Darien football team ready to deal with graduation losses, tougher schedule in 2013
DARIEN -- Several FCIAC football teams would jump out of their shoes at the thought of a 7-3 season.
Darien is not one of them.
At least compared to its lofty annual preseason expectations, Darien's 2012 campaign was largely average for the Blue Wave, save for one gigantic exclamation point in the last game of the season, a 36-23 triumph over New Canaan in the Turkey Bowl. It was the Blue Wave's first victory over the Rams since 2001.
And while the Blue Wave would undoubtedly love to make it two in a row over the Rams, they want that game to count for something as it pertains to the playoff picture.
"Someone once told me that your goal is to win every game," Darien coach Rob Trifone said. "And if you lose one, win the rest of them."
But first things first: Darien opens its season with a pair of home tilts against fellow juggernauts Hillhouse and Greenwich.
According to captain and center Alex Gunn, however, the Blue Wave wouldn't have it any other way.
"We love the opportunity to play the best," Gunn said. "Hillhouse and Greenwich have both been in FCIAC and state championships, so we're very grateful for the opportunity to play really good teams to start off. It sets us up great for the rest of the year."
The tough early-season matchups foreshadow what's to come, as the schedule would appear to be a bit tougher than last season. Other new 2013 opponents include Ridgefield and North Haven.
Twenty-four players from last year's squad were lost to graduation, but Trifone is optimistic the pieces are in place for Darien to continue its winning ways.
One of the more obvious new starters is Silas Wyper, who takes over at quarterback for the departed Henry Baldwin (2,087 yards, 26 touchdowns, 90 QB rating) after attempting only three passes last season.
"What I can say about Silas is he's invested all of his time to making sure that the transition is as seamless as possible," Trifone said. "He knows the offense very well and he's gotten himself in great shape."
At Wyper's disposal will be last year's leading wide receiver and track star Nick Lombardo (25 catches, 685 yards, 11 touchdowns).
"The key to a good offense is having many weapons in different spots so that they can't key in on your run game, your pass game or an individual," Trifone said. "We're deep enough at each position where I think we will be able to spread the field."
Last season's leading rusher, fullback Christian Bognar (837 rushing yards, 7.28 YPC, 7 touchdowns), who had a knack for picking up tough yards between the tackles, also graduated, as did the team's second-leading rusher, Ian Vanderhorn (339 rushing yards, 10.94 YPC, 6 touchdowns).
Still, Trifone feels good about his backfield stable, which includes Jay Harrison (113 rushing yards, 4.19 YPC, 2 touchdowns), who saw increased playing time and looked good at the end of last season when Bognar was forced to sit with an injury. Also in line for some carries will be Lombardo and John Reed.
The defense also sees considerable overturn, as last season's top five leading tacklers, Matt D'Andrea (83), Matt Brown (79), Vanderhorn (74), Andrew Maley (72) and Jackson Whiting (52), were lost to graduation.
"The good news is our defensive line is quick and athletic. You've got George Reed and Mark Evanchick back from last year, who wreaked some havoc up front," Trifone said. "And Spencer McKeough is back (from injury) and he's 6'3", 230 and can run as well as those other kids. We graduated quite a bit on defense, so we've got some work to do."
Darien will roll into the season with six captains: Wyper, Lombardo, Harrison, Gunn, Tommy Gasparino and Myles Ridder.
The season-opening clash with Hillhouse is slated for Sept. 12, and Gasparino believes his team is right on schedule.
"(The position vacancies) give you something to work for. It's a good thing for us to all try and fight for a spot because it only gets us better," said Gasparino, a left guard. "I think we're on our way."
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