Greenwich football comes up big in final seconds to get win over Vikes

The Westhill High School football team gave Greenwich High School all it could handle on a frigid Saturday afternoon in Stamford. However seniors Peter Agro and Austin Longi came up in clutch moments to help the Cardinals hold on to the 22-14 victory.

“They were tough,” Greenwich High head coach Rich Albonizio said. “We had a couple of touchdown opportunities. We dropped one in the end zone and that was a big play. We had another one called back. I’m sure they had their problems too. It was a good, old-fashion Westhill and Greenwich game.”

Big Red netted a touchdown from Ryan Pasquali and two from Austin Longi, one offensively and one pick six.

“The first half we came out slow and made a couple of mistakes, but the second half we came out pretty strong and held them,” GHS senior Jack Weigold said. “It was an unexpected battle to the finish, but we came out on top and did what we needed to do. We got a bunch of sacks and the coaches made a bunch of great calls. I was just doing my part to help the team.”

With Greenwich holding onto the slim 22-14 lead and Westhill charging down the field in the final moments, it was senior Peter Agro that came up clutch for the Cards. With 22.9 seconds to play and the Vikings on the Greenwich 10, Big Red senior safety Agro beat his defender, sprinted towards Westhill quarterback Blake Newcomer and wasn’t going to be denied for the monster sack.

With no timeouts left, Westhill wasn’t able to get to the line and snap the ball, securing the victory for the visiting Cardinals.

The weak side linebacker went off the C-Gap,” Agro said. “I went up to Jack (Weigold) before the play and said that we are going to end the game on this play and we did that. It was a great effort for our defense on that last play and it’s probably one of the memorable plays in my high school career. I’ll never forget that.”

While it’s easy to see how that play could be the defensive play of the game, Longi made a case for himself easier in the game.

With Greenwich holding the slim 8-7. Westhill was on the attack. Newcomer threw a dart to Carl Gedeon down the WHS sideline for 73 yards and it appeared the Vikings were in business. Newcomer went back to throw once more, but this time it landed in the hands of Longi who jumped the play, caught the ball at the Greenwich 7, shook several Westhill defenders and sprinted down the Greenwich sideline for the 93-yard pick six.

“It was a great play,” Longi said. “The quarterback rolled out and I jumped the route. Fortunately enough I brought the ball back. Being a captain on this team, it’s my job to lift the team and make as many plays as possible. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to do that too many times on offense, so I tried to make up for it on defense. I tried to make the most out of every opportunity I have.”

Longi almost didn’t have the chance to even attempt that play, as Albonizio has been trying to use him sparingly on defense ever since his shoulder injury against Norwalk.

“That was a big pick,” Alboinizio said. “He’s not 100% healthy, so it’s hard to keep him in on defense. I don’t want him to tackle people because I don’t want him messing up his shoulder.”

Although the GHS offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders throughout much of the game, Big Red’s defense certainly stepped up to the plate, especially in the second half.

After Westhill’s Newcomer found Frank Marcucio for the 62-yard catch and run touchdown down the Vikings’ sideline with 8:59 to play in the third quarter and cut the deficit to 15-14, Greenwich’s defense was lights out.

With 9:51 to play in the game and Westhill’s offense unable to connect on the big play, the linebackers for Greenwich came up huge. The Vikings went three and out, with Griffin Teidy,Weigold and Jake Herman all recording sacks on the drive.

On Westhill’s next possession, Newcomer was sacked twice more, as Weigold and Bici easily busted through the offensive line.

“I didn’t think our offensive line had a great game,” Albonizio said. “Frankie is only a sophomore. Some days he’s going to play great and other times he won’t. I thought Walker Manning played well on offense. Our defense played well. I thought Taulant (Bici), Peter (Agro) and (Jack) Weigold did a great job. Jake Herman also played great.”

While all those sacks were huge, it was Agro’s sack in the last play of the game that stole the show.

“The coaches made some great calls at the end of the game,” Agro said. “In the second half we really got fired up. Jack, Taulant (Bici) and (Griffin) Tiedy were key, but everybody came together in the second half on defense and played with a full effort into it. It was huge that Austin had that pick six in the beginning of the game. It really turned us around.”

Greenwich scored its first touchdown with 6:15 to play in the first quarter. After Westhill had two monster plays, a 46-yard reception by Quaheem Dufane and the 51-yard touchdown run by Joshua Exantus to make the score 7-0 early in the first, Greenwich fired back.

Highlighted by Longi runs of 14 and 21 yards, as well as a nine-yard keeper by quarterback Frankie Alfano, Big Red had the ball at the Westhill 4. That’s when Pasquali grabbed the handoff and busted up the middle for the touchdown. Longi ran the two-point conversion in and Big Red had the 8-7 lead.

After Longi’s 93-yard interception return for the score, he netted the last offensive score of the game. With 10:26 to play in the contest, Greenwich had the ball in great field position, starting at the Westhill 28. Longi took the first play from scrimmage 18 yards and finished the drive a play later when he cut to the GHS sideline and ran 10 yards for the score with 9:57 to play.

With the win, Greenwich won its sixth straight game and upped its overall record to 6-3 on the season.

“We started out slow at the beginning of the season, going 0-3, but we are trying to win out the rest of the season and make States,” Weigold said. “I am hoping we can sneak our way in.”

The difference with Saturday’s win against the Vikings was that Big Red had to fight for its victory. After beating Norwalk High School 14-7 in another thriller, the Cardinals have steamrolled the competition, beating Trumbull High School 34-15, Fairfield Warde 36-13 and Bridgeport Central last week 35-6.

“It feels a lot like the New Canaan and Darien games, where we were so close to winning, but we lost,” Agro said. “It was nice baing back in a game and actually winning it this time. It’s a great feeling and I’m really proud of the team.”

On Friday night, Big Red will be back in action when they host Danbury High School, the last game of the season before the Thanksgiving game against rival Staples High School.

“We have two tough games left,” Albonizio said. “If we play like we did today, we can’t beat anybody. We have Danbury coming up and you have to be ready to play every week. We need to throw the ball more effectively.

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