Greenwich High football picking up where they left off

The Greenwich High School football team will kick off its season tomorrow night when they travel to Ken Strong Stadium for a game against West Haven High School. — John Ferris Robben photo

The Greenwich High School football team will kick off its season tomorrow night when they travel to Ken Strong Stadium for a game against West Haven High School. — John Ferris Robben photo

After ending last season on a highly positive note, the Greenwich High School football team is looking to build off that momentum and pick up right where they left off.

“I see a lot of potential,” Albonizio said. “Our goal is to win every game and go into states. We want to win FCIACs. We are going to be playing a lot of tough teams, but it’s going to be tough for those teams on our schedule. Our first three games are going to be extremely hard and we need to come out of there with three wins.”

Last season, Big Red started the season 1-2 in its first three games. However from that point on, Greenwich was a team on a mission. Quarterback Matt Marzulla got his first start against Trinity Catholic and Big Red didn’t look back.

Big Red head coach Rich Albonizio talks to his team during a practice last week at Cardinal Stadium. — John Ferris Robben photo

Big Red head coach Rich Albonizio talks to his team during a practice last week at Cardinal Stadium. — John Ferris Robben photo

Marzulla and standout running back Austin Longi, along with graduating players Jack Wynne, Jose Melo, Justin Gaccione and others, helped the team win seven of its remaining eight games in commanding fashion, including a 27-7 victory over Staples on Turkey Day.

With Marzulla and Longi back this year, and a slew of talented athletes on both sides of the ball, there are once again high hopes for Greenwich High School.

“I think our team is electric this year,” Marzulla said. “We can do anything. Austin can do anything. We can give it to him in the backfield or throw him a dink and dunk here or there. We have Scooter that does an amazing job and an offensive line that is really strong. Ryan Pasquali and a couple of other wideouts make this a dangerous team.”

Longi also likes the way Big Red looks this preseason and is eager for the season to finally kick off.

“It’s great to lead this team,” Longi said. “We have a really good team. Having all these guys around makes things pretty fun and easy. We are all working hard and everybody is eager to learn and get better.”

In addition to seniors Marzulla and Longi, fellow seniors Jack Weigold and Justin Montier are the team’s captains.

For Weigold, finding out he was one of the captains of this year’s team was a moment that he won’t forget any time soon.

“I’m so proud to lead this team, but I know that it comes with a lot of responsibility,” Weigold said. “We have a tradition here that I want to continue. We are capable of doing a lot of great things this year and I think we can go all the way this year.”

“They are excellent captains and are all good players,” Albonizio said. “So far their leadership has been very good. Without a doubt they have the respect of the players.”

Without a doubt, the biggest piece of the offensive puzzle for Greenwich is in the backfield, as Longi will be returning for his senior season. The Fordham-bound Longi had a season to remember last year, running for 1,598 yards and had 25 rushing touchdowns. Catching the pigskin, Longi finished just shy of 350 yards and added three more touchdowns.

Greenwich High’s Austin Longi shows off his footwork as he stays inbounds during the Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High’s Austin Longi shows off his footwork as he stays inbounds during the Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium. — John Ferris Robben photo

“Austin is a very unique football player,” Albonizio said. “He’s one-of-a-kind and I am really glad that he’s with us. On defense we moved him to free safety from corner, so hopefully that will translate to some interceptions. Offensively he’s in a league by himself. He can catch and run and is great to watch.”

Playing the quarterback position for Greenwich will be Matt Marzulla. Last season, Marzulla took over the starting quarterback job from Jose Melo for the final eight games of the season.

“It feels great to be a leader on this team,” Marzulla said. “I want to play really hard for my teammates and it’s more about the team than it is about me this year. Last year was really important for me because I was able to get my feet wet and see what it’s like to play at such a high level. I think my athleticism is going to help us. I can run the ball and throw the ball. I’m a good leader and hard worker and that always helps a lot.”

During those eight games, Marzulla threw for 754 yards and added five touchdowns. More determined and with almost an entire football season under his belt, big things are expected for the senior captain.

“He has the experience in our system and played in eight games for us last year and did very well,” Albonizio said. “We are expecting a lot from him. He’s a good runner and an excellent passer, so we expect him to do both.”

Lining up near Longi at tailback will be senior Ryan Pasquali. In the receiving core, Big Red will be paced by junior Scooter Harrington at tight end.

