A road loss to Shelton last week gave the Greenwich football team extra motivation entering today’s much-anticipated matchup against Fairfield Prep, while the home crowd at the recently renovated Cardinal Stadium provided a big boost to the team in its long-awaited home-opener.
Playing its first game at Cardinal Stadium since 2019, Greenwich found itself embroiled in a physical, hard-hitting, low-scoring game against Fairfield Prep, so the support it received from its large, enthusiastic crowd at the new Cardinal Stadium didn’t go unnoticed by the players and coaches.
“It was great, when those fans are rocking it gives us more energy,” said Greenwich defensive/offensive lineman Michael Sinisi, one of the team’s captains.
Greenwich needed all the energy it could get muster to hold off Football Alliance Foe Fairfield Prep, 14-7. The Cardinals, who received a strong defensive effort throughout, improved its record to 3-1, heading into their bye week. They visit FCIAC foe St. Joseph on Oct. 16.
“It was a huge win in front of a great crowd,” Morello said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the effort of the team and the resiliency of the team, after a real tough loss last week and a look-in-the-mirror moment. They had a great week of practice and we kept fighting.”
The site of today’s game was to be determined for much of the week leading up to the game. But on Friday, Greenwich received clearance by the Greenwich Building Department to hold the game at Cardinal Stadium, which had new bleachers and a new press box installed. A locker room has also been added, along with several other additions, which still must be completed.
“This is our home,” Morello said. “As much as we’re thankful to Boyle Stadium (Greenwich played its first ‘home’ game’ at Boyle Stadium in Stamford for giving us an opportunity to play there, the kids couldn’t be more thrilled about being here today. The crowd today was tremendous. I am super thankful to all our Board of Education people and Gus Lindine our AD, who spent this entire week up here making sure this was ready to go for us today.”
Trailing 14-7, Fairfield Prep had a final chance to tie the game, after recovering a Greenwich fumble off a mishandled snap at the Cardinals’ 40-yard line with just over two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The visitors gained one first down to reach the Greenwich 30-yard line, by senior defensive linemen Michael Sinisi and Dominic DeLuca combined to sack Prep quarterback Connor Smith on a third down play and on fourth down, Smith’s pass fell incomplete and Greenwich earned its home win.
Sinisi, one of the Cardinals’ captains, is the team’s starting center. He was asked to also play on the defensive line today in order to bolster the defense.
“I haven’t played on defense since youth football, but this week I needed to be there for our team,” the 290-pound Sinisi said. “They asked me to play defense this week and we were all-out aggressive on defense.”
Junior Jake Kiernan, an offensive lineman, also played on defense today for the Cards.
“Mike Sinisi and Jake Kiernan were also playing a lot more defense this week to add a little strength up front,” Morello said. “We were able to make adjustments today that we weren’t last week.”
Taking possession to start the game, Fairfield Prep’s opening drive was halted when Smith’s pass was intercepted by Cardinals senior defensive back Jake Carifa. Tyler Cusimano, Carifa, Chason Barber, John Scarlata and Jake Prieto were among some of the players in the secondary that stepped up for the Cards.
“Last week we faced a lot of runs, this week there was a lot more passing,” Carifa said. “Everyone on the defense played well today and it was just a great team win for the defense.”
Greenwich junior quarterback Jack Wilson passed for 177 yards, but he used his legs to provide the Cardinals with their first score. Wilson dropped back to pass, was pressured, scrambled away from a pair of Prep linemen, then turned it up field. The mobile, 6-foot-4 Wilson wound up sprinting down the right side of the field for a 66-yard touchdown with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter. Junior Sergot Boone kicked the extra point, making it 7-0.
“They were playing our receivers so heavy, so I just saw a lane and took it and it ended up being a touchdown,” Wilson said.
The Jesuits registered six sacks, while Greenwich sacked Smith four times, but also pressured him on numerous occasions.
“They were bringing a lot of pressure,” Wilson said. “They have a good linebacker corps and were always bringing heat and we just had to get the ball out quick.”
The visitors reached the Greenwich 10-yard line early in the second quarter, but didn’t score. Defensive lineman Dominic DeLuca tackled Smith for a 1-yard loss on a running play, then two plays later, Logan Galletta recovered a Smith fumble, giving Greenwich the ball.
Fairfield Prep knotted the score with 1:27 left in the second quarter on Smith’s 22-yard scoring strike to senior wide receiver Jack Reiling. Meanwhile, the Jesuits pressured Wilson in the second quarter, with Michael Silk, Malachi Mercer-Robinson and Jack Mullen each registering sacks.
“The defense played inspired, they did a great job,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “The two touchdowns were off broken plays, which was a shame. I give the kids a lot of credit for battling, the defense definitely played a strong game today, as did our whole team.”
The Cardinals regained the lead at 14-7 when Wilson dropped back to pass, rolled to his right and connected with junior wideout Charlie Dixon for a 68-yard touchdown with 8:09 left in the third quarter. With Wilson scrambling, Dixon was able to maneuver his way behind the Jesuits’ secondary, before hauling in Wilson’s pass.
Prep reached Greenwich’s 5-yard line late in the third quarter during a drive set up by Smith’s 26-yard pass to senior Timothy Pearson. But on a first down play from the 5-yard line, Smith was dropped for an 18-yard loss on a sack by Cardinals junior defensive back Logan Galletta. Two plays later, sophomore linebacker Griffin Galletta and junior lineman Dominic DeLuca combined to bring Smith downfor another significant loss.
“We were blitzing a lot and putting pressure on the quarterback,” Griffin Galletta said. “Our ends were fired up today, our corners, backs, and linebackers after that loss. We were ready to crash and have some fun. We were relentless coming back in the second half and ready to keep the hammer on them.”
Smith passed for 228 yards with one touchdown and one interception. For Greenwich, Dixon had two receptions, including his touchdown catch, while Logan Galletta, Zach Mantione and George Vomvolakis each caught three passes. Koningsberg hauled in four of Wilson’s passes.
“There is a lot for us to build on,” Hellstern said. “There’s a lot of things we definitely need to work on. There were far too many penalties. Like pretty much every program in the state, we are a work in progress.”
Cameron Doyle, Galletta, DeLuca and Sinisi helped spark the defensive line, while Matthew Trimmer and Luke Vivier and Luke Ware were among the Cards’ linebackers that registered key tackles.
“When they were driving down the field, the defense had one goal – stance, alignment, assignment that’s what the coaches always harp on,” Trimmer said. “Those basic things, we have to get them done and we were able to get back to our Greenwich defense today.”
The Cardinals defense was intent on maintaining its lead when Prep threatened in the final minutes.
“Every game there is going to be different adversity,” Trimmer said. “It’s tough to lose our football so close to our end zone there, but the defense came out bared down and did what we had to do.”
Added Carifa: “We were excited after all the stops, but we made sure to stay locked in and we knew if the offense didn’t pick up the first down we would have to go back out there and we just stayed prepared and we were ready for whatever they threw at us.”