Brunswick School

A preseason football rivalry renewed: Greenwich, Brunswick football teams meet in an intense scrimmage

Greenwich begins its football season on Sept. 11 and Brunswick School’s first game is scheduled for Sept. 18, so the teams knew the best way to help prepare for their respective seasons was to play each other in a scrimmage.

And this scrimmage had the intensity and excitement level of a regular season matchup.

The Bruins and Cardinals starters tested their skills against each other during the first half, while the second string athletes met in the second half. In a back-and-forth game in which both squads displayed their strengths, Greenwich scored on the matchup’s last possession, using a touchdown with less than 30 seconds remaining to edge Brunswick, 21-20.

Unlike previous seasons, Saturday’s scrimmage between the Cardinals and Bruins was played in an actual game format.

“For the kids, this is a rivalry, it’s sort of for bragging rights in the town,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “They are always fired up to play them. In year’s past, we’ve done joint practices with a little scrimmage in the afternoon, or we’ve done a double session. It’s usually the first thing that we do in pads. As it turned out, their league is starting a week later, so we were able to use it as a true game scrimmage.”

Morello said the preseason contest was beneficial to the teams, both of whom are expecting highly successful seasons.

“It was great for the coaches to get that work in and it was great for the players to be in a tight game,” Morello said. “Overall, it was a really great work day and hopefully, puts both programs on track for successful seasons.”

The Greenwich High School football team gathers around coach Anthony Morello after their scrimmage against Brunswick.

Greenwich opens its season against Westhill on Sept. 11 in Stamford. Brunswick plays another scrimmage game Sept. 11 against visiting Trinity-Pawling School, then begins its 2021 campaign at The Hun School on Sept. 18.

“It’s the time of the year where everyone is eager to play against a different color jersey,” Brunswick coach Mike Hannigan said. “We’ve spent a lot of time practicing against each other trying to replicate game speed and you really can’t replicate that until you go up against another team. It’s great to be out there and have everyone involved in a scrimmage game like this.”

Trailing 20-14 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Greenwich tied the score when sophomore quarterback Rocco Grillo threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to junior wider receiver Charlie Dixon. The Cardinals converted the point-after-attempt and pulled out the victory.

“To be in a game situation with the starters cheering them on, it’s an awesome environment,” Morello said of the players competing in the second half. “Those guys are given scout team reps every day in practice and for them to get an opportunity in front of fans in a game situation with the starters cheering them on an awesome situation.”

The Brunswick School football team was psyched up to play neighborhood foe Greenwich on Sept. 4, 2021.

Danny Lauter, Brunswick’s senior starting quarterback, played the first half, while junior Jack Wilson, Greenwich’s starting signal-caller, took the snaps in the opening half for the Cardinals.

“It was the first scrimmage and it was good to get a game in there,” Lauter said. “The pace we were playing at felt good. We just have to work on a few things, but I thought we did pretty well. Both teams played really well and just excited to get out there.”

Lauter’s touchdown pass to senior wideout Ashton Winegardner off a screen pass gave the Bruins a 7-0 second-quarter lead.

“I thought it was great, a lot of starters and second stringers got to play,” said Winegardner, one of the Bruins’ captains. “It felt awesome out there. We haven’t played a Brunswick football game since 2019, so this was great for us and we have another scrimmage next week against Trinity-Pawling, then we play The Hun School at the Hun. The energy was great when the starters were out there and when the starters came out they were hyping up the younger kids.”

The Bruins went ahead courtesy of Chris Gaine. The speedy senior running back took the handoff from Lauter cut left and sprinted down the left sideline for a 65-yard touchdown, making it 13-0 with 7:13 left in the second quarter.

“Chris is one of those great two-sport athletes at Brunswick, he’s a lacrosse player and has great football experience,” Hannigan said. “He runs hard behind his pads, but he’s also nifty enough to find holes. He showed that lacrosse speed when he turned the corner.”

