When Greenwich promptly drove 68 yards in nine plays for a touchdown on the opening possession of today’s CIAC Class LL Football Tournament semifinal-round game against Glastonbury, it was a sign of exciting things to come for the Cardinals, who are definitely soaring at the right time of the season.
After registering 47 points in a 40-point win against Hamden in the Class LL quarterfinals, second-seeded Greenwich once again, scored early and often, while playing swarming defense – a combination that overwhelmed another unfamiliar playoff opponent.
Senior quarterback Jack Wilson passed for 173 yards with three touchdown passes and added a scoring run, while senior wide receiver James Wailgum had two TD receptions for second-seeded Greenwich in its dominant 42-0 victory over sixth-seeded Glastonbury in the Class LL semifinals at crowded Cardinal Stadium.
The 10-2 Cardinals advanced to the Class LL Tournament finals, where they will play fifth-seeded Fairfield Prep (9-3) on Saturday at a site yet to be determined. Fairfield Prep, which defeated Greenwich in last season’s Class LL quarterfinals, moved on to the title game by eliminating eighth-seeded Trumbull, 42-19, in today’s other semifinal matchup.
Today’s state semifinal against Glastonbury marked Greenwich’s last game of the 2022 season at Cardinal Stadium and it put on quite a performance before its home crowd.
“It definitely feels good to make a statement here and leave our mark,” said the strong-armed Wilson, one of the Cards’ captains. “That was our goal today to walk out and be proud of what we did on the field and I think we accomplished that.”
The Cardinals, who upended Hamden, 47-7, in the tournament’s quarterfinal-round, put today’s game away early, jumping out to a 14-0 first-quarter lead, before entering halftime with a commanding 28-0 advantage. Greenwich (10-2) has outscored its first two foes in the state tournament, 89-7.
“Coach said in our huddle, we’re peaking at the right time now,” Wilson said. “The offense is firing, the defense is firing, so we have to keep that up, have a good week of practice and do the same thing next week.”
As it’s accomplished most of the season, Greenwich’s offensive unit displayed impressive balance, gaining 173 passing yards, while churning out 145 yards on the ground. Junior running back George Vomvolakis gained 75 yards on 18 carries to pace the ground game, while senior wide receiver James Wailgum totaled six receptions for 101 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals’ aerial attack.
Wailgum knows the seniors on the squad have enjoyed a special connection through their high school football careers.
“Ever since we were little, a lot of us played here (Cardinal Stadium) in elementary school, so it’s going to be sad to depart this field, but our goal was to be playing in the state championship,” said Wailgum, who has a team-high 61 receptions for 956 yards and 12 touchdowns. “As freshmen, we went undefeated and we’re a close knit group of guys. We did the burning of the shoes ceremony two weeks ago before the last home game. It really brought us together and we have grown together as a team. We’re one unit, one family and I think that’s what’s getting us through the playoffs.”
Greenwich held Glastonbury (9-3) to 141 total yards of offense, while gaining 318.
“The defense has played great for most of the year,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said. “We’ve had some lapses and we’ve had some games where we’ve been exploited in some areas. But it’s all about the mentality and the never give up mentality and continuing to work and take coaching. The defense has played lights out in the playoffs to this point.”
Glastonbury’s offense has been powered all season by running back Jack Petrone. A senior, Petrone entered the game close to 2,000 rushing yards for the season. With senior Jake Kiernan, Dominic DeLuca, junior Griffin Galletta and senior Andres Castellanos helping to anchor the defensive line and senior John Insinga, junior Sebastian Parra and senior Matthew Trimmer playing strong in the middle of the defense at linebacker, the Cardinals made it tough for the Guardians’ ground game to do damage. Glastonbury was limited to 83 rushing yards on 29 carries.
“They have a great running back, he was coming up on 2,000 yards,” said Trimmer, one of the squad’s captains. “They were saying he’s the best back in the state and he certainly is a great running back, so it was good to shut down their running game.”
Greenwich quickly drove 68 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead on the Guardians, setting the tone early. Wilson completed passes of 24 and 13 yards to Wailgum and connected with DeLuca, who also plays tight end, for 15 yards, putting the ball at Glastonbury’s 1-yard line. As he’s done numerous times this fall, Wilson scored from a yard out on quarterback sneak, using blocks from senior center Teddy Flinn, Kiernan and senior Drew Falla to bull his way into the end zone. Senior Sergot Boone kicked the first of his six extra points, giving Greenwich a 7-0 lead with 8:43 remaining in the opening quarter.
