The football coach's caution is to never look past an opponent, regardless of whatever critical game may be down the road.

But following his team's 41-0 dismantling of Bassick Saturday, Darien headman Rob Trifone admitted the Blue Wave couldn't help itself this past week knowing a clash with undefeated St. Joseph lay ahead Thursday. For before Darien (3-0) took the field this weekend, both players and coaches had kept busy with thoughts of how to beat the Cadets, in addition to their preparation for the Lions.

"I think quite a bit of the week (the players) were thinking about next week's game," Trifone said. "And I kept warning them `you've got to show up versus Bassick and you have to execute.' But next week is a huge showdown."

After three kickoffs, St. Joseph boasts an identical 3-0 record, one boosted by impressive wins against fellow prep schools. The Cadets took down Notre Dame-West Haven on the road in their season-opener, 17-6, prior to returning home and overwhelming Fairfield Prep to the tune of 48-33. Star senior running back Mufasha Abdul Basir accounted for more than 300 yards by himself against the Jesuits, including 272 on the ground.

As is the case with all St. Joseph opponents, slowing Abdul Basir projects to be the No. 1 focus for the Blue Wave come Thursday. However, he is far from the only Cadet Darien must contain, considering speedy senior Lars Pedersen sparked St. Joseph to a 21-17 comeback win over Ridgefield Friday with a 99-yard kickoff return. Pedersen and Abdul Basir also combine to form a menacing defensive secondary, one that will test Wave junior quarterback Tim Graham.

"We've just got go into Thursday with an aggressive mindset," Graham said. "Their secondary is very good. Pedersen and Mufasha play very good, lockdown defense."

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Trifone concurred with his young signal caller, adding new St. Joseph quarterback Kevin Trefz is a threat unto himself.

"Their offensive line will pose a bit more of a challenge than what we faced today, and Mufasa is one of the best, if not the best running back in the state. And to add to that, their quarterback is good. He is legit," the coach said. "They're one of the best offensive teams I've seen all year."

WAVE PASS OFFENSE STRUGGLES

A 41-point margin of victory wouldn't indicate much in the way of offensive struggles, but the Blue Wave's first half against Bassick Saturday was full of them.

On Darien's first play from scrimmage, junior Hudson Hamill hauled in a 23-yard strike from Graham, only to fumble into the endzone for an eventual Lions touchback. The Blue Wave quarterback then nearly tossed an interception during the ensuing drive, before handing off to Christian Trifone for an eight-yard score. When Darien's offense took the field next, Graham took a first-play sack and his receivers dropped a pair of easy receptions to force the field goal unit on for a 29-yard try.

The troubles didn't stop there, as Bassick tipped and picked off an attempted screen pass on Darien's fourth drive. Graham and co. then cleaned up their act for their following, 30-yard series, one set up by a Hamill interception and finished by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Bobby Trifone. Minutes later, the Blue Wave got in its own way once again with two pass drops and a holding call, which led to a turnover on downs despite a beautiful 22-yard, fourth-down toss from Graham.

"We're playing well on defense and we show strews of brilliance on offense, but then we sputter," Trifone said. "We've got to work on being a lot more methodical, no mistakes, no penalties, no turnovers."

At the outset of the second half, Darien played much more methodically thanks to a steady dose of senior running back Peter Archey, who carried three times to bring the Blue Wave inside the red zone. From there, Graham found an open Dylan Cunningham, who reeled in his first touchdown of the season for a 34-0 lead. Afterwards, Trifone signaled for a mass exodus of nearly all Darien starters.

According to the head coach, the Blue Wave can ill-afford to err as often against St. Joseph on Thursday if it wishes to come out with a win.

"St. Joe's secondary is very good. The best athletes on their team are in their secondary, as you would imagine ... We've got our work cut out for us," Trifone said. "And the team that makes the fewest mistakes, I know it's an old cliche, will win that game."

STAT OF THE DAY

Darien's first team defense surrendered only one first down to Bassick on a questionable defensive pass interference call.

acallahan@bcnnew.com

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