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There was a time, not too long ago, that the annual Darien vs. New Canaan Turkey Bowl was like any other on the state’s Thanksgiving calendar.
Though it has always been one of the state’s most competitive rivalries — culminating in 2008’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown at Boyle Stadium — it was, between 2010 and 2012, becoming defined by blowouts and was notable more for its pre/postgame shenanigans that soiled (sometimes literally) the two towns’ reputations.
New Canaan-Darien has turned into Ohio State-Michigan of Connecticut High School football. There have been games played for a hundred or more years — Naugatuck-Ansonia, Derby-Shelton, New London-NFA — and there are other, relatively new and good rivalries out there.
None of them are in this game’s orbit nowadays.
The last four Darien-New Canaan games have all been classics. Two of them have gone to overtime, 2014’s game at Boyle and this year’s epic 37-34 Darien victory. You almost don’t notice that Darien has won five straight in the Thanksgiving series. (New Canaan, remember, later bested the Wave several times in the Class L state final).
It’s been that competitive.
The last four Darien-New Canaan Thanksgiving Day games been played in front of the state’s largest Thanksgiving Day crowds…. by far.
And, for the coup de grace, the state’s No. 1 ranking absolutely hinges on this game’s result.
Yes, they got rid of the official FCIAC Championship game. Though new commissioner Dave Schulz was present he didn’t award the McDougall Trophy to the league champ.
But we all knew. Even announcer Bob Vanderheyden called it “the mythical FCIAC Championship” as the teams met at midfield for the coin toss.
But whatever. FCIAC champ or not. This game means so much more now.
This is for No. 1.
And there is nothing mythic about it.
It wound up being for No. 1 last year.
There’s great chance it will be again this year.
Even if Darien does falter on its road to repeat as Class LL championship, the Blue Wave will carry the No. 1 ranking into the playoffs. To the Class LL winner will likely go No. 1, and this game will have been a major factor.
But if Darien does indeed repeat (alongside New Canaan in Class L), we’ll know the state championship was played Thanksgiving morning at Dunning Field.
So, sorry to all of you out there who missed the game because you couldn’t score a ticket. We feel your pain.
Since Boyle Stadium won’t be available every other year, these towns (Darien, specifically) must get with the program and boost their capacities to effectively handle the state’s premiere football game.
High School football goes in cycles. Darien and New Canaan’s supremacy won’t last forever.
But the way things are going now, it doesn’t look like it’ll be changing anytime soon.
Both teams suffered massive turnover from last year’s championship teams.
Yet, 12 weeks later, there we were Thursday morning: watching — by far — the two best programs in the state duke it out for No. 1.
It say here they are only going to get better.
Heck, as New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli noted afterward, the Rams’ quarterback was playing in Pop Warner a year ago. And Pyne — who, we’re told, is sure to stick around despite his high profile — still almost rallied his team to an epic victory.
So before the state playoffs begin, pull up a chair, watch the highlights above or the full replay on HAN Network.
Soak it in.
Unless someone shows up in the next two weeks (West Haven? Southington? Shelton? Greenwich? Anyone?), the 2016 state championship has come and gone. Hope you got to see it.