As Friday’s game between FCIAC football rivals Greenwich and Trumbull progressed, James Babb’s night just kept getting more exciting.
A senior running back/receiver, Babb put points on the scoreboard for the Cardinals with a short touchdown run and an 81-yard catch-and-sprint for a score in the first half, but his night was far from over.
Babb’s 49-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter gave Greenwich a quick boost of momentum, which steadily built upon on its way to a resounding 44-12 victory over host Trumbull in a key FCIAC matchup.
The Cardinals, who entered the game knowing they could ill afford another loss if they had plans of controlling their own destiny for a state postseason berth, improved their record to 4-2 with the win. They were coming off a tough, 24-20 road loss to undefeated St. Joseph and needed to get back on the winning track in order to remain in contention for a spot in the CIAC Class LL Tournament.
“Our backs are against the wall, we’re trying to win out now,” Babb said. “We’re an amazing team and we proved that tonight.”
Junior quarterback Jack Wilson passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns, Babb totaled four receptions for 147 yards and a pair of scores and Wilson added 49 rushing yards for Greenwich, which amassed 31 second-half points.
Trumbull took a 6-0 first-quarter lead, then went ahead 12-7 in the second quarter, before Greenwich rallied, using a strong, physical defensive effort and efficient execution on offense.
“We’ve been in some tough spots this year and we’ve been in some great football games,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “At halftime, we were in a similar predicament. We were up by a single point at halftime, which was different from the St. Joe’s game, where we were down by a few and the Shelton game we were tied, but it felt very similar. Big crowd, backs up against the wall and they responded to the adversity really well tonight, especially in the second half.”
Junior quarterback Hunter Agosti completed 26 of his 54 passing attempts for 236 yards for the Golden Eagles, who entered the game winners of four straight games. His prime targets were Corbin Smith (8 receptions, 29 yards and Nick Tuccinardi (8 receptions, 46 yards). Tight end Ben Carley was also a factor in Trumbull’s passing game, with six receptions for 43 yards. The Eagles last defeated the Cards in 2015.
“That’s a really good offense that we faced,” Morello said. “That ball was getting released quickly and they are such a talented football team. I have so much respect for coach (Marce) Petroccio, I played against him when he was coaching for Staples. He put his arm around me when I was hired here at Greenwich and I have tremendous respect for the Trumbull football program.”
The host Eagles scored two touchdowns in the first half, but were stopped several times by the Cardinals’ defense on drives in Greenwich territory.
“We had an opportunity in the first half to put more points on the board, but we just didn’t for a variety of reasons,” Trumbull coach Marce Petroccio said. “You come out at the half and you have everything figured out and you give up a big play and then it just starting unraveling from there. You have to give Greenwich and coach Morello a lot of credit. They did a great job tonight and we were just a little off.”
Senior defensive back John Scarlata registered eight tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown, senior cornerback Tyler Cusimano posted five tackles, and senior linebacker Clayton Griffin had 4.5 tackles to help pace Greenwich’s defense.
“On defense, we have some guys who are hurt and guys dinged up, so we were able to get some new guys some playing time,” Morello said. “We were very concerned about Corbin, but the defense bent but didn’t break in the first half and in the second half when we had a lead and they were in passing situations, we were able to run our defense the way we hoped to.”
The Cards took the lead for good at 13-12 on Wilson’s 81-yard scoring strike to Babb with 1:20 remaining in the second quarter. On a third down play from the Greenwich 19-yard line, Wilson rolled right completed a pass in the flat to the speedy Babb, who got behind the secondary and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown.
“Wilson hit me deep, it was a wheel route to end the half. We had to score, he hit me with a great pass and I was able to outrun the defenders,” Babb said.
The Wilson-Babb connection struck again on the Cardinals first possession of the third quarter. Again rolling right, Wilson found Babb open down field for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Sergot Boone kicked the extra point and Greenwich stretched its lead to 20-12 52 seconds into the third quarter.
