STAMFORD >> Bobby Trifone saw the ball and a title there for the taking. Grab it, and the Blue Wave would be the undefeated, undisputed FCIAC Champions with a victory over arch-rival New Canaan. Miss it and, well, his coach and dad joked that he might not have been allowed to sleep home on Thanksgiving.
There was nothing to worry about. Trifone is a member of Darien’s vaunted defense, which has never let an opportunity pass this season and it wasn’t about to start now.
Trifone intercepted Mike Collins’ quick slant in the end zone in overtime to complete a three-touchdown comeback and give the Blue Wave 28-21 victory over arch rival New Canaan in front of an estimated 8,000 at Boyle Stadium Thursday.
“As soon as I picked it, I just went to the ground and we’d won the FCIAC Championship,” said Trifone, one of coach Rob Trifone’s twin defensive back sons. “It was amazing.”
Especially since it completed a sensational, 21-point Darien comeback for the third-consecutive victory over its Thanksgiving arch rivals.
“We’ve been behind before, and we’ve been able to come back,” said Rob Trifone, referring to a 17-point rally vs. St. Joseph earlier in the year. “But who would ever think down 21 in this environment that teenagers would have to wherewithal to hold it together. And they did.”
Darien (11-0) secured the top seed in the Class L-Large tournament. They’ll face Naugatuck in the semifinals on Dec. 6. New Canaan, the No. 2 seed, will face No. 3 Wethersfield.
“There’s nothing like winning a game like this,” Darien defensive end Mark Evanchick said. “We’ve had faith all year. We’ve been down early before, we knew if we stuck with the game plan everything would work out. Our defense has a lot of depth, we work hard in practice and we have a lot of talent.”
Despite playing without all-state end George Reed, and with players getting dinged up all morning, Darien’s defense shut New Canaan’s vaunted offense to just 104 yards in the second half while its offense finally rallied to tie the game.
Down 21-0 in the second quarter, Darien scored right before halftime on Colin Minicus’ 12-yard touchdown catch.
Sam Bowtell’s strip sack to start the third quarter, recovered by Jack Tyrell, set up Peter Archey’s 1-yard run to cut New Canaan’s lead to 21-14.
“We were very calm at halftime,” Trifone said. “We told the kids, you know what to do, you just need to start doing what we taught you to do.”
Darien’s defense stopped New Canaan from scoring twice inside the 10 in the fourth quarter to prevent the Rams from putting the game away.
Ryan Murray recovered a fumbled exchange between Frank Cognetta and Alex LaPolice, who was subbed in at quarterback for the play.
Though New Canaan immediately got the ball back on a sack and forced fumble from end Zach Allen, Hudson Hamill intercepted a LaPolice lob intended for Allen in the end zone.
“In hindsight, yea maybe I would have done it differently,” New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli said. “But those are things we practice all the time.”
Following Hamill’s pick with 4 minutes left, the Blue Wave marched down the field. Consecutive bombs from QB Tim Graham (18-of-34, 246 yards) to Tim Lochtefeld and Todd Herget set up Archey’s tying, 1-yard touchdown run with 2:19 left.
“They had the ball inside the 10 with four minutes left, we’re down 7… Usually a team would be freaking out right? They score and the game’s over,” Hamill said. “But we were able to persevere and get two big stops at the goal line, put together a huge drive, punch it in and force overtime.”
Graham was knocked from the game on Darien’s first offensive play in overtime. But Hamill threw a play-action touchdown pass to Griffin Ross to put Darien up 28-21. Ross took an appropriate bow toward his team’s delirious sideline.
Darien’s defense swarmed Michael Kraus on a quick pass, then Ross batted away another pass to force a third down and set up Trifone’s winning play. Mike Collins threw behind a streaking LaPolice in the end zone and Trifone was there for the pick.
“We knew we had to watch slant on that play,” Bobby said. “I was playing alongside my brother (Christian), who was defending (LaPolice). He had the tip and I was there for the pick. You couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Kraus led New Canaan with a pair of long touchdown catches and an interception. Alex LaPolice caught a 32-yard touchdown pass and had an interception.
Darien also survived an outstanding effort from end Zach Allen, who terrorized the Wave’s offense with 3 1/2 sacks and several forced fumbles. New Canaan’s defense sacked Graham seven times.
“You have to take your hat off, they did a great job,” Marinelli said of Darien. “They deserved to win. Hopefully, if we can rebound from this and win next week, hopefully we’ll see them again.”
NEW CANAAN 14 7 0 0 0 — 21
DARIEN 0 7 7 7 7 — 28
NC—Michael Kraus 46 pass from Mike Collins (Peter Swindell kick), 8:46
NC—Alex LaPolice 32 pass from Collins (Swindell kick)
NC—Mike Kraus 38 pass from Collins (Swindell kick)
D—Colin Minicus 12 pass Tim Graham (Stephen Walker kick)
D—Peter Archey 1 run (Walker kick)
D–Archey 1 run (Walker kick)
D–Griffin Ross 10 pass from Hudson Hamill (Walker kick)
Team Records: New Canaan 9-1, Darien 11-0