Connecticut Post (Sunday)

Darien delivers emphatic answer

- JEFF JACOBS

TRUMBULL — The game started in the rain and ended in a rout.

The game started with the coaches overwhelmi­ngly in support of St. Joseph as the No. 1 high school football team in Connecticu­t. The game ended with the media looking like geniuses. Again. Darien dominated on defense. Darien dominated on offense.

And while many knowledgea­ble folks believe Joe Della Vecchia and his staff are the best in Connecticu­t, it was the Darien coaching staff that saw something in the game planning that helped lead to a 42-14 rout of St. Joe’s on Saturday afternoon.

Do you think this result will convince the 10 coaches who had Darien No. 2 in the poll to elevate the Blue Wave to No. 1?

“I hope so,” said quarterbac­k Miles Drake, who threw five touchdown passes that totaled 206 yards.

“I hope so,” said defensive end David Evanchick, who spent all day in mad pursuit of St. Joe’s quarterbac­k Matt Morrissey.

Both their tongues were firmly in their cheeks.

They don’t need to hope. They know so.

“Thank you to the guys who write, you guys were calling us No. 1,” coach Mike Forget said. “The coaches

out there — hats off to you.”

St. Joe’s 29-game winning streak dating to 2018 went up in smoke. The Darien student section took its act on the road and went from chanting, “Overrated!” to “It’s too easy!” to, finally, “This is our house!” Ouch.

The 16 writers who voted for Darien last week should make it unanimous this week.

The three coaches who voted for Darien last week should make it a unanimous 13 this week.

“The defense had a statement to make,” wide receiver Matt Minicus said. “And so did the offense.” Statement made.

In the big picture, the outcome was the best thing that could have happened to overall interest in Connecticu­t.

If St. Joe’s had won, even with a last-minute score, the Hogs would have been a comprehens­ive No. 1 in both polls. As a dominant program in Class L, they stood to complete an undefeated regular season against Stamford, Westhill and Trumbull and then run the table in the playoffs.

At that point, nobody could question their ranking atop the state when it all ended in December. Meanwhile, there stands to be a frantic finish to the Class LL race to qualify for the postseason and then a classic playoff round of eight.

If it was all to determine the No. 2 team in Connecticu­t, what fun would that have been?

Darien is No. 1 today. No doubt. Yet with Norwalk and New Canaan still on the Blue Wave’s schedule and potentiall­y three tough playoff games, nothing is nearly as certain in Class LL.

And that’s all sorts of fun for us.

St. Joe’s went down. No. 3 Greenwich went down to its third loss against New Canaan. No. 4 Hall is still unbeaten. No. 7 Ridgefield lost to rampaging Wilton, which beat New Canaan last week and led Darien in the fourth quarter two weeks ago. No. 8 Norwalk lost to Staples. No. 5 Fairfield Prep and No. 9 Shelton next week suddenly is a must-see game.

The FCIAC looks like I-95 on Friday about 6 p.m. A massive snarl.

Except for Darien. The Blue Wave is the team in the chartered motor coach right now smoothly rolling along in the breakdown lane with a police escort. Flashing lights. Sirens. All of it.

“Our offensive line is

unbelievab­le, and we all expected Tighe (running back Cummiskey) to beat up and wear them down,” Drake said. “That’s exactly what he did. We didn’t expect to break that many plays obviously, but the concepts that the coaches put together really played to their vulnerabil­ities. It’s all on the coaches and offensive line.”

And Drake and Minicus. After connecting for five touchdowns last week, Drake and Minicus hooked up for three more in this 1-vs.-2 showdown. It’s getting ridiculous. Minicus is getting max-icus production. Apologies for the dad humor.

“They’ve been playing together forever,” Forget said. “It’s like they’ve got a sixth sense.”

“I’ve been playing with Matt since the sixth grade; he has always been on my team,” Drake said. “His father was my youth coach. I know where he’s going to be. He knows where I’m going to throw it. I love that kid.”

“I don’t think people knew of them,” Evanchick said. “Last year we had the private league. (Minicus) was a monster. I think the COVID year kind of did us a favor.”

The Blue Wave were up 21-7 at halftime on Drake passes of 32 yards to Minicus, 50 yards to Minicus and 25 yards to Jake Wilson. The opening 32-yarder was a beautiful pitch and even more beautiful catch by Minicus to separate from Ethan Long at the last moment.

The other two, and two more in the second half were to wide-open receivers — we’re talking different zip codes in some cases. One went to Jeremiah Stafford for 70 yards and the last to Minicus for 29 yards.

“Yeah, definitely surprised they were that wide open,” Drake said.

Can you put some X’s and O’s to the surprise?

“Coach (Rich) Pittera, coach (Gene) Cellini and Coach Forget were telling me all week to watch the safety, the play-side safety, if he bites down on the shallow route you’re going to have them over the top. They did it. Luckily for us, we were playing the right concept and guys were wide open.”

Said Minicus, “Usually on the one certain play we run a go, but we changed it to a post midweek and it was wide open. That’s all coaching. They put it in, we trusted it and it worked out. The safety would bite down and leave the post wide open.”

The last touchdown in the closing minutes was the culminatio­n of a groundheav­y drive and 2-yard rush by Cummiskey. The bull. As if the pain wasn’t enough on the scoreboard for the Hogs, he had to finish it off by inflicting a little physical pain.

Forty-two on St. Joe’s? “It gives us a sense of satisfacti­on,” Drake said. “I can’t emphasize how good St. Joe’s is.”

Giving up only 14 to St. Joe’s?

“The D was phenomenal,” Minicus said.

“We knew the defense would bounce back,” Drake said.

After doing a terrific job throttling Newtown, 27-14, on Sept. 24, Darien allowed 36 points to Wilton and 27 to Fairfield Ludlowe the past two weeks. Some wondered what happened to the Blue Wave defense?

“We challenged the defense this week,” Forget said. “Everybody was saying there was a (dent) in the armor and they weren’t the same defense they’d always been.”

Yes, the D made a statement.

“I think we were still on a sort of high off the Newtown game,” Evanchick said. “That’s in the past. We didn’t do a good enough job of putting it behind us.

“The past two weeks, I don’t think that was our defense. I really don’t know what happened … Wilton is playing great right now. Maybe we didn’t come prepared enough. I think we sent a message today. We know how great a team they are.”

Evanchick is the big name. He chased Morrissey all over the place. Imagine a refrigerat­or rolling downhill at you, that’s what the St. Joe’s quarterbac­k will be dreaming about in the coming week.

Yet he wasn’t alone. The entire D-line, the linebacker­s. Christian Alliegro, Alec Medwar and Luke Dehmel each had intercepti­ons. There were sacks sprinkled in. St. Joe’s is versatile. St. Joe’s has lots of weapons. Darien had answers.

“The goal was to fluster (Morrissey), get him out of the pocket,” Evanchick said. “He’s a great quarterbac­k.

“Our secondary was lights out, three intercepti­ons. Our D-line, linebacker­s. Sean Quick did an awesome job on the runs and screens. Layton Reesor and Mac McGahren were getting in with us all the time.” Evanchick paused.

“I think we staked our claim as No. 1,” he said.

Yes, they did.

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