Darien out to avoid emotional letdown in state semifinals
Published 7:35 pm, Thursday, December 4, 2014
DARIEN -- The emotional win hangover can be the downfall for even the mightiest teams, but Darien coach Rob Trifone isn't letting it happen to his.
"I took care of it," Trifone said laughing, after his team looked to be satisfied with their 28-21 overtime comeback victory over New Canaan for both the Turkey Bowl and FCIAC crowns.
Trifone let the Blue Wave enjoy their hard-fought victory for a few days, but when Tuesday rolled around and he sensed a lack of emotion he promptly addressed it. At Wednesday's practice Trifone let the Wave know that coming out unfocused could derail them in Saturday's state semifinal against Naugatuck, even using the media as an example.
"I told them, `You wait until the headlines say, `Complacent Blue Wave blows semifinal game,' and I started throwing headlines at them."
From there Trifone said his seniors took over and the Blue Wave's demeanor did a full 180. However, senior standout George Reed will have to take on the role of motivator, having been declared out indefinitely with a torn ACL.
On the field, Trifone described the loss of the defensive end as "irreplaceable," but as far as Reed's impact off the field, there is no drop off.
More InformationClass L-Large semifinal
No. 4 Naugatuck (9-2) vs No. 1 Darien (11-0)
When: Saturday 1 p.m.
Where: Darien High School
Season recap: Darien maintained its perfect season on Thanksgiving with a 28-21 overtime victory over rival New Canaan for the FCIAC crown. Led by its defense, which allows just 12.7 points per game, Darien has rolled to the No. 1 seed but will be without the services of star defensive end George Reed (knee).
Naugatuck has been led all year by a potent offense that averages 44.8 ppg lead by quarterback Jason Bradley. The Greyhounds took a step back on Thanksgiving, getting thumped by NVL rival Ansonia 47-12 and will look to rebound with a road upset over the top-seeded Blue Wave.
Players to watch: Darien: DE Mark Evanchik 21 sacks, 69 tackles; QB Timmy Graham 2,152 yds passing and 20 tds; RB/LB Peter Archey 545 yds 11tds, 46 tackles, 5 sacks.
Naugatuck: QB Jason Bradley; RB/S Antoine Sistrunk.
"George is still with us and he did a marvelous job on the sidelines talking to the kids like a very mature young man," Trifone said of Reed, who looked like another coach on the sidelines of the Turkey Bowl.
The possibility looms that if Darien can get by Naugatuck (9-2) Saturday at 1 p.m. in Darien and New Canaan defeats unbeaten Wethersfield, the rivals would meet in the Class L Large finals in a rematch of last year's state championship, which New Canaan won in dominating fashion 44-12.
"You can't get to next week without this week," Trifone said. "It's human to think about a rematch, but anything can happen, they're (Naugatuck) a good football team."
The Blue Wave defense, which has been outstanding all year, will have their hands full with what Trifone called an "explosive" Greyhounds attack.
"They come in with a quarterback who's as good as any we've seen, and not only does he have a big arm but he's mobile, which is always an issue any time you have a Cam Newton type," Trifone said of Greyhounds quarterback Jason Bradley. "He's got two very tall receivers, bigger than any one we have and two very fast slot guys and a fast running back; they've got athletes everywhere."
A big part of Darien's success will be to get off to a fast start. The Blue Wave have made mistakes early in several games this season, but, fueled largely by their defense, it hasn't come back to bite them -- even when they fell behind 21-0 to New Canaan.
"I've told them they're going to put themselves in a hole they can't get out of," Trifone said. "Everyone thought that was Thursday, and then you're thinking, `What's the world record for a comeback?' "
Despite the improbable comeback, Trifone told his team it comes down to a two-game season and slow starts won't get the job done.
"Two games left, let's come out of the gate strong," he said. "That's the message."