DARIEN — Jeff Brameier gathered his Darien High School boys lacrosse team for a summit last September. The agenda: what he refers to as the “blip on the radar.”
That blip was a 12-8 record that included a loss to Wilton in the quarterfinal round of the state playoffs. Take a look at the history section on the team’s website, and last year’s highlight is Eastern Division champions.
For a program that has won 79 percent of its games, with 12 league and nine state championships, that is not even Miss Congeniality at the beauty contest.
“We had a meeting because we had a lot of things that were going on,” Brameier said Thursday afternoon, following with a checklist that included injuries, a weak senior class and, most troubling, what he referred to as a ‘me-me-ism.’
“There were some attitudes in the town,” Brameier said. “They were more worried about recruiting than what was going on with the Darien High School team at times. You have to figure out what you’re in it for. When it comes to the spring it is all about Darien.”
Brameier spoke minutes after the Blue Wave improved to 6-0 with a convincing 17-6 win over Wilton. Ten different players scored goals, led by three each from Peter Lindley and Ian Burgoyne.
“It’s experience right now,” Brameier said. “(Wilton) is very talented on the offensive end. I think their defense is a work in progress and facing guys who have played together and know each other really well.”
That goes for Brameier’s knowledge of the Warriors. He said he has seen them play six times, though scouting was of a secondary nature. Brameier’s son, Ryan, is one of Wilton’s top players, but he is recovering again from a torn ACL and his status for the remainder of the season is uncertain.
When Brameier needs respite from being a disappointed parent seeing his son struggling to recover from another injury, his energies have been spent on getting the Blue Wave back on track.
So far his efforts have been a success. There are non-league wins over Niskayuna and Manhasset. The remaining schedule is loaded, and with New Canaan, Greenwich, Ridgefield and Staples, the top of the league appears as strong as ever.
If this season fails to end in what Brameier likes to refer to as a pile — the human pyramid of players formed in the seconds after a championship win — it is hard to imagine it will have anything to do with the reasons behind the September meeting.
“Last year there was a lot more individualism,” said Kyle Cornell, who scored twice against Wilton and is one of Darien’s leaders. “This year everyone is pulling together because we know what is at stake, and if we do pull together we will end up being FCIAC and state champions.”
Though the landscape is totally different, Thursday’s rematch was played on the Darien side with the teams’ previous meeting very much in mind.
“I’m very happy, especially after the way last season ended,” Cornell said. “We wanted to come out hard and beat them in every aspect of the game. From ground balls, to shots, to turnovers. We got a huge job by our defense. It was a great stand for them.”
Andrew Pugilese continues to impress on faceoffs, Phil Huffard had another strong performance in goal and the Blue Wave are deep at all parts of the field. Fundamentals have been both stressed and executed.
“We won the battle of ground balls clearly,” Brameier said. “We got probably three or four goals off of ground balls or rebounds. That’s something we’ve been trying to emphasize. Last year we got schooled on ground balls by everybody.”
The season is little past the infancy stage. The Blue Wave still must play the three teams standing in their path for the league title, as well as St. Anthony’s and Yorktown.
There was loud rock music coming out of the Darien locker room after the game, but one could imagine Brameier going into his office and listening to Frank Sinatra sing the coach’s own theme for this season, the one that will help lead to that pile.