NORWALK — The following quote was not spoken after a regular-season game, or even in an early-round state tournament contest. It came after Saturday’s state Class L championship boys lacrosse game between No. 1 seed Darien and No. 2 Simsbury.
“Never once coming in did we think we couldn’t win this game,” Simsbury coach Jim Martocchio said after Darien won its third consecutive state championship in an 18-3 victory. “But sometimes . . . well, there’s just nothing you can do.”
Wait a second. Nothing you can do in a 1 vs. 2 state final?
“That’s right,” Martocchio added. “Darien is THAT good.”
The resounding triumph at Brien McMahon High School’s Jack Casagrande Field was led by Kevin Lindley, Jack Kniffin and Riley Stewart, who each had three goals. It was Darien’s 31st win in a row dating back to last year, and completed a perfect 23-0 season. The Blue Wave outscored four state tournament opponents by a 63-12 margin.
Besides the “three-peat” when the Blue Wave were winning 66 out of 69 games since the start of the 2013-14 season, Darien has won the state crown in four of the last five years and 10 of the last 12.
As great as that history is, this season’s team was one of a kind.
“This is a special group,” Darien coach Jeff Brameier said. Darien entered Saturday’s game ranked second in the nation by MaxPreps and was No. 7 according to USA Today. “We have a very skilled group on offense, the best goalie in the state (Ryan Cornell) and a strong, experienced defense led by (Mark) Evanchick. Our only weakness has been faceoffs. But Tanner (Strub) had a career day on faceoffs today.
“So when you add faceoffs to all the rest,” Brameier added, “well, it’s almost impossible to beat us.”
Martocchio would probably delete the word “almost” from that last remark.
“We were riding the energy we built up from our first three state games and hoped that would be enough to keep us in the game,” Martocchio said of his 18-2 team. “But they were just too good.”
Led by a group of seniors, seven of whom were members of Darien’s state championship football team, the Blue Wave dominated right from the opening faceoff. Lindley scored 46 seconds into the game and added two more goals before the first period was over as Darien built a 6-1 lead.
With Darien forcing turnover after turnover, the lead ballooned to 12-2 at halftime. Incredibly, the mercy rule (running time with a lead of 12 or more) went into effect just 1:11 into the third quarter.
“We knew we were the best team and wanted to go out and prove it,” Kniffin said. Kniffin had five goals in Darien’s 15-8 semifinal victory over Fairfield Prep.
“You have to give credit to Simsbury for getting this far but the talent we have on our team was too much for them,” added Colin Minicus, who had one goal and three assists for Blue Wave.
Minicus, Evanchick, Tim Graham, Hudson Hamill, Rock Stewart and Bobby and Christian Trifone are the seven seniors who have won four state championships and five league titles in the two sports the last three years. Combined, they are 102-6 since the start of their sophomore years.
“This is a real dedicated group,” junior Riley Stewart said. “It’s a real testament to our senior leadership.”
“They’re all buddies and that makes for a real close-knit group,” Brameier added. “But this town just strives for competitive sports teams and this group certainly set the bar high.”
Brameier will miss the 21 seniors but don’t feel too sorry for him. The freshman team was 15-3. It is OK, however, to feel a little sorry for the seniors.
“We were fired up to play our last game, and to end like this is great but it’s also very bittersweet,” Evanchick said. “There’s going to be some sadness now. It’s going to be tough.”
Liam Rischmann and Finlay Collins added two goals each for Darien while Minicus, Hamill, Jack Book, Jake Kirby and Nick Green also scored for the Blue Wave. Cornell finished with seven saves and Andrew Clarke, who played the final seven minutes, had one.
Keith Penney, Torbin Wunderle and Willem Rooney scored for Simsbury. Colin Walsh stopped 12 of the 30 shots he faced.