Darien football preview: 5 questions for 2014
The work Darien coach Rob Trifone has put into the upcoming season dates back six years ago when his twin sons, Christian and Bobby, were lining up for a fifth-grade squad in the Darien Junior Football League. At the time, Trifone had already been coaching his sons and their teammates for three seasons in the DJFL. But the fall was 2008 was going to be different.
The longtime coach now planned to train them in the same way he did his high school team, an eventual state finalist that season.
Today, Trifone's sons suit up for the Wave as part of a talented junior class, which includes new starting quarterback Tim Graham and many other starters. Undoubtedly, this group's performance will go a long way to determining whether last year's Class L runner-up can get over the hump in December. And Trifone is more than OK with that.
"They're athletic, tough and they know the game. They so know the game," Trifone said. "And they're used to my coaching. It's a wonderful evolution for me watching those kids from third grade on."
Of course, the class above them can stake many of the same claims, most to an even greater degree. Per Trifone, the key to this season will be team chemistry, which falls squarely on the shoulders of Darien's senior captains. And having gotten a taste of the title game last year as juniors, they've since worked tirelessly at developing group camaraderie to finish the job this season.
How well can Tim Graham replace the graduated Silas Wyper under center?: Reports are so far, so good. The 6-foot-4 signal caller has showcased both a strong arm and nice touch in practice, while also performing well in preseason scrimmages against other schools. Most of Trifone's expectations for his new quarterback involve demonstrating key intangibles such as poise, leadership and attitude, all qualities Wyper exhibited expertly last fall.
The physical tools are all there for Graham, and the supporting cast is, too. Success under center will ultimately be matter of how well they come together.
Can the Blue Wave overcome a pair of tough road games to start its year?: First up for Darien is Hillhouse. Then comes Greenwich. Both contests pose a real threat to handing the Blue Wave an early loss, which could potentially derail their playoff hopes down the road. The difference in these games may not be be talent, but rather how Darien deals with playing in a hostile environment and facing the occasional bad call. In both cases, only time will tell.
How will Darien handle being an FCIAC favorite after last year's surprise 12-2 finish?: Truthfully, Trifone doesn't see the Blue Wave as the conference favorite. His players, on the other hand, know some view them as a favorite, and they seem comfortable taking on everything that entails.
"I definitely think we left last season with a target on our back," senior lineman George Reed said. "And I think that we come into this season with that target still on our backs. I think we should be one of the top teams in the league, and we will be one of the top teams in the league. We've just got to execute."
Who could breakout for the Blue Wave?: During the preseason, Reed and the other Wave captains pointed to running back Shelby Grant and defensive back Hudson Hammill. Unsurprisingly, both enjoyed highly productive spring games in their elevated roles.
Senior captain Griffin Ross described Grant and starting tailback Peter Archey as "thunder and lightning" in the backfield. Meanwhile Hammill will look to make a major impact not only in the secondary, but also in the return game, filling the void of the graduated Nick Lombardo.
Can a vaunted line carry the entire Darien defense?: From early looks into Wave practices, Reed, Jack Tyrell, Mark Evanchick and others shouldn't have to. The talent behind them is sufficient. But if this group is called upon to put the unit on its back, it is certainly capable. The key will be health and keeping enough in the tank to sustain its dominance over an entire season.