Is there a more appropriate way to conclude this FCIAC sports school year then with Darien and New Canaan playing for a championship one more time?
It happened in the state football and conference hockey finals. And while we have been focused on the obvious storylines to Saturday’s Class M boys lacrosse title game, let us not forget that the Blue Wave lost those two prior meetings, so they will not be lacking for their own element of revenge.
Any time the two neighboring towns meet on the athletic field, there is no need to crank up the hype machine. That takes care of itself.
Of the myriad story angles to the final game of the high school season, Saturday’s game comes down to this: New Canaan is chasing Darien. And the Blue Wave are chasing history.
After a pair of overtime losses to Darien, including one in the FCIAC Tournament semifinals that denied them the chance at a three-peat, the Rams have been honed in on getting one final chance.
It has been all they have talked about, all that has spurred every minute of each practice and their first three tournament games. Rarely has a team been as frank openly about what everyone knows, but tries best to mask.
“Yeah, we’ve done a lot of talking,” admitted New Canaan coach Chip Buzzeo. “Now we have to back it up.”
In that regard, the Rams have taken some of the pressure that should be entirely on their opponent’s backs and offered to share the burden.
“It’s fun,” said Harry Stanton, the Rams’ star attack. “Everyone wanted to see this game. We did what we needed to do. We’ve got to come out flying. We’ve got a third shot. You don’t get a third shot at a team like Darien often so we’re excited and we’re ready for this one.”
To say the Rams have been playing with a greater sense of purpose the last two weeks wound be unfair in that would discount their effort before the state tournament. A greater sense of urgency? More accurate.
“Darien is going to face a different team than they faced two and a half weeks ago,” Buzzeo promised. “Right now Darien is one of the best teams, if not the best team, in the country. We’re definitely the underdog going in.”
There hasn’t been a media blackout in Darien, so the players and coaches have heard and absorbed all the chatter from down the street. Darien coach Jeff Brameier was amused when asked about it.
“There’s no question you always have the pressure,” he said. “We’ve beaten them twice in overtime. We’ve read all the articles. You have to come and play. My kids have to come and play. It’s all about that.”
Brameier set up one of the most difficult non-league schedules for this moment.
“We’ve had a lot of big ones this year and that’s why we do them,” he said. “It’s to get them ready for Saturday. We’re ready for that heat again.”
Should Darien run the table and finish 23-0 for the second time — it last happened in 2005 — it will also set up a considerable debate, a belief I’ve made no secret about on a pedestal over the past two weeks. Given the strength of schedule the Blue Wave has played, would this be the greatest season ever by an FCIAC team, in any sport?
I’ve been covering the league for over 30 years and a comparative accomplishment escapes me. Remember, I am saying this would have been the greatest season, not that Darien is the greatest team.
The belief here is that there has never been four teams that have concurrently played at a higher level in any sport as Darien, New Canaan, Greenwich — which is part of the opening act on Saturday in the Class L final — and Ridgefield this year.
With a win, the Blue Wave would be a perfect 6-0 against the other three. And that doesn’t take into account a rigorous out-of-state schedule.
“That’s for you guys to decide,” Brameier said. “The bloggers are out there comparing us to the ‘80s. Lacrosse is a different game from the ‘80s.”
The Blue Wave have approached the inevitable matchup in a level tone.
“It’s a big rivalry game,” said Darien’s John Reed. “New Canaan-Darien, it doesn’t get better than that.”
No, it doesn’t.
So while New Canaan chases Darien, the Blue Wave chase history.
It is going to be one hell of a finish.