If Rob Trifone wasn’t so content with the position he currently finds himself, the temptation might be to grab a megaphone and shout to the corners of Connecticut “We’re still here.”
The Darien football team has become almost an afterthought despite being on a fast track toward what could be a third straight state title. For now, because of the recent schedule, the Blue Wave have been an anomaly: a No. 1 team in the state that has been under the radar.
“There’s some of that for sure. I think even by the community,” Trifone said yesterday. “I can remember when I first started to have success here, it was like they wanted to give us a parade down the Post Road. Now they yawn. It comes with the territory and people are getting excited about Greenwich. Greenwich is back on the map and Johnny is doing a great job. I think some of the attention has been diverted that way.”
No doubt, the Cardinals, coached by John Marinelli, have been the biggest story in the conference so far, unexpectedly the No. 2 team in the state despite relying on a lineup absent of many seniors.
Still, it has been what seems like months since the Blue Wave have been involved in a big game. That was on Oct. 13 against Staples, which was still in the state playoff hunt at the time. Fairfield Warde followed and provided the stiffest competition in a 17-0 loss, the start of three straight shutouts by the Blue Wave.
“I remember several years ago we had a schedule similar to this, where we played some of the tougher teams early on and then some of the middle of the pack teams in the second half and it was weird,” Trifone said. “We were winning but the kids had nothing to get real fired up for.”
The way the Blue Wave handled their two toughest opponents has only made it easier for them to be taken for granted. They opened the season with a 38-12 win at Ridgefield in a state final rematch, then two weeks later routed St. Joseph, 42-10. The Cadets are currently ranked fifth in the state.
Most impressive has been the Blue Wave defense, which has given up just 35 points in eight games.
“Our defense has been playing very well all year long,” Trifone said. “Our starting defense has given up 10 points. There have been a few games where we emptied the bench and our JVs gave up a score. (Defensive coordinator) Mike Forget continues to do a great job, and that’s every game.”
This week will again keep Darien off the spotlight: they travel to play Bridgeport Central. Then comes New Canaan and the state playoffs.
Trifone said he hasn’t modified the intensity of midweek work for his team to maintain its edge.
“As far as practice, we don’t do anything different,” Trifone said. “We had a good week of practice last week leading up to Wilton. Nice and solid, good attitude, quick practices. Obviously you have to stay healthy and keep working on the special teams and kicking game, which we will work on this week even more because we had a couple of missed assignments. Nothing glaring but things I don’t like. As you get into this stretch you just put the polish on, so to speak.”
The biggest news for the Blue Wave this week is their roster is about to get stronger. Max Grant, who has been sidelined since early in the year, is back to strengthen both backfields. And defensive end Sean O’Malley, who had shoulder surgery at the end of baseball season, will bolster the pass rush.
Trifone said he has little concern about any adverse effects from not having had another postseason contender on the schedule to prepare for in a month. That challenge begins next Monday.
“Honestly after all these years, I don’t think it matters,” Trifone said. “We’ve got 10 days to get ready for New Canaan, they’ve got 10 days to get ready for us. They psychologically will be ready for us, we psychologically will be ready for them. They have had a similar schedule. They played Greenwich but they will come off playing Ludlowe this week, we will come off playing Central. It’s not going to matter. They’ll be ready for us.
“I think we’re in a good place. This team has been in big games before and they know how to approach them. Unfortunately they know when it’s not a big game. That’s high school kids. When we get to the Turkey Bowl and playoffs, they’re going to be ready. They’re a very competitive bunch.”
1. Darien (8-0). Get the clocks ready for the countdown to the Turkey Bowl.
2. Greenwich (7-0). I’ve voted Greenwich No. 2 in the state poll the past few weeks and should have made the change here. With the win over Ridgefield, the Cardinals now have defeated the Tigers and New Canaan, like the Cadets, and have the perfect record.
3. St.Joseph (7-1). The Cadets are No. 1 in the Class S point rankings, a position they very well may find themselves in on the field after the state final on Dec. 9. A very impressive win over Staples
4. New Canaan (6-2). The Rams had an uneven performance in the victory over Norwalk. They have two weeks to find the consistency coach Lou Marinelli wants.
5. Ridgefield (5-3). These are frustrating times in Tiger Hollow. The Tigers have lost to the Nos. 2 and 5 teams in the state by a total of eight points. They need to win their final two games and hope for the help they need to return to the state playoffs.