DARIEN, Conn. Darien's football team relied on its defense last year to win the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference championship. Staring at a 19-3 deficit in the third period of Friday's game against Fairfield Warde, the Blue Wave defense again stood tall.Darien's defense stole the momentum from Warde by holding the Mustangs to three first downs and 48 total yards in the second half as the Blue Wave rallied for a 29-19 victory. Peter Gesualdi and Christian Bogner scored two touchdowns apiece for Darien (2-0). Quarterback Henry Baldwin also caught fire by connecting for nine completions and two touchdowns in the big second half.Gesualdi, who scored the game-clinching touchdown on a gorgeous 64-yard middle screen, said the team's defense set the tone in the second half. "We know we have a great defense,'' said Gesualdi, a junior and one of several players who goes both ways for Darien. "I'm not sure what happened in the first half. We knew we had to come out and stop them in the second half."Warde (1-1) went 3-and-out on its first possession of the third quarter and after a poor punt, Darien took over at the Mustangs 27. Darien didn't move the ball, but the tone was set. On Warde's second drive, Corey Eppley recovered a fumble and the Blue Wave took over on the Warde 43. Six plays later, Baldwin connected with Gesualdi on a 15-yard touchdown pass.After Warde went 3-and-out, Darien marched 31 yards with Bognar scoring on a 14-yard run. Bognar's 1-yard touchdown run capped Darien's next drive as it took the lead for good. In all, Darien scored three touchdowns in a span of 5:27. Warde, which struggled all night on special teams, had trouble punting the ball and continually gave the Blue Wave short fields.Gesualdi's final touchdown put the game out of reach. After a penalty, Darien faced 2nd-and-20 from its own 36. Gesualdi caught the short pass in the middle of the field, broke through a few weak arm tackles and raced to the end zone. "We called the play in the first half and there was a penalty,'' Gesualdi said. "We thought we could hit it."Baldwin finished 11-for-22 for 164 yards and two touchdowns. Bognar rushed eight times for 28 yards, while Gesualdi had 32 yards rushing and 91 yards receiving. After getting thoroughly outplayed in the first half, Darien looked like the team Blue Wave fans are accustomed to seeing in the second half."I think we grew up in the second half,'' coach Rob Trifone said. "Warde's a good football team. I think our conditioning helped us in the second half." Contact Tom Renner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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