It could be a Turkey Bowl first. Or at least, the first, in a very long time.
Because this contest really did live up to its name. It was a turkey.
The accustomed epic was never to be with Darien playing without its starting QB, in all three of its top four offensive players, giving New Canaan a sitting target, it aptly gored with both its Rams’ horns, for a 27-0 victory on Thursday.
“I’m very proud of the guys that had to step up in a difficult situation,” Wave coach Rob Trifone said. “Against a very good football team.”
But, a good game?
Not likely. Not with one side having the stuffing hollowed out of it — just hours — before game time, when Darien was informed that three starters would not be eligible, as police charges had come down on them regarding accusations over a violent incident between teens that occurred in New Canaan on Nov. 6 (see story on this site).
The game goes down with New Canaan keeping its historic streak of 34 straight FCIAC wins alive — the Wave stopped one win short of shattering it — and it will be celebrated in NC for breaking the Wave’s run of five Turkey Bowl victories in a row.
Isn’t this what the rivalry is all about?
But put in context, history will stamp an asterisk on the ledger sheet beside the triumph.
And for a traditionally hotly contested Turkey Bowl, at least for one side, it had to taste like cold chicken.
This won’t be the end of it, even if it is the end of the Wave’s streak. Consider the rivalry well and truly newly riled.
New Canaan’s Jake Ciancio copped an interception off the sophomore Peter Graham on the first play and scored from 20 yards.
The Wave never was able to get anything going offensively, and defensively, through three quarters, held its own.
“Some of the turnovers are from the fact of your back-up quarterbacks being in the game,” said Trifone. “And I thought both quarterbacks did a great job for it being their first times on the field, in a meaningful (way).
“They’ve played quarters when they were just handing the ball off.”
You can’t help but think that this game itself will end up being an asterisk for Graham. His potential is great.
Down 10-0 at the half, was encouraging for Darien, considering.
Only, Wave turnovers and miscues kept creeping into the mix. And the Rams grew stronger from them.
“But I thought Peter Graham and (junior) Cooper Hancock both did a nice job,” Trifone said of the rookie quarterbacks. “They turned the ball over, but look, they didn’t have any practice.”
The pair will grow from this.
“We are going to meet when we get back to the school and talk about how to regroup,” Trifone said. “Obviously, we have very little time to do that.”
The Wave goes to 9-1 and drops in the Class LL standings from one to three seed, Greenwich (10-0) taking over No. 1, with Shelton (9-1) second.
New Canaan (8-2) makes the Class L tournament with the win.
Darien hosts sixth place East Hartford (9-1) 6:30pm on Tuesday in the state quarters.
Trifone said he did not know whether the banished would return for states, and Darien Athletic Director Chris Manfredonia declined to comment.
“We did what we had to do, and I thought some of the younger kids stepped up,” Trifone said. “We started four different sophomores at various points. I’m very proud of them.”
And still, even playing with hands tied behind its back, it was not a blowout.
“And here’s the bottom line,” said Trifone. “If we don’t throw two pick-sixes, unfortunately with inexperienced quarterbacks, it’s a different game.”
Defense is what Wave Ball’s rise has been all about, and defense kept the Wave in the game.
“Our defense played lights-out,” Trifone added. “They let them off the hook on that third and long; I thought that was the turning point in the game, as far as staying in the game — I’m not saying (to win) the game. But, obviously we had some momentum going, and if you stop them there, you get the ball back, you punch it in. It’s 10-7.”
Grant Morse kicked a 25-yard field goal in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead at halftime.
“Instead, they keep going on that drive,” Trifone said.
Owen Shin scored on a 25-yard run and the Rams led 17-0 after three.
Morse scored on a 45-yard field goal and Zach Miller snatched an interception and ran in the last score, both in the last five minutes of the game.
New Canaan quarterback Drew Pyne was 6-for-15 passing for 104 yards.
Griffin Arnone had three catches for 56 yards and Quintin O’Connell had two catches for 29 yards.
And while Trifone could not say whether they’d be missing the three players for states, although it is thought so behind the scenes, even without them, there is an advantage afforded that Darien did not have with this game.
“We get an opportunity to practice and not have something sprung on us at the last minute,” Trifone said.