SOUTHBURY >>In a defensive struggle in which field position meant everything, Darien converted two short fields into second half touchdowns to come from behind and beat Middletown 13-7 in the Class L semifinals at Pomperaug High School Saturday afternoon.
Darien will play arch-rival New Canaan for the Class L championship at Central Connecticut State University on Saturday at 2:05 p.m..
Darien defeated New Canaan on Thanksgiving 28-24.
Middletown led 7-0 at the half on a 72-yard touchdown run by Dario Highsmith (35 carries, 178 yards), but in the third quarter, Darien forced Middletown to punt from its 2-yard line that carried only to the 35-yard line.
Following a six-yard return, it took the Blue Wave six plays to go 29 yards to tie the game on a 10-yard, third down pass from Silas Wyper (11-for-15, 127 yards) to Jay Harrison and Daly Hebert’s kick.
After stopping Middletown on a three-and-out to start the fourth quarter, Darien (12-1) took advantage of a short punt from the MHS 25 to the 37. On first down, Wyler hit John Reed for a touchdown and although the point after was blocked, Darien had a 13-7 lead.
“We made a coverage mistake on that play,” Middletown coach Sal Morello said.
Twice in the fourth quarter Middletown drove deep into Darien territory, but came up empty both times. The Blue Dragons’ first drive ended at the Darien 17-yard line on an incomplete pass by Highsmith that was off the fingers of a receiver at the goal line. The final drive ended with 33 seconds remaining on an incomplete pass in the end zone from the Darien 33.
MHS had third and five from the 28 on the previous play, but Highsmith was sacked for a five yard loss.
“This is the fourth game in a row we’ve come from behind in thee second half to beat a top 15 team,” said Darien coach Rob Trifone. “First North Haven, then New Canaan, then Hand and now Middletown. We showed so much heart.”
Middletown’s defense held Darien to 67 yards rushing for the game and outgained Darien 260 to 194 yards.
“It was a little frustrating at the half because we left some points on the field,” said Morello. “We fumbled after we blocked a punt [at the 10-yard line] and I think one of their kids may have gotten a hand on [Van] Uk’s field goal that just missed.”
The field goal was from 37 yards with 1:06 left in the first half.
“I though our defense was outstanding,” said Morello. “They just made one more play than we did. They also did a nice job in clogging things up for Dario. We just couldn’t get the kind of push against their front five like we usually do.”
Middletown finished 11-2.
Middletown 0 7 0 0 — 7
Darien 0 0 7 6 — 13
M — Dario HIghsmith 72 run (Van Uk kick), :5:50
D — Jay Harrison 10 pass from Silas Wyper (Daley Hebert kick), 0:20.
D — John Reed 37 pass from Wyper (kick blocked), 10:52.
Team records: Darien 12-1; Middletown 11-2