of seasons at the start of the 2000’s, that Darien was not about to go and play in an actual championship game.

This year, Darien may, or it might not get to go to states. It will depend, first, on reaping a bonanza of points in Class L that beating the Rams would spit out as if NC was a ringing slot machine.

And for sure, Darien would still need hefty help from the Class L teams in front of it to make it. That’s when the kind of help Darien’s likely to get, is the type of help you would expect, lost on the road, window down and asking for directions in a dialect unknown — maybe Martian, when not driving on Mars.

“To us, we have no control over that,” said Trifone of landing the last and eighth seed at states. “The only control we have is to win the (game).”

The 8-1 Rams come in having missed the FCIAC title game by one spot, finishing third behind regular season champ Staples and No. 2 Greenwich.

And New Canaan is in a somewhat comfortable position at sixth in Class L with a 122.22 points average.

Darien, in 10th with a 90 average just needs to win first and count later.

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FIERCE FROSH — New to the annual Turkey Bowl drum stick beat, rare ninth grade starter Mark Evanchik (No. 90), who has shown he knows his way around a beat-down in his rookie year. (Photo courtesy of Mark Maybell)

But playing to just go out and beat New Canaan — beating NC something the Wave has not done since Turkey Bowl 2001 — even if it does not shake out with a playoffs berth, is just like in days of old shaping up to be the be all and end all to an otherwise disappointing season.

In a way, it’s got a more hyper vibe this way; kind of like the old sandlot feud it was always meant to be.

Funny to think it has been a disappointing fall after the point the Wave made in gutting it out to keep the flame burning in crisping the Crusaders in the final seconds two Saturday’s back.

“There’s no question that the dramatic victory gave our team its legs and life again,” said Trifone. “I’m excited for the fact that they’ve got momentum.”

The momentum killers this season were losses to St. Joe in double OT — you could call that one, the, momentum crusher, singular — Trumbull (ouch) and Staples (ouch-ouch, but for different reasons, more than two).

Added Trifone: “We’ve had our let downs. Three losses. Two of which we should not have had.”

Provided the Wave defense, anchored by Matt D’Andrea, never lets up, and its Henry Baldwin-led offense just lets go with all its got — and there’s plenty with Peter Gesualdi, Christian Bognar, Nick of Time Lombardo, Ian Vanderhorn, Jackson Whiting and more — then the ghost of 2001 is as good as vamoosed.

The spirit, of 2001, though, shown on the old grass field at the old DHS, is what Darien put on display at Trinity. And that’s the friendly, to the Wave, ghost you want to continue to hover over the home field on Thursday.

Once upon a Wave

Still, the ghost of that last, last seconds-TB-winning group — led by Jack Newton, PJ Maglathlin, Billy Peters, Tim Shaw to name a few and coached by Jeff Brameier — that has haunted Thanksgivings through nothing better than one tie vs. the Rams ever since; that is something else altogether. That needs to rest in peace.

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As the DT caption read 11 years ago next week…GAME BREAKER — Tim Shaw out-muscles the Rams at the goal line to score the winning touchdown in the 2001 Turkey Bowl Game at Darien High School. (Darien Times/Steve Buono Photo)

Baldwin has thrown 212 passes completing 101 for a nice .476 average. He’s thrown a very nice 1,830 yards and 22 touchdowns.

He’s up against two in Rams QBs Nick Cascione and Teddy Bossidy.

The former is listed as throwing 92 completes on 150 tries for 956 yards, while the latter is down for 48 completes on 77 passes for 592 yards.

New Canaan averages 186 yards per game, passes 173.

Darien averages 204 passing and 193 rushing.

Numbers, except for the records, have to be encouraging for blue.

Most worrisome to DHS: the Rams last showing, where they demolished Trumbull 49-7 — Darien lost to the Eagles 39-26 on Oct. 12 — and that the Rams sliced by St. Joseph 27-21 this season.

Or maybe, it’s not worrisome at all.

Maybe it’s just the trick. Sleep NC, sleep… You’ve won seven straight, so sleep…

This is all about the surprise the Wave can lay on the visitors by playing the best game it has played all year; and by really turning up the volume at home; by remembering Darien has not won this in over a decade; and remembering, even the embarrassment, of spray paint days gone by; remembering missed opportunities in actual title clashes against NC along the not so long off way.

The destination on Thanksgiving is motivation city or bust.

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ARMED AND DANGEROUS —Darien’s defense, and O-Line, lands plenty of slam with Matt D’Andrea (No. 54). (Photo courtesy of Mark Maybell)

“High school kids can go either way,” said Trifone of the spark of beating Trinity that Darien hopes will burst into a holiday bonfire vs. the Rams. “Our kids could have looked at their record and said, ‘we’re not going to play that hard any more, because we’ve stubbed our toe three times.’ Or they could fight like dogs, which they did.”

As no doubt Darien will again be barking for one last time, whether it is the last time off the leash in 2012, or not.

And besides border bragging rights, Trifone sees another unofficial bid to go for.

“Right now, we only have one divisional loss — that was to St. Joe’s,” he said. “So if you were to win out then you end up 5-1 in the division. New Canaan would be 5-2, because they lost to Trinity.

“Here’s what’s going to happen. You are going to end up with a two-way tie for the Eastern Division crown. If you end up 5-1 in the division, you stand a chance of sharing the Eastern Division crown.”

Well, that’s something.

“Now, there’s no playoff for the (unofficial) Eastern Division title, but, after such a miserable start to actually share (it) either with Trinity or St. Joe’s…”

And that’s one way to look at it.

But in fact, should, Darien beat its chief rival after an 11 year wait, the sunburst of light that like nuclear fission will consume the score board at Stadium Field, is all that anyone is going to be looking at until somebody’s unlucky Turkey Bowl of 2013.

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Darien Times Sports Editor since 2000

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