Greenwich possessed the ball for only 11 minutes, 20 seconds of Saturday’s game against Stamford, ran just 26 plays, but scored an eye-opening 64 points – that’s the type of wild Homecoming Day it was for the Cardinals.
It was sunny when Greenwich’s game against Stamford began, stormy at halftime, causing the start of the second half to be delayed by approximately 45 minutes and it rained points all afternoon for the home team.
Junior quarterback Jack Wilson threw touchdown passes to five different receivers and Greenwich reached the end zone on four plays of more than 40 yards in a resounding 64-12 victory over Stamford before a packed house at the newly renovated Cardinal Stadium.
Though the stands were full during the first half, the crowd was forced to disperse during halftime, when thunderstorms and wind blanketed the area. Both teams remained inside for roughly 45 minutes.
“You don’t usually see the place go from packed to empty in a matter of moments,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “It was a great Homecoming. I was really encouraged with how the team came out in the second half, especially with the rain delay. You never know how they are going to respond to that and we had quick success in the second half.”
Indeed, the Cardinals held a 36-12 halftime lead, then scored quickly and often in the third quarter, reaching the end zone on big plays. The Cards didn’t have the ball much the whole game, because they scored in fast fashion.
“That’s been our MO this year, we haven’t had a lot of sustained drives,” Morello said. “We do have big play potential. What I found most exciting in the first half was that Jack Wilson threw five touchdowns to five different receivers in the first 20 minutes of the game. It’s really nice to see him spreading the ball around and it’s nice to see players contributing from all over the place.”
Besides being its Homecoming Game, Saturday’s matchup marked Senior Day for the Cardinals, who honored the many seniors on the squad. Though it was an unconventional type afternoon with the long weather delay, the Cardinals enjoyed a Happy Homecoming, making key plays on both sides of the ball.
Greenwich totaled 392 yards for the game, while limiting the Black Knights to 108, including just seven yards on the ground. Wilson completed 6 of 8 passes for 136 yards and five touchdowns. Senior Thomas Foster rushed for 94 yards and a touchdown on just five carries, while Wailgum and junior George Vomvolakis added 43 and 42 rushing yards, respectively, on limited attempts for the 6-3 Cardinals.
“The whole town came out and was showing support and we were making plays in every aspect of the game,” said Greenwich senior wide receiver/defensive back Zach Mantione, one of the squad’s captains. “Some of the younger guys were making plays too, so it was really nice to see. It was a real wild win, but it was a great team win and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
For Stamford (0-9) senior quarterback Jack Stokes threw two touchdown passes, both of them coming in the opening half. Stokes completed 22 of 33 passes for 101 yards for the Knights, who faced a 36-12 deficit heading into halftime.
Greenwich wasted little time in showing it was going to flourish offensively. On the opening play of its first possession, Wilson dropped back to pass and connected with senior wide receiver Chason Barber for a 41-yard touchdown pass with 7:36 left in the first quarter. Senior Tyler Cusimano’s conversion run gave GHS an 8-0 lead on the Knights.
Breaking several tackles, Vomvolakis ran for 39 yards on his first carry of the afternoon, putting the ball at the Stamford 1-yard line. Two plays later, Wilson threw a 3-yard touchdown pass in the left flat to junior wideout Charlie Dixon. Cusimano converted the PAT and Greenwich held a 15-0 advantage at the 4:47 mark of the first quarter.
Taking over at the Stamford 41-yard line following a 13-yard punt return by Mantione, the Cardinals quickly reached the end zone again. Foster ran for 12 yards, then Wilson completed a 15-yard pass for Barber, setting Greenwich up at the Black Knights’ 13-yard line. Wilson then threw a 10-yard pass to senior wide receiver James Babb, making it 22-0 with 2:12 still to go in the first quarter.
One of Stamford’s first-half highlights came on Greenwich’s next drive. Nyshawn Johnson, a senior, recovered a GHS fumble and returned it down the left sideline to the Cardinals 8-yard line.
