Evanchick, No. 1 Darien football team looking to write own story against No. 3 Newtown

Darien’s David Evanchick didn’t need to look to know the result of the play that ended the 2019 high school football season. It was written on the face of a senior teammate.

Newtown quarterback Jack Street’s now-famous 36-yard touchdown pass to receiver Riley Ward as time expired gave the Nighthawks a 13-7 win over Darien, the Class LL championship and a celebration which echoed across the country.

Looking back, Evanchick said his feeling was simply “shock.”

“It was down to seven seconds on that last play, I was on the right side of the line and we had three down linemen,” Evanchick said. “I took a couple of steps upfield, spun back, and when I turned the ball was in the air and I looked away.

“I saw Will Bothwell, the other D end, just drop. I didn’t even watch the celebration, just kind of walked away.”

That game is fresh again as No. 1 Darien gets set to host No. 3 Newtown at 7 p.m., Friday in the GameTimeCT Game of the Week. It’s the marquee match-up this week and the season to date and the result could determine who holds the top ranking going forward.

For Evanchick and Darien, the game is less about redemption or revenge than it is an opportunity.

“Newtown’s a great team and it’s a great opportunity to make a statement for both teams,” Evanchick said. “Whoever comes out on top, every other team in the state is going to be looking at this game. It’s a chance to show who the best team is, and I’m sure it’ll be a great game.”

The Blue Wave have appeared in four of the last five Class LL finals, winning three straight from 2015-2017. The thorn in Darien’s side has been the Nighthawks, who ended the Wave’s championship streak in the 2018 quarterfinals before winning it all a year later.

Darien’s first-year head coach Mike Forget, the Wave’s defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2019, said during the preseason that Newtown was the monkey on Darien’s back, and the “guys would really like to get that one.”

“It was hyped up like it was meant to be that they won the game,” Forget said. “As defensive coordinator, having guys out of position, I felt like we lost the game. We would’ve liked to have had the opportunity to go to overtime and see what would’ve happened, but it ended like it did.”

Darien has a proud program, one Evanchick knows well. His older brother Mark played for the Wave from 2012 to 2015 and set the state record for career sacks with 66.5.

When he started at defensive end as a sophomore, David Evanchick admitted he was still tied to his brother’s legacy.

“At the beginning of the first game, I was nervous,” he said. “There was obviously a lot of pressure on me because I’m another Evanchick. But as the season progressed, I didn’t care about the pressure. I moved past it, figured I’d do my own thing, write my own story. Once I got past that, I think I progressively got better.

“The first couple of games I was stuck up on his legacy rather than mine.”

His breakout performance was in Greenwich during week six, when Darien won 27-21. Evanchick had four solo tackles, two sacks, two hurries and two tackles for a loss.

He also came up huge in the state playoffs, racking up 25 tackles, five sacks and seven tackles for a loss in three games.

The Blue Wave didn’t have the chance to bid for a state championship last year, when the CIAC season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Having Evanchick back at defensive end as a senior co-captain and one of the few players who started two years ago, is one of the reasons Darien has been tabbed No. 1 since the preseason.

“He’s a tremendously talented individual and it’s great to have him out there,” Forget said. “He’s a captain and a good leader for us, and hopefully, he remembers what happened and tried to change that culture.”

Newtown’s junior quarterback Dylan Magazu presents a difficult challenge for Evanchick and the Wave defense. A dynamic athlete who can do damage with his arm or his legs, Magazu has already rushed for 194 yards and four touchdowns, and thrown for 263 yards and two TDs.

“We’ve got to get pressure on the quarterback,” Evanchick said. “Cage him. He’s a great thrower but he loves to run — he showed that last game against New Milford (a 34-7 win). We’ve got to cage him and make sure he doesn’t do what he does. He’s a great quarterback all-around.”

Hyped doesn’t begin to sum up this week’s showdown.

There’s a buzz around Darien High, and Evanchick pointed out the players have received calls from alumni to provide advice and encouragement.

It’s former teammates from the more recent past, however, who will be on Evanchick’s mind come game day.

“It’s more to do it for the alumni, especially the kids who didn’t have a chance last year like Connor O’Malley, Teddy Christensen, Jackson Walsh, Callum McNear,” Evanchick said. “All those guys were captains and real big leaders on this team that played a big impact in that game and they didn’t get (another) shot at them.

“We want to go out and win this game for them.”

david.stewart@hearstmediact.com; @dstewartsports