“I bring a spark to the team, but I obviously can’t do it without the linemen and the quarterback handing me the ball,” Longi said. “I try to do as much as I possibly can to get a victory. We are a very versatile team and have a lot of returning defenders on that side of the ball. We have a lot of returning players, so if we work as a unit, we could definitely be a special team.”

Harrington said Scooter has been looked at by Division I schools such as Boston College, University of Virginia, University of Connecticut and Yale University. On the other side of the ball, Pasquali is a very quick and physical running back.

“It gives the team a lot of confidence knowing that Matt, Austin, Scooter and Ryan are there,” Albonizio said. “It’s going to be really hard for a team to stop all of aspects of our team. Scooter is progressing really well. He has the grades, has the size and he’s only a junior. We are expecting big things from him. Ryan is not really big, but he’s a strong kid that has a lot of athletic ability.”

In addition to Harrington, Walker Manning, Anthony Ferraro and Anthony Busani will pitch in with some big receptions for the Cardinals.

“We have a good mixture on offense,” Albonizio said. “We can run and throw. I think we will be really balanced. We have the guys that can make the plays catching and have playmakers running the ball. Matt should have a bunch of options at quarterback.”

“We are going to have a very quick offense, like jet sweeps and stuff like that,” Marzulla said. “It’s going to be a fast, spread offense with a couple of power running plays in there. It should be very fun with all the motions and quick screens as well.”

Helping out Montier, a guard, on the offensive line will be tackle Kevin Woodring and fellow guard Ian Bannon, a junior.

“I think we are going to have a really talented team,” Montier said. “It’s great to be a leader of them and it’s a real honor. We have a lot of athletes this year. We are not huge, but if you look at every position, we have kids that are very athletic. We can match up with anybody. I want to mesh up the O-line together. We have a couple of new guys and want to get them ready to learn the plays and get ready. We have talented backs and I want the line to pave the way for them.”

“They are really good and I think they’ll be better as the season continues,” Albonizio said. “It’s extremely important that they are all returning. Two were sophomores last year and now they have that experience of playing on the varsity team. It’s very important to have a really good offensive line.”

At defense, Longi, who finished last year with four interceptions, will make the switch to free safety, while Griffin Tiedy, who finished with a pair of interceptions last year, will play the safety position. Pasquali and Ian Fulton will round out the secondary.

Greenwich’s other safety, senior Devon McGrath, is out with a viral infection. Albonizio said that he hopes McGrath, who will also play wide receiver when healthy, will return in a few weeks.

Weigold will take his senior leadership and play the linebacker position. Last year Weigold finished with 72 tackles on the season.

“The keys to success this year are staying focused and to do what we need to do day in and day out at practice,” Weigold said. “I am trying to help this team as much as I can with my leadership. I try to bring these guys together in a way that we can play as a team. The defense has a lot of new guys, but I see a lot of potential. We have a big line this year and have the potential to come out and match what we had last year.”

Greenwich’s other linebacker, Taulant Bici, has been sidelined with an injury, so Big Red will go with Peter Agro to start the season.

While Albonizio believes that speed and experience are the strengths of the team, he also knows that the Cardinals will be tested this season, especially early on.

On Friday night, Big Red opens the season on the road with a huge contest against SCC opponent West Haven.

“West Haven is a very respected program,” Montier said. “We are obviously very ready for them. Obviously last year we played a crazy game and we probably shouldn’t have won, but we pulled out a couple of plays out of nowhere and got lucky. This year we want to prove that we are definitely the better team.”

A week later Greenwich opens its home portion of the season with a game against Darien High School, a team that is favored to take home the FCIAC championship.

“In my eyes I think we can be the best team in the state,” Marzulla said. “I think we can win both FCIAC and states. The FCIAC is probably the toughest division in the state, but I think we can definitely do it. We have a tough schedule and it’s going to be tough. However, if it wasn’t tough, then it wouldn’t be worth it.”

If Greenwich gets past those two teams, it’s off to Dunning Field for a game against defending FCIAC and class L champs New Canaan.

“We are playing a lot of really good teams this season and nothing will be easy for us,” Albonizio said. “We have to get off to a good start. We have to start off against West Haven and that’s not going to be easy. They are really good. We’ve seen them against Bridgeport Central and they are really talented. They are well-coached and this is Eddie’s (McCarthy) last year, so I’m sure they’ll be fired up.”

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