Week 7 vs Darien
Top-ranked Darien football team throttles No. 2 St. Joseph behind Minicus, defense
TRUMBULL — There’s no longer any doubt over who is No. 1.
Top-ranked Darien proved Saturday it’s right where it should be in the GameTimeCT football poll, hammering No. 2 St. Joseph 42-14 at Dalling Field.
The Cadets — who came into the day No. 1 in the New London Day’s coaches poll — heard it loud and clear. Darien gouged them for five touchdowns of over 20 yards, three by senior wideout Matt Minicus.
“They had three guys wide open for touchdowns,” St. Joseph coach Joe Della Vecchia said. “That just can’t happen in a game like this.”
Minicus’ first touchdown went for 32 yards to open the scoring. He followed that with a 50-yarder later in the half to put Darien (7-0) up 14-7.
His final score of the day was a 29-yard strike from Miles Drake, giving the Blue Wave a 35-14 lead with 8:01 remaining and slamming the door shut on any hopes St. Joseph (6-1) had of making a comeback. The loss snapped the Cadets’ 29-game win streak.
“We didn’t expect to break that many plays obviously,” Drake said, “but the concepts that our coaches put together really played to (St. Joseph’s) vulnerabilities. It’s all on the coaches and the offensive line.”
The defense did its part, too. Darien picked off St. Joseph’s Mark Morrissey three times and pressured him relentlessly.
“It was a great program win,” Darien coach Mike Forget said. “Everybody came together. We challenged the defense this week. Everybody was saying that they had a (dent) in the armor, and they weren’t the same defense they’ve always been. They made a statement today.”
With 58 seconds left in the first half, Drake connected with junior John Wilson from 25 yards out to make it 21-7. The score stayed that way until 10:48 remaining in the fourth when the Cadets’ Brandon Hutchison hauled in a 7-yard touchdown over two Darien defenders on fourth-and-goal.
Darien, though, answered quickly. Just 18 seconds later, Jeremiah Stafford snuck behind the St. Joseph defense for a 70-yard reception that pushed the lead back to 14.
“They’re good,” Della Vecchia said. “They’re No. 1 for a reason. We pulled back to 21-14 and we felt good about that right there, and then this kid’s running on the field by himself. It’s like, ‘What the heck happened?’ You can’t have that stuff in a big game. You turn around and it happens again, all of a sudden the game’s over.
“We made too many mistakes. We threw three interceptions — you can’t do that. You can’t turn the ball over.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Matt Minicus, Darien, WR: The senior lived up to his billing as a big-play threat, hauling in three touchdowns totaling 111 yards.
“If I had to play it out in my head, it wouldn’t have happened this way. But, you know, I’m glad it happened that way. St. Joe’s is a very good, well-coached team. Obviously with the 29 wins in a row, if it wasn’t for us it would be maybe 44 or 46 wins in a row. They do a great job.” — Darien coach Mike Forget
ST. JOSEPH 14
D — Matt Minicus 32 pass Miles Drake (Isaac McMullin kick)
SJ — Brandon Hutchison 22 pass Mark Morrissey (Logan Spoelstra kick)
D — Minicus 50 pass Drake (McMullin kick)
D — John Wilson 25 pass Drake (McMullin kick)
SJ — Hutchison 7 pass Morrissey (Spoelstra kick)
D — Jeremiah Stafford 70 pass Drake (McMullin kick)
D — Minicus 29 pass Drake (McMullin kick)
D — Tighe Cummiskey 2 run (McMullin kick)
Records: Darien 7-0
St. Joseph 6-1
Opinion: Darien Leaves No Question Who’s No. 1 With 42-14 Win Over St. Joseph
Like many of their senior teammates on the Darien football team, Miles Drake and Matthew Minicus have been playing together since the 6th grade. They have developed what coach Mike Forget said is a sixth sense. When Drake, the Blue Wave’s quarterback, stands in the pocket and surveys the field, he usually knows where his favorite receiver is going to be.
