2021 Class LL football championship preview: Darien vs. Fairfield Prep

GameTimeCT's 2021 CIAC Class LL Football Championship poster.

GameTimeCT's 2021 CIAC Class LL Football Championship poster.

Designed by Sean Patrick Bowley / Hearst Connecticut Media

Capsule look at the 2021 CIAC Class LL Championship game between No. 3 Darien and No. 1 Fairfield Prep. MORE PREVIEWS: CLASS L | CLASS M | CLASS S

Darien vs. Fairfield Prep

The 2021 CIAC Class LL tournament bracket.

The 2021 CIAC Class LL tournament bracket.

Sean Patrick Bowley/Hearst Connedcticut Media

Vitals

WHERE/WHEN — McDougall Stadium, Trumbull, 3 p.m.

TICKETS — $10 (sales are online only)

ON THE AIR/WEB — NFHS Network

SEEDS/RECORDS — No. 3 Darien (11-1); No. 1 Fairfield Prep (11-1)

COACHES — Darien: Mike Forget, 1st season (11-1). Fairfield Prep: Keith Hellstern, 6th season (46-19)

PROGRAM ROSTERS

Championship History

DARIEN (7-9)

1979-L def. Bristol Central 27-16; 1987-M lost to East Catholic 14-0; 1989-MM lost to Hand 34-28; 1991-M def. Berlin 35-22; 1992-SS def. Stratford 30-0; 1996-S def. Bloomfield 21-16; 1997-S lost to Bloomfield 39-21; 1998-M lost to Seymour 14-6; 1999-M lost to Weaver 69-26; 2008-MM lost to New Canaan 26-7; 2013-L lost to New Canaan 44-12; 2014-L-Large lost to New Canaan 21-20; 2015-LL def. Shelton 39-7; 2016-LL def. Ridgefield 28-7; 2017-LL def. Greenwich 31-22; 2019-LL lost to Newtown 13-7.

FAIRFIELD PREP (3-1)

1977-L def. Xavier 22-6; 1982-LL def. Greenwich 18-6; 1988-LL def. Greenwich 7-0; 2013-LL lost to Southington 52-34.

How They Got Here

Darien rolled past No. 6-ranked Hamden 46-19 in the quarterfinals and defeated rival and No. 2-seeded (and No. 1 ranked) New Canaan, 24-10, in the semifinals.

Fairfield Prep defeated No. 8-seeded Greenwich 21-14 in the quarterfinals and then defeated rival and No. 5-seeded Shelton, 24-3, in the semifinals.

Players to Watch

Darien: David Evanchick, Sr., DE; Miles Drake, Sr., QB; Tighe Cummiskey, Sr., RB; Matt Minicus, Sr., WR; Sean Quick, Sr., LB.

Fairfield Prep: Ryan O’Connell, Sr., LB; Tymaine Smith, Sr., LB/WR; Tim Pearson, Sr., WR; Connor Smith, Sr., QB.

What's What

First to 13 points? Statistically speaking, that could be the case when these two heavyweights clash in the Class LL championship game.

Both defenses have allowed less than 13 points per game.

Darien, led by seniors David Evanchick (10+ sacks) and Joe Cesare (7 interceptions), has allowed just 12 points a game, including two shutouts this season.

For Fairfield Prep, it's linebackers Tymaine Smith (88 tackles) and Ryan O’Connell (80 tackles) leading a defense that has allowed just 9.2 points per game, including four shutouts.

And the game will come down to whose offense breaks through.

Fairfield Prep's averages 30.3 points a game. The Jesuits are led by Daniel Barnick's 1,023 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns and quarterback Connor Smith's 493 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Smith has thrown 17 touchdowns with 11 of them going to Tim Pearson (51 catches, 640 yards). 

Darien's offense has scored 473 points, an average of 39.4 per game. It's led by Tighe Cummisky’s 1,500 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and Miles Drake’s 1,800 yards and 28 touchdown passes. 

This is the first meeting of the two programs. Darien has been a Class LL regular in recent years. The Blue Wave won three straight Class LL state titles from 2015-17 and then lost to Newtown in the 2018 quarterfinals and the final in 2019.

The game features two former team assistants coaching in their first title games as head coaches. Darien’s Mike Forget was the defensive coordinator at Darien under Rob Trifone for the past eight seasons and coached in six state finals as an assistant coach. He became interim coach in 2020 and the official head coach this year.

Fairfield Prep’s Keith Hellstern took over for Tom Shea after the 2014 season, he was the defensive coordinator for the Jesuits when they lost to Southington the 2013 LL championship.

Fairfield Prep hasn’t been in a state final since 2013 -- a 52-34 loss to Southington -- and hasn’t won a title since 1988, a 7-0 win over Greenwich. The Jesuits have won three Class LL championships overall.

Both teams have avenged their one loss this season. Fairfield Prep lost to Greenwich, 14-7, on Oct. 2 and then defeated the Cardinals 21-14 in the state quarterfinals. Darien beat New Canaan, 24-10, in the quarterfinals after losing on Thanksgiving, 12-7.

Darien was the preseason No. 1 and held that ranking through the entire regular season. The Blue Wave defeated Newtown in a top 3 battle and took down St. Joseph in a 1 vs. 2 game. They only lost the ranking to New Canaan heading into the postseason.

Fairfield Prep is ranked No. 4 heading and, with No. 2-ranked Darien beating No. 1 New Canaan and No. 3 St. Joseph getting knocked out, this game is likely for the final No. 1 ranking.

The Picks 

SPB — DARIEN
PETE — DARIEN