One week after lighting the scoreboard for 44 points in a win against Trumbull, Greenwich’s football team managed to reach the end zone just once in Saturday’s showdown against New Canaan and that touchdown came courtesy of its special teams unit.
The Cardinals felt the power and witnessed the effectiveness of the Rams’ defense, which limited Greenwich to 93 yards of total offense in an old fashioned, throwback type of game, featuring running and strong defensive play.
Senior running back Vincent Cognetta gained 108 yards on 22 carries, while senior quarterback Henry Cunney ran for a pair of touchdowns and added 91 rushing yards for New Canaan in its workmanlike 14-7 triumph over Greenwich at Cardinal Stadium.
The victory moved New Canaan’s record to 5-1 and improved its ranking in Class LL to fifth. Greenwich, meanwhile, dropped to 12th in Class LL with a 4-3 record. The Cardinals, who entered the game ranked eighth in Class LL, must win out and will most likely need some help to qualify for the state playoffs.
In the second half, Greenwich ran just 17 plays for total of just over 30 yards, as New Canaan controlled the ball and the clock behind Cognetta (22 carries, 108 yards) and Cunney. The Cardinals were held to 39 yards rushing and had a low third down conversion percentage (1 for 10 on third down).
“Unfortunately, we shot ourselves in the foot play after play,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “We were in RPO-based (run-pass option) scheme and there are pass reads that we just couldn’t complete. I thought we ran the ball pretty well, but unfortunately, we put a little too much pressure on our quarterback and forced him to do a little too much. It’s going to be kind of a strange film, because I’m not sure why we weren’t able to get going today.”
Cardinals junior quarterback Jack Wilson completed 9 of 20 passes for 54 yards, while facing plenty of pressure throughout. Senior defensive lineman Chad Russo helped pace the Rams’ defense, registering three sacks and recovering a key fourth quarter Greenwich fumble.
“Our defense has been really good all year and they run almost the exact same offense as us, so it’s pretty much like playing ourselves the entire game,” Russo said. “It’s always nice to have that shutout against a team’s offense.”
New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli was highly impressed with his squad’s defense, which received standout play from its defensive line and secondary.
“Defensively, thank God for Chris Silvestri (defensive coordinator) and the defensive staff,” New Canaan coach Marinelli said. “When you can hold a team like this to no offensive touchdowns, that’s saying something.”
Also receiving 60 tough rushing yards from senior Conor Bailey, New Canaan ran 67 plays, while Greenwich only had the ball for 37 plays. The Rams totaled 338 yards of offense, 307 of which came on the ground.
“We rushed for over 300 yards, so when you rush for over 300 yards that’s saying something,” Marinelli said. “Our offensive line came through.”
The Rams were paced up from by linemen Julian Brawn, Ned Brady and Nicholas Deligtisch.
“Our offensive line is just so big and they create holes for me to run through and they just make it easy,” Cognetta said. “As I was running, I’d see a gap open and I just kind of hit it. It’s a great win after last week – a game-losing field goal – I thought we should have had that, but it’s great to get this one.”
Trailing 7-0, with less than a minute remaining in the opening half, the Cards knotted the score, thanks to the elusive Logan Galletta. Catching a punt at the GHS 20-yard line, Galletta, a junior, ran to his left near the sideline, broke a pair of tackles then got behind everyone and sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown. Junior Sergot Boone kicked the extra point and this anticipated matchup was tied at 7-7 with 31 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Besides that special teams spark provided by Galletta, Greenwich’s offense produced zero points in nine possessions.
“They just came out strong,” said Greenwich senior running back/receiver James Babb, who had three receptions for 17 yards. “Obviously, they had a great game plan to stop us and they got the job done. We had a tough time, they played a great game, so you just have to give props to them and move on.”
After forcing Greenwich to go three-and-out on the first possession of the third quarter, New Canaan embarked on the game’s decisive drive – a 14-play, 85-yard scoring drive that took 7:09 off the clock.
Cunney’s 13-yard touchdown run around the left side off a well-executed bootleg capped the long drive, giving the Rams a 14-7 advantage with 3:41 left in the third quarter. “At first I saw the D-end coming down, I knew I could beat him to the outside, so I just pulled it and ran with it,” Cunney said. “The atmosphere out there was electric. There were a lot of feelings out here, we have been rivals for a while, so we had to execute.”
The Rams drove 51 yards seven plays on their second possession to seize a 7-0 edge. Cunney scrambled for a 22-yard touchdown, find an opening up the middle, then showing his shiftiness on his way to the end zone.
The visitors had chances to put more points on the scoreboard, but missed a long field goal and fumbled on Greenwich’s 18-yard line giving the Cardinals one final chance to even the score. Wilson completed a pass to Galletta for 24 yards, giving the Cards a first down at the 43-yard line in the final minute. Yet the Rams applied heavy pressure on Wilson, resulting in four straight incompletions to end the game.
“They were changing things up,” Greenwich junior running back Jack Konigsberg said. “Sometimes they sent a lot of pressure, sometimes they backed up. We just didn’t adjust well enough.”
New Canaan drove 51 yards on seven plays on their second possession to seize a 7-0 edge. Cunney scrambled for a 22-yard touchdown, find an opening up the middle, then showing his shiftiness on his way to the end zone.
Marinelli was impressed with how his team bounced back from a three-point loss to Wilton last week.
“Our kids played the same game last week, we just came up a field goal short,” Marinelli said. “I’m proud of how they kept fighting and kept fighting. You don’t know how they’ll react from a shocking loss. We came in more focused and we really hung in there and did a good job.”
Senior cornerback John Scarlata led Greenwich’s defense with 9.5 tackles and a fumble recovery. Junior linebacker Matthew Trimmer registered 6.5 tackles, while senior linebacker Luke Vivier had six tackles for the Cards. Junior defensive lineman Cameron Doyle (5 tackles, one sack), junior defensive lineman Dominic DeLuca (4.5 tackles) and senior linebacker Clay Griffin (4.5 tackles) also paced Greenwich defensively.
“Holding them to 14 points is all you can ask for,” Doyle said. “Our D-Line played really well the whole game. Their running game is good, they ran on us a lot, we were kind of expecting it, but we were able to make some plays.”
Galletta caught three passes for 25 yards for Greenwich, while Andrew Rectermann had two receptions for 20 yards for New Canaan.
“New Canaan has a very good defense, but we know their scheme, we practice their scheme all week, we just didn’t make the plays we needed to make,” Morello said.
Greenwich visits Danbury on Friday at 7 p.m.
“We’ve got to win out,” Konigsberg said. “We have to practice hard every day and win out, because that’s our only hope to make the playoffs. We’re not going to let something like this happen again.”