Fall sports

Dominating on both sides of the ball, Greenwich football team upends Hamden in Class LL Tournament quarterfinals, 47-7, semifinal-round up next for Cardinals

Photo courtesy of Maggie Ybarra: Members of the Greenwich High School football team gather for the playing of the National Anthem prior to Greenwich’s game against Hamden in the CIAC Class LL Tournament quarterfinals at Cardinal Stadium on November, 29, 2022, in Greenwich. The Cardinals won, 47-7.

Making big plays on the ground and in the air, Greenwich had a game Tuesday night, where its offense seemed unstoppable – a scenario it has enjoyed in most of its games this season.

Hamden became the latest team that was unable to prevent the Cardinals from reaching the end zone frequently, as coach Anthony Morello’s team lit the scoreboard for more than 40 points for the fifth time this fall.

Senior quarterback Jack Wilson threw four touchdown passes, seniors George Vomvolakis and Jack Konigsberg combined for 172 rushing yards and three touchdowns and Greenwich’s defense slowed down Hamden’s offense on its way to recording a resounding 47-7 win in the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament at Cardinal Stadium.

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: Greenwich’s defensive line gets ready for Hamden’s offense’s next play during the quarterfinal-round of the CIAC Class LL Tournament at Cardinal Stadium on November 29, 2022, in Greenwich.

The second-seeded Cardinals (9-2) advanced to Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. Class LL Tournament semifinals, where they will host sixth-seeded Glastonbury (9-2). In one of the other quarterfinal-round games tonight, Glastonbury posted a 17-7 victory against third-seeded West Haven.

Greenwich held a 13-7 lead on Hamden after the first quarter, entered halftime with a 27-7 advantage, then steadily added on to its lead during the second half. Wilson needed to complete only eight passes to pass for 187 yards and four touchdowns, Vomvolakis rushed for 91 yards, Konigsberg ran for 81 yards and senior wide receiver James Wailgum had three receptions for 86 yards and two touchdowns to power the Cardinals’ offense.

“We knew Hamden had a good defense and we knew they had a lot of success in the past weeks,” said Vomvolakis, who averaged 8.3 yards per carry against the Green Dragons (8-3). “As an offensive unit, we stuck to our plan, we stuck to what we have done all season. We ran the ball well, we passed the ball well.”

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: George Vomvolakis carries the ball for Greenwich during its game against Hamden in the Class LL quarterfinals at Cardinal Stadium on November 29, 2022. Greenwich advanced to the state semifinals with a 47-7 win.

The Cards entered the game off a dramatic 39-38 loss to FCIAC rival Staples on Thanksgiving Day in a game held in Westport. The defeat marked Greenwich’s second one-point loss of the season. They were edged by Southington, 29-28, early in the season. Top-seeded Southington was eliminated from the Class LL Tournament with a 34-25 loss to No. 8 Trumbull in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

After their tough loss to Staples in the regular season finale, the Cardinals knew they had to quickly regroup and prepare themselves physically and mentally for the most important portion of the season – the CIAC Class LL state tournament.

“I told them we’re 0-0 right now and the goal is to go 3-0 and to go one at a time,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “They really stepped up tonight. I challenged them to play four quarters and win four quarters of football. To be able to string together four great quarters of football tonight – I really thought it was our most complete game of the season and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”

Rushing for 193 yards and passing for 187, Greenwich featured a balanced offensive attack against the visiting Green Dragons.

“From top to bottom, we played a fantastic game,” said Wailgum, who entered the matchup with 51 receptions for 759 yards. “The offense is a run game and a pass game that works together nicely and our offense showed up today.”

“Jack (Wilson) played phenomenal, our running backs George and Jack also played phenomenal, our offensive line played phenomenal, and our receivers came out to play,” Wailgum continued. “We had a lackluster week against Staples and we knew we had to play today and we did what we had to do.”

Photo courtesy of Maggie Ybarra: Greenwich’s defensive unit huddles up during its matchup against Hamden.

The Cardinals quickly set the tone in their state quarterfinal matchup against the Green Dragons, scoring in six plays on the game’s opening possession. Wilson’s 37-yard pass to senior wide receiver Charlie Dixon put the ball on Hamden’s 26-yard line. The next play, the speedy Vomvolakis dashed to the end zone, giving the Cards a 7-0 lead at the 10:26 mark of the first quarter.

Hamden (8-3) reached Greenwich’s 23-yard line on its opening possession, behind a 56-yard run by junior quarterback Jerard Gibson. But Cardinals senior linebacker/defensive back Matthew Trimmer recovered a Hamden fumble on a low snap the ensuing play, stopping the visitors’ drive.

Strong runs by Konigsberg (81 yards rushing) and Vomvolakis helped Greenwich move the ball into the red zone. Wilson then threw a 16-yard scoring strike to Wailgum, putting GHS on top, 13-0, with 4:46 left in the first quarter.

