DARIEN -- With time ticking away and the Darien offense moving down the field in the closing moments of the Class L quarterfinals against Hand, kicker Daly Hebert was preparing the same way he did every time the Blue Wave had the ball this season.
Then, with 5 seconds showing on the clock at Brien McMahon's Jack Casagrande Field, Hebert jogged onto the field with his team down 29-28.
The snap and hold were clean and as the defense dove toward him, Hebert calmly knocked home the 18-yard field goal, sending the Wave to the state semifinals.
As the offense got deeper into Tigers territory, Hebert's focus became sharper while he kept his routine the same.
"I'm trying to focus in on the moment and not letting outside things affect me," Hebert said. "(The preparation) has to stay the same. You can't get too high, you can't get too low. You have to have that nice consistency and I think that is what we emphasize as a team."
The senior Hebert has been the model of consistency this season, converting 9 of 14 field goals and 42 of 49 PATs.
Hebert was a perfect 3 for 3 against Hand, including the game winner as time expired.
Coach Rob Trifone said that knowing they had Hebert in his back pocket late in the game allowed the Wave to be more conservative with play calling down the stretch and took pressure off the offense, knowing they did not have to score a touchdown.
"This time of year, he's the difference," Trifone said. "When we were driving Tuesday I kept saying to the guys on the headphones `we don't have to get 7.' I didn't want to risk a sack or pick inside the 20. It takes a lot of pressure off the offense."
Hebert banged home the kick but he was certainly not alone on the play as long snapper Jay Harrison and holder Kyle Gifford both had to perform their roles for Hebert to have his moment in the sun.
"They are the most crucial thing," Hebert said. "A consistent snap makes it a lot easier and allows me to time it up and a solid holder is the most valuable thing. The laces always got to be out."
Kickers usually aren't known for hitting the weight room hard, but that is precisely what Hebert did in the summer to improve, transforming himself into one of the state's best place kickers.
Hebert says the secret to consistent kicking is practicing over and over until the motions become second nature.
"I put in a ton of work in the offseason," Hebert said. "I thought I had the potential to be a lot better than I was so I put in a lot of time in the weight room and a lot of extra time on the field. Especially in the summer I tried to make every day a work day. A lot of it is repetition, that's mainly what kicking is. Being able to break down everything into smaller bits so you can focus on mechanics." Read Full Article
No. 1 Darien (11-1) vs No. 4 Middletown (11-1) • 2:00 p.m. at Pomperaug High School
How they got here: Darien beat No. 8 Hand 31-29, Middletown beat No. 5 New London 49-14
Key players: Darien -- QB Silas Wyper, RB/S Nick Lombardo, K Daly Hebert, WR/DB Griffin Ross, DE Mark Evanchick. Middletown -- QB Dario Highsmith, TE Julian Carraway, OL Jeff Woodcock, RB Yaamal Jackson.