John Marinelli takes over Greenwich High football

John Marinelli has had football in his blood all of his life. His dad, Lou Marinelli, had already been the head coach at New Canaan High School for five years when John was born, and John went on to be a Ram captain and quarterback, and eventually, the team’s offensive coordinator.

Now, John Marinelli will be setting off a new path as he’s been hired to be the new head football coach of the Greenwich High School Cardinals.

“It’s amazing,” Marinelli said after the official announcement on Wednesday. “I feel lucky and blessed to just have been a part of the process. To be their guy is humbling. It’s been a hectic day but I’m looking forward to getting started.

“They definitely consider themselves, as (New Canaan) does, a football town. I’m going from one great program and one great community to another. I hope to just be able to fill in, help out where I can, and hopefully represent Greenwich the right way.”

John Marinelli replaces Rich Albonizio, who resigned in January. Albonizio had coached the Cardinals for 18 years, winning five FCIAC titles (2001-02, 2004, 2006-07) and three CIAC Class LL championships.

Marinelli said leaving New Canaan was the “toughest decision ever.”

It took a long time,” Marinelli said. “New Canaan is the place where I grew up on the sidelines and I idolized guys like Chris Silvestri. I played there, I coached there. It’s the family business. When I was born, my dad had already been there for five years. It’s something that is not easy and I don’t think the feeling will ever go away — my love for the community and the town. It holds a special place in my heart.

“For me, personally, I needed to step away and kind of carve out my own path.”

Marinelli met with the Greenwich players on Wednesday at GHS, taking some extra time to talk to the captains.

“It was good,” he said. “I met with the captains and I wanted to let them know who I am, what I’m about and what the expectations are. There’s a ton of support in that town and I’m excited to be a part of their family.”

The hiring of Marinelli will add some extra pop to next fall’s New Canaan-Greenwich clash, scheduled to take place the weekend of October 23-24 at Cardinal Stadium. New Canaan handled Greenwich last fall, 35-20, in the Rams’ homecoming game.

Coaching against his dad will be a strange feeling for Marinelli.

“He’s the smartest guy when it comes to football that I know,” he said. “I’m terrified of that week.”

A 2003 graduate of New Canaan High School, Marinelli has coached at his alma mater for six years and was involve in coaching the quarterbacks even longer.

His father, Lou, has been the head coach at New Canaan since 1981. In 35 years at NCHS, Lou Marinelli has a record of 289-91-6 and his teams have won 10 state championships and five FCIAC championships.

My dad such a great job with his staff and he wants us to go out, he wants us to experience things, and he wants us to get better jobs,” John Marinelli said. “Those are the kind of coaches that you want. You want guys who want to coach in the very best programs and who want to move up in the world because it keeps them hungry and keeps them focused.”

While at NCHS as a player, John Marinelli was part of two state championship teams in 2001 and 2002, was an All-FCIAC selection and, as a senior, earned All-State First Team honors.

After a PG year at Canterbury School, where he helped the Saints earn a bid to the 2004 Prep Bowl, Marinelli went on to play at Fordham University and then Trinity College.

He started three seasons for the Trinity Bantams, who won the 2008 NESCAC championship with a perfect 8-0 record. The Bantams were also NESCAC runners-up twice. Marinelli twice earned All-NESCAC honors at safety and was selected as a starter in the Division III North vs. South All-Star game.

As a coach at NCHS, Marinelli, who took over as offensive coordinator in 2009, has worked closely with a long run of great Ram quarterbacks, with seven earning All-State honors. Those include Curt Casali (2006), Charlie Westfal (2007), Nate Quinn (2008), Turner Baty (2009), Matt Milano (2010-2011), Nick Cascione (2013) and Michael Collins (2014).

In 2013, Marinelli was named the FCIAC Assistant Coach of the Year and, this past fall, New Canaan defensive coordinator Chris Silvestri earned the same honor.

New Canaan has been a mainstay in the state tournament, qualifying for the playoffs in 10 consecutive seasons and winning six championships in the past nine years.

Leaving the NCHS program won’t be easy for Marinelli, and leaving his father makes it that much tougher.

“I’m so grateful to have that man as a father,” John Marinelli said. “He wants everybody to be the best. There are two or three guys on the New Canaan staff right now who could be head coaches and that’s a product of the head coach. I was there for six seasons and we did really well and had fun. I had my hand in a couple of others before that but before I got there, Lou was one of the most successful coaches around. I liked to think that I helped out in my time, but he’s Lou Marinelli. He gives me a lot of the credit, but it’s his program.”

John Marinelli (right) celebrates New Canaan's 21-20 victory over Darien in the 2014 Class L football championship at West Haven with his father, Rams' Head Coach Lou Marinelli. John Marinelli was named head coach at Greenwich High School Wednesday, April 8. (John Kovach Photo)

John Marinelli (right) celebrates New Canaan’s 21-20 victory over Darien in the 2014 Class L football championship at West Haven with his father, Rams’ Head Coach Lou Marinelli. John Marinelli was named head coach at Greenwich High School Wednesday, April 8. (John Kovach Photo)

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