Updated 8:07pm — Darien’s three-peat at states rippled into the same result in the final top 10 poll.
The Wave is No. 1 in The New Haven Register season finale of top 10 polls of sports writers for the third year in a row as well.
And the Wave vote was overwhelming.
And to do it without two of our best players? That’s pretty amazing.
— Sean O’Malley
“After Turkey Bowl, we never got down,” were senior lineman Sean O’Malley’s words after the Wave essentially clinched its claim with deeds on the field, beating Greenwich 31-22 for the Class LL title at Stamford on Saturday. “A good program always produces, it’s always next man up. And to do it without two of our best players? That’s pretty amazing.”
St. Joseph, which Darien routed early in the regular season for its only loss, but had a remarkable comeback victory over Ansonia for the Class S Championship, was the runner-up.
“Those that remained were focused on making it,” said Darien coach Rob Trifone. “I’m telling you, I’ve never quite coached such a motivated group; that was hungry and knew they were underdogs going into the playoffs because of the adversity and rose to the occasion.”
Darien’s only loss of course was to New Canaan, with the Rams managing to snap the Wave’s streak without its MVP quarterback Jack Joyce in the lineup.
“I think what got us through are 55 of some of the toughest (sons of guns) on the planet,” Trifone said of his team on Saturday. “And they refused to backdown to anybody, whether it was East Hartford, West Haven who is talented as all get out. And (Greenwich) who is the (Class LL standings) No. 1 team in the state. So it’s a great feeling and I couldn’t be prouder of these young men.”
And out of the 55 stepped forward first-time standouts, and there were many, making Darien come on like gangbusters in the pinch.
“Not only did they dive in, but they dove in against the best team in Conn.,” said Trifone. “I mean, Greenwich is some team. I called Johnny Marinelli yesterday and told him, look, I know that we beat you. But I just want to tell you, you are by far the best team we’ve played in a couple of years.”
Darien matches Cheshire 1993-95, the only other team in the state to be polled No. 1 three years in a row.
“Nothing sweeter in the entire world,” said senior captain Mitch Pryor of the title winning season. “It doesn’t get better than this.”
Or better than this.
“Ironically, my brother (Steve) was assistant coach at Cheshire (for its three-peat) under BC’s Steve Adazio,” Trifone said. “He was the offensive coordinator of Florida when they won the national championship.”
They compared notes on a past that drops into the present this very evening.
“I was telling him, you’re lucky in your coaching career if you are ever No. 1 once in your life,” said Trifone to his brother, the Cheshire Athletic Director for many years, having retired from coaching in the 90s. “And to win it that many times and consecutively at that is quite an honor. And how it was done, with all the adversity.
“At the conclusion of the Turkey Bowl if you would have asked any of the media people, do you think Darien is going to run the table the rest of the way…”
History ripples in strange waves as it turns out.
“In 1994 when Cheshire was No. 1, you know who No. 2 was? Brien McMahon coached by Coach T,” said Trifone. “So we were 12-0, and they were 12-0. And of course my brother’s the coach over there and kiddingly we said: OK, let’s have a game. Let’s figure out who really No. 1 is.
“And let me tell you, it would have been quite a game, because my McMahon team back in ’94 was a bomb squad. So, some interesting twists.”