FCIAC Football Rewind: Darien’s win causes ripple effect

The Darien football team celebrates last Saturday's last-second win over Trinity Catholic.

What does unbridled joy sound like? Check out this video sent over by the Greenwich football team, captured on its bus ride back from Brien McMahon, as it learned that Darien had defeated unbeaten Trinity Catholic, setting up the chance for the Cardinals, with one more win, to play Staples for the FCIAC title.

The most dramatic finish of the FCIAC football season had a seismic ripple effect throughout the conference as Nick Lombardo out-jumped two defenders to catch Henry Baldwin’s 35-yard touchdown pass with 7 seconds left on the clock. That completed an improbable two-play, 67-yard drive in 18 seconds, coming just after the Crusaders were on the verge of positioning themselves for a possible game-winning field goal attempt.

Nick Lombardo's game-winning touchdown catch.

There were several winners and one obvious loser as soon as Lombardo’s cleats hit the muddy turf of Alumni Field.

The winners:

— Greenwich. If the Crusaders had won the game and then defeated St. Joseph on Thursday night, it would have been declared co-champion with Staples, assuming as expected it takes care of surprising Westhill. The Cardinals have expressed confidence in the social networking world that they can take care of the Wreckers. Now there is a grand prize if they can back up their words.

— Staples. The Wreckers have been a juggernaut. Some league coaches have expressed the sentiment that this is the FCIAC’s best team in years. You really think Staples wanted to share the first prize on its agenda without the chance to win it outright on the field?

— Darien. The Blue Wave’s season had been a disappointment. They were confident preseason contenders. There was no shame in losses to Staples and a solid St. Joseph team. The loss to Trumbull was a big letdown. Now Darien is reduced to playing spoiler. It ruined the Crusaders’ FCIAC hopes. And nothing would make the season more meaningful than knocking arch-rival New Canaan out of state tournament contention on Thanksgiving morning.

— The FCIAC. If you look at some pictures of Lombardo’s winning catch, you see FCIAC executive secretary John Kuczo in the background. He might have been tempted to jump into the Blue Wave’s celebration. The FCIAC had its own post-Sandy fallout, though a lot of perspective was lost about the scheduling of high school sporting events in the wake of the mass destruction others were dealing with. Many were critical that the FCIAC attempted to squeeze in all regular season games and keep an open date for the title game, which would have hurt the state title hopes of Staples, Greenwich and Trinity Catholic, depending on how things turned out.

Two events helped the FCIAC out. Last week’s snow storm forced the league into modifying the schedule again and cancelling a date for a championship game involving Trinity. Then the Crusaders lost, and now it still gets to keep the title game between Staples and Greenwich that everyone wants to see, without adverse ramifications.

The loser:

— Trinity Catholic. The Crusaders were having — and make no mistake, are still having — a magical season. There would have been no tears shed about having to share a championship. The end of the Darien game was as disappointing as the overtime win over New Canaan was enthralling. Fortunately, there is still the matter of playing in the CIAC Class S playoffs. That is far from being just a consolation prize.

Game of the Week

Trinity Catholic (7-1) at St. Joseph (6-2), Thursday, 7. The battle between the league’s two private schools has huge state playoff ramifications. This is a must-win game for the Cadets, who will also need a win over Trumbull on Thanksgiving and then help elsewhere. The Crusaders need one more win to assure a berth. They would prefer not to have everything come down to Thanksgiving morning at Wilton.

The Fab 5

1. STAPLES (7-0). As everyone sits down for their turkey dinners on Thanksgiving, dinner discussion about whether this is one of the FCIAC’s best teams in recent history would be entirely appropriate.

2. GREENWICH (7-0). The Cardinals, at No. 2, are actually one spot ahead of Staples in the Class LL rankings. It looks like they now will have their shot. It is up to them to take advantage of it.

3. TRINITY CATHOLIC (7-1). If the Crusaders can come back strong against St. Joseph, last week’s loss will quickly be forgotten.

4. NEW CANAAN (7-1). The Rams might be one of the least-talked-about one-loss teams in league history. Which is fine with them, as they quietly sail along in the hopes of getting the chance to reach a state final for a seventh straight year.

5. ST. JOSEPH (6-2). If the Cadets can get into the state playoffs, label them one dangerous sleeper.