DARIEN, Conn. – Darien High School’s football team earned the No. 1 seed for the Class L playoffs, which begin Tuesday night. But because the team does not have lights on its home field, Darien is forced to open the tournament on the road.
Darien meets Daniel Hand of Madison on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at Brien McMahon High School. Darien (10-1) earned the top seed by beating New Canaan on Thanksgiving Day. Hand brings an 8-3 record into the tournament. The winner advances to Saturday’s semifinals.
The tournament also brings up, again, the longstanding issue of lights at the football field at Darien High School. Supporters have advocated for lights at the field for years, but the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission has not approved them. The lingering battle cost Darien the opportunity to play its first state tournament game at home.
“Of the four FCIAC teams that have qualified for states, we are the only one that cannot play at home,’’ football coach Rob Trifone said in a message on the Blue Wave Football Facebook page Sunday. “This situation not only deprives our players and fans of a tremendous community experience but also affects many other community organizations that would benefit as well as other sports that use the stadium field including field hockey and lacrosse. It’s my hope that this helps demonstrate the need for lights and how much we could all benefit from their installation.”
The light debate overshadows a seven-game winning streak by the Blue Wave, including the 28-24 Turkey Bowl win over previously top-ranked New Canaan on Thanksgiving. The game came down to the last play when Darien stopped New Canaan deep inside Darien territory.
Darien rebounded after its only loss on Oct. 5 at St. Joseph, which earned the No. 2 seed in the Class M tournament.
Darien has been led by the sensational play of quarterback Silas Wyper, with 18 touchdowns and 2,474 yards passing. Receivers Griffin Ross (69 receptions, six touchdowns) and Nick Lombardo (37 receptions, 10 touchdowns) give Wyper a pair of dangerous targets.
Senior Andrew Nault had 13 tackles in the win over New Canaan, and sophomore lineman Mark Evanchick (12 sacks on the season) has emerged as one of the best players in the league.
Hand lost to New Canaan, 50-21, in the first game of the season. Its other losses were to Xavier and West Haven. But Hand has won two straight Class L championships.
Darien’s last state championship came in 1996. The Blue Wave fell to New Canaan in the 2008 championship game. In its most recent playoff appearance, Darien lost to Masuk in the semifinals of the state tournament in 2010.