Greenwich football uses late heroics in win over Norwalk

Greenwich High School starting quarterback Frankie Alfano fires the ball down the field during last night's game at Sam Testa Field. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High School starting quarterback Frankie Alfano fires the ball down the field during last night’s game at Sam Testa Field. — John Ferris Robben photo

In a suspenseful battle at Sam Testa Field in Norwalk, the Greenwich High School football team scored the go-ahead touchdown with 1:31 to play in the game and held on for the 14-7 victory over Norwalk High School earlier today.

“That was a battle,” Greenwich High School head coach Rich Albonizio said. “I am proud of our kids. There were a lot of penalties against both teams, but it’s a tough job to be an official. As long as they are balanced, you can’t really complain too much. We were a little shorthanded tonight and had a lot of sophomores play. They did a great job. I am just proud of the kids.”

With the score tied 7-7 late in the fourth quarter, Greenwich was unable to convert on a fourth down and turned the ball over to the Bears.

On a first down on the Norwalk 28, NHS backup quarterback Andrew Huzina was picked off, as Big Red’s Taulant Bici stepped in front of the receiver.

With the Cardinals on the Norwalk 34-yard line, Greenwich went to its running game, despite standout Austin Longi on the sideline after taking a nasty hit earlier in the game.

After Kevin Lobbi picked up two yards, Luke Bienstock stepped up his game and put the team on his back. On second down, Bienstock darted up the middle and dodged the defensive line for a 16-yard pick up.

“He’s becoming a beast,” Albonizio said. “I don’t know why we couldn’t run the ball earlier. Some times with Austin (Longi) in the game, their plays are different. When we take him out or put him in wideout, their plays change and it opens our running attack. We have success when we do that because they just key on him so much and try to shut him down because he’s so explosive.”

After a six-yard gain, Bienstock got the ball on the Norwalk 10 via a sweep to the left and scampered down the GHS sideline for the 10-yard touchdown run with 1:31 to play.

“We knew coming into this game that we were down a few guys, so we were getting our underclassmen to really step up,” Bienstock said. “It was great to see all that depth that we have on this team. The fourth quarter we were going down the field a bit, but had these stupid turnovers. We just put our head down and were determined to get the ball in the end zone. With the linemen helping out so well, it was great to get in the end zone so late in the game.”

Greenwich High's Anthony Ferraro makes the leaping catch against the Norwalk High School defense during Friday night's game at Norwalk's Sam Testa Field. — John Ferris Robben photo

Greenwich High’s Anthony Ferraro makes the leaping catch against the Norwalk High School defense during Friday night’s game at Norwalk’s Sam Testa Field. — John Ferris Robben photo

Although Big Red was on top, the Bears weren’t going to go down without a fight. Starting out with the ball on the Norwalk 26, Huzina stepped back and found Dakari Eason for 12 yards. After Huzina called his own number for three yards, he found Izaiah Sanders for 15 yards on the next play.

After two straight incomplete passes and a motion penalty on Norwalk, the Bears were facing a third down and 15. Huzina looked for the open receiver that fell incomplete, but a pass interference penalty on Greenwich with 20 seconds to play gave Norwalk the ball on the Greenwich 22.

With the momentum strongly in Norwalk’s favor, the Bears threw a 16-yard completion to Sanders. However a massive holding call on Norwalk moved the ball back to the Greenwich 37 with 13 seconds to play.

With four seconds to play and the ball on the Greenwich 29, Huzina scrambled out of the pocket, rolled to the GHS sideline and threw a dart towards the end zone. But that’s when Joseph Lanni came up with the play of the game by getting in front of the ball and swatting it away with no time on the clock.

“It felt really good,” Lanni said. “Our coaches did a great job on telling us who to key on. At first there were four receivers and only three defensive backs, so we knew we had to stay in between each of them. We knew we had our own quarter and said that we were going to just react to the ball. I was able to get a hand on the ball. Our goal was to keep our offense in the game and if we got them the ball, we knew they would perform. Our defense was able to stay together as a unit and step up.”

While the defense was firing on all cylinders, Frank Alfano paced Greenwich at quarterback. Alfano replaced Matt Marzulla, who was scratched from the game due to a coach’s decision, and made the most of his first start.

Alfano used both his feet and his arm to help move the chains. In the air, Alfano threw for close to 100 yards and was equally effective on the ground, sprinting for runs of 33, 13 and 9 yards.

“It was Frankie’s first start and he’s tough,” Albonizio said. “He’s going to get better and better. He throws a nice ball, runs hard and he’s a great leader. He always takes the blame for everything.”

“It was amazing actually,” Alfano said. “We came out strong, but in the first half we were a little weak with the snaps. Once we handled that we were good. I felt good and it felt nice to come in here and win the game. I had faith in my offensive line to step up in the pocket and hit the ball. Whenever I had to take off because of too much pressure, I knew I could run with the ball.”

Trailing 7-0 in the third quarter, Greenwich got possession of the ball at their 38-yard line with 8:55 to play.

Using a nine-play drive that was helped out by a Norwalk 15-yard facemask penalty and a 21-yard pickup by Longi on a fourth down and seven, Lobbi got the ball on the Norwalk 3 and ran it in for the touchdown with 5:33 to play in the third.

Norwalk’s touchdown came on the first play of the second quarter. Starting quarterback Jeremy Linton was facing a third down and nine on the Bears’ 41-yard line. He stepped back and found Sanders in stride all alone down the NHS sideline for the 59-yard catch and run for the touchdown.

The Sanders’ touchdown capped off the six-play drive that started with 2:19 to play in the first quarter.

With the victory, Greenwich improved to 2-3 on the season and will return home next Saturday when they host Trumbull High School on homecoming.

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