One of the feel-good moments of this season took place Saturday afternoon at Darien High School.
Make that any season.
On the third play of the third quarter, with Darien, the state’s top-ranked team, leading Brien McMahon, 47-10, coach AJ Albano signaled for a play called “Ice Cream.” It was one the team had practiced all week.
That was a prompt for Jamie Taylor to come out onto the field, and he took a handoff and ran 60 yards for a touchdown.
What made the play so emotional is that Taylor, a senior defensive lineman and the cousin of McMahon assistant coach Joey Smith, has Down Syndrome.
Darien remained unbeaten with a 54-17 win.
Albano had contacted Darien coach Rob Trifone earlier in the week and discussed running the play if the score became one-sided.
“Jamie is a special young man I’ve spent a lot of time with,” Albano said. “He is a senior, he’s graduating and he is going to college. There are a lot of good things going on in his life. Running this was a possibility but we didn’t prepare for that. But Darien took over as the game went on.”
Albano played for Trifone when he coached at McMahon and was Trifone’s defensive coordinator at Darien for three years.
Trifone was serving the final days of a two-week suspension, but after hearing from Albano went to Chris Manfredonia, the athletic director at Darien, for approval to make the necessary arrangements.
“He said that he knew that he and I have a great relationship and that he could approach me with such a request,” Trifone said of Albano. “I told him that although I will not be on the sidelines that I would make sure that the program would be able to help make a special moment for this player. Our entire program was thrilled that they were able to make this a very special day for that young man on the opposing team.”
After Taylor scored, he ran toward the McMahon sideline and lifted Albano into the air. Hearst Media Connecticut’s John Nash captured the moment in the great photograph above that he posted on Twitter Saturday.
The Senators are 0-5, but Albano said no matter what happens he will have an unforgettable memory from the season.
“I just thought this moment would be special for this young man and his family,” Albano said. “I made sure his mom came to the game and did not leave. I didn’t tell her why. We did it earlier than anticipated.
“He just deserves it, that’s all. He earned it. When he picked me up, that’s a picture I will frame and hang up in my office, and when I’m having tough day I will remember why I’m coaching football.”
Here is the video of the play, filmed by Jenn Montanaro for the Darien Athletic Foundation.