Football

Commentary: Darien Not Perfect, Just Dominant In Tune-Up Win Over Crusaders

Michael Minicus (6) congratulates Sean Gifford after his 50-yard touchdown reception. (Hailey Hires)

DARIEN — His team had a 30-8 lead, and Rob Trifone was fuming.

Trifone, the demanding Darien football coach, had seconds earlier been a picture of contentment after Michael Minicus had taken the second-half kickoff by Trinity Catholic/Wright Tech and brought the team a score away from a running clock.

Then the Crusaders’ Michael Barrett answered by copying Minicus with the ensuing kickoff.

“How did that happen?” Trifone shouted as he turned around and looked at his players on the sideline. “That’s the first play we are going to watch tomorrow.”

Trifone was no less mollified after the Blue Wave’s 51-20 win.

“We practice hard all the time,” Trifone said. “Granted, I had some subs in there and I will have to look, but we kicked it right where we are supposed to and…I don’t know.”

Darien’s Michael Minicus returns the second-half kickoff for a touchdown. (Hailey Hires)

This was a trap game for the 5-0 Blue Wave, facing an overmatched opponent with one of its biggest regular-season games a week away. Trifone wanted perfection. Instead he got a flat start that after a quarter and a half was shaken off.

“Human nature is such, you have Greenwich on the horizon next week,” Trifone said. “Everybody and their grandmother knows it, and Trinity has talent. We knew they had some ability to break some big plays.”

Before becoming a co-opt, Trinity Catholic was known for uncompromising efforts, no matter what the record. That has not changed, as quarterback Branden Louis tried with second, third and fourth efforts to get into the end zone on a two-point conversion on the final play of the day.

Sam Wilson (9) and the Darien defense swarm to make a stop. (Hailey Hires)

Tahj Morgan, the Crusaders’ best player, scored on two long touchdown passes against the Blue Wave’s reserves to make the score more palatable.

The Crusaders have been treated like dirt by a feckless school administration that knows little about football or athletics, yet the players go out each week and give an effort that should make the school proud.

“We certainly respected Trinity,” Trifone said. “We practiced all week for them.”

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Darien’s David Evanchick opened today’s game with two sacks, the second for a safety and quick 2-0 lead. The Blue Wave appeared to have a score on the next play until a long pass play resulted in a fumble through the end zone.

Darien was only up 9-0 late in the second quarter before quarterback Peter Graham hit Sean Gifford and Minicus on long scoring passes before halftime.

Trinity Catholic’s’ Michael Barrett tries to break a tackle by Darien’s Will Bothwell. (Hailey Hires)

“We were focusing a little too much on next week and not on the game ahead of us, and made some stupid mental mistakes that shouldn’t have happened,” Minicus said. “The fumble in the end zone shouldn’t have happened. The kickoff return shouldn’t have happened. We just have to keep focusing on what we did wrong this week and get better.”

Remove the kickoff return and the Blue Wave were much more fluid in the second half before giving the starters the rest of the sun-soaked afternoon off.

Darien is far removed from getting into a real fight. That came in the second week, when it defeated Southington. What has followed is wins against three teams with a combined two wins, both by Trumbull.

That changes against Greenwich, which is currently ranked third in the state, one spot ahead of the Blue Wave. The winner, looking ahead, would almost be assured of a state playoff berth.

“I would think either of us with a win is sitting in a pretty good spot in LL,” Trifone said. “We just have to be very sharp next week, not make some of the mistakes that we made today.”

Darien quarterback Peter Graham finished with three touchdown passes. (Hailey Hires)

The Cardinals have yet to play a close game, so trying to assess which team is the favorite at this point is speculation.

“The Southington game was important to show how we come off against big teams and the last few weeks we really haven’t been competed against,” Minicus said. “Greenwich will be great competition. They really haven’t had a big game yet so hopefully our experience will help us.”

Now the talk begins: St. Joseph hosts Ridgefield earlier Saturday afternoon in another battle of top 10 teams. Trifone said he plans to have the noise-cancelling headphones ready.

“I always tell the kids it’s a privilege to play in a big game,” Trifone said. “There are many high school programs that in any given year don’t. What you have to do is separate yourself from the hype that surrounds it. I tell them all the time you can’t by hyped, you have to be poised and ready to perform. We will work on that psyche during the week.”