Greenwich High football slams Lions, await Trumbull Eagles

The Greenwich High School head coach was worried about the second week of the football season.

Although Big Red traveled to Bridgeport’s Kennedy Stadium for a game against an improving Bassick High School, the Cardinals came off a hard-fought and emotional opening week victory against Ridgefield High.

Thankfully there wasn’t a letdown against the Lions Friday afternoon, as Greenwich High scored early and often and came away with the 48-2 victory.

“We were feeling really good today,” senior running back Mark Bernstein said. “We were in the locker room all pumped up and the bus ride up here we were all psyched to play. It really showed the way we played.”

Bernstein found the end zone twice and ran for close to 80 yards on the ground, while junior quarterback Jose Melo netted three scores and the GHS defense pitched a shutout in the victory.

“I was more worried about this game than the Ridgefield game,” GHS head coach Rich Albonizio said. “You try and tell people that Bassick is well coached and improved, but they are a good football team and better than what the score indicated today.”

Big Red started the game in grand fashion, finding the end zone on its first possession. Melo called his own number with 8:00 to play in the quarter and ran right for the four-yard score. Bernstein highlighted that drive by taking the handoff at the Greenwich 42-yard-line and busting through the middle 21 yards.

After a Bassick three-and-out, Greenwich got the ball again and an Austin Longi punt return gave GHS possession on the Bassick 11. However, the touchdown was tougher to obtain, as the Bassick defense sacked Melo twice. On a fourth down, Melo stepped back, rolled to the GHS sideline and threw a dart to a wide open Alex McMurray for the 11-yard score with 4:20 to play in the first.

“That’s one of the best Bassick teams I’ve ever seen,” Albonizio said. “They are well coached and played really tough. Last week against New Canaan had trouble throwing the ball against them. They covered really well. New Canaan didn’t run on them either. I thought we came in there and ran the ball well and at times we threw the ball well.”

Although Bassick went three-and-out again and Greenwich once again gained possession of the ball, the Bassick defense stepped up, this time picking off Melo and taking the ball to the Greenwich 17. However, Bassick’s scoring chance was ruined when Big Red’s Taylor Olmstead had a perfectly timed interception.

“I thought we were a little sloppy to begin and made a couple of big mistakes,” Albonizio said. “We should have been up by more at halftime, but we ended up getting the shutout on defense and we put up a lot of points with our offense. We also had a bunch of nice interceptions.”

Midway through the second quarter, Greenwich got back on the scoreboard. After a botched punt attempt by Bassick put the ball on the Bassick 9, Bernstein got the handoff and scored his first of two touchdowns on the day with 8:10 to play in the half.

“I felt really good today,” Bernstein said. “The line did a great job blocking and there were some huge holes that opened up. McMurray and other backs were doing a great job blocking as well. It was easy to run through.”

With 1:06 to play in the half, the Cardinals were in the right place at the right time. After Alex McMurray took the quick pass from Melo for 17 yards to keep the drive alive, Big Red had the ball on the Bassick 41. Melo took the snap, rolled to his right and fired a deep shot towards the end zone. With players from both teams leaping for the ball, the pigskin bounced off the hands of McMurray and Joe Kelly kept his eye on the ball and made the catch for the unlikely touchdown.

Kelly finished the day with three catches for 83 yards.

Bernstein lit the scoreboard with 2:54 to play in the third quarter, as he took the handoff and ran 10 yards for the score to give GHS the 34-0 lead. Kelly scored his second touchdown of the game with 56.2 seconds to play in the third, as he took the reception from Melo 38 yards for the score and 41-0 lead.

Longi scored Greenwich’s final touchdown of the game with 8:31 to play in the fourth. Backup quarterback KJ Whitaker stepped back and unloaded the ball downfield to Longi, who sprinted past the Bassick defense for the 15-yard score.

With the victory, Greenwich improved to 2-0 on the season, while Bassick fell to 0-2 overall. Next week, Big Red will be in quite the unfamiliar territory, as the opponent will be nobody. For the first time in a while, Greenwich has a bye week in the schedule, since the series against New London High School was canceled. The Cardinals will be back in action Oct. 3, when they finally play their first home game of the season against Trumbull High School at 7.

“We are going to have a few days off to heal and recover from a tough two weeks, but we’re going to be coming back out here and prepare for a big game against Trumbull High,” Bernstein said. “We can’t take too many days off and we are going to working hard. We should have a lot of fans for the game, and a lot of kids at the school are already talking about it. We are all getting hyped up for it and can’t wait to take the field at Cardinal Stadium.”

While playing a nine-game schedule makes every victory crucial when it comes to the post-season seedings, Albonizio believes the bye week could be a blessing in disguise.

“That extra week should definitely help some of our athletes like Mike Longo and Liam (O’Neil) recover from injuries,” Albonizio said. “It will also help a lot of us because a bunch of us are sick with some colds. We just wanted to get through this game healthy and have those players heal up.”

After a few days off to rest and recover from a tough two weeks, Greenwich took in some film on Monday, followed by lifting in the weight room on Tuesday. Yesterday started the team’s normal practice routine as they gear up for the Golden Eagles in eight days, with a possible extra day off on Saturday if everything goes well at practice during the week.

“Trumbull is traditionally one of our tougher games,” Albonizio said. “It’s our first home game and it’s a long time coming. It will be really nice to get a home game. We haven’t been home all year, so I’m sure the kids will be excited about playing in front of their fans.”

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