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Friday, December 15 High School Sports

Darien defeats West Haven, returns to state finals

DARIEN — When he was the head coach at McMahon, Rob Trifone ran the Wing-T offense, giving him some insight as to how to defend it.

For the most part Sunday in the Class LL semifinals, Darien did a stellar job containing the West Haven offense despite having never played against it.

Led by the defense stymieing the Wing-T, the No. 3 Blue Wave defeated No. 7 West Haven 27-13 at Darien on Sunday afternoon.

Darien returns to the Class LL championship game Saturday for the third straight season with a chance for the three-peat against No. 1 Greenwich.

Darien defensive linemen Andrew Evanchick, Sean O’Malley and Michael Neary were in the West Haven backfield so much Sunday they could have set up camp.

The defensive line stuffed most of the running attempts for little to no gain and had quarterback Jake Conlan on the run any time he dropped back to pass.

“It feels great to get back for another chance to play for a state championship,” Neary said. “That offense is tough and we knew we needed to show up today and we did that. Winning one last time on this field means a lot, it really does. We have been playing here since third grade and there are a little bit of emotions, for sure. We are a close-knit unit, we love each other and these are my guys.”

Darien coach Rob Trifone said it was not easy prepping for the Wing-T but his players, especially Neary, were up to the task.

“I ran that offense for 20 years at Brien McMahon and we have not faced it here in at least 10 years and my current defensive staff has not defended it,” Trifone said. “It took us all of the four days of prep to teach the kids how to defend it. (Neary) is one heck of a player. He is our most consistent lineman and did a wonderful job. Connor Tienken in the secondary also did an outstanding job.”

Tienken sealed the win with an interception late in the fourth quarter.

Darien quarterback Jack Joyce, back under center for the second game after a one-game suspension following an arrest, ran for two touchdowns and threw for another to lead the Blue Wave attack.

Defensive back Brian Minicus, who was also arrested, did not play in the game.

Darien was also without starting RB/LB Nick Green for the third straight game for unspecified reasons.

West Haven answered Joyce’s first touchdown run when Kyle Godfrey leaped over the line for a 2-yard touchdown, tying the game 7-7 after one quarter.

Darien would take a lead into halftime courtesy of Joyce’s second touchdown run, this one a 22-yard scramble.

Joyce hit TJ Cornacchia for a 25-yard touchdown pass midway through the third quarter.

West Haven answered right back on a 69-yard scamper by Godfrey.

“(Godfrey) is a special player. A warrior. Heart of a lion,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “He sprained his ankle on Thanksgiving and played through the Shelton game on it. He didn’t have his break on the ball from corner today. It wasn’t his best game, but I don’t think anybody else would have even played. He didn’t even limp. You have to drive a stake through his heart to kill that kid.”

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The Blue Devil would keep it close but couldn’t get the ball to bounce their way.

With 4:20 left in the fourth, Joyce fumbled into the end zone and two West Haven players whiffed on the recovery before Alex Dehmel pounced on the ball for a touchdown, punching Darien’s ticket back to the finals in the process.

PLAYER OF THE GAME

Michael Neary, Darien. The West Haven linemen are going to have nightmares about Neary. He was either in on the tackle or influencing the play by forcing it to go away from him every time West Haven snapped it.

QUOTABLE

“The members of this team know in their heart they are still a very tight team and good friends and I don’t think they really pay attention to what people out there, who know nothing, say,” Trifone said. “Quite honestly, you read the blogs … they have no clue. So let them. If they have so much time on their hands and that’s what they need to write, so be it. We are talking about young men here and good young men on the team, as well. I tell them ‘Don’t read anything, just do what you’re supposed to do.’ ”

DEFENDING HOME TURF

The Darien seniors, playing their final home game, finished their careers without a loss at home. Darien has not lost at home since 2012.

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.

com; @EricsonSports

DARIEN 27 WEST HAVEN 13

WEST HAVEN 7 0 6 0—13

DARIEN 7 7 6 7—27

D—Jack Joyce 3 run (Austin Hangander kick)

WH—Kyle Godfrey 2 run (Chris Chance kick)

D—Joyce 22 run (Hangander kick)

D—TJ Cornacchia 25 pass Joyce (kick failed)

W—Godfrey 69 run (kick failed)

D—Alex Dehmel fumble recovery in end zone (Hangander kick)

Records: WH—9-3; D—10-1

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