Scott Ericson: In New Canaan-Darien rivalry, moments that last
In 1949, the New Canaan football team had enough.
After losing for the third year in a row by a combined score of 134-0 and being outnumbered in male school population 164-85, the Rams cried "uncle,"dropping Darien from their schedule.
It would not be until 1956 that the teams met again on the gridiron and would not be until 1967 that the Rams finally claimed victory over their border rivals.
Then it was the Rams' turn to inflict some pain, winning the next nine games against the Blue Wave during one of the greatest runs a team from New Canaan has had.
New Canaan outscored Darien 226-12 from 1968-71 on it way to winning four straight state championships.
From 2004-2011 the Rams again won nine straight, including wins in the 2008 FCIAC and Class MM championships.
The two teams meet again in Saturday's Class L championship at Boyle Stadium with the Blue Wave riding a two-game winning streak after victories the last two Thanksgivings.
For the winning side of these streaks, there is certainly a great deal of pride, but it is the other side that is truly fascinating and really gets to the essence of sport.
Outside of these streaks most players experience a victory over their rival at least once.
A game, a play, a moment they can hang their hat on.
Last season Henry Baldwin of Darien had his, throwing four touchdown passes to erase the memory of his previous defeats at the hands of the Rams.
Baldwin's moment gave the Wave their first win since 2001 (the teams tied in 2003) but for the players who graduated from 2004-2012 the feeling is much different.
Players who graduated the year prior surely cheered Darien's win and the streak ending but many likely failed to find closure.
For them there is an emptiness, a memory that is not always present but pops back into consciousness as the game approaches each year and will never go away.
It's the losing that stings.
It's the losing that drives grown men to relive single plays that could have gone differently 20 or 30 years ago.
It was the losing that stung every New Canaan player who lost to Darien from '47-67.
It is the winning that redeemed them.
Lenny Paglialunga was a junior halfback on the 1967 New Canaan team that snapped the streak and he still remembers the game in vivid detail.
He remembers his touchdown, of course, but also the winning touchdown where he was sent in motion as a decoy as the pass was thrown to the other side of the end zone.
He also remembers the Rams carrying coach Joe Sikorski off the field.
Sikorski coached the Rams from 1949-69 amassing a 98-60-4 record, but was 0-10 against Darien (no games 50-55, 65-66), until he beat them three times to finish his career.
Sikorski won two FCIAC titles and two state crowns but it is a safe bet he placed those three wins over Darien up there with those accomplishments.
It is also a safe bet, that the players that graduated in the 20 years prior to 1967 still feel that sting from time to time.