Upon Further Review: And Then There Were Still Four; Silence Continues To Blare In Darien

Greenwich’s Jael Negron looks upfield after a reception against Fairfield Prep. (Photo: Matt Dewkett)

Last night was a good one for the FCIAC, which went 4-0 in state playoff games. That is not really a surprise: Greenwich, Darien, St. Joseph and New Canaan occupy four of the top seven spots in the final writers’ poll before the end of the season.

They now make up 25 percent of the field of 16 teams still alive heading into Sunday’s semifinals. The chances of taking home three state titles and a Greenwich-Darien Class LL final have been enhanced, but there remain formidable obstacles ahead.

Here are some initial quarterfinal thoughts before digging into the games ahead.

The four FCIAC schools rank among the top offenses, and because scoring is the most glamorous part of the game, that aspect gets the most attention. That has overshadowed each team’s defense. They combined to allow 25 points last night, and that balance is one reason they have a total of four losses. Half of them have come in head-to-head play.

Let’s take that last point and shine the microscope on Greenwich, since that is where I was last night. There are a lot of overlooked reasons for the Cardinals’ rise to the No. 1 team in the state. One is the run-to-pass parity. Another, as coach John Marinelli pointed out after the 27-6 win over Fairfield Prep, is how his team has flourished without the ball.

From last night’s story is this Marinelli quote: “All year long our defense has been solid. Everyone credits our offense but our defense and special teams are our best phases.”

The Cardinals’ front seven has few peers and teams have had trouble running against them all season. The Jesuits had a lot of grit as a No. 8 seed, but they drew a bad matchup.

When that point was made to Marinelli, he countered with an equally salient one, which is that Greenwich “is built for a lot of things.” The Cardinals really don’t have an exploitable weakness and have depth in most areas. Marinelli said that having large numbers also benefited in unseen ways, including using scout teams with the capability of better preparing the starters.

The Cardinals were sluggish early last night — some of that had to do with the play of Prep — and quarterback Gavin Muir’s ankle is not 100 percent, but they have the look right now — mentally as well as physically — of a championship team.

Darien rebounded from its Thanksgiving loss to New Canaan with a 30-10 win over East Hartford, the first step toward a run at a three-peat.

You may have skipped over that piece of information, because the story on the frontburner has remained the status of the three players arrested the day before the Turkey Bowl. The return of quarterback Jack Joyce yesterday got as much if not more attention as the outcome of the game. That is unlikely to change heading into Sunday against West Haven.

New Canaan’s Patrick Metzger avoids a tackle after a catch against Middletown. (Photo: Mike Wilson)

That is unfortunate for a number of reasons, most significantly the focus taken off other players on the team. This is a lingering consequence of the Darien school system’s continued silence.

My sense from talking to current and former administrators is that they would handle the situation differently.

One FCIAC athletic director, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said, “Frankly I’m surprised that Darien didn’t get out in front of the story.”

We will keep the legalities aside and leave that for the courts. As it pertains strictly to sports, what can be surmised is Joyce was suspended for a game because he was not charged with assault. Brian Minicus and a third, underaged starter, did not play again last night. They were charged, respectively, with third-degree assault and conspiracy to commit third-degree assault.

Darien officials assumedly decided on a definite punishment. The three players have court dates set for Tuesday.

Why not issue a statement on when/if the players will return? It can simply be addressed as a suspension for a violation of team rules, the broad stroke teams use.

Darien officials immediately cite FERPA  — the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act — which protects students’ school records.

The story now lingers and the question of whether the other two players will return on Sunday remains on a par with the game itself, at least until kickoff. If this had been dealt with last week, the discussion would be over, and the word “arrest” would be buried in stories, not placed up top.

There have been negative perceptual consequences as well. A school of thought is that Darien is using this situation to try and gain a competitive advantage, like you would with an injury, leaving an opponent guessing who might or might not be playing. That is a pretty extreme view, but it has been raised to me several times.

