Darien beats New Canaan in OT for fifth straight Turkey Bowl win

Photo of Anthony E. Parelli

NEW CANAAN — Minutes before one of the most dramatic endings in the historic rivalry, students from Darien and New Canaan rushed from their respective bleachers to right behind the south end zone.

It was the Turkey Bowl, it was overtime and it was No. 1 vs. No. 2 in the state.

Darien’s Riley Stewart had just made a 24-yard field goal to put the Blue Wave ahead, and New Canaan freshman quarterback Drew Pyne, who was making the jump from impressive freshman to full-blown superstar, scanned the defense.

Pyne rolled right and threw back over the middle, directly into the hands of Darien’s Finlay Collins — who corralled the ball to his chest, ran three steps and slid down at the 15-yard line where a sea of Blue and White clad fans enveloped him.

“It’s unbelievable,” Collins said after his pick sealed a 37-34 overtime win for Darien and the Blue Wave’s fifth-straight Turkey Bowl title in front of 4,500 fans at Dunning Stadium.

“It’s still hard for me to picture that moment, but I was just able to make a play on the ball and end the game. My teammates put me in a good position and it was great to come out with another win.”

Fittingly, the Darien scoring started with Collins. After a roughing the kicker penalty was assessed to New Canaan on the Blue Wave’s first drive, Collins sped 60 yards untouched up the middle for a touchdown. Collins finished with 113 yards from scrimmage and two rushing touchdowns.

“Finlay Collins has come up big for us all year long,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said of the senior captain, who stars at running back and linebacker and was named the Blue Wave’s Turkey Bowl MVP. “It’s a team effort, but that kid has made big play after big play after big play.”

On its second drive Darien again scored on the ground, this time a 9-yard run from Nick Green to get out to an early 13-0 advantage.

Grant Morse would put the Rams on the board late in the opening quarter with a 35 yard field goal following a Ryan O’Connell touchdown run that was nullified by a holding penalty.

Two drives later — after New Canaan miraculously recovered its own muffed punt that rolled in between three Darien players — Graham Braden dashed 77 yards down the left sideline for a score. Braden, New Canaan’s Turkey Bowl MVP, rushed for 132 yards and caught four passes for 39 yards.

Darien responded on the ensuing drive when on its first offensive play Brian Peters found Max Grant on a deep post for a 65-yard strike.

Collins would score again late in the second on a 2-yard plunge to put the Wave up 27-10, but an interception in the end zone by New Canaan linebacker James Freyre ended Darien’s chances to add on to the lead heading into the half.

The New Canaan defense wouldn’t allow another point in regulation.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Freyre said. “I know we didn’t have this one, but there’s no group I’d rather do it with. That’s everything you can say about our team this year, we were down, everyone counted us out and I’m so proud of this defense. We made a few mental errors and they capitalized, they’re a great team, you can’t give them second chances and we did, but the second half we came back, we played physical, we played our brand of football and there’s no way I’d rather go out.”

The Darien defense got in on the action in the third when Quinn Fay recorded a strip-sack and Cord Fox scooped the ball and returned it 16 yards for a score, putting the Blue Wave ahead 34-10.

The game then became the Drew Pyne show.

Down 24 points to the No. 1 team in the state the young signal-caller orchestrated four straight scoring drives.

He connected with Quintin O’Connell (10 catches, 89 yards) on a 16-yard touchdown and led drives that ended in a 25-yard Grant Morse field goal and a 1-yard sneak from Spencer Williams.

With three minutes left Pyne — 24-of-35 for 223 yards — took over at at midfield with a chance to tie. The Rams advanced all the way down to the one-inch line where Ryan O’Connell would fight his way in on fourth-and-goal to force the overtime period. The touchdown capped an incredile comeback for the Rams, who scored 24 unanswered points in final 17 minutes of regulation.

“He handled the situation well,” Rams coach Lou Marinelli said of Pyne. “Last year at this time he was playing Pop Warner football, he’s come an awful long way…we’re proud of him and he’s only going to get better and better.”

Both teams have virtually no time to recover from the physically and mentally draining experience as they get right back to work Tuesday, each trying to defend state titles.

Darien looks to go back-to-back in Class LL when in hosts FCIAC foe Greenwich and New Canaan looks to make it four-straight in L, starting with a battle against Masuk.

aparelli@bcnnew.com @reportedbytheAP


DARIEN 13 14 7 0 3—37

NEW CANAAN 3 7 7 17 0—34

D—Finlay Collins 60 run (Riley Stewart kick)

D—Nick Green 9 run (PAT failed)

NC—Grant Morse 35 field goal

NC—Graham Braden 77 run (Morse kick)

D—Max Grant 65 pass from Brian Peters (Stewart kick)

D—Collins 2 run (Stewart kick)

D—Cord Fox 16 fumble return (Stewart kick)

NC—Quintin O’Connell 16 pass from Drew Pyne (Morse kick)

NC—Morse 25 field goal

NC—Spencer Williams 1 run (Morse kick)

NC—Ryan O’Connell 1 run (Morse kick)

D—Stewart 24 field goal

Records: Darien 10-0; New Canaan 9-1.