Fall sports

Greenwich ready to renew its longtime Thanksgiving football rivalry with Staples

Photo by Dylan Goodman: Greenwich High School quarterback Jack Wilson gets ready to pass the ball during a game against Staples on Thanksgiving Day in 2021. The Cardinals will visit Staples on Thanksgiving again in the regular season finale.

Greenwich visits Staples on Thanksgiving tomorrow for a key FCIAC football game with postseason scenarios and implications at stake. Should the Cardinals defeat the host Wreckers in tomorrow’s 10 a.m. Thanksgiving Day matchup in Westport, they will win the FCIAC championship and could earn the No. 1 seed in the CIAC Class LL Tournament, which begins next week. Both teams have clinched a spot in the Class LL Tournament.

Here’s a look at the Greenwich-Staples matchup.

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: From left to right, Ryan Beiley, Anthony Pedicano, Drew Falla, Teddy Flinn, Charlie Dixon, Matthew Trimmer and James Wailgum of Greenwich’s football team raise their helmets during the National Anthem prior to a recent game at Cardinal Stadium. Greenwich plays Staples on Thanksgiving in Westport.

Series history: Greenwich and Staples, which have identical, impressive 8-1 records, have faced each other 16 times straight times on Thanksgiving and have split the meetings, going 8-8. The Wreckers won eight of the first 11 games between these rivals, but the Cardinals are 5-0 the past five seasons. The 2021 season saw the Cardinals post a thrilling 34-28 win over the Wreckers in overtime, with 2022 GHS graduate Thomas Foster scoring the winning touchdown on a 10-yard run in overtime.

“We’ve had a long week to prepare,” GHS senior quarterback Jack Wilson said. “We know the history of this rivalry and we know how close this game can be and we are prepared for a battle and ready to go.”

Said Greenwich coach Anthony Morello: “It has become one of the best rivalries in the FCIAC and we played down to the last minute last year. It was a great game last year and we expect the same on Thursday.”

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: Senior James Wailgum is the Greenwich football team’s leading wide receiver, as he has the most receptions on the team through nine games so far this season.

Prolific passing games: The Cardinals and Wreckers are both averaging more than 40 points per game behind offenses that have flourished in the air and on the ground. Greenwich’s aerial attack is led by senior quarterback Jack Wilson, senior wide receivers James Wailgum and Charlie Dixon and senior tight end Dominic DeLuca.

The 6-foot-4 Wilson has passed for 1,742 yards with 17 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Wailgum (49 receptions, 736 yards, eight touchdowns), senior Charlie Dixon (28 receptions, 499 yards, five touchdowns) and senior tight end Dominic DeLuca (19 receptions, 306 yards, two TDs) have made a number of clutch receptions throughout the season.

“Staples is a very well-rounded team,” Wailgum said. “We know we have to come out and execute and we expect nothing less on Turkey Day. Staples has a solid secondary and they have quite a few interceptions. But I like our game plan going into this week. I think the offense and the run game and pass game is going to work synergistically.”

Staples’ offense is powered by junior quarterback Caleb Smith, who has thrown for 2,496 yards, while tossing 23 touchdowns. Smith’s favorite targets to throw to are senior wide receivers Tyler Clark, who has 69 receptions for 1,096 yards through nine games and James Hillhouse (42 catches, 748 yards, eight touchdowns.

“Staples has a great offense, they are a good FCIAC team, they are 8-1, so we’re gearing up for them,” said Greenwich senior Matthew Trimmer, who is one of the Cardinals’ mainstay defensive players. “We feel like we have a good game plan and we’re excited to see what we can do against them.”

Photo by David Fierro: From left to right, senior captains Jack Wilson, Matthew Trimmer, Dominic DeLuca and Jake Kiernan will be in action on Thanksgiving when Greenwich meets rival Staples in a key late-season FCIAC matchup.

Ground and pound: The Cardinals have a pair of experienced senior running backs in Jack Konigsberg and George Vomvolakis. Konigsberg, who recently announced his commitment to the University of Michigan as a preferred football walk-on, has rushed for 641 yards and 10 touchdowns this season, while averaging 7.4 yards a carry.

Vomvolakis has gained 648 rushing yards with eight touchdowns, while averaging 8 yards per carry. The Cards’ productive rushing duo have excelled running behind an offensive line comprised of senior Jake Kiernan, senior Teddy Flinn, senior Drew Falla, senior Vinny Insinga and sophomore Peter Vomvolakis.

“Their offense is electric, so we have to do everything we can to help our defense and keep them off the field,” said Wilson, who has also been highly effective running the ball, scoring 12 rushing TDs. “They also have a good defense, they do a lot of things well, so we have to be able to come out and execute.”

Besides leading the Wreckers with his passing ability, Smith has paced head coach Adam Behrends’ offense, rushing for 637 yards, while reaching the end zone 14 times.”

“Statiscially, they are at the top of the FCIAC,” Morello said of Staples. “They are averaging over 40 points a game, they can score on anybody and the defense has played well, they held Ridgefield to 11 points their last game. They’re peaking at the right time, so we have to make sure that we have everything buttoned up defensively. Their quarterback can throw with the best of them and he can run with the best of them.”

Photo by Dylan Goodman: Greenwich defeated Staples in overtime in 2021, behind a touchdown run by 2022 GHS graduate Thomas Foster, pictured here taking a handoff from quarterback Jack Wilson in last season’s game against Staples.

Dynamic defenses: Junior Sam Petrosino and senior Will Holleman both have four interceptions for the Wreckers, whose leading tackler is senior Michael Nealon (90 tackles, 11 for lost yardage).

“Defensively, Staples is very physical, their nose guard is really good with his hands and they like to disguise their blitzes and send guys from all over the place,” Morello noted. “Fortunately, we’ve been battle-tested, I think we’ve played some of the best defenses in the state.”

Junior linebacker John Insinga has recorded a team-high 91 tackles, 13 for lost yardage, junior /defensive back Sebastian Parra (62 tackles), junior defensive lineman Griffin Galletta (10.5 sacks), Trimmer, DeLuca (4.5 sacks) and senior Andre Castellanos are among some of the players who have powered Greenwich’s defense.

“John Insinga, he leads the FCIAC and might lead the state in tackles,” Morello noted. “He’s really taken the leadership role that his position needs and then our ends Dominic DeLuca and Griffin Galletta have been outstanding for us. Our whole defense is a passionate group.”

Photo by Dylan Goodman: The Thanksgiving matchup between Greenwich and Staples should be another intense duel.

Pregame comments: “This game means a lot to me personally, I was out with a concussion last year against Staples and was not able to play,” Trimmer said. “So being able to play in this Turkey Bowl game, I’m excited, it’s the first time for me.”

“There are so many people on this team where their uncles, dads, grandparents played Greenwich football on Thanksgiving,” Dixon said. “Staples is a big rival and it means a lot. If we win, we’re the FCIAC champions so that’s a goal of ours too.”

Photo by Dylan Goodman: George Vomvolakis is one of Greenwich’s leading rushers.

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