Pasquali’s six touchdowns pace Greenwich in rout of Danbury, 49-14

Greenwich High's Ryan Pasquali plows through the Danbury defense for some extra yardage during Friday night's game at Cardinal Stadium. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High’s Ryan Pasquali plows through the Danbury defense for some extra yardage during Friday night’s game at Cardinal Stadium. — Avery Belicka photo

Greenwich High School’s Ryan Pasquali was a man on a mission Friday night at Cardinal Stadium.

Competing under the lights for the last time as a member of the Cardinals, the GHS senior ran for six touchdowns, five in the first half alone, and helped Big Red blast a tough Danbury High School team 49-14.

“It was fun out there, but it was a team effort,” Pasquali said. “The O-Line created huge holes and really made it easy for me to get those touchdowns. The defense was playing well and giving us the ball back, so it was really a team effort. It was cool. My focus was just winning the game and hoping for that state championship. We know we have to win out.”

In a must-win game for both teams, it was Greenwich that came out on fire, as Pasquali scored all five touchdowns for Big Red in the first half, en route to a 35-14 halftime lead. An Austin Longi touchdown and Pasquali’s sixth time in the end zone helped the Cards grab the 35-point victory.

“We played a great team,” Greenwich High School head coach Rich Albonizio said. “Other than that kick return they had for a touchdown, our defense played a great game and our offense was strong. Our running game dominated. Getting seven wins after being 0-3 feels really good right now. It’s pretty significant for us.”

Big Red got the ball rolling  with its special teams and defense. After forcing the Hatters to go three-and-out on its first possession, Greenwich’s Peter Agro, who netted the game-clinching sack last week against Westhill, charged past the Danbur offensive line and blocked the punt.

With the drive starting on the Danbury 10, Pasquali took the first play seven yards and the next play three more for the touchdown and 7-0 lead with 9:40 left in the first.

Despite grabbing the momentum, the Hatters came right back. On the ensuing kickoff, senior Tysheen McCrea gained possession of the ball at the Danbury 20, dodged a few GHS defenders and sprinted down the field for the 80-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and 7-7 tie.

Once again, Greenwich’s special teams helped set the team up for success. Danbury attempted the fake punt, but the Cards covered nicely to force the turnover on downs.

With the ball on the Danbury 45, Longi took the first play from scrimmage 14 yards down the right side. Five plays later, Pasquali busted up the middle for the 10-yard touchdown and 14-7 lead.

This time it was the Danbury offense that battled back. Off an Eric Henry 57-yard run down the GHS sideline, he took the next handoff and ran the rest of the eight yards for the touchdown and 14-14 tie with 3:32 to play.

That was the last points that the Hatters scored. Longi once again helped Big Red get the ball rolling on its next drive, as he ran four of the first five plays from scrimmage for a combined 39 yards. After a nine-yard run, Pasquali got the ball with 10:17 to play in the half and ran four yards for the touchdown.

“We have a good system going,” Pasquali said. “Austin runs the ball on the outside and frees up the inside for us. Again, the O-line was creating huge holes to make things easy.”

With the offense rolling, Greenwich’s defense stepped up on Danbury’s next drive, as both Taulant Bici picked up the 10-yard sack and Griffin Tiedy forced a one-yard loss on a third down completion.

The Cards got the ball back and again it was the duo of Pasquali and Longi that helped GHS net the 28-14 lead. With the ball on the Greenwich 39 to start the drive, Longi took the first play from scrimmage 15 yards, followed by a 26-yard run on the next play. After Pasquali grabbed four yards and busted through for a 12-yard gain, he got the handoff once more and ran seven yards for the touchdown with 7:05 left in the half.

“It was like a flashback from last year,” said Longi, who netted seven touchdowns last year against the Hatters. “Ryan got six this year and it was great. It’s awesome. I’m happy for him. He was beating it up and the O-line was killing it all day. It was a great team victory. We had a great week of practice and it really showed.”

Rounding on the scoring on the half, after carrying 18 yards to get the ball at the Danbury 5, Pasquali took it the rest of the way on the next play for the 35-14 lead with 3:30 showing on the clock.

“He stinks,” joked Albonizio. “Seriously though, he’s really good. He is very fast and really tough. I’m really glad that he is on our team because he makes things really tough for the other teams we play.”

With the victory, Greenwich improves to 7-3 on the season and sets up an important match-up with rival Staples High School on Thanksgiving Day.

“We have Staples and that’s going to be a huge game,” Longi said. “If we win, hopefully we will be States. This win really brought us together and it shows that we do have a shot at States. That’s going to boost our team for Staples. No matter what their record is, it’s still Staples. It’s always going to be a great game.”

For Albonizio, just getting seven wins after the slow start has been music to his ears.

“This feels good because going 0-3, all the injuries we had, losing Devin (McGrath) at the beginning of the year, losing Matt to injury, the suspensions and all the other crap that happened, this team stuck together and played really tough,” Albonizio said. “It’s really gratifying and it’s fun to watch. We will take Monday off and get back to work on Tuesday.”

Greenwich’s victory over Danbury meant Big Red would pick up a bunch of power points in class LL. If the Cards upend Staples on Turkey Day, and get some help along the way from several other two-loss teams, a playoff spot might still be in the cards.

We want to get our eighth win and whatever happens, happens,” Albonizio said. “We beat a seven-win team and that will give us a lot of points. That’s all that we can ask for at this point.”

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