Darien routs Harding for fifth straight win
BRIDGEPORT -- The Darien football team didn't exactly storm out of the starting blocks at Harding High School Saturday afternoon, but the Blue Wave righted the ship in plenty of time to cruise to a 47-23 victory over the Presidents, boosting their winning streak to five.
Darien's (8-1, 7-1 FCIAC) first two drives seemed destined for the Harding end zone, but a fumble at the 1 resulted in a touchback, and a 91-yard pick six by Harding's Reggie David gave the Presidents (3-5, 3-4 FCIAC) the early 7-0 lead.
"Obviously, you don't want to come out and fumble the ball in the end zone, and on the very next series you throw the pick six. It didn't shake us up. It just disrupts what you're trying to do, but then we settled in a little," Darien coach Rob Trifone said. "They're very athletic and you have to work to get what you got today. It doesn't come easy."
Darien struck back on its next possession, going 58 yards in eight plays (all runs) to pay dirt. The drive was highlighted by a 24-yard carry by Nick Lombardo and was capped on a 3-yard touchdown run by Peter Archey to cut Harding's lead to 7-6, scoring the first of 40 unanswered points.
"We were in the ballgame, but it's got to be every play for us," Harding coach Eddie Santiago said. "The defense was getting after it, and Reggie David is a big piece of that. It's just breakdowns in our defense sometimes: Miscue in coverage, missed assignment by the backers and there goes points up the scoreboard."
The Blue Wave took the lead on the first play of the second quarter on a tackle-breaking 20-yard run by Myles Ridder. Darien faked the kick on the extra point, and holder Kyle Gifford swept left for the two-pointer and the 14-7 lead.
Following a Harding three-and-out, Darien drove 29 yards in seven plays to set up a 30-yard field goal by Daly Hebert to boost its lead to 17-7.
With less than two minutes remaining in the half, Harding's Christian Hopkins hauled in a 36-yard pass from Terrance Rogers down to the Darien 14, but an interception and long return by Darien's Griffin Ross three plays later gave the Blue Wave possession at the Harding 42.
With just 13 seconds left in the half, quarterback Silas Wyper hit Ross for the 2-yard scoring strike.
"It's not the first time we've come out a little lackadaisical against a team that we thought we should beat, but they're a good football team and they played better than us in the first half of the first quarter," Wyper said. "But we got back on track and I think that showed a lot of resilience. There's so many guys who can catch balls and run the ball that the defense can't key on any particular player."
Any Harding hopes of getting back into the game were dashed early in the second half, as the Blue Wave needed just 1:57 to score 16 points, despite Harding receiving the kickoff.
Harding fumbled the ball away on its first play from scrimmage, and Lombardo carried 15 yards for the score immediately after. Mark Evanchick made a tackle in the end zone for a safety, and Archey scored his second touchdown on a two-yard run to increase the lead to 40-7.
"We've got to keep building," Santiago said. "The last couple weeks we've been doing what we're supposed to do, but we've just got to finish off the season correct."
Up next for Darien is an road tilt at SCC contender North Haven (8-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. The Blue Wave and Indians are currently ranked sixth and seventh respectively in the CIAC Class L playoff rankings.
"(Next week) is a playoff game. It's 8-1 versus 8-1 and the winner is in (the state tournament)," Trifone said. "Loser has to wait and see. They're big and physical and they run the ball right at you."
DARIEN 47, HARDING 23
DARIEN 6 18 16 7--47
HARDING 7 0 0 16--23
Records: Darien 8-1 (7-1 FCIAC); Harding 3-5 (3-4 FCIAC)
D--Peter Archey 4 run (kick failed)
D--Myles Ridder 20 run (Kyle Gifford run)
D--Daly Hebert 30 field goal
D--Griffin Ross 2 pass Silas Wyper (Hebert kick)
D--Nick Lombardo 15 run (Hebert kick)
D--David tackled in end zone for safety
D--Archey 2 run (Hebert kick)
H--Terrance Rogers 3 run (Xavier Bass pass Rogers)
D--John Reed 13 pass Cooper Drippe (Hebert kick)
H--David 65 run (Antoine Sistrunk run)