By Dave Ruden
DARIEN — Trinity Catholic may lack the personnel of most other FCIAC teams, but when it comes to energy level, the Crusaders always rank amongst the top of the league.
Darien was cognizant of the first part of the equation but forgot the second for the first quarter of Saturday’s game.
“Coming in we knew they weren’t the best opponent but they were feisty and make plays, and they did just that,” said the Blue Wave’s Nick Lombardo. “We woke up in the second half.”
Trailing, 14-7, Darien responded with six unanswered scores, including three in the first nine minutes of the third quarter, to come away with a 56-29 homecoming victory.
“I think the bottom line is Trinity played well for a young team and banged up, and we did not play well,” said Darien coach Rob Trifone, who admitted he had “some words of encouragement” for his players at halftime. “I think our kids took them lightly, and they’re good.”
Lombardo was a big part of the turnaround for the Blue Wave, who improved to 5-1 and won for the second straight time since their loss to St. Joseph. He had the game-tying and go-ahead scores on passes of 82 and 45 yards from quarterback Silas Wyper. Lombardo finished with five catches for 161 yards and three touchdowns.
“He certainly has the ability to take over a game at times,” Trifone said of Lombardo. “He’s so explosive. If you can get the ball in his hands, he can make things happen.”
Wyper was sharp, completing 21 of 28 passes for 317 yards and three touchdowns, though he did have two interceptions.
Griffin Ross had two 21-yard scores, one on a reception and the other on an interception return. Darien also added a defensive score when Mark Evanchick returned a fumble 13 yards on a sack of Trinity quarterback Johnny Somers.
Lombardo said the Blue Wave have regrouped positively since the loss to St. Joseph that has given them little margin of error to earn a state playoff berth, as well as a spot in the conference championship game.
“It’s a humbling experience to lose, and I think we knew we are not an unstoppable team,” Lombardo said. “Every team can lose and get beat, and we have to work hard to get through the rest of the season. We want to be playing in December. That’s the goal.”
Trinity fell to 0-6 in Donny Panapada’s first season as head coach. The Crusaders were hit hard by graduation losses after qualifying for the state tournament a year ago, and faced Darien without its two top running backs, Randy Polonia and Justin Przypek. They lost their top receiver, Neno Merritt, in the first half to a leg injury.
Courtlyn Victrum, a 5-foot-6, 155-pound freshman who starts at cornerback and plays on special teams, had a breakout game offensively, rushing for 269 yards on 34 carries. He scored on a 48-yard run in the fourth quarter.
“Courtlyn runs the ball very hard for that body of his,” Panapada said.
Sophomore quarterback Johnny Somers completed 10 of 23 passes for 120 yards and a pair of scores. Connor Amann had a touchdown catch and two interceptions.
Panapada is aware that, given the landscape, success has to be measured in realistic terms.
“I love the effort,” Panapada said. “I’m proud of the effort. Unfortunately it is the sixth time I’ve had to say it that way. We don’t like the losing, but they fought.”
DARIEN 56, TRINITY CATHOLIC 29
Trinity 14 0 0 15—29
Darien 7 21 21 7—56
D—Nick Lombardo, 4 run (Daly Hebert kick)
TC—Matt Christensen, 6 run (Sam Ruzzi kick)
TC—Connor Amann, 23 pass from Johnny Somers (Ruzzi kick)
D—Lombardo, 82 pass from Silas Wyper (Hebert kick)
D—Lombardo, 45 pass from Wyper (Hebert kick)
D—Griffin Ross, 21 interception return (Hebert kick)
D—Myles Ridder, 1 run (Hebert kick)
D—Mark Evanchick, 13 fumble return (Hebert kick)
D—Ross, 21 pass from Wyper (Hebert kick)
TC—Luis Gonzalez, 23 pass from Somers (Thomas Costigan pass from Christensen)
D—Shelby Grant, 11 pass from Cooper Drippe (Hebert kick)
TC—Courtlyn Victrum, 48 run (Ruzzi kick)