Saturday’s season-opener against Westhill marks the Greenwich High School football team’s first game since it played Darien in the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament in December of 2019, so the Cardinals are counting the hours until game time.
“There’s a lot of anticipation,” Greenwich third-year coach Anthony Morello said. “It’s been a long time since we were planning for opening day, so there is a lot of excitement around town and with the program. Teachers are reaching out to kids and giving their support, so it’s really a full family environment in our community.”
Greenwich, which visits Westhill on Saturday at 2 p.m., prepared for the season by playing challenging scrimmage games against Brunswick School, Newtown and Daniel Hand. The Cardinals’ 2021 schedule includes numerous tough matchups, some of which are games against New Canaan, Shelton, Fairfield Prep, St. Joseph and Ridgefield.
“Hopefully, the quality of opponents and speed of play (that they faced during the preseason), will help us down the road,” Morello said. “We did a joint practice against the the Class L semifinalists (Hand), we did a scrimmage against the LL reigning state champions (Newtown) and this Brunswick scrimmage, where they have loads of talent on both sides of the ball. Hopefully, the quality of opponent and speed of play will help us down the road.”
Morello’s team also faces the challenge of playing on the road for a good portion of the season, since the renovation project at Cardinal Stadium is not yet complete and won’t be ready for Greenwich’s scheduled Sept. 18 home-opener against Ridgefield.
So indeed, the Cards must take on a road warrior type of mentality.
“We traveled to Daniell Hand, we traveled to Newtown and we traveled to Brunswick, so I’ve been saying to the players, get in the mindset of being on the road,” Morello said. “There’s no hiding it, so we embrace it. It’s just a bus ride and that’s what I preach to the kid. We’re going to play on the same sized field with the same turf with goal posts.”
Morello said the team is hoping to have a home game by Oct. 30 against New Canaan. With 14 FCIAC championships and 11 state titles to its ledger, Greenwich has its sights set on adding to more trophies to its collection, but it knows its journey starts Saturday against Westhill.
“The expectations are what they always are, but we’re just trying to take care of Week 1,” Morello said. “With this long a layoff, we don’t know what Westhill does this early in the season. We expect them to play as hard as they’ve ever played for their new coach. I have a lot of respect for coach (Aland) Joseph and what he’s done in his career. I know they are going to come to play.”
Here’s a look at the 2021 Cardinals.
OFFENSE: Junior Jack Wilson earned the role as starting quarterback. The 6-foot-4 Wilson exhibited a strong arm during the preseason scrimmages and practices.
“Jack Wilson was named our starting quarterback before the Brunswick scrimmage,” Morello said. “He’s exceeded expectations at this point. There’s still a lot of room for growth and offensively, we have weapons all over the place.”
Holden Brown, a junior, is also among some of the Cards’ quarterbacks. Up front, senior center Michael Sinisi leads an offensive line that possesses size and strength. Junior Jake Kiernan (6-2, 255), a left tackle, should also help solidify the line.
“Our offensive line, they are still developing chemistry up front,” Morello said. “They are developing that bond and trust for the guy next to you.”
Sinisi, also a defensive lineman, enjoys the role his position on the offensive line entails. “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.”
Greenwich has plenty of depth in the backfield, with senior James Babb, Thomas Foster (senior), George Vomvolakis (sophomore) and Jack Konigsberg (junior) carrying the ball.
“We have a total committee right now,” Morello said of the running back position. “We have a really diverse backfield, so we are going to be tough to scheme against all those guys.”
Chason Barber, the son of former New York Giants great Tiki Barber and the younger brother of A.J. Barber, who is playing football at Princeton, returns at wide receiver – a position that’s also strengthened by senior captain Zach Mantione, junior Logan Galletta, Charlie Dixon (junior) and James Wailgum (junior).
“Chason Barber looks great, he looks ready,” Morello said. “Same with Logan and Zach Mantione, they have been super consistent. Logan was brand new to this offense, but he’s caught on very quickly and Charlie Dixon and James Wailgum have played well. We have a lot of speed and a lot of height at wide receiver.”
Said Mantione: ““It’s a really talented and disciplined group. Our offense will be very high powered this year I feel.”
DEFENSE: Cameron Doyle (6-1, 225), a senior, lines up at defensive end, along with junior Dominic DeLuca (6-4, 240). Senior Andrew Guillame (6-4, 302) should make his presence felt on the defensive line, with freshman Peter Vomvolakis (6-1, 284).
“Cameron Doyle and Dominic DeLuca are stiff, good, run defenders and inside we have Andrew Guillame and Peter Vomvolalis, a true freshman,” Morello said. “I can remember when a freshman started for Greenwich High School, but it’s a testament to what he’s doing on the field.”
Senior captain Luke Ware, senior Luke Vivier, Matt Trimmer (junior), Dan Fox (junior) and Ryan Jedlicka (senior) form a formidable rotation of linebackers.
“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.”
Among some of the defensive backs are starting cornerbacks Jake Prieto (senior) and John Scarlata (senior). Senior captain Tyler Cusimano starts at safety.
“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.”
Added Morello: “Defensively, I think we’re going to be very stingy, as long as we stay true to what we do.”
SPECIAL TEAMS: Junior Sergot Boone, the son of New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone, is the Cards’ placekicker. Kiernan, the team’s left tackle, will also assumes the punting duties.
“Sergot had an amazing preseason and Jake has done a great job,” Morello said. “Having them on the field is huge.”
Not many players from the Cardinals’ 2019 team that lost to Darien, 26-16, in the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals are on this season’s squad, so nerves may be a bit of an issue in the season opener, which will be the first varsity game for some players.
“Week 1 is going to look sloppy across the whole state,” Morello said. “I think every coach across the state is going to say that we’re not where we need to be, but with hard work every day, the goal is that we’ll get there. One thing for sure, Week 1 is going to come down to mental mistakes and penalties. Week 1 is notorious for being a penalty-filled game and that is only with a year off. So I can only imagine what it is going to look like across the state. But you learn from those mistakes, you practice for those mistakes and you put yourself in a position where you can overcome for those mistakes.”