DARIEN, Conn. -- Darien High School’s football team has knocked on the state championship door several times over the past few years, only to be turned away each time.
On Saturday, the undefeated Blue Wave (12-0) have an opportunity to bust down that door and seize the state’s top prize for the first time in 18 years. But standing in the way is their fiercest rival, neighboring New Canaan.
Darien and New Canaan (10-1) kick off Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at West Haven High School in the Class L championship game. The top-seeded Blue Wave are seeking their first state title since 1996. They are also looking to match the achievements of its teams from 1956, ‘57 and ‘79, each of which went undefeated.
New Canaan has denied Darien state titles in its last two championship game appearances. In 2008, New Canaan won 26-7. Last year, the Rams posted a 44-12 victory. Darien won its Thanksgiving rivalry game against New Canaan last year, but the Rams turned the tables in the title game.
Darien also won this year’s Thanksgiving game, 28-21 in overtime. In that game, the Blue Wave overcame a 21-0 deficit to stun the Rams.
Saturday’s game figures to be similarly tight. Darien comes into the game as the No. 1 team in the state in the MaxPreps ratings, while New Canaan comes in at No. 4.
Darien’s key will be its defense, which blanked the Rams in the second half of their meeting on Thanksgiving Day. The Blue Wave have four shutouts this season. In its 42-12 semifinal win over high-scoring Naugatuck, Darien’s defense did not allow a score until had a 42-0 lead in the fourth quarter.
Junior defensive tackle Mark Evanchick leads the state with 22 sacks, and the defense has forced 34 turnovers. Tyler Grant and Hudson Hamill each have six interceptions.
Darien also has a balanced offense. Receivers Griffin Ross (47 receptions) and Colin Minicus (45 receptions) have been the most frequent targets for quarterback Tim Graham, who has thrown 22 touchdown passes. Graham had 235 yards passing and one touchdown in the win over New Canaan on Thanksgiving, but also threw three interceptions. Running backs Shelby Grant (801 yards, seven touchdowns) and Peter Archey (666 yards, 13 touchdowns) lead a balanced running attack.
Darien coach Rob Trifone has one state title under his belt. He directed Brien McMahon of Norwalk to its only state title in 1995. Trifone became the head coach at Darien in 2007 and has had just one losing season, his first. Darien is 24-2-0 over the past two years.
The meeting with New Canaan will be the 88th between the bordering schools. The Rams lead the series, 49-36-2, while Darien has won three of the last four meetings. New Canaan has won seven state titles since 2001, and 19 overall.
Tickets are available through the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Association website . A live stream will also be available on that site.
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