FCIAC

Football Friday: A Litmus Test For Darien; Staples Enjoying The Quiet

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The Darien defense has been a swarming presence in a 3-0 start. (Photo: Darien Athletic Foundation)

By Dave Ruden

The Darien High School football team has scored 139 points in a 3-0 start, yet still the question remains: Just how good is the Blue Wave?

The answer comes Saturday afternoon, with a road trip to St. Joseph in the FCIAC’s marquee game of the weekend.

“No question this is a litmus test,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said. “We will find out, win, lose or draw, how good a football team we are.”

The Blue Wave have been a minor surprise thus far from the sense not many had them on the list of league contenders. And it may still turn out they don’t belong there. But right now they are in the conversation.

“Coming into this year my pick for the top two teams were New Canaan and St. Joseph,” Trifone said. “Clearly they have lived up to that billing. With St. Joseph, all you had to do was look at those kids from last year and you knew they were coming back. New Canaan the same way. I kind of knew we were going to be strong, but we didn’t have any high profile players other than Nick Lombardo. Outside of Nick I wasn’t sure of what we did have.”

Lombardo, with 479 total yards and 10 touchdowns, has been one of the league’s most explosive players.

A couple of players have proved revelations, perhaps none more so than quarterback Silas Wyper, who has a name that is a favorite of headline writers but was an unknown commodity.

He has been extremely accurate, completing 65 percent of his passes, 9 for touchdowns.

Defensive end Mark Evanchick has spent a good deal of his time in opposing backfields; 4 of his 25 tackles have been for losses, including a pair of sacks.

Jay Harrison leads the team both in rushing yards and tackles.

Darien has dominated on both side of the lines in its three wins, most notably a 42-21 rout of Greenwich.

The Blue Wave will need to continue that physical play, especially on the defensive side against the Cadets.

“No one has been able to get to Vazzano yet,” said Trifone, referring to Cadets quarterback Jordan Vazzano. “They are always in the spread offense, and if you send too many people you don’t have enough to cover. So you pick your poison. I think the answer is you have to mix it, find your spots and try to disguise when you are bringing four and when you are bringing six.”

Trifone said while he thought St. Joseph deserved to be favored, this is a game he believes the Blue Wave is capable of winning.

“I think athletically St. Joseph is the better team on paper,” Trifone said. “They are bigger and more experienced, but I like this Darien team. They are a very tight team and pull for each other and complement each other well. I know one thing: our kids will fight until the bitter end, and that’s the kind of team I like.”

Don’t Sleep On Staples

Considering it has won three of the last four FCIAC championships, the Staples football team has operated in relative anonymity the first month of the season.

Marce Petroccio, the Wreckers’ coach, will be content if the lights remain focused elsewhere.

“We’re definitely flying underneath the radar, which is fine with us,” Petroccio said. “Let everyone talk about New Canaan, St. Joseph and Darien.”

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The return of Patrick Lesch has bolstered Staples’ offense. (Photo: Katie Burns)

Unfortunately, the bet here is that the microscope will soon be pointed toward Westport.

For one, the Wreckers have few marquee names, but there are good players that just need experience. Second, their schedule is accommodating; they will be favored in every game before Thanksgiving except for New Canaan. Finally, Darien and St. Joseph play each other Saturday and the Cadets and New Canaan meet later in the year.

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It is highly unlikely two teams are going to be unbeaten in league play, which means be prepared for criticism of the FCIAC’s point system, which will probably determine one of the two championship finalists.

Put it all together and the Wreckers are likely going to be major players in the playoff race.

“We’re still the defending champs and these kids still have a lot of heart and a lot of pride,” Petroccio said.

The Wreckers might look back to a 14-7 win over Wilton two weeks ago as a turning point to their season. The offense was out of sync. Quarterback Jack Massie, one of the team’s few givens, threw two interceptions. Petroccio said that Massie apologized to the team after the game.

Petroccio promised to do a complete evaluation of the offense, and made changes for last week’s game against Westhill, a 63-14 win.

“We changed the tempo from the Wilton game,” Petroccio said. “We weren’t comfortable. Wilton had a lot to do with it. The goal for us is we have to improve every week. Get as many wins as we can.”

With running back Patrick Lesch rounding into form following offseason surgery, the defense figured to be the biggest question mark for the Wreckers.

“They are getting better and better each game, Petroccio said.

WEEKEND GUIDE

Friday

Staples (2-1) at Stamford (0-3), 6 p.m. Offensive line injuries are going to likely derail what started out as a season of cautious optimism for the Black Knights.

Bassick (0-3) at Wilton (2-1), 6 p.m. The Warriors don’t have depth, but they have quality starters.

Central (0-3) at Danbury (1-2), 7 p.m. The Hatters look to rebound from last week’s loss to Norwalk, while new Central coach Brian Gordon remains in search of his first win.

Fairfield Warde (1-2) at New Canaan (3-0), 7 p.m. The Mustangs ended an eight-game losing streak last week against Trinity. Their coach, Duncan Della Volpe, returns to face the program where he was offensive coordinator.

Ridgefield (2-1) at Notre Dame-West Haven (1-2), 7 p.m. The Tigers’ outlook took a step back after a punishing loss to St. Joseph.

Saturday

Westhill (1-2) at Brien McMahon (3-0), 2 p.m. The Senators lost star Trevon Forney for the season, but still have an excellent chance for a 7-0 start.

Greenwich (1-2) at Trinity Catholic (0-3), 2 p.m. Crusaders coach Donny Panapada’s home debut comes against his mentor, Rich Albonizio, smarting after two bad losses.

Darien (3-0) at St. Joseph (3-0), 2:30 p.m. The game of the weekend. Who made out the Cadets’ schedule: four tough games to start the year followed next weekend by the start of a six-game road trip.

Warren Harding (2-1) at Fairfield Ludlowe (2-1): Two schools with new coaches, with disparate Q ratings. One of these teams will be 3-1.

Trumbull (2-1) at Norwalk (2-1), 4 p.m. A springboard for one of these two schools to have a solid year.