A high school football classic
There is some role reversal this season.
Darien is the one with the better resume. It's the team that, in the eyes of many, is favored to win this game. It's playing for supremacy in the rivalry against New Canaan, in the FCIAC, perhaps even in the state. The Blue Wave is having a year that should be remembered by many and talked about for decades.
The highly touted Blue Wave defensive group has lived up to its reputation, and while New Canaan's offense remains a high-powered machine, the Rams have not faced any opposing squad like what Darien will put on the field for the Turkey Bowl.
None of this is meant to diminish what New Canaan's done; the Rams could be undefeated had they not opted to go for two points at the end of regulation against St. Joseph on Oct. 23. Darien defeated the Cadets 13-10 on Oct. 2.
It's should be interesting to see how New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli chooses to attack a Darien defense that does not make many mistakes. It will be the flash of the Rams' offense going up against the stout, steady and heady defense of the Blue Wave.
Plus, the Blue Wave gets the game on its campus. Organizers and school officials are expecting a mammoth crowd, one so big perhaps Darien High might struggle to squeeze everyone in to get a good view of the game.
Looking at the New Canaan offense, junior quarterback Matt Milano has easily slipped into the big shoes he had to fill and played extremely well in most games this season. Milano's passed for 31 touchdowns this season and is completing 62 percent of his throws.
The record for touchdowns in a season is 33, held by Kurt Horton, and with a berth in States play, Milano should easily eclipse that mark.
The junior quarterback has been so successful because he's getting the ball to Kevin Macari, a senior wide receiver who's shown he has Division I talent with his play this season. Macari has scored in a variety of ways: through the air, on interceptions and on special teams. He's reached the double-digit mark in touchdowns and is averaging more than 120 all-purpose yards per game.
Macari is clearly the game's "X-factor."
But Darien, for all its defensive prowess -- led by senior Charlie Kunze -- has offense, too. The Blue Wave running game should have its chances against the Rams' front line. Though Notre Dame-bound New Canaan lineman Conor Hanratty will likely have his way, Darien sophomore Peter Gesualdi and senior Graham Maybell have established a 1-2 punch that's been extremely successful and should pile up more than 100 total yards against Bill Kurtz's defense. Kurtz, the former Westhill head coach, is in his first year as defensive coordinator at New Canaan.
Maybell is steady, consistent and picks up the four yards when three are needed on a second down. He's that kind of runner. Gesualdi, meanwhile, puts you to sleep with his ability to carry the ball seven times in nine plays. On a few occasions, Darien head coach Rob Trifone has trusted his young runner to eat up the clock and slowly bleed opponents to death by chewing up time on the final drive.
So when you have two fortes -- New Canaan's offense, Darien's defense -- so proudly on display, how likely do you think it is that this historic rivalry will see either the New Canaan defense or Darien offense win it? It's entirely possible. The Blue Wave's put up big numbers with its offense in nearly every game this season, and New Canaan's kept opponents to an average of 61 passing yards per game.
That's pretty incredible when you consider opponents are constantly playing from behind and need to put the ball in the air to have a chance to stay in the game.
Chris Allam, the senior Darien quarterback, can run and throw, and many believe he still hasn't had his best game this season. While both programs have had a lot of talent and options in a lot of spots, this year's game just leaves so much for the imagination.
And from an emotional standpoint, we don't know what to expect. This preview is being written prior to Darien playing Trumbull for the FCIAC title Friday night.
If Darien wins, do they come into the Turkey Bowl with their guard down, or are they as fired up as ever to complete an undefeated FCIAC season?
And what if it's a loss? Does New Canaan further puncture the Blue Wave's spirit, or will Darien give its best effort coming off the only loss of its season.
The 2010 iteration of the Turkey Bowl between Darien and New Canaan has the potential to be one of the best in decades.