NEW HAVEN >> Darien football coach Rob Trifone spent so much time up at the podium at the Omni Hotel at Yale Saturday morning, WTNH sports director John Pierson joked that Trifone should have bumped him as the Walter Camp Breakfast of Champions’ master of ceremonies.
Indeed, Trifone did plenty of speaking about his successful FCIAC and Class LL championship team in front of the packed banquet hall Saturday morning. In the same manner it crushed the opposition this season, Darien dominated the Walter Camp Football Foundation’s annual Connecticut High School awards.
Trifone, who coached the Blue Wave to its first unbeaten season since 1992 and its first state championship since 1996 and his first state title since McMahon’s Class MM title in 1994, was awarded the Coach of the Year.
Mark Evanchick, Darien’s all-state defensive end who broke former Bloomfield star Dwight Freeney’s state record for career sacks, took home the Walter Camp State Player of the Year award to go with his Gatorade State Player of the Year award.
Finally, Darien was honored with the Walter Camp Kelly Award for finishing No. 1 in the New Haven Register / GameTimeCT.com Top 10 Poll for the first time.
Trifone won his award over nominees Ty Outlaw, the Class S championship coach from Bloomfield, Class LL runner-up coach Jeff Roy of Shelton and Class L runner-up coach Tony Sagnella of North Haven. The Blue Wave had lost its previous three state championship game appearances under Trifone before finally breaking through this season. Trifone gave all the credit to this year’s players for that.
“In my 37 years, they were probably the easiest group to coach because they were so darn motivated,” Trifone said. “You would give them a scouting report on a Tuesday and by Saturday’s game they would know it already. They made my life easy.”
Trifone recounted a thank you email from a parent who praised the lack of any team-wide drama that had plagued past Darien teams.
“I realized she was right because these kids were motivated and there was no selfishness,” he said. “They had one goal in mind and that was to finish.”
Evanchick won over Southington quarterback Jasen Rose and New Canaan quarterback Michael Collins. He thanked his coaches, his teammates and his parents “for not sending me to private school.” An all-state lacrosse defenseman, he will play that sport at the University of Pennsylvania next year.
“The most impressive thing about Mark, and I’ve known him since third grade, is he’s as humble an athlete as you’ll ever meet,” Trifone said.
“Knowing that he was close to the record, his teammate would tease him and talk about the record and Mark would quickly redirect that entire conversation and talk about the ultimate goal, and that was winning a state championship. He never wanted to be in the limelight even though he wound up being in the limelight.”
Also honored at the breakfast, which celebrated its ninth year, were the four state championship teams — Darien (LL), New Canaan (Class L), Brookfield (Class M) and Bloomfield (Class S) — and the members of the 2015 All-Connecticut Team.
The All-Connecticut Team included three of Trifone’s players — Evanchick, senior defensive back and Trifone’s son Bobby and junior lineman Andrew Steuber — and UConn recruitsRose, Keyion Dixon of Glastonbury, Tyler Coyle of Windsor and Teddy Allmendinger of Avon.
Aaron Pettiford, a Westhill running back who thrives as a football and basketball player for the Vikings despite battling focal glomerulosclerosis, a kidney disease which will require him to get a transplant, was awarded the UCAN Inspire Award.
“It was very exciting and an honor to receive this award,” said Pettiford, who goes to Yale-New Haven Hospital every three months to gage his kidneys’ condition. “I’m not really worried about (his disease). I’m just keep going, keep playing and getting stronger and stronger.”
Pettiford is the second Weshill player honored, following Evan Skoparantzos two years ago. “Aarons’ stature and heart and Evan, they’re the type of kids you build a program around,” coach Frank Marcucio said.
Former longtime Lyman Hall coach and athletic director Philip Ottochian, whose coaching progeny includes former Southern Connecticut State coach Rich Cavanaugh and Ansonia’s Tom Brockett, was awarded the Walter Camp’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Ottochian coached at Lyman Hall for 32 years beginning in 1968 and won 159 games and a state championship in 1985.
The breakfast featured several high-profile speakers, including former Connecticut All-Stater Tyler Matakevich of St. Joseph, a 2015 Walter Camp All-American who won just about every major national award for defense after a stellar career at Temple. Matakevich, who was honored as the Walter Camp’s Connecticut Player of the Year, was a member of the first two Walter Camp All-Connecticut teams in 2009 and 2010.
Joe Andruzzi, Walter Camp’s Man of the Year award-winner who played at Southern Connecticut State and won two Super Bowl rings as an offensive guard with the New England Patriots, also spoke to the attendees. Andruzzi battled back from a cancer diagnosis and founded the Joe Andruzzi Foundation for Cancer Patients and Families.