Greenwich entered today’s game against Thanksgiving Day rival Staples needing a victory and a little help to earn a berth into the CIAC Class LL Tournament, while it was a win and in scenario for the Wreckers.
Well, the Cardinals received help when St. Joseph defeated Trumbull and Thomas Foster made sure they took care of their own business with a touchdown he’ll never forget.
Foster’s 10-yard touchdown run in overtime propelled Greenwich past Staples, 34-28, at crowded Cardinal Stadium. With the comeback win and St. Joseph’s victory against Trumbull, the Cardinals (7-3) qualified for the Class LL Tournament as the No. 8 seed. They will visit top-seeded Fairfield Prep in the opening round of the Class LL playoffs.
On the game-winning touchdown, Foster took the handoff from quarterback Jack Wilson, burst up the middle nearly untouched and sprinted into the end zone. A celebration immediately followed as a lot of Greenwich fans stormed the field to congratulate the Cardinals.
Staples received the ball first on the Greenwich 10-yard line to start overtime, but were unable to reach the end zone, then the Cardinals took over at the 10-yard line. On their first offensive play in overtime, Foster scored his second touchdown of the game, sending the Cardinals to the postseason.
“It was more than exciting,” Foster said. “We just came off that nice stop by the defense and my linemen made it really easy for me, opening the holes there.”
Foster paced Greenwich’s running attack, gaining 90 yards on 14 carries.
“I was finally able to get the ball rolling and get some yards for my team,” Foster said. “All season, it’s been us chasing the playoffs and it feels surreal to finally make it and do it as a team. I’m glad my senior year isn’t over yet.”
Overall, Greenwich totaled 150 rushing yards, with Foster leading the way.
“Foster has come on for us,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “He ran the ball very well against Danbury and we’ve been riding that train the past few weeks. The same against Stamford, he’s had some big plays. He is running very hard, he’s seeing the field very well. It’s definitely something to build on and something to incorporate into next week.”
Wilson, a junior, passed for 224 yards with a touchdown and added two rushing scores for the Cardinals, who faced a 28-20 fourth-quarter deficit.
“This win shows as a team we can come together as a team and fight back against all odds,” Wilson said.
Morello was impressed with the offense’s performance and Wilson’s tough play.
“Jack is all heart, he leaves it all on the field and I’m so happy for him,” Morello said. “He’s a great quarterback, he throws it really well, but he also can run, so being able to use his legs is a key for us each week.”
As thrilling and rewarding the triumph was for Greenwich, that’s how disappointing and heartbreaking it was for Staples, which would have made the Class LL playoffs by winning the game in which it led the most of the way. The Wreckers went into the game ranked eighth in Class LL, but dropped to 11th with the loss. The Cardinals were 11th, but moved up to eighth, moving past Staples, Trumbull, West Haven and Newtown.
“I feel really bad for our kids and our coaches,” Staples coach Adam Behrends said. ‘They put in a lot of time, with COVID last year and through this year. My heart is broken for them right now.”
Senior quarterback Ryan Thompson passed for 265 yards and three touchdowns for Staples, which finished its season with a record of 7-3. The Wreckers were riding a six-game win streak prior to today’s matchup.
“He’s unbelievable, he keeps us in every game with his skill set,” Behrends said of Thompson. “He’s a very intelligent kid and I thought he played great. We put a lot on him. I’m proud of the way he played this game and all year.”
Overtime began with Staples getting the ball first at the 10-yard line and senior Tanner Connors carried the ball for a 4-yard gain. Three incomplete passes followed and Greenwich took possession. The Wreckers could have attempted a field goal, but they were aggressive and went for the touchdown.
“I feel good about our offense,” Behrends said. “I wanted to get aggressive there and punch it in and make them have to answer and obviously, I made the wrong call in that situation.”
The Cardinals defense was laser focused during overtime.
“We knew it was four to score and this week in practice, last week in practice we actually did that and we did a scenario – four to score – on both sides,” said Greenwich senior captain/defensive lineman Michael Sinisi, who was sidelined for several weeks with an injury, before returning to action today. “So, we were prepared for that so when the opportunity came we were ready for it.”
Trailing 28-20, Greenwich closed to within 28-26 on Wilson’s 3-yard run through traffic up the middle, his second touchdown of the game. He then ran in the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, evening the score at 28-28 with 2:54 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“I think it could have been anyone running those touchdowns in,” Wilson said. “I just grabbed the ball, got a great push and pretty much just walked it in.”
The Wreckers scored on their first possession to take a 7-0 lead at the 5:01 mark of the first quarter. Senior wide receiver Miles Scarfo caught a 13-yard scoring strike from Thompson, putting the Wreckers ahead by a score.
