Heartbreaking finish for Darien
TRUMBULL — The seniors on the Darien football team have had many winning moments during the past few seasons. With such a high degree of success, the losses, of which there have been few, have always been difficult to take.
None of them can compare to the heartbreaker the Blue Wave suffered in Saturday’s Class LL final.
Newtown’s Riley Ward caught a 36-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jack Street as time expired to give the Nighthawks a dramatic 13-7 win over Darien for the Class LL championship at McDougall Field in Trumbull.
While Newtown celebrated with its fans, the Blue Wave was left in shock on the field, their bid for a fourth state crown in five years having come up one game short.
“It sucks knowing that we played a good game but just two plays got away from us,” senior co-captain Sam Wilson said. “In football, that’s what can happen. They executed on those two plays and all the credit goes to them. But it’s tough.”
“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” senior co-captain Will Kirby said. “We went back and forth, and they executed at the end. They’re a great team, they played all four quarters and they just got us at the end.”
Darien coach Rob Trifone said that while the loss was difficult, it didn’t erase what the players have accomplished.
“Hold your heads high.” Trifone said. “I told them I love you guys and this doesn’t change how I feel about you. It’s a high school football game and it’s a hard pill to swallow to lose on the last play of the game, but I love these guys.”
The game was a defensive struggle for both teams, with Darien taking a 7-0 lead in the first half when quarterback Peter Graham capped a 63-yard drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Mulliken.
A scoreless third quarter followed, but the Nighthawks tied the game early in the fourth when Street scrambled away from Darien pressure and found Ward with a short pass. Ward then raced into the heavy fog covering the field, going 75 yards for the touchdown to make it 7-7.
“We had the coverage set and then he got out of the pocket,” Trifone said. “Anytime you do that and you’ve got a talented kid like (Ward), you just can’t stay with him.”
WOW! Holy crap. Newtown wins the CLASSS LL title 13-7 over Darien I’m the final play Jack Street hits Riley Ward for 36-yard TD #cthsfb— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) December 14, 2019
Newtown’s first state title since 1992 pic.twitter.com/BfSMc0rNIy
Kirby began to find some offensive momentum for Darien in the second half, but despite getting into Newtown territory the Wave was unable to convert into points.
“I felt like I was getting some momentum going for the offense and the line was giving e some great holes,” Kirby said. “Unfortunately, we just couldn’t punch it in.”
Newtown then cashed in on the final play, sending the Blue Wave home without the crown.
For the seniors, it’s the end of a long journey. Many of them playing together since the third grade, with Trifone coaching them for the past 10 seasons through youth league and high school.
Both Wilson and Kirby spoke of the tight-knit feeling among the players.
“I’ll remember how tight we all were,” Wilson said. “It hurts to end it like this, but we’re all going to be brothers and friends for the rest of our lives. It’s been a great experience.”
“We’re such a tight family,” Kirby said. “I love these guys. They’re my second family. I’ve never been this close with another group of guys and I’ve loved playing with them.”