Greenwich football unloads on Warde 36-13 to move above .500

Greenwich High School senior Austin Longi gets the handoff and some blocking by teammate Ryan Pasquali during Friday night's game against Fairfield Warde High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

Greenwich High School senior Austin Longi gets the handoff and some blocking by teammate Ryan Pasquali during Friday night’s game against Fairfield Warde High School. — Paul Silverfarb photo

The Greenwich High School football team is in a groove.

After three straight losses to start the season, the Cardinals have moved above .500 for the first time in 2014, as they took care of Fairfield Warde High School 36-13 earlier tonight.

“This is definitely a huge confidence booster, considering we started off 0-3,” GHS senior quarterback Matt Marzulla said. “If we win four more, we can hopefully sneak into the playoffs and make some noise. I think we are definitely capable of it. I know a lot of teams have two losses, so it should be interesting.”

After taking a week off to nurse an injury, GHS senior Austin Longi returned against the Mustangs and dominated, scoring three touchdowns and gaining 256 yards of offense.

“I had a feeling that he was going to have a game tonight,” Albonizio said.

“He’s versatile,” said Marzulla. “We put him at wide receiver on one play and he was wide open in the end zone. Then we put him in slot and running back. He’s a phenomenal player. We put in a lot of hard work in the offseason throwing, so I am glad that it’s finally playing off.”

After two weeks off due to a coach’s decision, Marzulla returned to action and was solid from the start.

“We had a few kids out that came back,” Greenwich High School head coach Rich Albonizio said. “I thought Matt Marzulla played his best game. He threw the ball exceptionally well. Matt played great. When you’re away from the game for a couple of weeks and finally get back out there, you know how much you missed it.”

In the first half alone, Marzulla completed 11 of his 14 passes and threw for 207 yards.

“It felt great,” Marzulla said. “It was really eating at me the whole entire two weeks to get back on the field with my teammates, but it felt really good to get the win. The team played a phenomenal game all the way around. On the sidelines we felt like a family today. Everything was clicking, so it was great.”

On Greenwich’s first drive, they struck gold. On a 12 play drive that started on the Greenwich 27, a 16-yard completion to Scooter Harrington and 15-yard strike to Ryan Pasquali set up a third down and five at the Warde 25. Marzulla stepped back and fired the ball to Longi, who made a leaping catch in the back of the end zone for the score with 8:04 to play in the first.

After a three-and-out by the Mustangs, Greenwich got the ball back on their 35-yard line. After two short runs by Longi, Marzulla threw to Longi, who was set up as a receiver. On the short completion, Longi used his legs to outrun everybody down the Warde sideline for the 56-yard touchdown reception and 13-0 lead with 6:13 left in the first.

After Warde found the end zone to make the score 13-6, Big Red came charging back. Starting at the Greenwich 5, Longi turned on the jets, as he got the handoff sprinted up the middle, cut to the right and ran 93 yards down the GHS sideline. On the next play, Pasquali ran two yards up the middle for the touchdown and 20-7 lead.

The Mustangs didn’t have the ball long on its next possession, as an interception on their first play of the drive gave Big Red the ball at the Greenwich 35. After a 16-yard reception to Anthony Ferraro, an 11-yard run by Pasquali highlighted the drive, it appeared it would stall, as the Cards had a fourth down and eight at the Fairfield 18.

However Marzulla scrambled out of the pocket and found his favorite target at the 10-yard line. From there, Longi was able to dart to the end zone and complete the 18-yard touchdown.

Big Red got its final points of the half in dramatic fashion. Walker Manning got the drive going with a 21-yard completion. On a fourth down and one with less than 15 seconds to play in the half, Marzulla took his time and aired a ball down the middle of the field. Climbing the ladder to get the ball was Anthony Ferraro at the Warde 4-yard line for the 33-yard completion.

After a spike, GHS kicker Soh Nakayama hit the 21-yard field goal with no time left to give Greenwich a 29-7 lead.

Although the Mustangs weren’t able to find the end zone much in the first half, they were effectively throwing screen passes at Greenwich’s defense for much of their time with the ball.

“We just couldn’t break one or two,” Warde head coach Duncan Dellavoipe said. “It seems like we were running into the defense half the time. I liked our game plan. It was something different that we tried this week. We couldn’t overcome them having everybody back. And of course Longi could make anybody sick. He’s tough and I wish he didn’t come back for us.”

With the victory, Greenwich upped its overall record to 4-3 on the season. After starting out the season with losses to West Haven, Darien and New Canaan high schools, the Cardinals rebounded by upending Trinity Catholic, Norwalk and Trumbull high schools.

“This was a satisfying win for us,” Greenwich High School head coach Rich Albonizio said. “They are capable of giving anybody a very good game. We dug ourselves a big hole. Against New Canaan we had too many kids out and the same thing with Darien. We made a lot of mistakes our first three games, but we hung in there. I am proud of the kids for battling back. They battled through adversity and the last two weeks were tough, but our younger kids played well and kept us above water.”

Big Red will be back in action on Saturday when they host Bridgeport Central High School.

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