Darien looking for redemption in Class LL football final — for several reasons

It’s not exactly a Blue Wave revenge tour.

A chance to overcome the memory of two heartbreaking losses? That seems much more apropos.

When the Darien football team squares off against Fairfield Prep in the CIAC Class LL final at 3 p.m., Saturday, in Trumbull, the Wave will be seeking its first state championship since 2017.

It’s nearly two years since Darien lost to Newtown 13-7 on the final play of the 2019 Class LL final, and six months since the Blue Wave boys lacrosse team was upset by Fairfield Prep 14-10 in the Class L quarterfinals.

There are plenty of athletes on both rosters who play football and lacrosse, but the Blue Wave is attempting to stay focused on the here and now.

“There’s a little something there for the kids who played lacrosse,” Darien senior co-captain David Evanchick, a defensive end in football and defenseman in lacrosse, said. “But as a whole, it’s a completely different team. So for most of the team, this is about winning a state championship.

“That’s the main goal: Getting a win Saturday and getting a ring on our fingers.”

“There’s definitely a little motivation (from lacrosse) throughout the team, but the goal is a state football championship,” senior co-captain Christian Alliegro, a football safety and lacrosse midfielder, said. “That’s what we’re focused on right now.”

About that revenge thing: It’s already been a theme for both Class LL finalists.

Top-seeded Fairfield Prep (11-1) suffered its only loss to Greenwich 14-7 on Oct. 2, but then knocked off the Cardinals 21-14 in the state quarterfinals.

Third-seeded Darien (11-1) lost 12-7 to rival New Canaan in the Turkey Bowl before getting even with a 24-10 win over the Rams in the semifinals.

“We were very fortunate to play them again,” Darien senior co-captain Matt Minicus, a football wide receiver and lacrosse attack, said. “And we’re thankful we were able to get the win. Now, we’ve got one more.”

Losing the Turkey Bowl, the Wave’s fourth straight defeat in the Thanksgiving game, was tough at the time, but having a chance to face the Rams in a relatively short period of time was a boon.

“We had the whole road still ahead of us,” Evanchick said. “The Turkey Bowl, sure it’s nice to win, but it’s not something you pin your season on. Yeah, it hurt to lose that, but losing a state championship or a state playoff game hurts 100 times more. That didn’t define our season.”

In relation to the Turkey Bowl, the lacrosse loss is distant, but Darien coach Mike Forget said there’s something to be said for having multi-sport athletes on any team.

“I think it’s great,” Forget said. “There needs to be crossover of the sports. Sports can help each other and I wish there was more of it. Unfortunately, in this day and age, people tend to specialize when they get to the upper echelon. But we’ve been pretty good about keeping football and lacrosse players together.”

The Wave’s football roster is littered with lacrosse standouts.

In addition to Evanchick, Minicus and Alliegro, running back Tighe Cummiskey is a FOGO, cornerbacks Joe Cesare and Alex Medwar are middies, running back Jeremiah Stafford is a long stick middie, and receiver Jake Wilson is a defenseman. That’s just scratching the surface.

“It adds another level of competitiveness,” Minicus said of playing multiple sports. “It’s two fun seasons.”

It also goes beyond lacrosse. Quarterback Miles Drake and offensive lineman Karson Drake, a senior co-captain, are baseball players.

The impact of facing Fairfield Prep for the lacrosse players isn’t lost on Miles Drake.

“I don’t play lacrosse, but they beat us in the lacrosse playoffs and I know a lot of guys want some revenge for that,” Drake said.

For many of the Blue Wave players, lacrosse is their college future, which makes the Class LL final possibly the last football game of their careers.

So while the showdown with Fairfield Prep is spicy, the Blue Wave are just happy to be one of the final eight teams standing.

“We don’t really care who our last game is being played against, we just want to win,” Minicus said. “It’s the last football game of our lives, and we can’t wait.”

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports