DHS football had a chance to shine in their home opener on Thursday, and they took full advantage of it. With 2012 Class M state champions Hillhouse coming to town, the boys in blue had a challenge on their hands. Great play on both sides of the ball led to a commanding 46-26 victory and a message sent to the rest of the league.
Last year, the Blue Wave disappointed. With a 7-3 record in FCIAC play, and failure to make both FCIAC and state tournaments, their performance didn’t live up to expectations. Despite being a traditional league powerhouse, they headed into this 2013 season as underdogs of sorts. Fully aware of their standing, head coach Rob Trifone had valuable messages for his squad. Knowing that they wouldn’t be the most athletic in the conference, Trifone pushed the team to be the best conditioned and most disciplined. Through countless hours of work on and off the field, from the weight room to the film room, the offseason efforts were evident for Thursday’s matchup.
Hillhouse stood as an intimidating opponent, featuring star running back Harold Cooper. Cooper, standing at a mere 5’8”, carries with him a reputation that features legends of unstoppable running prowess. Knowing this, Darien’s defense did a fantastic job of stifling Hillhouse’s rush-heavy attack. By closing gaps in the middle, Cooper’s renowned running threat was effectively eliminated; forcing the offense into uncomfortable and ineffective short-yard passes over the middle. Apart from a few mishandled screen passes, Darien’s defense was superb in their efforts to impede Hillhouse’s forward progress.
On the offensive side of the ball, Darien was equally, if not additionally, impressive. Rooted by a solid O-line, the Blue Wave pounded through Hillhouse’s backfield. Senior QB Silas Wyper had a lot to prove in his first time out this season, and met the high expectations set for him. He connected with the hands of receivers on both sides of the field, sophomore, junior, and senior alike, racking up 242 yards throughout the game. Despite Silas’ strong performance, the real star was senior wideout Nick Lombardo. Lombardo put on a show for the packed student section, catching three offensive touchdowns and putting one in on the ground. His famed speed was on display, allowing him to navigate around receivers on deep receptions and burn past them on short ones. To cap off Darien’s attacking game, Jay Harrison had a touchdown run and John Reed made a stunning diving catch in the corner of the end zone, giving each six points on the day.
After three quarters of dominant performance on Thursday, the sun set behind DHS’s towering gymnasium, and storm clouds rolled in, bringing with them thunder and lightning. After both teams were sent off the field, it was determined that conditions were unfit to finish the game. The remaining final eight minutes of play were carried out on Friday afternoon. This portion was comparatively uneventful, apart from a Nick Lombardo interception returned for a touchdown, giving him his fifth of the game.
The FCIAC proved to be a tough division last year, and will almost surely follow suit this fall. With rival New Canaan capturing a dominant win over SCC contender Daniel Hand of Madison on Wednesday evening, the bar was set high for Darien. Their best efforts proved to be enough against Hillhouse, seemingly indicative of the team’s potential. Darien should be able to take on Fairfield County opponents with confidence and skill, and hopefully put together a better record than last year. One thing that could stand as a major roadblock is the team’s propensity for injury. Any viewer of Thursday’s game was well aware of Darien’s frequent cramping. From halftime on, seemingly every two or three plays a trainer was called onto the field to deal with a player fighting muscular fatigue or tightening. Although this didn’t appear to have a significant effect against Hillhouse, it could prove to be an issue later on.
Darien shocked the league with their win in week one, setting the precedent for the rest of the season. With continued defensive acuity and offensive production, the Wave should pose a threat to an ever-strengthening FCIAC. Only time will truly tell, but based on their performance thus far, 2013 should be a successful year for Darien football.