Darien football dominates Fairfield Prep start to finish to win Class LL title

TRUMBULL — David Evanchick was having flashbacks as the Darien football team was riding up to Trumbull for the Class LL final against Fairfield Prep on Saturday.

It wasn’t the fact that the Blue Wave was playing in yet another state final, though. It was the weather.

“Seeing this fog as we were driving up here gave me some flashbacks, definitely,” Evanchick said, referring to Darien’s dramatic loss to Newtown in the 2019 final. “But that’s in the past, we put it behind us, and just came out and did our thing.”

The result was complete domination by Darien.

The Wave delivered an overwhelming performance on both defense and offense to capture the 2021 Class LL championship with a 42-7 rout of Fairfield Prep at McDougall Field in Trumbull.

The state title is Darien’s first since 2017, when it beat Greenwich to complete a three-peat, and also helps erase the sting of its 2019 state final loss, which was also played in the fog at Trumbull.

“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said Darien senior Tighe Cummiskey, who rushed for 188 yards. “Obviously, this is the last time putting on the pads, and this was the only way we were going to go out. Coming into this game, we refused to do anything but win. We came out, we played hard and we earned what we got.”

Darien (12-1) was unbreakable on defense, holding Prep to 23 yards and one first down in the first half and just 52 yards and three first downs through three quarters. Prep’s lone touchdown came with 1:37 remaining in the game.

“Just an outright dominant performance,” said Darien first-year coach Mike Forget, the Wave’s defensive coordinator for eight seasons. “The secondary was locking down guys all day long, the defensive line was coming up with big plays and shutting down their run.

“They looked to establish the run early, our guys shut it down and they had to go to their second option and it didn’t work for them.”

The Jesuits (11-2) finished one win short of their ultimate goal of winning their first state championship since 1988. They were also forced to play without one of their top players, as linebacker and co-captain Ryan O’Connell was sidelined with a knee injury.

“Credit Darien, very well-played game by them,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “Ultimately, it’s not the ending that we wanted for sure, but as I told the guys at the end of the game, there’s a tremendous amount of respect for what they’ve done all year, how they’ve grown and how this team has developed.”

The one-two punch of Cummiskey and Jeremiah Stafford highlighted a fantastic ground game for the Wave.

Stafford, a senior who rushed for 74 yards, scored on TD runs of 4, 56, and 9 yards in the second half, taking the Wave’s lead from 21-0 to 42-0 in the fourth quarter.

On defense, the line, led by Evanchick, Cole Murphy, Jack Barber and Griffin Steinkraus, stifled the Jesuits’ running attack and kept pressure on quarterback Connor Smith. Evanchick had two sacks and a fumble recovery, and Murphy had three sacks, including two on consecutive plays in the third quarter.

For Prep, Smith passed for 138 yards, 61 of which came on the Jesuits’ final drive which resulted in a 13-yard TD pass to Tim Pearson.

Cummiskey broke the ice, scoring on a 40-yard run with 6:45 to play in the first quarter. A 12-yard touchdown pass from Miles Drake to Matt Minicus then made it 14-0 with 1:42 to go in the half.

The Wave extended that lead to 21-0 with a 65-yard drive to open the third quarter as Drake scrambled for a 20-yard TD.

“We needed to try to get that stop on the first drive of the second half which we did not,” Hellstern said. “Then things started to unravel a little bit from there. We struggled on offense — some great things being done by (Darien) on defense — and it started to slide. We needed to get some traction in the first half of the third quarter, but we didn’t.”

It was all Blue Wave from there with Stafford scoring the next three touchdowns. Darien had four possessions in the second half and all four ended with TDs.

“We put in that two-back offense and it’s great because defenses never really know where the ball is going,” Cummiskey said. “It’s either going to Jeremiah with me as the lead blocker or vice-versa. Jeremiah hits holes hard and of there’s a hole, he’s gone. It’s great having someone with so much speed back there.”

Forget said he could tell early on the Wave had come to play.

“Once we were able to stop them defensively and put in that first score, I knew the guys had that attitude about them,” the coach said. “Only a couple of them played in that Newtown game in the fog here, and for those kids we just told them don’t even think about it, let’s just play our game and the end result will be what it is.”

OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME

Tighe Cummiskey, RB, Darien: The bruising running back pounded his way to 188 yards and started the scoring with a 40-yard touchdown in the first quarter. In three playoff games, Cummiskey had 675 yards from scrimmage and five TDs.

DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE GAME

David Evanchick, DE, Darien: The Blue Wave defense was dominating, and Evanchick was one of the leaders. He had a pair of sacks and recovered a fumble to help set up a third-quarter touchdown, which all but iced the game at 28-0.

QUOTABLE

“All facets of the game came to play today. Our special teams were good, our offense was good, our defense was good. It was an all-out effort. Coaches, players, it was awesome to see.” — Darien coach Mike Forget

No. 3 DARIEN 42, No. 1 FAIRFIELD PREP 7

DARIEN                     7 7 21 7 — 42
FAIRFIELD PREP       0 0 0 7 — 7

  • D - Tighe Cummiskey 40-yard run (Isaac McMullin kick), 6:45
  • D - Matt Minicus 12-yard pass from Miles Drake (McMullin kick), 1:42
  • D - Drake 20-yard run (McMullin kick), 7:50
  • D - Jeremiah Stafford 4-yard run (McMullin kick), 4:03
  • D - Stafford 56-yard run (McMullin kick), 0:52
  • D - Stafford 9-yard run (McMullin kick), 4:32
  • FP - Tim Pearson 13-yard pass from Connor Smith (Aiden Graham kick), 1:37

Records: Darien 12-1, Fairfield Prep 11-2

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — Darien, Tighe Cummiskey 25-188, Jeremiah Stafford 7-74, Miles Drake 3-11, Matt Minicus 1-6, Ryan Felt 1-(-2). Fairfield Prep, Dan Barnick 10-17; Connor Smith 10-(-25), Wally Wuchiski 1-1.

PASSING — Darien, Miles Drake 7-11-102. Fairfield Prep, Connor Smith 17-29-138.

RECEIVING — Darien, Matt Minicus 2-62, John Wilson 2-38, Tighe Cummiskey 1-1, Jeremiah Stafford 1-1. Fairfield Prep, Tim Pearson 5-46, Tymaine Smith 5-30, James Iaropoli 3-33, Jack Reiling 3-18, Dan Barnick 1-11.