Unbeaten since 2014, Wave stays the team to beat

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Nick Green with the touchdown at NC in 2016. Courtesy Darien Athletic Foundation

FOOTBALL

First-year senior quarterbacks have proven to come through for the Wave. And this year’s model, Jack Joyce, should come through like a hurricane.

As with the winds of the storm, he can move.

“Jack is a great athlete, probably the fastest kid on the team,” said Darien coach Rob Trifone. “Early on, he looks great.”

Then, will Darien run like the wind too in 2017?

“We always tailor our offense to the athletes that we inherit,” said Trifone. “There’ll be subtle changes, but the average person looking at us this year, won’t notice any changes from last year.”

Darien’s last loss was to New Canaan in the 2014 state final.

The Wave went 13-0 last season, was ranked top in the state, is two-time defending Class LL Champion and has beaten New Canaan five Turkey Bowls straight.

“A running quarterback is a defensive coordinator’s nightmare,” said Trifone. “Because obviously you’ve got the facet of the normal running back, the passing game, and, that adds a third layer you have to be worried about. I know, because I spent most of my career on the defensive side of the ball.

“Give me a drop back quarterback any day, compared to a running quarterback.”

Wave capable QB back-ups are Peter Graham, a sophomore and Cooper Hancock.

Captains are Nick Green, Brian Minicus, Mike Neary and Mitch Pryor.

Darien loses quarterback Brian Peters, as well as impact players, rusher/receiver Finlay Collins, blitz master Quinn Fay, receiver Tim Herget, a standout co-captain in Cord Fox, kicker Riley Stewart, crushing linemen Justin Plank and Andrew Stueber.

Everyone but Darien will be relieved to see the latter go.

“Look, you’re never going to replace a kid who is a Michigan recruit,” said Trifone of Stueber, with the Wave seeing attrition from its veteran line. “At 6-6, 300-plus, probably the best lineman the state has seen in a long time. You’re never going to replace him.”

The good news is that the Wave still has senior Neary who is 6-3, 250 and started last year.

Add another row of senior bricks to the O-Line wall with Connor Henry (6-0, 215) who started in 2016.

“And we’ve got Will Keating, who’s a junior,” Trifone said. “And goes at 6-4, 255. And he saw some playing time last year.”

Filling in the gaps are guard Bobby Keeney (6-0, 225), center junior Ryan Sullivan (5-11, 195).

“We’re solid,” said Trifone. “There’s a lot of pride that goes into that position.”

Neary will go both ways.

Otherwise the D-Line has a combination of assets in junior Christian Evans (6-3, 230), a swift John Lochtefeld (5-11, 190), Drew Evanchick (6-1, 215), who is said to be having a good preseason.

“Where we return a lot of people on defense are the second and third levels,” Trifone said.

They include junior middle linebacker Connor Fay, Green, Max Grant, Kevin Grune, who all played significant roles last season.

“We’ve got a lot of depth and a lot of experience at linebacker,” Trifone said. “And then the secondary’s the same.”

Connor Tienken is a three-year starter at corner, Minicus, a two-year starter at safety, and then there are Pryor and Peter Guttuso, Alex Dehmel, Tyler Herget.

Skilled players ramping up the points?

“Once again, here is a place where we are deep and with a lot of veterans,” Trifone said.

Grant, Minicus and Green slot back in at receiver.

Grant caught eight touchdown passes and ran for three, Green caught six and ran in five.

Grant had 27 catches for 662 yards, and Green 33 for 556.

Herget and Patrick Burke, junior Peter Bredahl are at wideout.

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Mitch Pryor runs as strong as anyone in the league. Courtesy Darien Athletic Foundation

Pryor is returning premier running back. He rushed for 13 touchdowns in 2016, and had 741 yards on 96 carries.

“The way I look at it this year, though, is that the league has had its peaks and valleys,” said Trifone. “And I think this is one of the strongest years in a while. There is no necessary frontrunner. There are eight teams that could end up (on top). I don’t think you are going to see lopsided scores. I think there’s a lot more parity in the league.”

The league plays for no title anymore, so this is all geared towards state rankings and bragging rights on Thanksgiving, with Darien winning the last of the FCIAC crowns two years ago.

“If you are looking for preseason picks, obviously New Canaan and Darien are usually in the mix,” added Trifone. “But, extremely strong, is St. Joseph — some people are saying St. Joe’s might beat New Canaan opening day — they were returning a lot in the first place and they brought some extras in.”

Opening up vs. the team it beat for the state title last Dec., Darien will have a test at Ridgefield, with the Tigers returning many.

“So, St. Joseph, Ridgefield, Trumbull, Greenwich of course,” said Trifone in listing the improved competition this season. “And who I’ve heard good things about, and actually pushed Greenwich around in a scrimmage (recently), is Wilton.”

Schedule

9/8 at Ridgefield 7:00pm

9/15 vs. Brien McMahon 6pm

Home – DHS Stadium Field

9/23 vs. St. Joseph 1:30pm

9/30 at Stamford 7pm

10/13 at Staples 7:00pm

10/21 vs. Fairfield Warde 1:30pm 

10/27 at Trumbull 7:00pm

11/3 vs. Wilton 6:00pm

11/10 at Bridgeport Central 7pm

11/23 vs. New Canaan 10:30am