Today marked the first day of conditioning for the Greenwich High School football team and it provided the four senior captains one of their first opportunities to officially display their leadership qualities to the squad of more than 100 eager players.
“I’m super excited to help lead this team,” said Cardinals senior quad-captain Luke Ware, who will line up at linebacker. “Last year, we were going to have a good team, we were all super excited for that. COVID unfortunately, got it canceled and we didn’t have a chance. But with this team, working with them all offseason and seeing their potential, we’re a little rough just because we haven’t really played, but I’m super excited to see what everyone can do.”
Greenwich took part in three days of organized team activities last week, but with conditioning sessions occurring this week, teams can do more in terms of preparation for the upcoming season. Players can start wearing upper pads on Saturday, then can suit up in full pads on Aug. 25.
The Cardinals went undefeated and won the CIAC Class LL title in 2018 and qualified for the state tournament in 2019, where they lost to rival Darien in the Class LL quarterfinals. The 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so the Cardinals’ 2021 captains – Tyler Cusimano, Zach Mantione, Michael Sinisi and Ware – will be relied upon to help lead a team that like almost every squad, has a lot of first-year varsity players.
“It’s already challenging in general, just because of our league,” Ware said. “But this year, with everyone coming in with no experience, it’s a completely different landscape, so we’re trying to get accustomed to the new times.”
Strong defensive play is a longtime trademark for Greenwich.
“With all the past linebackers the team has had and the greatness they showed, I am excited to be a captain and be a part of the defense,” Ware said. “As captains, we have to make sure our team does well and everyone is on the same page.”
Said Greenwich coach Anthony Morello, who is entering his third season at the helm: “Maybe the first week after he was elected captain, Luke asked me to loan him some of our practice equipment so he can go out and work on drills and techniques, which was great.”
Mantione, who played on the Cards’ 2019 team, is among an impressive nucleus of wide receivers.
“It’s a really talented and disciplined group,” Mantione said of the receivers. “Our offense will be very high powered this year I feel.”
Juniors Jack Wilson and Holden Brown are among the quarterbacks vying for the starting role.
“They are both extremely talented and I’m excited to see what they both can do,” Mantione said.
Developing timing and rapport with each other was a point of emphasis to Greenwich’s quarterbacks and receivers during the summer.
“The work we put in prior to the season was important,” Mantione said. “We threw countless times to get the timing down and spent a lot of time in the weight room. It was a constant grind to get back here. Now, I’m just excited to just get back to what it was normally like. I’m excited to strap up the pads again.”
Morello has seen Mantione make significant strides at the wide receiver position and emerge as a leader.
“Zach Mantione has been one of the hardest working players since he got here,” Morello said. “He catches everything thrown his way. He knows the plays inside and out and he has the mentality of helping the team however he can day in and day out.”
Cusimano, who was a member of Greenwich’s baseball team, which advanced to the semifinal-round of the Class LL Tournament this past spring, then had a full summer of Senior American Legion baseball with the Greenwich Cannons, plays safety and wide receiver. He’s aiming to be one of the team’s defensive standouts.
“We have a good core of DBs,” Cusimano said. “We have four or five good seniors, a lot of young guys, a lot of talent and I’m just excited to see what we can develop into. It feels good to be back in football season. The mindset is there and I’m happy to be here at practice.”
Morello knows Cusimano can contribute to the team in a variety of ways.
“He plays defensive back for us, he’s played receiver for us – he’s as versatile as you can get,” Morello said of Cusimano. “He has a great attitude and always has a smile on his face. Tyler is a selfless kid with a great attitude. He had a brother in the program (Hunter Cusimano) so he knows with a brother who was part of a championship team (2018 Class LL title team) what the mentality needs to be and what the expectations are.”
Sinisi, who started at center during his sophomore season in 2019, should help anchor the offensive line this upcoming season and is determined to also make his presence felt on the defensive line. He is looking forward to seeing the offensive and defensive line mold into cohesive units.
“We’re always working and trying to be better,” Sinisi said. “We have been having Zoom meetings and been preparing for the season and we have built a very close bond.”
The Cardinals lineman/captain enjoys the role his positions entail.
“Our job is to go out there and protect, but also to be aggressive and attack,” he said. “We have the best of both worlds on the field.”
Sinisi is one of only a handful of returning starters from Greenwich’s 2019 playoff team.
“His performance as a sophomore gave him a leg-up on everyone,” Morello said of Sinisi. “He was in there every game his sophomore year at center. He went up against kids two years older than him and held his own. He is one of a few linemen in this program’s history that started every game as a sophomore. He is one of our best lifters in the weight room, second to none and he’s mentored other athletes.”
The first day of conditioning workouts began with the athletes testing their speed in a series of 40-yard dashes. They then each took part in a track and field time long jump event, before breaking up into groups for drills that were designated for each position.
Greenwich begins its 2021 campaign against Westhill in Stamford on Sept. 11.
“There is great energy out there,” Morello said. “Just being able to walk through our basic special teams and all our basic alignments and just get the ball rolling is exciting for everybody. Before you know it, we are going to have pads on and scrimmaging other teams and really get to evaluate these guys. With everything that we’ve all been through it’s good to get back to basics and it’s great to be together out here.”
Said Brown University-bound Chason Barber, one of the Cardinals’ top receiving threats: “It feels great to be out here, I think we’re all excited and get ready to work. The first game is September 11th, so we have a lot of work to do. Everyone is competing and trying to get their playing time and it’s great.”
Barber knows the team has high expectations.
“I want to win a state championship with my team,” he said. “We have to get to work, come to practice every day and compete. No job is guaranteed and I think people fighting for starting spots is the best way to compete and that’s what we’re doing now.”
“We are going to have a good season, we want to win a state championship,” added Sinisi. “That’s our goal.”
Categories: Fall sports, Greenwich High
Leave a Reply