The Cardinals’ defense set up the squad’s next score. Insinga intercepted Glastonbury senior quarterback Jack Anglim and returned it to the Guardians’ 31-yard line. After completing a 20-yard pass to junior wide receiver Gavyn Gennarelli, Wilson threw a 5-yard scoring strike to Wailgum, who was open in the middle of the end zone, making it 14-0 at the 2:40 mark of the first quarter.
While Greenwich slowed down Glastonbury’s running game, it also limited Anglim to 63 yards passing.
“We knew they were 75, 70 percent run so we knew we had to shut that down and we did a good job of that,” John Insinga said. “When they passed, we had to get our drops and get into our coverages and we executed perfectly.”
Morello and the Cardinals are accustomed to seeing Insinga register numerous tackles each game.
“John Insinga has been amazing this year,” Morello said. “He’s leading the state in tackles right now and it’s for a good reason. He’s a great player.”
Behind Vomvolakis and senior Jack Konigsberg, the home team padded their lead in the second quarter. The Cardinals’ powerful rushing duo combined for 28 yards during their team’s 31-yard scoring drive late in the second quarter, which was set up by a fumble recovery by junior defensive back Wyatt Gibson at the Guardians’ 31-yard line.
Konigsberg capped the short drive by breaking a pair of tackles on his way to a 7-yard touchdown run, putting the Cardinals ahead, 21-0, with 2:27 left in the second quarter.
The Cards capitalized on another short field, following a solid punt return by junior Brandon Auguste and a 15-yard facemask penalty by Glastonbury. Taking over at the Guardians’ 24-yard line, Greenwich scored again, as Wilson hit Gennarelli with a 12-yard completion in the left corner of the end zone, putting Glastonbury in a 28-0 halftime hole.
“The offense, we’re taking what they give us,” Morello said. “Jack is playing amazing, he’s throwing the ball really well, he’s working in tandem with his receivers. The offensive line has been solid all year. I thought they played excellent up front and we were able to handle their front. We are going to continue to try to have a balanced attack in the run game and the passing game and try to keep defenses off balance as much as possible.”
Anglim was intercepted twice – with John Insinga and junior defensive back Nick Aravides picking off his passes for the Cards, who put the Guardians in passing mode once they fell behind.
“Stopping the run, that was definitely a point of emphasis the entire week,” said Kiernan, a captain, who made his presence felt at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. “We knew they were a run heavy team and we thought that was our bread and butter, stopping the run on defense.”
Wailgum made a nifty, juggling catch for a 19-yard touchdown at the 7:43 mark of the third quarter and junior Ian Kim scored on a 3-yard run to cap the scoring late in the fourth quarter.
“This my first shutout as a Greenwich Cardinal,” said DeLuca, a captain, who also plays defensive end. “We’re peaking at the right time defensively, the boys are stepping up and we are ready. We’re playing really hot right now and we’re going to carry it over.”
“It’s really special for me, my brother and my dad both won state championships, so to carry on the legacy and go and play for one, it’s a great feeling and I couldn’t be happier,” DeLuca said of reaching the championship matchup.
Greenwich’s offensive line – Flinn, Kiernan, Peter Vomvolakis, Vincent Insinga and Drew Falla – again protected Wilson well and opened up holes for the running backs.
“We played great, we are a great unit and we have come together,” Vincent Insinga said of the squad’s offensive line. “Since last January, we put all the work in and it has paid off. I’ve said this before, we are one of the most tight groups on the team. We know we can trust each other without even second guessing.”
Konigsberg had 32 yards rushing, while senior Charlie Dixon had 25 receiving yards for the victors. Like Greenwich, Fairfield Prep is peaking. The Jesuits started the season 1-3, but have won eight straight, including two postseason victories. Greenwich’s losses came by one point against Southington and Staples, both of which have been eliminated from the Class LL Tournament,
“We’ve been grinding all season, we’ve had our ups and downs,” Trimmer said. “To lose on Homecoming and lose on Thanksgiving, those are two big games, but we’re making up for them now. We’re still dancing late in December and we have to take care of business on Saturday against a good team.”
“I don’t want to say good bye to these seniors and these players and they don’t want to say good bye either,” Morello noted. “We have one more week together and I’m absolutely thrilled to be playing one more week and going to the championship.”