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Staples Snowplows Darien Under, 42-23

DARIEN, Conn. – As Saturday morning’s weather turned worse, so did the fortunes of the Darien High School football team. After a sparkling first half that saw the Blue Wave take a 17-7 lead over unbeaten Staples, the snow came and the game fell apart for Darien.

In a nightmare third quarter, Staples needed just 10 plays on four possessions to score four touchdowns and send the Blue Wave reeling. The Wreckers’ Joey Zelkowitz rushed for four touchdowns, including a pair of 65-yarders as Saturday’s snow arrived and blanketed the field at Staples High School.

Staples exploded for 35 points in the second half to hand Darien its first loss, 42-23. The defeat likely ends the Blue Wave’s hopes of a return trip to the conference championship.

“Staples scored plenty of points in the snow, so don’t tell me the snow had an impact on the game. It did not,” Darien head coach Rob Trifone said. “We outnumbered them four to three on most of the defensive coverages in that third quarter. Until I look at the film – because, of course, I couldn’t see through the snow – I don’t know how our defense was beat.”

The crushing finish stood in stark contrast to a first half, when everything seemed to go Darien's way. The Blue Wave marched 71 yards on the opening drive of the game, culminating in a 30-yard touchdown pass from Henry Baldwin to Harlan Smith.

The tandem of Christian Bognar and Peter Gesualdi tore up the Staples defense in the first half, combining for 94 yards rushing. Gesualdi put Darien up 14-7 early in the second quarter after Staples blocked a Darien field goal attempt and the Blue Wave recovered the ball. Christopher Smith nailed a 29-yard field goal to end the first half.

The snow seemed to awaken Staples, however, as Darien could manage only 15 yards of offense on three possessions in the third quarter. Staples blocked a Darien punt and Nick Kelly intercepted Baldwin twice.

Darien finally got back on the scoreboard with just over a minute to play on a two-yard run from Bognar. That capped an impressive 90-yard drive through the heavily falling snow, but it was too late for a comeback.

Trifone said he could not remember a game in his long career that turned so quickly. “Maybe when I coached McMahon back in the late '80s,” he said.

“We played a good first half," Trifone said, "but obviously we didn’t play the second half. That was quite obvious to everyone in the stadium.”

Darien (6-1) will likely be on the outside looking in at the FCIAC championship game. The Blue Wave will have to battle for a spot in the state tournament in a crowded Class L field. Darien hosts Trinity Catholic next Saturday at 2 p.m.

Watch Main Street Connect's " FCIAC Football Fast Five " every Thursday for a complete breakdown of Fairfield County football!

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for MSC's Fairfield County sports coverage. Like The Daily Darien on Facebook .

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