A 21-point first-quarter lead before a huge Homecoming Day crowd with the momentum seemingly in its favor – indeed, the scenario was set for Greenwich High School’s football team to win its third straight game to start the season and enjoy its special day.
However, visiting Southington had much different plans.
Not phased by facing a daunting 21-point deficit, the Blue Knights worked their way back into the game with key plays on both sides of the ball and went into halftime behind by just seven points.
Then in the fourth quarter, Southington took charge scoring 15 unanswered points to overtake Greenwich, 29-28, before a big crowd at Cardinal Stadium.
Trailing 28-21, Southington cut the Cardinals’ lead to 28-27 when junior wide receiver Evan Anderson lined up in the wildcat and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver John Flynn with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter. An extra point would have obviously, tied the score, yet Southington coach Mike Drury elected to go for two and the lead.
And his strategy paid off.
Anderson took the handoff on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt and bolted into the end zone, giving the Blue Knights a 29-28 edge.
Greenwich (2-1), which entered the game ranked No. 1 in the latest GameTimeCT Top-10 Poll, took possession after Southington’s go-ahead touchdown with a chance to regain the lead. An 11-yard pass from senior quarterback Jack Wilson to senior tight end Dominic DeLuca gave the Cardinals a first down at the Blue Knights’ 39-yard line, but the home team couldn’t gain another first down. Southington stopped Greenwich on a 4th-down-and-2 running play, then got the ball and ran out the clock.
The Blue Knights, ranked No. 6 in the latest GameTimeCT Top-10 Poll, improved their record to 3-0 with the hard-fought come-from-behind victory. Southington plays in the CCC, which also received a win from Maloney over Darien on Friday night.
Greenwich held a 21-0 lead following the first quarter, was ahead 21-14 at halftime, then took a 28-14 advantage into the fourth quarter.
“We just have to be tougher, we have to come back stronger,” said DeLuca, one of the Cards’ captains. “Obviously, this one hurts, our first home game here. To lose in that fashion – it hurts. So, we have to take this to heart and come back to practice on Tuesday ready to work.”
The Cardinals scored 21 points the first 11:13 of this matchup against their unfamiliar foe, but only managed to put seven points on the scoreboard thereafter, much to their frustration.
“I think we have one of the best offenses in the state here, but it was just lack of execution,” Greenwich senior offensive lineman/captain Jake Kiernan said. “We weren’t taking care of our assignments individually and weren’t playing together as a team.”
The game couldn’t have had a better start to it for Greenwich, which came back from a 21-point deficit to beat Ridgefield a week ago, 49-42. On the matchup’s first possession, Wilson dropped back to pass and threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver James Wailgum, who got behind Southington’s secondary. Senior Sergot Boone kicked the extra point and the Cardinals took a 7-0 advantage with 9:07 left in the opening quarter.
“We were firing, we came out hot,” said Wilson, also a team captain, who had success passing to Wailgum, senior Charlie Dixon and DeLuca.
After Greenwich forced Southington to go three-and-out behind a key tackle by junior linebacker Sebastian Parra, it scored on its next possession to seize a 14-0 lead. A big run by junior George Vomvolakis set the ball up on the Southington 4-yard line. The next play, Wilson connected with Dixon for a 4-yard touchdown, giving GHS a two-score lead at the 5:57 mark of the first quarter.
Trailing 14-0, Southington’s next drive stalled at its own 41-yard line, as DeLuca and sophomore Peter Vomvolakis combined to sack DiBenedetto. Greenwich got the ball at its own 43-yard line on the ensuing possession and again scored, this time, on a 3-yard run up the middle by senior Jack Konigsberg.
Protected well by offensive linemen Peter Vomvolakis, Kiernan, Teddy Flinn, Vincent Insinga and Drew Falla, Wilson a pair of passes for first downs to Dixon, which keyed the scoring drive that gave the Cardinals a 21-0 lead with 47 seconds to go in the first quarter.
