STAMFORD — When you play in all facets at the penthouse level occupied by the Darien football team the past two seasons, it is rare that a particular element stands out.
But in Monday night’s Class LL semifinal game, as Southington quarterback Will Barmore was in a constant state of pursuit, often ending up on the Boyle Stadium turf, it was hard not to marvel at the dominance of the Blue Wave’s defensive line.
Led by Quinn Fay, Darien came up with seven sacks and for the second straight year reached the championship game by rolling over the Blue Knights, 38-7.
“I have to give credit to my teammates,” said Fay, who unofficially had three sacks and at least five hits on Barmore. “The D-tackles, Andrew Stueber and Justin Plank, allowed me and the defensive ends to go one on one in matchups all game, and we were able to take advantage of that.”
The rest of the evening was a ho-hum effort for top-seeded Darien (12-0), the No. 1 team in the state, which meant that Finlay Collins ran for two touchdowns and Brian Peters threw for two more. The win set up an all-conference final as the Blue Wave on Saturday will face surging Ridgefield, which again came from behind and defeated Shelton, 44-41.
Darien and Ridgefield, the 7th seed, did not meet during the season.
The best that can be said for Southington (11-1) is Monday’s loss was not as decisive — at least on the scoreboard — as last year’s 49-7 decision.
“Both sides of the ball played very well,” said Peters. “We came out both halves and started out really well and we are off to a state championship. I couldn’t be prouder of my guys.”
Darien coach Rob Trifone was able to play his reserves for the final quarter, resting several nicked up players, like two-way lineman Cord Fox, who has an ankle injury. Trifone made it sound like winning by a large margin to get the starters off the field was not a hope but part of his strategy.
“One of our goals with a short week coming up was to get people rested and we were able to do that,” Trifone said.
Darien has allowed just 10 points in its two state playoff games after giving up a 34-10 second-half lead in the regular-season finale against New Canaan before winning in overtime.
“The second half of New Canaan we scratched our heads and left saying what happened,” Fay said. “I think we are a team on a mission and I hope we’re going to continue that on Saturday. We are coming to play and we are relentless and I think that’s what makes us so good.”
Darien punted after its first possession, but soon the mix of Collins’ running and a short passing game led to sustained drives. Peters’ 28-yard pass to Spencer Jarecke set up a 1-yard score by Collins for a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
The Blue Wave recovered a fumble on the Southington 35 four plays later to set up another 1-yard touchdown run by Collins.
Southington got a 13-yard touchdown pass from Barmore to Rich Rivera to get within 17-7 late in the second quarter, but three runs by Collins and three completions by Peters set up Nick Green’s 2-yard score with 59 seconds left in the half.
Darien got the ball to start the second half and Peters, with no pressure, waited for a secondary receiver to get open. That turned out to be Tim Herget, who twisted and spun for what turned out to be a 37-yard touchdown reception.
“That was the game plan all week in practice,” Peters said. “Short passes and it worked out. Guys made great plays after the catch like Tim Herget.”
Darien’s final score came on Peters’ 12-yard pass to Riley Stewart.
“I started with a great practice, great catches by the receivers and great backing by the line,” Peters said of his sharp performance.
Darien’s pass rush took care of the rest.
“We realize the defensive line has to work together,” Fay said. “Some games it is going to be someone, other games it is going to be someone else, but we realize it is a team pass rush and we try to take advantage of that.”
Added Trifone, “This time of year last year was when Fay came on. Even though he has had a solid senior year, he has really picked it up in the playoffs.”
Now Darien needs one more win to duplicate the perfect season and state No. 1 ranking of a year ago.
“One step away,” Peters said. “We are going to play hard, we are going to work hard and we are going to try and get that state championship.”