Greenwich High football puts on clinic for the ‘Crazies’

There’s no place like home.

Playing in front of the “Cardinal Crazies” for the first time this season, the Greenwich High School football team made easy work out of Trumbull High School Friday night at Cardinal Stadium.

Scoring 21 points in the opening quarter and adding another touchdown on the first play of the second, Big Red used its high-powered running game and stellar defense to come away with the 62-31 victory over the Golden Eagles.

“We knew that we could score,” said Greenwich High School head coach Rich Albonizio. “I was only disappointed with the third quarter. We had our guard down, they got the onside kick and started running the ball. When you score 42 points in a half against Trumbull, that’s saying something.”

The Cardinals were led by Jose Melo at quarterback, who finished with 205 yards on the evening and two touchdowns. Alex McMurray was Big Red’s leading rusher, netting 143 yards and four touchdowns on 15 carries. Mark Bernstein also made his presence felt, netting eight receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown.

“This feels really great right now,” Bernstein said. “Putting up 62 points of offense is great. Defensively we have to work on a few things because 31 is too many, but offensively we were feeling really good today. We came out today really pumped up and it’s been two weeks since we’ve been able to finally get out here and play on our home field. The crowd was huge for us and it’s good to have that.”

Both Joe Kelly and Vincent Ferraro were Melo’s main targets in the air, as Ferraro scored on a 24-yard reception and Kelly crossed the end zone on a six-yard pass.

“We have a lot weapons,” said Albonizio. “We can throw the ball, we can run and with Jose [Melo], he reads the option well. You can’t fall asleep on him. I also thought our screen game looked good. We missed some wide open throws, but [Jose] still looked really good out there.”

Not to be outdone was the GHS defense, as Big Red forced eight sacks on the evening.

Even Greenwich’s special teams got into the act during the second quarter. With THS backed up deep in their zone, they were forced to punt. Dan Claroni busted through the middle, got a hand up and blocked the ball. With the pigskin bouncing in the end zone, Taylor Olmstead scooped up the ball for the touchdown.

“I noticed in the first punt that the punter had the tendency of coming up before he snapped the ball,” Claroni said. “So I kind of jumped the snap, got in there and blocked it. Luckily one of my teammates picked it up and got a touchdown. A play like that is a momentum changer. I’m sure everyone was pumped and we came out harder after that. I know special teams is a big deal.”

While waiting a month to play the first home game of the season might have been a little overwhelming, Albonizio said that a few things were done leading up to the Trumbull game that kept his team focused.

“They did some things this year with school spirit and having this white out for the game,” Albonizio said. “The crowd support was fantastic. We gave the seniors a second set of red jerseys and they gave it to their favorite teacher. They had a lot of things going on today. The kids knew a lot of their friends were coming to the game. They were fired up. I was more worried than they were.”

“We were all so pumped for our first home game,” Claroni said. “We heard were going to get a lot of fans and we were so excited. It was a crazy game. Our first half was amazing because we played with so much intensity and so hard. In the second half I think we underestimated them coming out.”

With the fired-up crowd ready to explode, Big Red didn’t let them down. After the GHS defense forced the Golden Eagles to go three-and-out on their first possession, Greenwich got the ball on the Trumbull 37. On the first play, McMurray took the handoff, darted to the GHS sideline, cut to the middle and ended up sprinting down the far side of the field for the 37-yard score.

Although Trumbull regained possession on its 21-yard line, the GHS defensive duo of Jack Harrington and Alex McGee sacked the THS quarterback on their first play and their drive never got off the ground. Big Red got the ball back and seven plays later were back in the end zone, as McMurray ran the one-yarder up the middle for the 14-0 lead with 5:10 to play in the opening quarter.

After Claroni had a monster sack on third down that forced Trumbull to punt on its next possession, he wasn’t finished, as he blocked the punt on the next play. Olmstead’s recovery gave Greenwich a 21-0 lead.

On Greenwich’s next possession, it was the same result, as three big plays led to another touchdown. On the first play of the six-play drive, Melo stepped back and launched a 38-yard completion to Vincent Ferraro down the THS sideline. On a fourth down and seven, Melo threw a 14-yard completion to Shawn Dunster. A play later, Melo continued the air assault and found Joe Kelly in the middle of the field for the easy 15-yard touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.

Claroni was back at it again during Trumbull’s next possession, as he found the loose ball on a fumble and helped Big Red regain possession on the Greenwich 40. On the first play from scrimmage, Melo threw a screen to Bernstein, who sprinted down the middle of the field and cut to the right for a 47-yard completion. McMurray, who ran 12 yards on the next play, found the end zone on a 1-yard run to give Greenwich the 35-0 lead.

“It’s nice with Alex and Jose on the field,” Albonizio said. “We don’t have to take Jose out to go into the wildcat because he is a receiver. When Liam (O’Neil) is in, we have to take him out because Jose is the wideout and so is Alex. With those two in all the time, you don’t know when we’re going to run the wildcat.”

Although Trumbull finally found the end zone midway through the second quarter, as quarterback Nick Roberts hit Daniel Paolino for the score, it was Greenwich that closed out the quarter on a touchdown. With 1:22 to play, Melo threw a perfectly placed ball to Ferraro in the end zone for the 17-yard touchdown.

Although Greenwich was up big, it was Trumbull that came out of the gates swinging in the third quarter, outscoring Big Red 18-0.

Andrew Marino scampered for the one-yard touchdown with 8:38 to play in the third and Mike Williams caught the 13-yard pass from Roberts midway through the quarter. Ryan Pearson got into the act with a one-yard touchdown run. And just like that, Greenwich’s cushion was slowly starting to disappear.

“We came out a little flat at halftime,” Bernstein said. “We can’t keep doing that and against a better team, we could be in a lot of trouble. We don’t want them to make a run.”

Whatever thoughts the Gold Eagles had of mounting a comeback were ended on the second play of the fourth quarter. Greenwich’s McMurray took the handout and ran down the GHS sideline 43 yards for the back-breaking touchdown with 11:31 to play in the game.

Bernstein and Tommy Rappa each added another touchdown in the fourth quarter.

“Overall it was a nice win, but we shouldn’t have given up 31 points,” Albonizio said. “When you put your subs in against Trumbull’s firsts, that’s tough to stop. I did think that our second group did really good on offense.

With the victory, Greenwich improved to 3-0 on the season and will play Fairfield Ludlowe High School tomorrow night at 7.

“We are going to have another hard week of practice and work on our mistakes,” Claroni said. “Giving up 31 points is a lot to give up and we can’t have that happen again. We are going to work on our defense and minimizing our mistakes.”


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