The incident is unfortunate, and I can’t think of a sportswriter who doesn’t wish this was in the rear-view mirror so we can get back to dealing solely with the accomplishments of the Darien players on the field.

Now, back to the field. Class L schools were fearful of four-time defending champion New Canaan qualifying for the tournament. The Rams’ 24-9 win over top-ranked Middletown was an indication why.

The Rams allowed just 43 yards rushing and got a taut performance from quarterback Drew Pyne, who completed 15 of 22 passes for 187 yards and one touchdown and ran for two others.

The remaining three schools in the class are ranked in the top 11 positions in the state poll, with Masuk, the Rams’ semifinal opponent, at No. 9.

New Canaan was in the top spot in the preseason poll. It is two wins away from being No. 1 in Class L.

St. Joseph’s 62-0 win over O’Brien Tech brought to an intersection the belief by some that there should be divisions for both private and tech schools.

No one expected a close game, and the outcome was decided early. The Cadets, presumed to be on a collision course with Ansonia for a meeting in the Class S final, is one of the state’s top teams. O’Brien Tech played its first state playoff game and provided a great story.

For those decrying a one-sided game, keep in mind the continuation of quarterfinal blowouts. Just two games last night were decided by eight points or fewer. Average margin of victory: 25 points.

 

27 Comments

  1. Like New Canaan did, arresting the kids the night before the Turkey Bowl? They waited cuz they knew that’s the only hope they had to win.

  2. Why can’t you and other reporters just report about the games and not continue to bring up what happened to the players prior to the Turkey Bowl? Some day you might be blessed with children Dave and if they do something wrong such as get caught at an underage drinking party, drive under the influence, break a law or get arrested do you want your child’s name printed over and over again in the paper by a reporter like yourself telling the story again and again or would you want that reporter to move on and let the courts handle it and you handle your child as their parent? Enough already, let’s enjoy the end of the football season.

    • Peggy: My point exactly is that we want to just report on the games. I don’t cover high school sports to be involved with this. It’s no fun for the press either. But three starters from the No. 1 team in the state are not playing. That’s a sport story. If this was addressed right away last week we would no longer be talking about this. I have ONLY dealt with this from a sports standpoint.

      • If you want to report on games then report on the people who play in them.
        If it’s, “no fun” to report on it than don’t, nobody is forcing you to report on the arrests much less printing their names in every article you write about Darien. There is another reporter who mentioned the situation when it first happened, did not name any names and has not printed another thing about it unlike you who constantly writes about it. Don’t blame the school, administration and others for not telling you exactly what’s going on as its really none of your business or anyone’s else’s business. It’s between the parents, administration, police and lawyers.
        Many parents like to print and save articles about their sons and daughters who play sports and I’m guessing most in Darien won’t want to keep a single article you write about football and I can’t blame them.
        It is hard to believe that three starters who are not playing due to being arrested is a sports story, that is really a sad, sick comment.
        As I said before if you have kids some day and they do something wrong that a reporter continues to write about maybe this will remind you of what you have done to these boys and their families.
        I am a parent and feel for parents when their good kids make poor choices and do stupid things…I wish you had more compassion in this situation.
        I have nothing more to say or discuss with you.

  3. Peggy…that’s the problem. One of the consequences of breaking the law and getting caught is that your name gets in the paper and people will talk about it. The life playing field gets leveled and being an athlete from the #1 team and a wealthy town doesn’t exempt a kid from scrutiny. Consider it life lessons and pray it’s the worse thing that happens to these kids in their life

    • Gobballfan I am not saying it should have never been in the paper. What I have said is that Dave Ruden keeps writing about it in every single article/post he writes. Being the number one team and from a wealthy town should not exempt anyone from scrutiny but I think bringing it up over and over is a little overboard. My guess is these kids have learned a very hard, tough lesson at 18 that they will live with the rest of their life. We must remember good kids do dumb/stupid things.

