Darien is No. 1 in The Day's season-ending state coaches' poll
Move over, Cheshire, and make room for another football program enjoying an exclusive level of success.
Darien finished the 2017 season as Connecticut’s No. 1 team for the third straight year in The Day's Top 10 state high school coaches’ poll. It joins Cheshire, which finished number one from 1992-95 during its legendary four-year run, as the only program to earn that ranking in more than two straight seasons.
“It means an awful lot,” Blue Wave head coach Rob Trifone said about his team being chosen No. 1 again by his peers. “I was telling my brother Steve, who is the AD at Cheshire, earlier (Tuesday night) that coaches can go their entire career and never have the fortune of being number one. To be able to do it three years in a row, it never gets old.”
Steve Trifone, oddly enough, was an assistant coach at Cheshire for three seasons when it finished No. 1. And Rob was the head coach at McMahon when it ended the season ranked behind Cheshire and Ansonia, respectively, in the final 1994 coaches’ poll after finishing 12-0 and winning the Class MM championship.
The Hartford Courant coordinated the coaches poll from 1985-2000. The Day revived it in 2003.
Darien (12-1) received nine of 13 first-place votes. It beat top-ranked Greenwich on Saturday, 31-22, to win its third-straight CIAC Class LL championship. The Blue Wave join Xavier (2010-12) as the only programs to win three consecutive state titles in the CIAC’s largest division.
Class L champion Hand (12-1) received three first-place votes to finish second. St. Joseph (12-1), the Class S champion, received the other first-place vote.
Killingly (13-0), the other state champion, finished sixth. It had been unranked the entire season prior to beating Barlow on Monday, 41-14, in the Class M final.
It’s the first time in the history of the coaches’ poll that the lone unbeaten team didn’t finish No. 1. Class M was the least regarded of the four playoff divisions as six of the eight teams had two losses. Three of them had three losses, and Law (6-4) became the first team in state history to qualify for the playoffs with four losses.
Darien also finished first in the GameTimeCT/New Haven Register Top 10 media poll and in CalPrep.com’s computer rankings.
The Blue Wave's season looked murky more than two weeks ago after two starters were arrested the day before their Thanksgiving Day game against rival New Canaan in connection with a Nov. 6 assault at a New Canaan home. Both were suspended from the game, which the Rams won, 27-0, snapping the Blue Wave’s 34-game winning streak.
Darien wasn’t upset after that loss. It was angry.
“I think following the events surrounding the Thanksgiving Day game that just about everyone wrote us off and said, ‘so much for that streak’,” Trifone said. “The kids that remained, the 55 strong, were bound and determined that that was not going to happen. In my 39 years, I don’t know if I coached a more motivated team.”
The Blue Wave knocked off, in order, East Hartford (30-10), No. 8 West Haven (27-13) and No. 1 Greenwich, to win the Class LL title. Quarterback Jack Joyce, one of the two Darien players who had been arrested, returned for the playoffs. He had been charged with interfering with an officer and disorderly conduct, but not with assault.
Darien played arguably the state’s most difficult schedule as eight of its 13 opponents had winning records (a combined 85-56). It was the only state champion to defeat another — it routed St. Joseph, 42-10, on Sept. 23. And it played in the FCIAC, arguably the state's toughest league with three state finalists and one semifinalist (New Canaan).
The Blue Wave’s defense once again led the team as they allowed the second-fewest points in the state (107). Old Saybrook/Westbrook allowed 104 points in 10 games.
Darien finished with the state’s lowest points against average (8.2).
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