Darien’s tradition of senior leadership jump started undefeated run
Published 2:36 pm, Thursday, December 8, 2016
DARIEN — It’s hard to pinpoint a singular moment when a program begins a run of success like the one Darien football has enjoyed over the last few years, but coach Rob Trifone has a guess.
Four year ago, while preparing for the trip, Trifone tasked his seniors with taking the underclassmen under their wing.
“They bought in and they could not have been nicer,” Trifone said. “And I had kids coming up to me and parents emailing me saying they couldn’t tell me how impressed they were how Silas and Nick were so nice to their 13 year-old freshman. And from there it just kind of rolled that the seniors and the upperclassmen knew they had to pay it forward.”
Since then Darien has won three straight FCIAC championships, and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. when the No. 1 Wave square off against No. 7 Ridgefield at West Haven High School’s Ken Strong Stadium it will mark the fourth-straight year Darien has played for a state title.
After dropping two in a row to New Canaan in Class L, Darien claimed the No. 1 spot in the state in 2015, going undefeated and winning the LL title in the programs first year in that class.
“No. 1, success breeds success,” Trifone said of the programs rise to prominence. “And we’re fortunate enough that we’ve had some around here and the kids are used to winning. Every year, the rising senior class doesn’t want to let down the alumni and the community; so that group last year reached the pinnacle that the school had never reached and those rising seniors were hell-bent this year that, they respect what 2015 did, but the 2016 version is going to be just as good, if not better.”
Darien has won 23 games in a row dating back to last season, and that success isn’t bred overnight.
It starts with every senior class, under Trifone’s guidance, realizing that its legacy is more than wins and losses, it’s the successes of the players that learned under them.
“As a senior on both the football and baseball teams I was able to see how much potential the guys below us had,” said George Reed, a defensive end that graduated after the 2014 season. “And we realized how dominant we could be, but it’s because of their confidence in us that we helped them grow.”
It’s the little things that stick with the underclassmen.
The pasta dinners during the week, the team trips to Buffalo Wild Wings, watching the upperclassman devote themselves in the weight room — these are the seemingly unassuming events that drive each class to their leadership roles.
A microcosm of that transition from class-to-class comes at the defensive end position.
Reed was as emotional and vocal a leader as anyone, and he took Mark Evanchick under his wing during his senior year.
When it was Evanchick’s turn, the much softer-spoken Evanchick let his play speak for itself while setting the Connecticut career sack record.
Even with differing leadership styles Evanchick was determined to be a mentor for now now-senior Quinn Fay.
Fay has responded by leading the defense with 11 sacks.
“It definitely makes you proud,” Evanchick said. “Quinn’s had an outstanding year, he’s really taken that leadership role along the defensive line. I can’t thank George enough for what he did for me and I tried to take Quinn under my wing; he did a fantastic job and I know he’ll pass along his knowledge to the younger guys when he graduates.
“It’s a great thing we have going from George to myself and myself to Quinn, and I know he’s going to pass it on.”
There’s an old adage that says, “Success is what you do when nobody is looking.”
That mantra is what sticks most is Fay’s mind when reflecting on the leadership of his predecessors.
“Guys like George and Mark are such great role models,” Fay said. “They put in work every day. When no one’s looking they’re trying to get themselves better and that’s a great way to go through football and life. We live by that and it shows on the field with all 11 guys getting to the ball or someone fighting for that extra yard.”
After dropping the 2014 finals to New Canaan by a single point, Blue Wave running back and linebacker Finlay Collins saw how hard Darien worked to overcome the defeat, and respond with a championship the following year.
That drive was instilled in him then, as he now finds himself in the captain’s role.
“They were an incredible group of players obviously,” Collins said of the 2015 class. “…they wanted redemption from the year before, they were a team on a mission and they taught us how to win and work hard and keep our nose to the grindstone and not let anything get in our way.”
To this point, nothing has stood in the way of Darien, and Trifone has learned how to eliminate any complacency his team might experience after so much success.
“If you keep raising the bar higher,” Trifone said. “They’ll keep jumping for it.”