        • Try five times Dave…
          * Thursday Nov. 23rd 3:49 pm New Canaan Ends Turkey Bowl Slide
          * Monday Nov. 27th 4:04 pm Upon Further Review: A Regular Season with a Little Drama and Few Surprises (under Fab 5)
          * Monday Nov. 27th 10:06 pm CIAC Quarterfinal Game Plan: Four FCIAC Schools Eye Three State Titles
          * Tuesday Nov. 28th 11:31 pm Darien Rebounds With 30-10 Class LL Quartefinal Win Over East Hartford

  4. Pushed send too fast and the fifth was tonight:
    * Wednesday, Nov. 29th five hours ago Upon Further Review: And Then There Were Still Four; Silence Continues To Blare In Darien

    • It was mentioned in my Thanksgiving game story and preview because it was salient to the stories. I was not at the game last night. It was highlighted more in a story today. Every other media outlet has done the same thing. You cannot avoid mentioning the status of three key starters no matter the reason. Again, in my opinion if this was addressed last week, it would no longer be on the frontburner. We will have to agree to disagree. Sorry you feel I’ve been unfair. I’ve actually tried hard to go in the other direction.

      • The administration and their decision to hide behind (questionable) claims of privacy is the issue here. The blame for keeping the “will they play or won’t they?” questions unanswered rests squarely with them. It is certainly understandable that parents who likely have lawyers (or who are lawyers themselves) ready to pounce causes schools to tread cautiously. The bottom line is this “wall of silence”, and if there is any gamesmanship at play here, not only is a huge part of the sports story, it is becoming a separate news story itself.

  5. It couldn’t be addressed last week because warrants weren’t issued until late Wednesday afternoon. School was closed, the courts were closed. These kids are being crucified in the court of public opinion. There was a party, kids from both schools and both teams were in attendance, provocation can be proven and charges were probably unnecessary. No police, no 911, no ambulance, etc. ‘Eyewitness” accounts made by teens from rival high schools led to these arrests. Not saying the three didn’t do something inappropriate. The truth lies somewhere in between. I only trust that when facts are presented if in fact these kids are being railroaded and I believe they are, you will be as liberal with your coverage and write the salient facts and place blame where it may ultimately lie.

  6. Dave excellent job on reporting of this story. Those players put themselves in this situation. They deserve all the humiliation and embarrassment they are getting and more. Perhaps next time they will think twice before they assault someone and then lie to the police.

  7. One of the things that I’ve always admired about The Ruden Report is that Dave has stuck to journalistic standards when the path of lesser resistance might have been to make site more of a PR venture to boost up local athletes. I hope it stays that way and that Dave continues to report the “full” story.

  8. I read the comments from Peggy and your response. We live in a society where coaches- especially high school coaches – constantly extol the life lessons which sports instill in our young athletes. Personally I believe that “sports reveals character”, but that is a discussion for another day. The most significant “life lesson” which a coach or parent for that matter can teach a young adult is that “decisions have consequences”

    It would appear to me that at this juncture it would be irresponsible for anyone to characterize this incident as a ldumb stupid thingl. As if going to someone’s house and assaulting a young man is simply a “dumb high school prank”. But as the reader stated that determination is better left for the authorities to determine the severity of the crime. With the emphasis on the word “ crime” not “dumb stupid thing,”

    As someone who has been actively involved with youth sports and high school athletes, I am always concerned about the entitlement culture which is cultivated and too often tolerated in today’s sports world.. My disappointment in reading about this issue was that there appeared to be more concern about its impact on “The Streak” and how it would impact Darien’s ability to compete in the state playoffs. Which to me is extremely unfortunate.

    As we continue to extol the virtue of sports and the valuable life lessons which sports imparts on our young athletes , please let us not forget the most important one- “decisions have consequences.”

  9. We now live in a world where any arrest is a matter of public record subject to widespread and permanent scrutiny. With the advent of the internet and search engines, what in a simpler time might have been quickly lost to obscurity is now something which will follow these three young men for the rest of their careers and their lives. This is true even though there may be varying degrees of malfeasance involved among the players, including complete and total innocence.

