Football

State Semifinal Gameplan: Rematches Loom For Darien, St. Joseph, New Canaan

The FCIAC has three teams remaining in the Class LL and L semifinals and all will be involved in rematches from early in the season.

Class LL: No. 3 Darien at No. 2 Southington

The teams met in the second week of the season, with the Blue Wave winning, 24-8, though its last score came in the closing seconds. This is also their third meeting in the semifinals in the past four years. Darien has a 3-0 record in the four games, but this is the first time it makes the trip to Southington (10-1).

This again looks like it will be a game dominated by the defenses. Darien (10-1) is coming off a 26-16 quarterfinal win over Greenwich, but the score was 12-9 with three minutes left. Sam Wilson, a candidate for the FCIAC Player of the Year if such an award existed, closed out the game with an interception return and long run on offense for touchdowns.

Darien’s passing attack has bogged down the last two times out, but the team has a good quarterback in Peter Graham and a stable of five reliable receivers. Will Kirby is a top running back.

This will be Southington’s second straight playoff game against an FCIAC school. It held off Ridgefield, 13-9, in the quarterfinals.

Class L: No. 4 New Canaan at No. 1 St. Joseph

A prediction: The Cadets will not be leading 51-0 in the second quarter as they did in the fourth week, one of the most stunning events in FCIAC football history.

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The Rams (9-2) have won seven straight since, have a few injured players back and are a much different team. Whether they are improved enough to play with what most consider the best team in the state is another question.

The game features the league’s two best quarterbacks. St. Joseph’s Jack Wallace was named the Connecticut Gatorade Player of the Year on Friday, a considerable accomplishment both by a junior and player who was a safety last season.

Wallace is helped by a number of game breakers: Jaden Shirden scored six touchdowns in a quarterfinal win over Wilton and Will Diamantis and Brady Hutchison are the best receiving combo in the state. The defense, especially the front seven, is an All-Star unit of talent.

The Rams’ Drew Pyne, with a more settled line, is playing his best ball of the season. His favorite target is Zach LaPolice, but there is now greater depth as several receivers have matured with experience. The running game is also much better, and like against Darien may be needed to control time of possession.

The defense has been shutting down opponents, but as the Rams know, this is the best offense they will face.