Greenwich QB Jack Wilson connects with James Wailgum for a TD. Click arrow to watch.

“That loss (to Staples) was definitely a wake-up call for us,” the 6-foot-4 Wilson said. “It definitely woke us up a little bit. That was one more reminder that we have to be on our game every week.”

Hamden’s best moments of the game came when it cut Greenwich’s lead to 13-7 with a touchdown late in the first quarter. Junior running back Shawn Mills broke free for a 30-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the first quarter. It was all Cardinals from there though, as they scored 14 unanswered second-quarter points.

Wilson connected with Wailgum for a 27-yard completion, then Dixon caught an 11-yard pass for a TD, making it 20-7, 1:04 into the second quarter.

“Our running game is strong, we are a 50/50 team with the run and pass,” Dixon said. “Jack had an incredible game. He was throwing dimes all over the place and once he got hot we knew weren’t going to be stopped.”

Jack Wilson throws a TD pass to Charlie Dixon vs. Hamden. Click to watch.

Said Morello: “Hamden tried to stop the run. They had a seven-man box and they played press man and this is where you trust in the guys that you have. Jack Wilson, Charlie Dixon, Dom DeLuca, James Wailgum all have a great relationship. They work on route concepts all week long and they’ve been doing it for four years. Jack trusts these guys that when he throws it up there, they’re going to come down with it. We won our 1-on-1 matchups today and I’m really pleased. Our offensive line – they gave Jack time to run the ball and both of our running backs ran the ball well today.

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: Greenwich receiver James Wailgum caught two touchdown passes against Hamden.

Late in the quarter, Dixon intercepted a Gibson pass and returned it all the way to the Green Dragons’ 2-yard line. Kongisberg took it from there, bulling his way into the end zone from 2-yards out. Sergot Boone’s successful PAT, increased Greenwich’s advantage to 27-7 with 3:37 remaining in the second quarter.

On Greenwich’s first possession of the third quarter, Wilson went long again, throwing a 44-yard touchdown pass to Wailgum, who got behind the secondary, for the score, making it 33-7 with 9:46 to go in the third quarter.

Hamden’s Gibson completed a 50-yard pass on the ensuing possession, then an 18-yard run by Mills gave the Green Dragons a first down at Greenwich’s 1-yard line. Hamden didn’t score though, as senior linebacker John Insinga made a key stop on a running play, along with junior defensive lineman Griffin Galletta. Then on fourth-and-goal, junior defensive back/linebacker Sebastian Parra intercepted a Gibson pass, halting the Green Dragons’ drive.

“We knew they were going to run the ball most of the time and we just prepared,” Parra said. “We knew they had a lot of plays and we came out here and defended the run as hard as we could. I’m really excited about this win, but it’s time to go prepare and be ready for the next game.”

Greenwich’s Sebastian Parra intercepts a pass against Hamden. Click to watch.

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: Greenwich’s Jack Konigsberg takes a handoff from quarterback Jack Wilson against Hamden.

Greenwich drove 95 yards in seven plays for its next touchdown, a score that put them in command, 40-7. Vomvolakis ran for 34 yards, Konigsberg escaped Hamden’s defense for an 18-yard run and junior Gavyn Gennarelli had a 25-yard reception during the long drive, which was capped by senior tight end Dominic DeLuca’s impressive 19-yard catch for a touchdown at the 3:54 mark of the third quarter.

Wilson had a good amount of time to throw thanks to the protection provided by senior Jake Kiernan, senior Drew Falla, sophomore Peter Vomvolakis, senior Teddy Flinn and senior Vincent Insinga. The Cardinals’ strong offensive linemen also created space for Vomvolakis and Konigsberg to navigate through.

Dominic DeLuca scores on a TD reception for Greenwich vs. Hamden.
Photo by Maggie Ybarra: Greenwich’s Brandon Auguste returns a punt while being pursued by Hamden’s Michael Mautte.

Dixon, also a defensive back, intercepted a pass, while senior Matthew Trimmer alertly pounced on a fumble, stopping another Hamden drive.

“Our defense was outstanding,” Morello said. “Hamden is a really good football team and they’ve scored a lot of points on teams, so to be able to hold them to seven points is a testament to coach Hocter (defensive coordinator) and what they’ve done this week in practice.”

The Cardinals were eliminated from the state tournament in 2021 in the quarterfinals, so getting past this round was a significant hurdle to overcome.

“This time last year we were going home this time, so we are not satisfied with anything but a state championship this year,” Dixon said.

“Everyone played great, all four quarters of the game,” Vomvolakis noted. “I still remember the emotion of the seniors last year when we lost in the quarterfinals, so it feels great to come out and win.

Photo by Maggie Ybarra: Greenwich’s Matthew Trimmer gets ready to face Hamden’s offense.

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