Darien football preview: Returning talent has Blue Wave thinking big again
DARIEN — A season ago Darien coach called his defensive line the best he’s ever coached in 36 years.
Going into year 37 he may have similar praise for the secondary. Returning all four starters — including his sons Bobby and Christian Trifone as well as Hudson Hamill and Tyler Grant — the defensive backfield has high expectations throughout the program.
“We take a lot of pride in shutting people down to the extreme, we strive for no completions,” Hamill said. “We really work well together, every switch seems natural, sometimes you don’t even have to communicate; I think it’s one of the strengths of our team.”
Coach Rob Trifone, who is especially invested in the unit that contains his twin sons, thinks the experience gained from previous years will benefit the already skilled group.
“They were good last year and they faced New Canaan who was as good a passing game as you’re going to get and they did well,” Rob Trifone said of group. “So that’s right now the anchor of our defense.”
The star of the new-look defensive line is senior Mark Evanchick, an All-State selection who is 17 sacks away from the Connecticut sack record after racking up 25 last season.
“I do enjoy being close to the record, but I don’t like knowing that I have that number because I’d rather go play and do my best than try to focus about the specific number that I need,” Evanchik said of the mental challenge of being so close. “It’s definitely something I want to accomplish but it’s tough having the number in the back of my head.”
“It helps a lot, the game is a lot slower,” Graham said of having a year in the system under his belt, along with an FCIAC championship and title game MVP on his resume. “Working over the summer has really helped slow the game down for me.”
The key for Graham will be limiting turnovers, something that plagued him in an albeit successful 2014 campaign.
“It’s huge,” Graham said of limiting mistakes. “If you turn over the ball you can’t win football games, protecting the ball is definitely the key this year to winning.”
Graham will have plenty of protection and weapons surrounding him. Darien returns three starters on the offensive line while both Trifone brothers, Hamill, Colin Minicus and Shelby Grant figure to see penty of touches.
“We have some pretty athletic skill position players,” Graham said. “So it’s about getting them the ball and letting them go to work.”
Darien High School made the jump to Class LL this season, and while it doesn’t affect the regular season schedule it means that the Blue Wave will only play New Canaan once this season, in the annual Turkey Bowl game on Thanksgiving.
“The Turkey Bowl is always huge,” Hamill said of the senior’s mentality towards their final meeting with their neighboring rivals. “It’s something we always look forward to but we definitely have it circled because we know it’ll be the last time seeing them so it makes it that much more important.”
For Trifone the new competition in the state playoffs — should Darien make it — would be a breath of fresh air.
“I like playing the unknown,” Trifone said. “New Canaan knows us like the back of their hand and vice versa, so it’s nice to go play some of the bigger schools, the Xavier’s and Southington’s.”