What a difference a Wave makes.
Jack Joyce’s return meant a return to Darien’s overbearing attack as the senior quarterback threw two touchdowns and ran in a third in the Wave’s 30-10 victory over East Hartford at home on Tuesday night.
We’re going to keep that intensity up. And we’re going to keep winning.
— Mitch Pryor
“We’re just focused on what we have right now, and focused on not giving up anything,” said Darien’s Mitch Pryor who was also back on the rushing rampage. “I don’t think I’ve seen this team more fired up in my life, than after that New Canaan game.”
The Class LL quarterfinals victory puts the two-time defending champion No. 3 Wave (10-1) into the semifinals where it hosts No. 7 West Haven (9-2) at 12:30pm on Sunday.
The Hornets, the six seed, end the season at 9-3.
“We’re going to keep that intensity up,” said Pryor. “And we’re going to keep winning.”
Joyce tossed 30 yards to Alex Dehmel and 19 to Tyler Herget for touchdowns in the first and third quarters respectively, and ran in a 20-yard score when the Wave needed to close the deal in the fourth quarter.
Andrew Lucas sealed the deal rolling in over the line from the one.
Austin Hagander kicked a 36 yard field goal and three PAT.
“It was great to have him back,” Wave coach Rob Trifone said of his starting quarterback. “He had very little practice time. But he’s such a natural athlete, and knows the system well. He fit right in.”
Darien marched downfield with authority, propelled by its passing, and went up 6-0 with the lead it kept all game on a pinpoint pass down the middle to Dehmel who made a stunning catch and somersaulted into the end zone with 6:31 on the clock in the first quarter. Hagander kicked the PAT.
Hagander made it 10-0 with the field goal with 6:15 to play in the half.
The Hornets made a game of it keeping Darien to a 10-0 lead at the half.
Joyce’s second scoring pass to a leaping Herget made it 16-0 with 9:59 on the clock in the third.
East Hartford scored on a 19 yard pass from Racquan Tompkins to Kevon Jones, and with the PAT kick it was 17-7 with 4:30 to go in the third quarter.
A 26-yard field goal by Ricardo Roberts to start the fourth quarter brought East Hartford up to 17-10.
“They stung us a few times with broken plays or athletic plays,” Trifone said. “But fortunately we put together a good fourth quarter.”
The rest of the fourth quarter was the Wave’s, with Joyce rushing in his TD, finishing with a flourish as he spun in off a tackle on the five, and Lucas closing it out with a dash through a gap at the one with 3:25 to go.
The Wave D-linemen — and Connor Tienken saving a touchdown with a tackle with the game still close in the third quarter — gave Darien a game-long edge, while the O-linemen gave Joyce the trench he needed in front of him to do his work.
Pryor worked his accustomed wonders on the rush.
Joyce is one of three that was kept out of the Turkey Bowl, for issues to do with an undisclosed school policy regarding an out-of-school fracas resulting in police charges.
The other two did not return.
And Darien High School officials have not given an explanation as to why Joyce could play — or better — no explanation as to why they did not allow him to play at Turkey Bowl, but did allow him to play in the next game.
“We took that really hard,” Pryor said of not having its star quarterback, for one, at Turkey Bowl, resulting in its first loss since 2011 on that celebrated football day. “And we practiced harder than I ever did since I’ve been on the team.”
Trifone said he did not know if the others would be coming back for the rest of the playoffs.