Past and present collide in West Haven-Darien semifinal
Published 5:16 pm, Saturday, December 2, 2017
DARIEN — It’ll be past vs. present Sunday afternoon for a shot at playing in the Class LL title game.
The semifinal matchup between No. 3 Darien and No. 7 West Haven, to be played at Darien High School, will feature two teams with distinctly different styles.
West Haven will be representing the past, lining up in the Wing-T, while Darien runs the now-more popular spread-style attack.
In terms of planning, that gives West Haven the upper hand.
“So many teams have gone to the spread and open throwing and stuff like that, that they don’t know really how to play the angles in the runs anymore,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said. “So, we’re very fortunate that our running backs are fast enough to run 60 or 70 yards.”
Darien coach Rob Trifone has been around long enough that he’s seen plenty of Wing-T in his career, even running it while he was the coach at Brien McMahon in the 90s.
NO. 7 WEST HAVEN (9-2) AT NO. 3 DARIEN (10-1)
WHEN/WHERE: Sunday, 12:30 p.m., Darien High School.
PLAYER TO WATCH, WEST HAVEN: RB/CB Kyle Godfrey (5-foot-7, 160 pounds). The two-way star and captain is small, but his impact surely isn’t. Able to hide behind the line in West Haven’s Wing-T offense, he has the ability to sneak through holes and the speed to break free for long runs. Defensively, the Gatorade Player of the Year nominee has six interceptions.
PLAYER TO WATCH, DARIEN: MLB Connor Fay (6-foot-1, 214 pounds). Fay, a junior in his second year on the Darien defense has become the Wave’s best run stopper. Coming off a performance where he had five tackles for loss against East Hartford, Fay will have his hands full trying to shut down the run-heavy West Haven attack.
STORYLINES: Offensively, it’s old school versus new school as the Darien spread takes on the West Haven Wing-T. Both teams had to get ready for each other in just four days, so there may be some growing pains early on in this one. Whichever team can adjust to the opposition’s attack quicker should have a huge advantage.
— ANTHONY E. PARELLI
Trifone’s understanding how to stop it is one thing, getting his players to is another.
“It’s an offense I’m extremely familiar with and how to defend it,” Trifone said. “The problem is, it’s the first time they’ve ever seen it. It’s nice I know it, but I’m not playing.”
Blue Wave middle linebacker Connor Fay is playing, and is confident in the coaching staff’s ability to get Darien ready despite the quick turnaround from Tuesday’s quarterfinals.
“We have a coaching staff that prepares us really well,” Fay said. “We have a scout offense and practice plan that prepares us really well. Although we don’t see it often, we have the adjustments and practice time necessary to be ready for a game against it.”
The defense has anchored the Blue Wave all year, allowing just 3.8 points per game and recording five shutouts in its first nine games. And while it fared well against the speed of East Hartford in a 30-10 win in the quarterfinal game, there were times that Hornet’s speed gave it fits — allowing over 250 yards of offense.
“We just have to tackle better,” Fay said of eliminating the chunk plays. “We got exposed a little bit, they’re a very fast, quick team. This week it’s all about wrapping up and tackling at the legs.”
On the flip side, the Blue Devils are used to the spread, making the abbreviated adjustment period much less menacing.
“It used to be that you would play three or four Wing-T teams, so that coaches knew how to play it,” Boshea said. “But now it’s working the opposite. We play so many spread teams that we don’t have to spend a lot of time on it.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean he’s taking the Darien attack lightly.
“I honestly don’t know if you do get ready for Darien, they’re so good,” Boshea laughed. “We just watch the film and try to do things that try to put us in the best situation to win. I know that’s not a controversial statement, but that’s just what we’re trying to do.”
After having its 34-game win streak snapped in a 27-0 loss to New Canaan on Thanksgiving, Darien resembled its normal efficiently dominant self on Tuesday.
One of the more intriguing storylines Sunday will be which Blue Wave team shows up.
“I think you’re going to see the same team on Sunday that you saw against East Hartford,” Trifone said. “I think we’ll be well-prepared. This time of the year is tough with little injuries, but I’m sure they’re dealing with them too.”