Greenwich running back George Vomvolakis breaks away for a touchdown run in the third quarter vs. Brunswick.

The Cards closed to within 13-7 on a touchdown run by James Wailgum with 3:37 to go in the second quarter. Greenwich used short passes and several effective runs on its way to its best drive of the opening half.

“We got off to a slow start, but we started clicking in the second quarter,” Wilson said. “Everyone started doing their job and every week, it feels like we’re getting a step closer.”

Wilson credited his teammates for inspiring the squad’s offensive unit.

“Toward the end of the first half, I definitely felt like the sideline was helping us out and giving us the momentum,” Wilson said. “They were right behind us, which really helped us to moving down the field. The whole game, the bench was a factor for us.”

Brunswick entered halftime with a 13-7 lead, as both squads registered one first-half interception.

“There’s always things to work on, but I was proud of the way the kids dug their heels in today and fought back against a really talented Greenwich High offense,” said Brunswick senior safety/Charlie Johnson, also a captain. “We’ve got a lot of changes to make, but at the end of the day, I’m really proud of the effort and physicality the kids brought today.”

Both teams played with great enthusiasm throughout the scrimmage.

“It was the first time we put on a Brunswick uniform in two years, against an opponent that’s familiar, but also not so familiar, since we don’t get to play them in the regular season,” Johnson said. “It was really cool, there was a lot of emotion out there. We were fortunate we were able to have all of our players get a chance to get in the game. It was beneficial to us.”

Brunswick runs the ball against Greenwich during a scrimmage held on Sept. 4, 2021 at Brunswick.

The Cardinals took their first lead of the afternoon 26 seconds into the third quarter. Sophomore George Vomvolakis took the handoff from junior quarterback Holden Brown and broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run, putting GHS on top, 14-13.

The scrimmage took on a very somber tone with 10:04 remaining in the third quarter. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Lloyd scrambled to his left, gained several yards and as he was planting his foot toward the left sideline went down to the turf with excruciating pain in his left leg.

Brunswick’s trainers attended to Lloyd, who appeared to suffer a major left leg injury. Emergency Medical Technicians arrived on the scene to help Lloyd, who was put on a stretcher and transported to Greenwich Hospital. In a show of support, Brunswick’s players gathered in the end zone to see their teammate off as he was placed in the ambulance.

The Bruins regained the lead at 20-14 at the 3:02 mark of the third quarter on a short touchdown run by freshman Patrick Hiebert. Greenwich’s go-ahead scoring drive was sparked by the strong running of junior Jack Konigsberg.

“The offense stumbled out of the game a little bit,” Morello said. “We’re still getting into a routine of first game back and running the system for them, but we settled down and we started simplifying things offensively and taking it one play at a time.”

Hanningan liked what he saw from his squad’s defensive unit, which was paced by Johnson, senior linebacker George Villis, junior lineman Jesse Schutzman and senior lineman Lyndon Gay.

“Greenwich is such an RPO heavy team you are almost forced to use man coverage,” Hannigan said. “We had one or two breakdowns in terms of coverage responsibilities, but overall, the defense responded, with everyone being enthusiastic and positive.”

Said Villis, a captain: “Defensively, we worked really well. Everyone did a good job of getting in there and getting their gaps filled. We tried to make it feel like a real game as much as possible. We were wearing our game jerseys and got the intensity up.”

Senior linebacker Luke Vivier and junior defensive end Dominic DeLuca helped lead Greenwich’s defense.

“Parts of the first half were a little bit rough defensively, but the second half we picked it up and clamped it down,” Vivier said. They are a very good team, it’s really helpful when we get to scrimmage or practice against them. The tenacity and excitement from all the guys out there was great.”

Added DeLuca: “Defensively, we were more aggressive up front, than our first scrimmage. All four of our D-linemen like to hit, we like the contact and our defensive backs and linebackers were coming up and filling the gaps more. It was really fun today, the intensity was really high. Both teams were going all out and trying to win.”

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