Lately so does everyone else: several yards behind the secondary. Using a coaching adjustment to alter their routes to show short game and go long, Drake hit Minicus for three long scores and added two more touchdown passes as the battle of No. 1 vs. No. 2, a question mark at kickoff, was an exclamation point at the final buzzer after Darien’s 42-14 win.
“We’ve always believed in ourselves,” said Drake, who has thrown 10 scoring passes the last two games — eight to Minicus — and is currently the best quarterback in a league with more very good ones than is customary. “Some of the coaches were doubting us so it’s nice to prove that. It feels good.”
Darien (7-0), which ended the Cadets’ 29-game winning streak and defeated them for the sixth straight time — they are responsible for St. Joseph’s last three losses — came into the day No. 1 in the state writers’ poll. St. Joseph had the top spot in the coaches’ poll.
Writers smarter than coaches?
“Thank you to the guys who write, you guys were calling us No. 1,” Forget said. “The coaches out there, hats off to you.”
Certainly the call was blurrier at the start of the day than after. Darien’s offense, averaging 45 points coming into the game, was again brilliant. Drake completed 14 of 19 passes for 263 yards. Minicus had seven catches for 144 yards. And Tighe Cummiskey, whose job was to serve like repeated jabs to the chest of the Cadets’ defense, carried the ball 28 times for 140 yards and got the team’s final score.
“Our offensive line is unbelievable and we also expected Tighe to beat up and wear them down,” Drake said. “And that is exactly what he did. We didn’t expect to break that many plays obviously but the concepts that our coaches put together and all that really played to their vulnerabilities.”
Drake was instructed to watch the St. Joseph safety to see if he bit down on shallow routes and if so to go over the top. Minicus on two of his scores and John Wilson on a 25-yard touchdown pass had several steps on the defense. Jeremiah Stafford appeared to be on a different field he was so wide open on a 70-yard bomb that made the score 28-14 in the third quarter.
Cadets quarterback Matt Morrissey threw a pair of touchdown passes to Brandon Hutchison, the first to tie the game at 7-7 and the second to close within 21-14 before the Blue Wave finished with three straight scores.
Meanwhile, the Darien defense was just as dominant. It had given up 63 points in the two previous games. David Evanchick, the star defensive end, attributed that to lapses after a win over Newtown in what had been the state’s most hyped game before this week. Forget credited the caliber of the competition, Wilton and Fairfield Ludlowe.
The Blue Wave produced five sacks, countless pressures — Evanchick’s relentless motor produced many near-misses — and interceptions by Christian Alliegro, Alec Medwar and Luke Dehmel.
“We had a lot of bulletin board material out there this week, saying our defense had a chink in the armor,” Forget said. “We were challenged. We made it our business to make sure they were ready to go this week. We knew we had to take away some of their shorter stuff. That’s what we did. When they had to go to the longer stuff we came away with a couple of interceptions. It was perfect.
What was perhaps the biggest regular season day — with five top seven teams meeting in three games — in FCIAC history really shook up the state playoff picture. Wilton beat Ridgefield for the first time in 28 years and 23 games. New Canaan bounced back from its first loss to defeat Greenwich in throwback style football.
Greenwich and Norwalk are now on the outside looking in for a state playoff spot while the Warriors and Staples would be playing December football if this was Thanksgiving evening. But the FCIAC race is like carnival bumper cars and there are three more weeks to further stir things up.
St. Joseph was coming off two bare-knuckle-brawl wins over Greenwich and Ridgefield by a combined seven points. It is not a bad team that was exposed today. It was just outplayed by a better one.
With St. Joseph in Class L there will be no rematch, but if the Blue Wave should slip up — it has Norwalk next week, New Canaan in the Turkey Bowl and then the playoffs — the Cadets will be hanging around hoping for the chance at their second straight state No. 1 ranking.
For now that belongs to a Blue Wave, with players that after falling behind the past two weeks and with the second half today showed they are closers.
Said Drake, “It was very satisfying to finish off the game the way that we did.”