Stokes then completed two straight passes, the second of which was a 2-yard touchdown pass, bringing Stamford to within 22-6 at the 10:20 mark of the second quarter. The Cards had a fast response though. Wilson threw a long pass down the left sideline and Mantione snared it for a 54-yard touchdown. Dixon booted the extra point and Greenwich increased its lead to 29-6 with 9:34 left in the second quarter.
Wailgum added a 13-yard touchdown run off a jet sweep in the second quarter for Greenwich.
“I had great blocks from my receivers and my line,” Wailgum said. “(Jake) Kiernan had a great block on the edge, Barber had a great block in the end zone and I was just able to go into the end zone. There was a lot going on all week and our coaches preached blocking out the noise and focusing on a team win. I’m glad our boys were able to do that.”
Stamford drove 60 yards for its second and final touchdown of the game. Stokes capped the drive by throwing a 6-yard scoring strike with 13 seconds to go in the second quarter. Just as the teams were getting set to come out of the locker rooms to start the second half, lightning started flashing and the rains came, causing the game to be delayed for 45 minutes.
When the action resumed, Greenwich continued to put up points at a rapid pace in the third quarter. Foster broke a 69-yard touchdown run on the third quarter’s second play from scrimmage.
“The line first, they made it easy for me,” Foster said. “I kind of got into the secondary, made a move and was able to bring it to a touchdown. It’s Senior Night, Homecoming, so it’s really exciting that we were able to put a couple of points up on the board and do it as a team.”
Wailgum reached the end zone again, scoring off a 43-yard dash down the left sideline on the first play of Greenwich’s ensuing drive at the 7:32 mark of the third quarter.
“Schematically, we knew they were going to come and crash the box, because it was wet out and they were going to try and play the run and everything just worked out,” Wailgum said of his touchdown run.
Junior quarterback Holden Brown entered the game in the second half and ran for a 9-yard touchdown. Rocco Grillo, also a junior, took some snaps at quarterback and threw a 26-yard scoring strike to Jake Stefanowicz for Greenwich, which is in action again on Thanksgiving against visiting Staples. The Wreckers are 7-2 and ahead of the Cardinals in the Class LL rankings. Greenwich must beat Staples, then receive some help in order to qualify for the eight-team Class LL Tournament.
“All we can do is focus on Staples and take care of business on Thanksgiving and see what else happens,” Morello said. “I’m proud of this football team. We want to finish this season 7-3. Staples is on a six-game winning streak, so it’s definitely going to be a good challenge for us and we’re looking forward to it.”
Junior linebacker Matthew Trimmer, Dan Fox, a junior linebacker and junior defensive end Dominic DeLuca each had a sack for the Cardinals.
“It was fun, football-wise, we started off a little weak defensively, but we got it together the second half,” said Cusimano, one of the Cardinals’ captains. “Everyone was itching to get back on the field. It was a fun day for sure. Now the goal is to get healthy, prepare, practice hard and do anything it takes to win on Thanksgiving.”
Mantione had 79 receiving yards, while Barber had 56 for the Cardinals, who have won two straight games.
Saturday also marked the grand reopening of the new Cardinal Stadium.
The day began with a special ribbon-cutting ceremony at the entrance of the stadium at 10:30 a.m., with pregame festivities, including the Senior Day celebration, beginning at 11:30 a.m.. A special homecoming halftime ceremony took place, featuring the GHS Cheer and Dance Team and recognition for the Cardinal Spirit Court.
“The most important factor for me throughout the project was making it possible for the kids to play home games in Cardinal Stadium,” BOE Member and Committee Liaison Joe Kelly said. “After our big victory at the soft opening in October, Greenwich Football, Greenwich athletes, and GHS graduates are excited to have a proper venue for families and friends to celebrate their accomplishments. This field is hallowed ground with a great history of blood, sweat, and tears. The memories and life lessons learned are carried for a lifetime. The experiences enjoyed by all ages make this a valuable asset to the residents of our town.”
“The stadium is now built to the high standards appropriate for Greenwich,” Kelly added. “It was my honor to work with all the town departments and multiple individuals who contributed to the construction of Cardinal Stadium. I look forward to many Cardinal victories ahead.”