    This new world order of lifelong public scrutiny is, to some, a good thing and, to others, a terrible thing. I personally lean toward the latter, especially considering the young age of the alleged transgressors. What it isn’t, however, is Dave Ruden’s fault.

    • To readers following along here trying to comment, I am not approving comments by several of you describing your versions of what happened at the incident to support your views. That would be irresponsible.

  10. Dave, I know this is your editorial piece and I am a huge fan of Upon Further Review, but it would have been nice for you to also stay “on the field” regarding the EH/Darien game – a shout out to EH’s Kevon Jones and his feats of athleticism on both sides of the ball – he will be fun to watch in college, Mitchell Pryor’s 100+ yds rushing, Darien’s entire O-line for opening those holes for Pryor and Lucas while also filling the gaps. It would have balanced nicely with your coverage of the other games.

    • Thanks for your comment. Mitchell Pryor had a great game and you’re right, the players that night got overshadowed. For a variety of reasons I felt what I wrote needed to be said (in part because the other players have lost the spotlight). I wrestled with whether to put my commentary as a separate piece. In retrospect that probably would have been the better choice.

  11. Jim good thoughts. I guess Coach Trifone could speak with credibility on “decisions have consequences” given that he was suspended 3 times last year by the Darien School system. All a matter of public record.

  12. The issue at hand is that the three kids got into the car and crashed a party with the intent of causing trouble, KNOWING that they’re high-profile members of a high-profile team in a high-profile town. They just figured and hoped they’d get away with it bc they apologized. Nope. The story has been reported as it should have been. And Peggy: good kids don’t go beat up other kids.

    • The idea that only bad kids fight is dumb. If you are truly a mom you would know that your children go through a lot of pressure; whether it be bullying, sports, or academics, and all these stressors can cause reactive and poor decision making. Fighting albeit a poor decision is a silly mistake, but should not assassinate the character or remove the goodness of a child (once this action does not become habit). The idea of fighting being an unforgivable action is especially ironic when a sport so aggressive and violent as football is revered by so many including yourself.

      • Oh, I dunno. My kid has all those stressors and more. He works them out in the gym and on the field. Not on people’s faces. If he did, I would a) not bail him out immediately and b) seriously question his character. Remember, this was not a fight in anger, or loss of control in the heat of the moment. This was deliberate and organized. And for the record, I don’t revere football. I wish my son didn’t play, but I lost that argument in my house. You can be certain that if he behaved like an entitled thug, he’d never play again.

  13. Silence continues to blare? Really?
    I find it interesting that people feel they are owed an answer as to when/ If the suspended players will be back to play. These are not pro athletes/teams who are obligated to disclose starting line ups. Why would any team want to volunteer that information so you could strategize a game plan?
    I also find it interesting that your comment as to “. If this had been dealt with last week, the discussion would be over, and the word “arrest” would be buried in stories, not placed up top.” This incident happened almost 3 weeks before the Turkey bowl, maybe if it had been investigated in a timely manner three weeks ago , you would have had those answers by now! Don’t you find the timing on their investigation and the suspensions a little suspicious ?
    Regardless , it’s time to move on, maybe you can cover the other players who are chomping at the bit to step up and fill those spots on the field!

  14. I just read the police report story on the Darien News website. After reading that story that the QB was allowed to play again is a absolute disgrace. Trifone and the AD should be ashamed of themselves.

  15. According to the New Cannan Chief of Police, the Darien Administration was aware of this incident several weeks ago. Also to clarify any possible fall assumptions athletes can be disciplined for behavior detrmental to both the team and/or the school absent a police arrest warrant. Now what would seem to be suspicious to the casual observer is that the Darien Administration took several weeks to take action. Unless of course one feels that the New Cannon Chief of Police is lying… just saying

  16. I agree enough is enough regarding the Darien suspensions. Even without the two suspended starters they are probably the best team in the state for the 3rd straight year. That is a far more worthwhile story than continuing to rehash the incident and resulting suspensions.

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