“In that first half, I think we were firing on all cylinders,” Kiernan said. “We just lost focus in the second half and let them get the momentum.”
The Blue Knights began their comeback with a defensive play in the second quarter. Senior defensive back Nick Bertola intercepted a pass, giving the visitors the ball at the Greenwich 21-yard line. Two plays later, senior Lincoln Cardillo ran it into the end zone from six yards out, cutting Greenwich’s advantage to 21-7 with 9:05 remaining in the second quarter.
Southington found success with its passing game, as DiBenedetto connected with several receivers in clutch situations. One occasion came in the second quarter, when the Blue Knights’ signal caller threw a 54-yard scoring strike to Anderson. The score brought Southington to with 21-14 late in the second half and gave it the momentum heading into halftime.
Meanwhile, Greenwich was shut out in the second quarter, enabling Southington to make it a one-score game.
“I think what happened was we just started playing to not lose,” Wilson said. “We kind of felt that they were coming back a little bit and we kind of took our foot off the gas and we were playing to not lose and that’s something you can’t do against a good team.”
The Blue Knights’ long, time-consuming drive to start the third quarter stalled at the GHS 40-yard line due to penalties and strong defensive plays from Parra and junior linebacker John Insinga. Greenwich went three-and-out on the ensuing possession, but quickly got the ball back, when senior Anthony Pedicano recovered a fumbled punt by Southington, giving his squad the ball at the Blue Knights’ 21-yard line.
Two plays later, DeLuca caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Wilson in the right corner of the end zone and Greenwich seemed to regain the momentum, thanks to a 28-14 lead with five minutes to go in the third quarter.
Southington’s spirited comeback began early in the final quarter. DiBenedetto’s 38-yard completion to senior Kameron Beaudoin put the ball at the Greenwich 4-yard line. The next play, Cardillo ran it into the end zone from four yards out, making it 28-21 with 8:13 still to play.
The visitors reached the GHS 20-yard line on its next drive, but a sack by junior defensive end Griffin Galletta pushed them back to the 29. Dixon intercepted a pass in the end zone on the next play, halting Southington’s drive.
The Cards’ however, couldn’t sustain a drive on their next possession, giving the Blue Knights another opportunity to mark for another score. Southington had the ball the majority of the second half, running more than twice as many plays as Greenwich.
“We just got outplayed, we made way too many mistakes,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “You can’t make that many mistakes and expect to win a football game. We turned the ball over, had tons of missed assignments on defense. Repeated mistakes are happening on special teams and we’re seeing the same mistakes happen after correcting them in practice.”
“The kids are disappointed, obviously, losing in front of a home crowd,” Morello continued. “It’s Week 3 and it’s one loss. We got outplayed by a better team today and hopefully, down the road, we’ll see them again.”
Matthew Trimmer, a senior captain/linebacker, returned to action after missing the first two games with an injury. He was active on defense for the Cards.
“It was amazing, obviously, a great environment,” Trimmer said. “You have to love the Cardinal Crazies, our fans. We had some state championship classes coming back, so it was a good environment. It’s always one of the worst feelings when you don’t win at your home stadium.”
Greenwich knows it must sharpen up some aspects moving forward. The Cardinals host FCIAC foe Westhill next Saturday at 1 p.m., then have a bye the following week. They will host St. Joseph on Oct. 14.
“Southington is a good team,” Trimmer said. “We had this little cushion in the first half, they snuck back in and we got too comfortable. We just have to be mentally better. We have a big game this week back in the stadium and we are going to use these two weeks to get better and come out a better team.”
“It wasn’t like we don’t know we can play football with them, we just have to learn how to put teams away,” Morello said. “Our defense was on the field the whole second half. You can’t ask your defense to save you from that many series in a row.”
Said Wilson: “From here on out, this is fuel for sure. Anything can happen, so we just have to come out and leave no doubt each game.”
Categories: Fall sports, Greenwich High
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