DARIEN -- When a coach of 36 years describes his defensive line as the best he's ever coached, you can be sure he knows what he's talking about.

That praise came from Darien coach Rob Trifone on his defensive line, a unit that has been a driving force for the Blue Wave all season. The undisputed leader of that line is defensive end George Reed.

The senior has recorded an impressive 79 tackles on the year, 14 for a loss, while adding 81/2 sacks. Reed, however, is more than a great player. He is an emotional force for a 10-0 team that will play rival New Canaan Thanksgiving morning for the FCIAC championship.

"What I try to do is lead by example," Reed said. "If I go out there in practice and spend all my effort and bust my butt trying to get better, I think the guy next to me is going to do the same thing and that's a lot of fun."

Fellow senior Peter Archey was quick to describe Reed in the same way, noting that practice is where he truly shows his character.

"He's always the one to give us the battle cry and pull us together if we start slacking off," the running back/linebacker said. "In practice, he'll line people up and get everyone together and tell them to buckle down and get serious. He's the one who's kept up that every game is a playoff game -- he's a tremendous leader."

More Information

Reed all about it
7 rushing TDs
8.5 sacks
79 tackles (14 for a loss)
Will play football and baseball at Union College in N.Y.

By treating each week as a playoff game, Reed and the Blue Wave now are prepared for the live-and-in-color postseason games on the horizon. While typically winning games in blowout fashion isn't the best way to get better, Reed has maintained that the lopsided scores have helped both he and his team improve in certain areas.

"In a way it's a good thing," Reed said. "It was kind of that area where we needed to sharpen our skills and get better at certain aspects either individually or as a team, so when the big games like New Canaan come, then you have all your skills sharpened."

Reed went on to compare the season to a crescendo, saying: "You build up through stretches to the postseason and that's what we've done. Last week North Haven came down here at 8-1 and we showed off what we really can do (winning 31-0)."

After graduating, Reed will be attending Division III Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. Reed's decision was based on being a two-sport athlete and the opportunity to play both football and baseball.

For the Dutchmen, Reed will be playing a slightly different position than what he's used to at the high school level. He called it the "rush-end" position, and it was one of the reasons he choose Union.

"It's an interesting position," Reed said. "It's a stand-up 3-4 outside linebacker/end hybrid position. It's something I've actually begged to do here and I had an opportunity a few times and it's a lot of fun, so I'm glad I have an opportunity to do it in college. It's different, it gives me a little more versatility -- like Clay Matthews (of the Packers)."

Giving Reed freedom is something that can be dangerous to opposing teams. Trifone described Reed's relentless motor and knack for chasing down a play, even when it is away from him.

"He's constantly going," Trifone said. "Not even just if it's the first or last play in the game, it's if the ball's at him or away from him, he's running it down. It's just his nature, you can try to teach that; we teach pursuit and stuff like that, but either you have it or you don't and he's got it."

Reed's off-the-chart intangibles are apparent to teammates and the opposition alike.

"George is a tough kid," St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. "He has a lot of football savvy that is difficult to teach. He is definitely a student of the game who seems to enjoy playing any position, and he is always around the ball. He is the emotional leader of the great front four that Darien has."

While dominating from his defensive spot, Reed has also found a niche in the offense, filling the role of short-yardage back, scoring seven rushing touchdowns.

"It's effective," Reed said of the short-yardage formation. "It's a nice complement to our pass-powered offense and we just stick it in the ground and try to out-tough teams. That's the goal rolling into the postseason, to use our toughness in that formation. People think Darien is all pass-heavy offense and we like to think that we're tough-nosed kids and we can go beat people up man to man."

Beating teams man to man, especially those from one town over, is something that's been ingrained in Reed's persona over his youth.

"When I was a kid, whether it was just fifth-grade football or whatever, it was people knew that it was a rivalry," Reed said of the Blue Wave-Rams feud. "Whether or not the kid across from you is the same as you living the town over, you feel like you hate him. There's just a really big edge to it, it's different playing against those guys. You've been playing them your whole life, you know their ins and outs, but at the same time, it's a grudge match."

Reed went on to say that whether it's tic-tac-toe or football, when Darien and New Canaan get together, you can expect a ravenous turnout. And although he'll be playing at the next level, Reed said nothing is going to beat playing in front of 10,000-plus people at Boyle Stadium next Thursday for bragging rights and the FCIAC crown.

"I don't know what else to say," said a clearly elated Reed. "Turkey Bowl, Thanksgiving day, FCIAC championship, Darien, New Canaan -- it doesn't get much better than that."

aparelli@bcnnew.com; @reportedbytheAP