Darien football doesn’t fall into Danbury’s trap
BROOKFIELD — After topping Greenwich on the game’s final play last week, there was every reason for the Darien football team to view Saturday’s road contest with Danbury as a trap game.
While the Blue Wave made early miscues and faced enough scares from Danbury to last a plethora of Halloweens, at crunch time they showed why all their recent titles are on their gaudy gridiron resume.
When big plays were needed in big moments, Darien answered the call.
And that is why the Blue Wave celebrated the bus ride home with a 26-23 triumph over determined Danbury.
“Coming off the (27-21 road win) over Greenwich where we won on the game’s final play, you get comfortable,” Darien’s senior quarterback Peter Graham said. “Emotionally we knew this meeting with Danbury was a trap game. Danbury put up a helluva fight, but we knew how to pull it together in the second half to get the victory. Danbury was terrific.”
While Darien (7-0) remained in that rarefied group of undefeated football teams in Connecticut, things looked bleak midway through the fourth quarter.
Danbury’s sophomore quarterback Jackson Ciccone connected with speedster Artez Taft on an 84-yard TD strike with 8:04 left to give the Hatters a 23-20 edge.
The Hatters’ defense —highlighted by 6-foot-5 senior Jah Joyner’s QB sack — immediately forced Darien’s offense into a three-and-out. The punt put Danbury’s offense in business at the Darien 31 with 6:54 left.
Darien’s defense responded by stopping Danbury on fourth-and-1 on the Blue Wave 23. So Darien was 78 yards away with 4:59 to go.
It took Graham (17 of 35, 345 yards passing) just two plays. He found senior Jackson Peters (six receptions, 176 yards, 155 in 2nd half) on a 69-yard TD connection for 26-23 with 4:41 left.
“Peter (Graham) and I have played together so long, we know instinctively what the other guy is thinking,” Peters said. “When the play was called and I saw the wide receiver route tree on my wrist band I knew the pass was coming my way. Our offensive line did a great job giving Peter enough time to make the throw.”
Peters wasn’t done tormenting Danbury. He intercepted a Ciccone pass with 3:49 to go. And Austin Dehmel — despite wearing a wrist cast added an interception with 1:49 left to stop Danbury’s last drives.
And escape with a victory.
Danbury (4-3) was valiant in defeat coming off a 35-14 loss at Newtown last week.
“Danbury played a phenomenal game. They get all the credit,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said. “Our staff watched four Danbury games on videotape. I said, ‘Oh my God, they have talent at every position.’ Danbury’s quarterback (Ciccone) is dynamic both running and throwing. And their defense is great.
“After beating Greenwich and Danbury late, we don’t have to practice pressure situations,” Trifone continued. “We won because we have smart kids who keep their cool. We won the game with poise. Our quarterback (Graham) stays calm and it transmits to the rest of the team. When we went to our Air Force (five wide receiver package) I knew Peter (Graham) was going to get it done.”
Danbury’s offense hurt Darien with long TD passes (Xavier Ross 75-yard TD 3rd quarter; Taft 85 yards 4th quarter). But little things (interceptions, TD runs called back by penalty, missed field goals) created too big a margin of error for Danbury to overcome.
“We didn’t get away with our mistakes,” Danbury coach Augie Tieri said. “But I was so proud of the effort and fight of everyone in our lockerroom. I’ve never been as proud of these men as I was tonight. I want this group to have success and get the respect of the FCIAC football community. They achieved that in a loss. They worked so hard.”
PLAYER OF GAME
Darien receiver/cornerback Jackson Peters: The senior had five of his six receptions and 155 of his 176 yards in the second half, capped by a 69-yard connection fgor the winning touchdown. He also added a critical interception with 3:49 to go.
“The fact we’ve been tested (wins over Southington, Greenwich) paid dividends tonight. We knew Danbury would make big plays (touchdown receptions with speed). But we didn’t let that define the game,” Darien’s Jackson Peters said. “We looked past the touchdowens and our miscues. We looked forward and responded. Our success in the past and the work of our coaching staff prepares us for these big moments.”
DARIEN 26, DANBURY 23
DARIEN0 13 7 6—26
DANBURY0 6 10 7—23
Darien—Will Kirby 2 run (Aaron Sears kick)
Darien—Sean Gifford 75 pass from Peter Graham (kick failed)
Danbury—Malachi Hopkins 17 pass from Jackson Ciccone (pass failed)
Danbury—Diogo Rosa 27 yard field goal
Danbury—Xavier Ross 75 pass from Ciccone (Rosa kick)
Darien—Aaron Sears 10 pass from Peter Graham (Sears kick)
Danbury—Artez Taft 85 pass from Ciccone (Rosa kick)
Darien—Jackson Peters 69 pass from Graham (kick failed)
Records: Darien 7-0, Danbury 4-3.