St. Joseph tops Darien in battle of unbeatens
Updated 9:42 pm, Wednesday, October 9, 2013
TRUMBULL -- In one quarter Saturday, Darien's defensive line did what few have done this season: It hit quarterback Jordan Vazzano.
The Blue Wave sacked the St. Joseph quarterback twice, they forced him to scramble, they picked him off, and for more than 16 minutes, they kept him off the scoreboard. But with Vazzano contained, the Cadets ultimately found another answer.
They had Mufasha Abdul Basir.
The elusive junior tailback gashed Darien on the ground, racking up 202 yards and two touchdowns to power St. Joseph to a 28-14 come-from-behind win over the Blue Wave.
"They never really stopped the run, so we committed to it," coach Joe Della Vecchia said. "We thought we had our zone read and stuff going."
Abdul Basir's 29-yard burst to the end zone capped a 96-yard drive, and gave the Cadets the lead for good, 21-14 with 9:46 left. He had a 44-yard run on the first snap of the five-play drive, just seconds after the Cadets stuffed Darien on 4th-and-goal from the 4.
Down 14-7, St. Joseph answered on its opening drive of the third, marching 80 yards in 12 plays to tie it on Abdul Basir's 3-yard run. The Cadets' defense stifled Darien from then on, shutting out the Blue Wave in the second half.
The Cadets remained unbeaten at 4-0, while Darien, which had scored at least 42 points in each game of its first three games, dropped to 3-1.
"Second half, coach (Della Vecchia) really stressed how important this game really is, and how important it should really be to us," the 5-foot-9, 165-pound Abdul Basir said. "My heart and my determination just took over."
Vazzano, who tossed 12 touchdowns over the first three weeks, was held in check through the air Saturday. He was intercepted for just the second time this year -- on the Cadets' second drive by Myles Ridder -- but had a pair of 1-yard scoring runs. He finished the day with 43 yards on nine carries behind a punishing offensive line.
"We took away the pass early," Darien coach Rob Trifone said, "and then we tried to take away the run, but we couldn't. ... A lot of missed tackles, missed opportunities. Against that gargantuan line, you can't have missed opportunities."
Darien had plenty of missed opportunities on offense, failing to convert on a pair of key fourth down plays in the second half. The first came on the first play of the fourth quarter, when the Blue Wave stalled on 4th-and-goal from the St. Joseph 4. Despite having one of the FCIAC's most accurate kickers, senior Daly Hebert, Trifone opted to run a halfback option pass, which Nick Lombardo threw incomplete.
"We have to convert," Trifone said. "I took a risk, instead of kicking the field goal ... we had practiced that play all week. I could've caught it in the end zone.
"Nothing against our players, but they choked up a little bit, and they overthrew it."
Trailing by 14, Darien also went for it on 4th-and-10 from its own 49 with 8:21 left, but Silas Wyper's pass fell incomplete.
Senior Jay Harrison rushed for two touchdowns in the first half to account for the Blue Wave's offense. He scored on 1-yard run late in the first quarter to go up 7-0, then punched his way into the end zone 31 seconds before halftime from the Cadets' 2 for a 14-7 lead.
The Cadets, however, did their best to ground Darien's aerial attack. Senior defensive lineman Mike Schuchmann sacked Wyper twice.
"We just got there," the 6-foot-2, 223-pound Schuchmann said. "We did a really good job today."
St. Joseph 28, Darien 14
DARIEN 7 7 0 0 -- 14
ST. JOSEPH 0 7 7 14 -- 28
D -- Jay Harrison 1 run (Daly Hebert kick)
SJ -- Jordan Vazzano 1 run (Kevin Bortnick kick)
D -- Harrison 2 run (Hebert kick)
SJ -- Mufasha Abdul Basir 3 run (Bortnick kick)
SJ -- Abdul Basir 29 run (Bortnick kick)
SJ -- Vazzano 1 run (Bortnick kick)
Records: Darien 3-1, 2-1 FCIAC; St. Joseph 4-0, 2-0.