DARIEN — In just five days’ time, Darien looked a lot more like Darien.
After having their 34-game win stream snapped by New Canaan on Thanksgiving, the No. 3 Blue Wave bounced back at home Tuesday, defeating No. 6 East Hartford 30-10 in the Class LL quarterfinals.
Darien, which has won the last two LL titles, will face No. 7 West Haven on Sunday.
After a one-game suspension following his arrest last Wednesday, Darien quarterback Jack Joyce returned to action Tuesday, accounting for all three Darien touchdowns. Safety/receiver Brian Minicus (arrest) missed his second-straight game, as did receiver/linebacker Nick Green (undisclosed).
“It was great to have him back,” said Darien coach Rob Trifone, who skirted questions about why Joyce played. “He had very little practice time, but he’s such a natural athlete and knows the system so well that he fit right in…I think he did a good job against a good team.”
After being shut out on Thanksgiving, the Blue Wave got on the board on their first drive — which went 71 yards and culminated in a 19-yard pass from Joyce to Alex Dehmel.
“That was very big, “Trifone said of the quick start. “That was an important drive.”
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A 35-yard field goal from Austin Hagander midway through the second made it 10-0 Darien at the half.
The Blue Wave made it 17-0 in the third quarter, again scoring on their first drive of the half on a 17-yard pass from Joyce to Tyler Herget.
East Hartford responded with a drive of its own and got on the board when Raquan Tompkins hit Kevon Jones from 17 out.
On their next drive, the Hornets made it a one-possession game after a 60-yard catch and run by Quinton Haughton set up a 24-yard field goal off the foot of Ricardo Roberts.
East Hartford would get no closer however, as Darien went to the ground for the next two drives, feeding running backs Mitch Pryor and Andrew Lucas, and resulting in a 21-yard touchdown run from Joyce and a one-yard plunge from Lucas to seal the victory.
“I got the sense that we were wearing them down a little bit,” Trifone said of his decision to feature the running game. “You could see it in their defensive lineman.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Pryor, Darien. The senior running back bounced back from a 27-yard performance against New Canaan to rush for over 100 yards Tuesday. Darien’s offense was at its best when feeding Pryor the ball, and it allowed the Wave defense to rest up on the sidelines.
“We practiced our offense and got everything in control,” Pryor said of the difference between Tuesday and the Turkey Bowl. “Our line balled out. They knew they had a big task in front of them, we came out and knew what we had to do and ran all over them.”
HOME SWEET HOME
In its first year with lights, Tuesday marked Darien’s first state playoff night game at home. Because of West Haven’s upset of Shelton, the Blue Wave will again get to host a state playoff game on Sunday.
“Any team in the state loves to have a home game,” Trifone said. “Especially a state home game.”
DARIEN 30, EAST HARTFORD 10
EAST HARTFORD0 0 7 3—10
DARIEN7 3 7 13—30
D—Alex Dehmel 19 pass Jack Joyce (Austin Hagander kick)
D—Hagander 35 field goal
D—Tyler Herget 17 pass Joyce (Hagander kick)
EH—Kevon Jones 17 pass Raquan Tompkins (Ricardo Roberts kick)
EH—Roberts 24 field goal
D—Joyce 21 run (PAT failed)
D—Andrew Lucas 1 run (Hagander kick)