DARIEN — Heard the cliche about the last team with the ball…?
Trite almost turned into truism Saturday afternoon, which is why, when the Greenwich football team got the ball back with eight seconds left and needing 92 yards to tie the score against the state’s No. 1 team, no one headed for the exits.
You don’t stop reading a mystery with a few pages left and the killer unrevealed, and on this day you didn’t discount a miraculous comeback led by Greenwich quarterback Connor Langan, on his 18th birthday, even if the team on the other side of the field was Darien.
Alas, two incompletions later the Blue Wave had escaped with a 42-35 win, their 15th in a row and the toughest in that span other than the FCIAC championship victory over New Canaan.
Afterward, it was harder to tell whether the bigger story was the Blue Wave proving their resiliency or Greenwich demonstrating that they are making the necessary strides to almost pull of an upset.
The Cardinals’ win over Westhill on a late score in week one now seems from another era.
“We’re coming,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “We’re poised. Being in games like this and losing them is going to be beneficial for us down the line. We hope to see them again if we can take care of our own business.”
Asked if he would call this a building-block game, Marinelli was blunt.
“I would call it a loss,” he said.
Darien’s execution was off on a splendid homecoming afternoon. Some of that was its own shortcomings, some the Cardinals’ ability to absorb and land blows.
In the end, the Blue Wave have been in this situation before. There are no substitutes for the callouses of experience.
“I think if you haven’t been there in a while, which they haven’t, that is tough,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said. “Hats off to Greenwich. I told Johnny I think they outplayed us. In the end we showed grit.”
You might not find as many highlight-reel plays combined over the rest of the season than occurred on Saturday. The best ones were saved for last.
The Blue Wave (3-0) never trailed but three times saw Greenwich tie the game, coming from two scores down to forge a 28-28 draw with a pair of touchdowns just over three minutes apart in the fourth quarter. First, Langan followed a 50-yard pass to Matt Morganti with a 10-yard touchdown run.
Four plays later Jeremiah Harris’ interception gave the Cardinals the ball on their own 27. Langan hit Anthony Ferraro three times, the first a 31-yard gain, the last two spectacular catches off of deflected balls. Ferraro barely got his hands underneath the last one, in the end zone from 24 yards.
But momentum was soon halted when the Blue Wave’s Brian Peters hit Tim Herget in stride for a 54-yard score. The play was set up by Finlay Collins’ stunning one-handed catch on third down that went for a 36-yard gain.
Cord Fox, who had consecutive first-half sacks, then made the most influential play, an interception where he made a good read and returned it 53 yards to the Greenwich 2. Mitch Pryor scored his second touchdown two plays later.
The Cardinals (2-1) were not done. Langan and Kevin Iobbi went to work, connecting three times, twice on fourth down. The latter was a 7-yard pass with 2:10 left that finished the scoring on the day.
The ending obscured the first half, when Iobbi had a 99-yard kickoff return and the Darien defense stopped the Cardinals on fourth down from the 1.
“Tomorrow when you finally wake up you say we’ll be a better football team because of it,” Trifone said. “Talk about agita. I’ve watched every game they’ve played. That’s the best they’ve played. Thank god I don’t have them game 8, 9 or 10 because they’re just going to get better and better.”
Marinelli reverted to the day’s biggest theme at the end.
“We’re still inexperienced,” he said. “They are not the No. 1 team in the state for any other reason. They know how to win. That’s the key difference, especially with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Their guys came up big and made the play.”
Marinelli reiterated his team’s hope to earn another chance at Darien in the postseason.
No one likes conference rematches in the state playoffs.
After Saturday, few would mind seeing these two teams go at in another time.