STAMFORD — Darien coach Rob Trifone spent the days leading up to Monday’s Class LL semifinal with Southington, a game between the two top ranked teams in the state, comparing a possible scenario the Blue Wave could face to the one the 1980 United States Olympic hockey team surmounted.
The U.S. stunned the heavily favored Soviet Union in the semifinals, then had to go out and beat a less heralded Finland for the gold medal.
What if the Blue Wave ended Southington’s 31-game winning streak, Trifone wondered, and then had to regroup to play one final game to win a championship.
Now that supposition has become reality, one deviation is the Russians did not suffer anywhere near the beating Southington did on Monday night as Darien completely dominated in a 49-7 rout at Boyle Stadium.
“Who beats any good team 49-7, nonetheless Southington?” Trifone wondered when asked if he could see what played out happening in advance.
Who, indeed? The Blue Knights fumbled on their first two possessions, resulting in the first two of quarterback Timmy Graham’s five touchdown passes. Darien built up a 28-0 lead at halftime and its defense spent the night chasing down and often putting down Jasen Rose, the Blue Knights’ highly touted quarterback.
“The two fumbles early on, they got rattled and our kids was just the opposite, they got riled up and started flying all over the place,” Trifone said. “I think if you took those two fumbles away it’s a little different game.”
A little different in that the top-seeded Blue Wave (11-0) would have only won by 28 points. Darien will now face Shelton for its first state title since 1996 on Saturday at 2:30 at Veterans Stadium in New Britain.
The only person who was able to stop Darien Monday night was a hapless official who, in one of the most bizarre plays in state playoff history, inadvertently blindsided Hudson Hamill late in the first quarter after he caught a screen pass and seemed headed for a big gain. Hamill lost a fumble but got a delayed score on a 17-yard pass from Graham after Darien got the ball back.
“I was catching it, trying to locate their defenders, turned and before I knew it I was in the air getting hit by the ref and unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold onto the ball,” Hamill said. “I had never been a part of anything like that. I knew that our defense was going to step up and get the ball back.”
The Blue Wave did that all night long as Southington (10-1), which had scored 41 or more points nine times, was shut out until the final moments.
Trifone said it was the result of all aspects of his defense in perfect sync.
“They had tremendous courage,” Trifone said. “We relied on our secondary to blanket and give our defensive line the time.”
Mark Evanchick, the state’s new career sack leader, spent the game in the Southington backfield and had a part in several sacks. He was joined by Quinn Fay and Cord Fox, perhaps Darien’s unsung hero of the night.
“The secondary did a great job giving us time to get to Jasen Rose, and once we got the time we were able to get pressure,” Fox said. “He was very fast but we were relentless and eventually took him down.”
Trifone again had high praise for Graham, who is capping off a great season with a spectacular postseason, including a most valuable player performance in the FCIAC final win over New Canaan.
“Once again Timmy Graham is one of the most underrated players in the state. Michael Collins has gotten the attention as he should and Jay Rose a lot,” said Trifone. Collins is the New Canaan quarterback. “Graham did tonight what he’s been doing all year.”
Hamill had three touchdown receptions and Shelby Grant scored on a pass and a run.
Now Darien gets a chance to end an 0 for 6 slide in state championship games since its last title, including losses the last two years to New Canaan.
“We know we left the state championship on the table the last two years but this group is hungry and is determined not to let it happen again,” Hamill said. “We have one more Saturday and we’re coming for it.”