For the third-ranked Darien football team to reclaim the top spot in the GameTimeCT poll with a victory over No. 1 St. Joseph in Trumbull on Saturday, coach Rob Trifone’s Blue Wave had to turn a presumed weaknesses into one of strength.
One of the big questions going into what turned out to be a 22-7 victory for Darien at Dalling Field was simple: Could the undersized offensive line stop a larger front seven being put forth by the Hogs?
“We take pride in everything we do,” said Connor Fay, Darien’s captain, offensive guard and All-State linebacker. “We don’t have the size, but we have the best coaches. We always play to win and give it our best every play.”
Fay played linebacker with John Henry Slonieski, Alex von Jena and Sam Wilson.
Ryan Sullivan, John Lochtefeld, Will Keating, Sydney Weibel and Fay, with support from Luke Sini and Mark Trifone, gave quarterback Cooper Hancock a clean pocket to work from.
Hancock threw for one touchdown, and his passing set up two other scores. He was 19-of-25 passing for 264 yards, as the Blue Wave improved to 3-0.
“In Tom O’Neil we have one of best (offensive line) coaches in the state. Tom is very patient, not like the head coach at all,” head coach Rob Trifone quipped. “We don’t outsize anyone. But our players practice and learn great technique. That is why a 175-pound guy can stop a 310-pound guy from breaking through.”
After St. Joseph (2-1) went 71 yards in 15 plays and scored on its opening possession, the Blue Wave defense kept the potent Cadet attack off the board. St. Joseph was limited to 77 yards and four first downs the rest of the way.
“Honestly, I thought it was going to 35-28 somebody,” Rob Trifone said. “Our defense really came to play. Looking at tape (of St. Joseph) I didn’t think we could hold them like that.”
“The tape showed us that Summers is as good as it gets at quarterback and Shirden is one of the best running backs in the state,” Trifone said. “Our men all rose to the challenge.”
Darien held St. Joseph without a first down in the second half, with Will Bothwell, Charles Hunter, Alex Quirk and Lochtefeld dominating the scrimmage line. Blake Celler, Jackson Peters (interception) and Tyler Herget blanketed the Cadet receivers.
Bothwell, Hunter and Quirk registered QB sacks, as Summers was 12 of 26 for 116 yards.
“They were the better team today,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “We had the lead on a good drive. We had some other plays in the first half and we didn’t make them. We never got into a rhythm after that first drive.”
Summers threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Shirden on a wheel route out of the backfield to complete a game-opening 71-yard, 15-play drive that took 5:16 off the clock. Luke Kirby’s conversion kick made it 7-0.
Hancock engineered a 70-yard march to tie the game with 4:58 left in the first half. He completed passes of 14 yards to Will Rolapp, 23 yards to Peter Bredahl and a 55-yarder to T.J. Cornacchia, before Hancock ran for a 2-yard score. Will Kirby added the PAT.
The Blue Wave took control of the contest when they scored on their first two possessions of the third quarter. Andrew Lucas scored on an 11-yard run to give Darien the lead. Herget had a 26-yard reception to get the drive started from the 33 and Bredahl had a 27-yard catch to bring the ball to the 11.
Darien forced a three-and-out series and Hancock took his time before finding Cornacchia for a 15-yard score to complete a 61-yard, six-play possession. Kirby kicked a 22-yard field goal on the third play of the final quarter.
“I’ve been on the team for three years,” Fay said, “This was the best week of practice we’ve ever had. We knew how good a team they were. We knew if we didn’t have a good week of practice and didn’t prepare well then they were going to take it to us.”