Football: Top-ranked Darien buries WHS with second-half surge

The Wilton High football team travelled to Darien last Saturday afternoon and the result was a predictable Blue Wave victory.

Darien (7-0) is, after all, the number-one ranked football team in the state, winner of 19 games in a row. And it showed, especially in the second half when the Wave scored three unanswered touchdowns to come away with a 35-3 triumph.

The Warriors (4-3) were able to hang with their opponents despite an early disaster that put Wilton behind the eight ball immediately. On the game’s opening play from scrimmage, Cord Fox hit Warrior QB Matt D’Elisa as he was throwing the ball, causing it to wander directly into the arms of Nick Green. The junior cornerback lit out down the right side line then traversed the field for a 26-yard interception touchdown return. Riley Stewart’s extra point made it 7-0 with less than a minute gone in the game.

Three minutes later, Darien QB Brien Peters connected with Tim Herget on a 21-yard TD pass to cap off a 70-yard drive that put the Blue Wave up 14-0. It was the first of three of three TD passes Peters would throw.

Wilton responded with its only sustained drive, resulting in Will Sullivan’s 37-yard field goal, still in the first quarter.

With the score 14-3, the Warriors were able to stay very much in the game, especially when their defense fought off two successive Darien attacks that put the ball at or inside the Wilton 10-yard line. The first invasion ended in a missed field goal while the second fizzled as cornerback Chris Hyzy knocked away a fourth-down pass in the end zone.

“I thought we did some good things today,” Wilton head coach Bruce Cunningham said. “We fought them up front and I thought defensively we did a good job, especially in the first half. They are a big-time program and and we were playing them at their home field but the moment didn’t overwhelm us. In the second half, we had some problems with our pass defense. We needed to execute a little better, so we need to clean up some things in our coverages by the time we play Guilford.”

Wilton will host Guilford (3-4) in a non-conference game on Friday night at 7 at Fujitani Field.

Darien came out smoking to start the second half, scoring on its first two possessions. After Finlay Collins returned the kick-off to the Wilton 43, the Blue Wave used six plays to travel 53 yards, reaching pay dirt on Green’s 24-yard TD reception at 10:15 left in the third quarter.

The Blue Wave defense, which dominated throughout the game, got the ball back after a three and out for Wilton, and Darien took over at its own 31. Again the Blue Wave used six plays, this time to travel 69 yards. A 20-yard screen pass to Max Grant on third and 10 was critical to the drive. On the next play, Mitchell Pryor ran the ball in from seven yards out and the Darien lead was 28-3 with 7:05 left in the third quarter.

For the rest of the third quarter and deep into the fourth, the teams battled on even terms, with each picking off a pass in the third quarter — Herget for the Blue Wave, and Jake Savvaides for the Warriors.

Darien started its final scoring drive after taking over on downs at its own 38. It took the Blue Wave 11 plays plus a few self-inflicted penalties to cover the required 62 yards. A 16-yard, fourth-down TD pass to an all-alone Sean McKay would lead to the team’s final points with 5:45 remaining in the game.

“We kind of screwed up our keys on pass defense in the second half,” said tri-captain and inside linebacker T.J. Kedzierski.

“I think the way we played defense in the first half built up our confidence,” added OL and DL tri-captain Colin Carroll. “Even though they hurt us with their passing game in the second half, I think that we can fix things for our next game.”

“We had a lot of dumb penalties, too,” said tri-captain Joe McFadden, who is playing himself back into football shape after missing the first half of the season.

“This game is going to help us against Guilford,” said Kedzierski. “They have two different offenses, with a separate quarterback for each one. They have a rush offense and a pass offense and I know this game against Darien has helped prepare us for their (Guilford’s) passing game.”

“Our guys gave everything,” said Cunningham of his team’s effort. “Darien is a great football team and they put us in some situations, some mismatches, we haven't seen this year. But as long as we can learn from this, get better from this, then it can turn out to be a good thing.”