DARIEN -- Even for the casual lacrosse fan, it didn't take long to figure out that Saturday afternoon's clash between Darien and St. Anthony's was a matchup of elite teams.
Battling back and forth over four brilliantly played quarters, Darien used timely scoring and some sound defense to pull out an 8-7 win, despite trailing after three quarters.
And in this clash of heavyweight lacrosse programs, it was an unlikely hero paving the way to victory for the Blue Wave.
Sophomore Peter Lindley, making his first ever varsity start in place of injured attack Bobby Weaver, made it a debut to remember, scoring a game-high three goals, including the game-winner with 10:11 left in the game.
"It was a good game. They fed the ball really well to me, and I had to finish and I did it," Lindley said. "I had to step in for Bobby getting hurt and he's a great player. I was just happy to be out there and it was a big win."
Lindley's goal set the stage for a very tense final 10 minutes. With every possession at a premium, both Darien goalie Phil Huffard and St. Anthony's goalie Eric Caliendo turned away several difficult shots to keep their opponents off the scoreboard for the rest of the game. Huffard's 16th and final save came with two minutes remaining, when he reacted quickly to catch a shot from St. Anthony's Chris Hughes.
"Another great team effort," said Darien's Case Matheis, who scored two goals and dished out a pair of assists. "Everyone stepped up and that's what has to happen to win a big game like this."
With Darien (12-1) attempting to run out the clock late in the fourth, St. Anthony's (11-2) managed to get possession with 36 seconds left, got across midfield and called a timeout with 29 seconds remaining. St. Anthony's looked to set up shop for one final shot at the Darien goal, but an errant pass sailed back onto Darien's side of the field, allowing the Blue Wave to take possession and run out the clock.
"We were trying to get a matchup and a relay and hit the attacker coming off the backside on the pick, but they doubled the ball sooner and we got a really bad pickup. We didn't get the screen we needed. It didn't go as planned, but it shouldn't have come down to that," said St. Anthony's coach Keith Wieczorek, whose team came in ranked No. 8 in the Under Armour National High School Lacrosse Power Rankings. "I think our kids played great defensively, as Darien did too. Both goalies did a great job today."
At the time of Lindley's third goal that made the score 8-7, Darien -- No. 21 in the Power Rankings -- hardly thought it wouldn't have to score again, but it was nonetheless happy to grind out the win.
"When we went up 8-7, I thought to myself `this probably isn't going to last. Be prepared to score more goals,' " Matheis said. "But it was awesome. It's another notch on the belt as we move forward to Ridgefield and the playoffs."
In addition to netting the game-winner, Lindley also opened the scoring in the first period, and Darien went up 2-0 when Matheis found Henry West. Hughes cut St. Anthony's deficit to 2-1 before Matheis scored on a wraparound to give Darien a 3-1 lead at quarter's end.
The only two goals of the second quarter each belonged to St. Anthony's, as Matt Chanenchuck found Sean McDonagh for a goal and Dillon Malloy scored an unassisted marker to send the teams into the break knotted at 3-3.
In a fast-paced third quarter, St. Anthony's took its first lead on a goal by Chanenchuck before West pulled Darien even. St. Anthony's got the next two goals courtesy of Molloy and Brian Sherlock to take a 6-4 lead. Darien tied it again on goals by Lindley and Matheis, but St. Anthony's took a 7-6 lead into the fourth quarter when Chanenchuck found McDonagh with 2.5 seconds remaining in the frame.
The Blue Wave required just 33 seconds of play in the fourth quarter to knot the game at 7-7, with West notching the equalizer.
After the grueling win, Darien's (9-0 FCIAC) next big hurdle is a road clash with fellow FCIAC unbeaten Ridgefield on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Tiger Hollow Stadium.
DARIEN 8, ST. ANTHONY'S (NY) 7
DARIEN.............................. 3 0 3 2 --8
ST. ANTHONY'S (NY)....... 1 2 4 0 --7
Records: St. Anthony's 11-2; Darien 12-1, still 9-0 FCIAC.
Scoring: STA -- Sean McDonagh 2 goals, 2 assists; Dillon Malloy 2g; Matt Chanenchuk 1g, 2a; Chris Huglen 1g; Brian Sherlock 1g. D -- Henry West 3g, 1a; Case Matheis 2g, 2a; Peter Lindley 3g; Jon Magnusson 1a; Tony Britton 1a. Goalies: STA -- Eric Caliendo (9 saves). D -- Phil Huffard (16 saves).
Highlights: Darien travels to Ridgefield on Tuesday at 6:30 pm for a battle of FCIAC unbeatens.