NORTH HAVEN >> Nick Lombardo’s kickoff return for a touchdown didn’t give visiting Darien the lead in the second quarter, but it helped ignite the rally that led the Blue Wave to a comeback victory.
Darien scored 20 unanswered points, beginning with Lombardo’s 84-yard jaunt down the far sideline following a North Haven touchdown, to take the lead for good and the Blue Wave held on for a 36-27 non-conference victory over the Indians Friday at Vanacore Field.
The contest was part of the SCC-FCIAC Challenge. Darien (9-1) defeated Hillhouse, another SCC member, in the season opener.
After an Ethan Suraci 15-yard touchdown run gave North Haven (8-2) a 20-9 lead with 8:13 left in the second quarter, Lombardo returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, shifting the momentum to the Blue Wave.
“I thought the kickoff return hurt us,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “That’s an area where it shifted momentum very quickly and then their offense has the ability to, as you saw, move the ball quickly. That swung the momentum in the second quarter and put us behind the eight ball.”
Jay Harrison scored on a 2-yard run later in the second quarter to give Darien a 22-20 lead. Myles Ridder then caught an 18-yard pass from Silas Wyper in the third quarter to extend the Blue Wave lead to 29-20.
The Blue Wave entered a hostile environment playing against an opponent ranked eighth in the Register Top 10 Poll. Darien not only left with a victory, but also inched closer to qualifying for the Class L playoffs.
“We were able to come out with a victory,” Lombardo said. “We’re all pretty pumped about it.”
Mike Halloran connected with Mike Montano on a 16-yard touchdown pass with 8:59 remaining to cut the Darien lead to 29-27. The Indians then turned the ball over on an interception and again on downs. Then Lombardo scored on an 8-yard run for the Blue Wave’s final margin of victory. North Haven got the ball back one last time and drove to the Darien 44, but time expired before the Indians could run a fourth-down play.
“They’re very good,” Darien coach Rob Trifone said about North Haven. “A lot of credit to North Haven, they are some football team. Tony does a great job. They’re well-coached and, boy, do they never give up. They’re certainly one of the best teams (we played).”
Daly Hebert connected on a 30-yard field goal on the game’s opening possession to give Darien a 3-0 lead.
Suraci (4 yards) and Cole Pecora (27 yards) then scored rushing touchdowns to put the Indians up 13-3 after one quarter. In the second quarter, John Reed scored on a 2-yard run for Darien, but the extra point was blocked and North Haven led 13-9. Suraci then scored on a 15-yard run to put the Indians up 20-9. Lombardo’s ensuing kickoff return cut the deficit to 20-15.
Suraci finished with 115 yards on 18 carries, while Pecora gained 65 yards on eight carries. Pecora also had an interception, as did Jeremy Imperati for North Haven.
Darien quarterback Silas Wyper completed 9 of 19 passes for 143 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. He also led his team in rushing with 84 yards on 14 carries, gaining most of his yards on draw plays.
“He’s a tough kid,” Lombardo said about Wyper. “He took some hard hits and stayed in there. He was throwing the ball pretty well, too, and he was able to help us come out with a victory.”
Said Sagnella: “You don’t look at (Wyper) and think he’s the guy that’s going to kill you. You think he’s going to hurt you with his arm, but he did a great job, that kid. He took advantage of our aggressive pass rush and he found some schemes and their offensive line found him some room.”
Darien 36, North Haven 27
(at North Haven)
Darien 3 19 7 7 — 36
North Haven 13 7 0 7 — 27
D—Daly Hebert 30 FG
N—Ethan Suraci 4 run (Sabrina Fronte kick)
N—Cole Pecora 27 run (pass failed)
D—John Reed 2 run (kick blocked)
N—Ethan Suraci 15 run (Fronte kick)
D—Nicholas Lombardo 84 kickoff ret (run failed)
D—Jay Harrison 3 run (Hebert kick)
D—Myles Ridder 18 pass from Silas Wyper (Hebert kick)
N—Michael Montano 16 pass from Michael Halloran (Fronte kick)
D—Nicholas Lombardo 8 run (Hebert kick)
Team records: North Haven 8-2; Darien 9-1