“It always feels great to get into the end zone,” Babb said. “I was able to beat the defender and once again Wilson hit me with a great pass and I was able to score.”
Morello knows the team received a significant energy boost from Babb.
“When we were at our lowest, Babb picked the team up and put the team on his back,” Morello said. “He is a super utility guy. We can line him out wide, we can line him up in the slot, we can put him at running back and he knows everyone’s assignment. We can use Babb in so many ways because of his attention to detail all the film study that he does, all the install study that he does. We were at our lowest tonight in the first half and that was just a big play and he seems to make a lot of big plays whenever we needed it.”
Boone’s 22-yard field goal made it 23-12 at the 6:36 mark of the third quarter, then Wilson used his legs to reach the end zone on Greenwich’s ensuing possession. His 4-yard run capped a 50-yard drive and gave the Cards a commanding 30-12 advantage with 48 seconds to go in the third quarter.
“Jack did an excellent job in the second half,” Morello said. “He runs the ball very, very well. We’ve designed run plays for him, because he does it so well. When things are tough, he’s always level headed. He stays focused, if he makes a mistake he picks himself up. His teammates are supportive, because they know at some point, he’s going to make a big play at some point. I’m proud of him for the way he gutted it out tonight.”
Scarlata intercepted an Agosti pass and returned it 55 yard to the end zone, putting Trumbull in a 37-12 hole 12 seconds into the fourth quarter. Junior Jack Konigsberg (9 carries, 48 yards) added a 2-yard touchdown run in the final quarter for the Cardinals.
“It felt amazing,” Scarlata said of his touchdown. “The adrenaline kicked in and I was like ‘I have to take this to the house,’ so I picked it off and ran all the way to the end zone. If you get a turnover, every defensive player wants to take it to the end zone, that’s the first thing that goes through your mind.”
The Cardinals’ defense knew they had to be in top form against a Trumbull team that possessed a high-scoring aerial attack.
“We watched a lot of film on them, so we knew what was coming,” Scarlata said. “We put in a really good game install to stop their passing game, because we know they had really good threats.”
Said Cusimano: “The goal going in was to shut down 5, who we knew was their star player. And once we did that, we knew we could contain everyone else and we did. It’s a huge win, our backs were against the wall, the state was doubting us, but we reminded everyone of what we’re about.”
Junior Logan Galletta, who played the first half (he’s nursing a sore back) caught two passes for 44 yards, while junior James Wailgum and senior Chason Barber each had one reception for GHS, which received stellar blocking from offensive linemen Michael Sinisi (senior), Jake Kiernan (junior), Ted Finn (junior) and Vincent Insinga (junior), all of whom helped lead the push and protection the team got up front.
Jake Carifa (defensive back), Luke Vivier (linebacker) and Sinisi (defensive line) were among some of the athletes who made key tackles on defense for the Cards.
“We stepped up completely and we were able to make plays out there,” Griffin said. “The real thing is the job is not done yet. We have New Canaan next week, so we have to keep on playing hard and earn that playoff position and earn that state championship. We are just building and building and building and getting better as a whole.”
Trumbull (4-2), which entered the game winners of four straight games, received an 11-yard first quarter touchdown run from Smith, who added a 1-yard score in the second quarter.
“We have to come back Monday and get back to work and we have to win out if want to have any chance of making the playoffs,” Petroccio said. But the kids gave a great effort, we just didn’t play that well. We made uncharacteristic mistakes for us. I thought in the first half we outplayed them, the second half, it was the other way around. The bad news is we lost, the good news is we have a good football team here.”
Indeed, Greenwich’s grueling schedule continues, as it hosts rival New Canaan on Saturday.
“These guys are battle-tested,” Morello said. “At halftime, we said this is nothing new, because we’ve been in this situation before. From Ridgfefield, to Shelton, to Prep to St. Joe’s, Trumbull and now to New Canaan. Nothing is different for the guys and the coaches. We know we are going to play tough teams every week.”