The Cardinals responded by driving 51 yards in five plays on the ensuing possession. Junior George Vomvolakis had a 24-yard run and senior Zach Mantione caught a 17-yard pass during the drive, which was capped by Foster’s 6-yard touchdown run up the middle with 2:53 to go in the first quarter.
The visitors drove to Greenwich’s 39-yard line on their next possession, but their drive was halted when senior defensive back John Scarlata intercepted Thompson’s pass.
“I basically saw on film it was a good post route, so I read it,” Scarlata said of his interception. “The quarterback – a great quarterback – tossed it up and I just cut in front of it and I laid out and got it, which was nice.”
Scarlata was pleased to see the defensive unit step up with the crucial stop in overtime.
“We just knew we couldn’t give up, because it was four to score in there and we had to have a short-term memory – forget the touchdowns they had before and just focus on that drive,” Scarlata said.
The Wreckers seized a 14-7 advantage on a 55-yard touchdown by Connors off a screen pass with 8:20 to go in the second quarter. The Cards closed to within a point exactly four minutes later, as senior wide receiver Chason Barber caught a 9-yard touchdown pass in the right corner of the end zone off a fade route, making it 14-13 (the PAT was missed).
Barber led Greenwich’s receiving corps, catching a team-high seven passes for 90 yards. Staples drove to Greenwich’s 17-yard line on its next drive late in the second quarter, but was unable to extend its lead. Cardinals Senior defensive back Rashe Campbell intercepted a Thompson pass, keeping the score 14-12.
“I saw their player run a short route, I immediately jumped it and once I saw the quarterback’s eyes and I just had the opportunity to get the pick and it was awesome,” Campbell said. “It feels awesome to be going to the playoffs. We’ve been practicing hard. Although we have three losses, we always keep our heads up and we keep driving and pushing and that’s what caused us to win today.”
Wilson’s 3-yard touchdown run, followed by junior Sergot Boone’s PAT put the Cards on top, 20-14, at the 3:24 mark of the third quarter. The lead didn’t last long however, as Staples responded with a 63-yard touchdown reception by senior wideout Nicholas Armentano with 1:47 to left in the third quarter. The Wreckers stretched their lead to 28-20 on a 3-yard scoring run by Thompson with 7:51 to go in the final quarter.
“All of a sudden it’s an eight-point game and these guys get down and the sideline get quiet, things could have gone the other way,” Morello said of his squad. “But they bared down when they needed to. It’s a huge drive in the fourth quarter to tie the football game and the defense came up big in overtime and all we needed was one play to finish it off.”
Senior captain Zach Mantione had four receptions for 66 yards, while senior James Wailgum and Vomvolakis each caught two passes for Greenwich, which received solid blocking throughout from junior Jake Kiernan, junior Vincent Insinga, senior Joshua Grijalba and freshman Peter Vomvolakis throughout. James Babb, a senior, added a 16-yard reception for the victors.
“It’s the best feeling in the world, we battled through so much adversity this year,” Mantione said of making the postseason. “This season’s been a roller coaster of emotions and I couldn’t be happier. The key to coming back was we had to mesh together and stay together as a team.”
Senior linebacker Luke Vivier registered six tackles, junior lineman Dominic DeLuca had 5.5 tackles, junior defensive back Logan Galletta had five and senior Clayton Griffin (linebacker) and Sinisi had four apiece in the win. Junior linebacker Danny Fox had 3.5 tackles, while senior defensive back Tyler Cusimano added three for the Cardinals.
“I couldn’t be more happy and proud,” said Cusimano, one of the team’s captains. “We fought, we never gave up and even at the end when it wasn’t looking great, we stuck in there and we won. We knew if we tackled and made plays we’d get it done and that’s what we did.”
Said Galletta: “We were down by one point at halftime, but we came back, we punched them in the mouth and we got the ‘W’ – it’s great. We’re all super hyped up and ready to get into the playoffs and beat whoever is in front of us. We’re ready to knock over whoever we’re playing. We want a clean slate, whoever we’re playing and let that game decide who is the better team.”
Greenwich defeated its next opponent, No. 1-seeded Fairfield Prep, 14-7, at Cardinal Stadium last month. Fairfield Prep has won all the rest of its games this season.
“We beat them, so they are going to want revenge, but at the same time, we know we could beat them,” Morello said. “This team has so much heart and I’m just so happy and elated for the seniors. After that New Canaan game, I told them to keep their heads up and continue to fight, because you never know what’s going to happen. You can only control what you can control.”
Thomas Foster scores on a 10-yard TD in overtime. Click arrow to watch the video.