During the first half of Friday’s opening night football game at Darien High, the Ridgefield Tigers were providing a strong challenge to the reigning Class LL champions.
That’s certainly not unexpected and, as far as Darien head coach Rob Trifone is concerned, it’s actually a good thing.
“At one point in this game, I thought Ridgefield might score again and maybe take the lead, and in the back of my mind I was thinking let’s see what we’re made of,” Trifone said. “It didn’t happen that way, but I’m happy it was a close game for a while because you need those. You want to be pushed.”
Trifone’s Blue Wave did most of the pushing after halftime, as they scored on their first two possessions of the second half and rolled to a 30-6 win over Ridgefield.
Darien received some tremendous performances around the field.
Linebacker and senior co-captain Connor Fay was a wrecking ball for a defense which allowed just one touchdown in four quarters and pitched a second-half shutout.
The Wave’s deep and talented receiving corps, led in this game by Tyler Herget, Will Rolapp, and TJ Cornacchia, helped make a winner of new quarterback Cooper Hancock, who looked very comfortable in his debut as the starter.
Hancock, a senior, won a QB battle with junior Peter Graham for the starting role, and both saw action in the opener, as Graham came in during the fourth quarter.
“Cooper was excellent,” Trifone said. “Our quarterbacks job, whether it’s Cooper or Peter Graham is to manage the game, move the sticks, and score when the opportunity presents itself.”
“He was great,” Herget said. “They’re both great quarterbacks and it was a tough decision for the coaching staff, but they ultimately chose Cooper and he’s taken the responsibility full-time. He wanted it and he put in the work during the offseason. He definitely earned this.”
Hancock finished with 275 passing yards and a pair of touchdown passes, one each to Cornacchia and Rolapp, and his one interception was the result of an errant signal from the sidelines.
The QB has a lot of weapons to work with, as Darien’s receivers may be its biggest strength. Herget had a team-best seven catches for 115 yards; Will Rolapp had five catches for 65 yards and a touchdown; and Cornacchia had three catches for 54 yards and one TD.
The Wave scored on their opening drive of the 2018 season, although the Ridgefield defense was able to keep them from the end zone thanks to a sack by Jackson Mitchell on first-and-goal from the nine-yard line.
Will Kirby booted a 29-yard field goal to give Darien a 3-0 lead.
The Wave went up 10-0 when Hancock connected with Cornacchia for a 10-yard TD pass on the first play of the second quarter.
Ridgefield answered with its first touchdown after an interception by Dylan Bean set the Tigers up with a short field. Four plays after the turnover, quarterback Owen Matthews threw a 15-yard scoring pass to Mitchell. The conversion run failed, however, leaving the Wave up 10-6.
Darien responded to the Tigers’ TD with a 64-yard drive capped with a 15-yard pass from Hancock to Rolapp with 4:30 remaining in the first half.
The Wave defense forced a Tigers’ punt to begin the second half, and the offense marched down for another score, with Rolapp rushing for a one-yard touchdown and a 24-6 lead.
“Against Prep (in a scrimmage), we kind of came out slow, and tonight against Ridgefield we came out slow again,” Herget said. “Our mentality in the second half was to come out really strong, come out with a meaning, and come out wanting the ball. That was a big momentum builder for the offense and for the defense.”
Darien added its final touchdown early in the fourth frame, as Kirby scored on a one-yard plunge for the 30-6 tally.
The end result was what the Wave was looking for after replacing a large number of seniors from last year. They continued the tradition of football victories at Darien High and may have set a tone for the games to come.
“I’m blessed with the fact that they know how to win and they expect to win,” Trifone said.
Darien 30, Ridgefield 6
Friday, Sept. 7, at Darien HS
Ridgefield 0-6-0-0 6
Darien 3-14-7-6 30
D – Will Kirby, 29-yard field goal, 8:42
D – TJ Cornacchia, 10-yard pass from Cooper Hancock (Kirby PAT), 11:55
R – Jackson Mitchell, 15-yard pass from Owen Matthews (pass failed), 7:04
D – Will Rolapp, 15-yard pass from Hancock (Kirby PAT), 4:30
D – Rolapp, 1-yard run (Kirby PAT), 7:57
D – Kirby, 1-yard run (PAT failed), 10:15