One year ago, Jack Wilson was competing for the role as starting quarterback of Greenwich High School’s football team. Today, the 6-foot-4 rising senior is the Cardinals’ starting signal caller after he started all of the team’s 11 games during the squad’s successful 2021 season.
Indeed, Greenwich’s 2021 campaign was one in which Wilson learned plenty about the position and what it took to successfully compete at the varsity level.
“Last year I learned that timing is important with receivers,” Wilson said. “You have to be on the same page with them all the time.”
Reading defenses is a significant skill that Wilson also improved upon as the 2021 season progressed.
“Recognizing the defense, that’s huge,” Wilson said. “A year of experience helped me with that. Getting on the same page with the receivers is important. Being on the same page with them all the time and knowing what you’re trying to achieve at all times is very important.”
Wilson and Greenwich’s group of wide receivers were in action yesterday and Friday at the 15th annual Grip It and Rip It Passing Championship, held at New Canaan High School.
The 33-team passing tournament enabled quarterbacks and receivers from each squad to build rapport and chemistry with each other, as the fall rapidly approaches.
“I tip my hat to Lou Marinelli, Chris Silvestri and his staff here at New Canaan – they do an exceptional job of hosting this event every year,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “We are super grateful and thankful that they continue to do this every year. For us, we just want to get better. We want to find ways to get better and I think we accomplished that today.”
The Cardinals played nine games over the course of two days at the Grip It and Rip It tournament, winning six of their matchups. They advanced to the quarterfinals of the 33-team event. Among some of their six victories were wins against Windsor, Newtown and Jonathan Law.
Wilson quarterbacked the Cardinals to a record of 7-4 last season and a berth into the CIAC Class LL Tournament. The first game of his Cardinals varsity career saw him complete 10 of 12 passes for 181 yards and throw for three touchdown passes in a road victory against Westhill last September.
Greenwich qualified for the Class LL Tournament by defeating visiting Staples in overtime, 34-28, last Thanksgiving. In that back-and-forth matchup with a postseason spot on the line, Wilson passed for 224 yards and one touchdown and also ran for two touchdowns. The Cardinals won the game when Thomas Foster, a 2022 graduate, reached the end zone on a 10-yard run in overtime.
“My favorite game was definitely the Staples game,” Wilson said. “It was electric, the crowd was crazy, it went into overtime. When Thomas Foster ran that ball in that was definitely the best feeling.”
Greenwich’s 2021 season came to an end with a tough 21-14 loss to Fairfield Prep in the Class LL Tournament quarterfinals. The Cards held a 14-7 lead and were threatening to score another touchdown when Wilson was injured after taking a hard hit to his helmet with 8:24 remaining in the third quarter. On the play in which he was injured, Wilson scrambled for yards, then sliding to the artificial turf, the Jesuits were flagged for a 15-yard personal foul penalty – a play that forced Wilson to leave the game.
“It was a tough game for me, but it was a good atmosphere, a good experience,” Wilson said. “That’s going to help us going into this year. We have a lot of guys returning and a lot of experience. You put us in a big game again and we’re going to be more comfortable.”
Said Morello: “Obviously, things didn’t end the way anybody had hoped last season. His (Wilson’s) health was at the forefront after the quarterfinal game. But he recovered from that and he’s been a leader as a captain of this team for six months.”
Wilson will serve as one of the Cardinals’ captains, along with fellow rising seniors Dominic DeLuca, Jake Kiernan and Matthew Trimmer.
“He’s done an amazing job of leading and not just his teammates – from a leadership standpoint – the other quarterbacks,” Morello said of Wilson. “He’s taken ownership of the position. He has a great relationship with the wideouts and he works beyond what we ask of him.”
Morello is impressed with the skills Wilson has consistently improved on, which could allow him to excel as Greenwich’s quarterback.
“He’s seeing the field really well,” Morello said of Wilson. “He’s recognizing the coverages, he’s recognizing what the defense is trying to take away. It’s night and day from last season. Last year, he had no sophomore season, he only played freshman football. He was seeing varsity football for the first time. It was trial by fire not only for him, but for a lot of guys last year.”
Greenwich has depth at quarterback, with juniors Rocco Grillo and Kaine Rama competing for the backup role, along with sophomore Michael D’Angelo.
“Rocco Grillo and Kaine Rama, they are both competing for the No. 2 spot,” Morello said. “They have both been at every meeting, they listen to Jack and are ready at a moment’s notice. Michael D’Angelo also quarterbacked the freshman team. It’s all about next man up for every position, so having somebody ready to go for any kind of reason is important.”
Like last year, Greenwich enters the upcoming season with a talented group of receivers and tight ends.
“It’s definitely going to be another strength of our team,” Wilson said. “I’m spending a lot of time with the guys. I’m familiar with everybody and I just feel like we know what we want to achieve. I know what they’re doing and they know what I want to do. Our running game is also going to be a strength. Being able to complement that with our passing game is going to be super important.”