Four possessions, four touchdowns – that’s the type of perfect start Greenwich’s offense registered against FCIAC football foe Danbury on Friday night.
The offense’s production was a welcome sight to the Cardinals, who need the unit to step up in order for the team to win their remaining games and give themselves a chance to qualify for the CIAC Class LL Tournament.
Wasting little time in seizing control of its road matchup, Greenwich scored 34 first-half points on its way to rolling to a 41-8 victory against Danbury. Coming off a 14-7 defeat at the hands of New Canaan, the Cardinals improved their record to 5-3 and raised its ranking to 10th in Class LL with two games left to play. The top eight teams qualify for the Class LL Tournament.
“They’ve faced a lot of adversity this year,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “We had a look in the mirror moment on Monday. We told the kids right now, we’re at a crossroads and all we can do right now is play good football and hope for the best and I was very happy with the performance.”
Senor wide receiver Chason Barber caught two touchdown passes, senior running back Thomas Foster ran for a pair of touchdowns and Zach Mantione (senior) returning a punt for a score to pace Greenwich’s dominant win.
Foster rushed for 84 yards with the two touchdowns on six carries, while sophomore George Vomvolakis totaled 68 yards on the ground with a score for the Cards, who ran for 147 yards.
“Our offensive line played very well,” Barber said. “We did a good job of establishing our run game and that opened up some things in the air for us.”
Vomvolakis helped set the tone from the outset. He returned the game’s opening kickoff to the Danbury 22-yard line, showcasing his speed and shiftiness. Three plays later on a 4th-and-10 play from the Hatters’ 22-yard line, Cardinals junior quarterback Jack Wilson connected with Barber for a touchdown in the left corner of the end zone, making it 6-0 54 seconds into the first quarter.
“That was the first fade I had in the end zone this season,” Barber said. “It made use of my height and it felt good to get into the end zone.”
The Hatters (3-5) picked up two first downs on their opening possession behind runs from senior Artez Taft, but their drive stalled when GHS senior linebacker Clayton Griffin sacked sophomore quarterback John Bardin for a 9-yard loss on a second-down play.
The Cards’ offense was given another short field to work with, thanks to Vomvolakis, who returned the ensuing punt to Danbury’s 22-yard line. Vomvolakis then carried the ball three straight times, the third of which resulted in a 4-yard touchdown run. Junior Sergot Boone converted the PAT and the visitors jumped out to a 13-0 lead with 7:02 still left in the first quarter.
Danbury reached Greenwich’s 34-yard line on the ensuing possession, behind a 27-yard run by Taft, but that’s the closest they got. Senior defensive backs Tyler Cusimano and Jake Prieto made a couple of key tackles, while senior Luke Vivier made an impressive tackle from his linebacker position, halting the Hatter’s drive.
It was all Foster once the Cardinals took possession for its next drive. He began the march by gaining 31 yards on a run. His next carry netted 19 yards and his third rushing attempt sealed the drive, as he dashed his way into the end zone from 19 yards out, giving Greenwich a comfortable 20-0 advantage at the 3:33 mark of the opening quarter.
“This was our best performance on the ground by far, between Thomas and George,” Morello said. “Our offensive line was getting great movement all night. Especially on their down blocks and the gap scheme was working great tonight. It opens things with the pass.”
Greenwich’s defense set up the squad’s next score. The Hatters penetrated into Cardinals territory, reaching the 29-yard line when Bardin found senior Kyle Thomas for a 41-yard screen pass. However, Danbury would not find the end zone, as Cardinals senior defensive back John Scarlata intercepted a Bardin pass, setting his team up at its own 37-yard line.
Junior Holden Brown came off the bench to run the offense on Greenwich’s next drive, which ended with another touchdown. He completed an 18-yard pass to Vomvolakis, then Foster escaped the Hatters’ defense for a 22-yard touchdown run up the middle, putting the Cards on top, 27-0, with 8:15 to go in the second quarter.
The visitors weren’t done scoring in the opening half, however. Brown threw a 28-yard scoring strike to Barber, who got behind the secondary, putting Danbury in a 34-0 hole with 22 seconds to go in the first half.
“Holden, he gave me a great ball and it was right on the money,” Barber said of his second touchdown reception.
At the 1:35 mark of the third quarter, Mantione returned a Danbury punt 58-yards for a touchdown, sprinting down the left sideline for the score.
“The whole week on special teams, we knew we had an opportunity to make a big play,” Mantione said. “Special teams had a really big part of our win today. On that punt, it came short, I caught it on a hop and I started running to the right and I saw the defense over pursue and I cut it back. Then, I just saw green and it was a foot race from there. It’s the first touchdown I had on a punt return, so it was really nice.”
Wilson and Brown combined for 72 passing yards for the Cardinals, who ran the ball most of the second half. On defense, Cusimano made six tackles, junior linebacker Matthew Trimmer registered 4.5 tackles, Scarlata had 4.5, senior defensive back Jake Carifa totaled 3.5, while Vivier, Prieto and junior defensive lineman Dominic DeLuca each had three. Danbury’s touchdown came on a 1-yard run with 1:43 remaining in the final quarter. Taft ran in the ensuing conversion run.
“The defense did an awesome job of stopping the run,” Morello said. “They have a lot of big physical players up front and they have some very fast and shifty running backs and their quarterback can move too. I’m really happy with the defense tonight. Danny Fox (a junior) played great from the interior defensive line position. Tyler Cusimano had an excellent night and really picked this team up. I’m really happy with how he’s embraced his role as captain and it was a perfect example tonight.”
Said DeLuca: “We played great today, we had a couple of missed tackles, but we were flying around the ball and we played with confidence, which I think is key to winning. It was important to get the nerves out. We have to win out, we know that and getting out to that big lead really helped us out in the end.”
Trimmer was impressed with the defense’s physical play.
“We played great today, we had a couple of missed tackles, but we were flying around the ball and we played with confidence, which I think is key to winning,” Trimmer said. “We have to win out, we know that and getting out to that big lead really helped us out in the end.”
Up next for Greenwich is a Homecoming Day game against Stamford on Nov. 13 at Cardinal Stadium. The game is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.
“Right now, we’re very optimistic,” Barber said. “We can control only what we can control. We’re just going to try to win our next two games and if we do that, then it’s looking good for us.”
“Those losses we had were tough, but they were huge learning experiences,” Mantione added. “The team has bounced back and we’re ready for the next chapter. We are going to handle these next two games.”