Marinellis keep New Canaan-Greenwich football about the kids

John Marinelli took the reins of the Greenwich High School football program back in 2015, and almost immediately the Cardinals’ yearly showdown against the New Canaan Rams, who are coached by his father Lou, was dubbed the “Marinelli Bowl.”

If that name ever completely fades away, neither father nor son would miss it. The game is, after all, about the players.

Greenwich QB Gavin Muir in action during the Cardinals’ win over Trinity Catholic in week two. — Dave Stewart photo

“It’s always about the game and the kids who play it,” Lou Marinelli said. “Who cares what I feel like or Johnny feels like? It’s about the kids.”

The Rams and Cardinals will square off in a major showdown at 4 p.m., Saturday, in Greenwich, and the game will be carried live by the HAN Network. FCIAC Tailgate starts the day at 2:30 p.m., with kickoff set for 4.

The game can be seen at han.network, and simulcast live on Frontier Communications’ Vantage Sports Network (Chs. 600/1600).

There’s plenty on the line, as New Canaan is 3-1 and working its way back up the ladder since a season-opening loss, while the Cards are still perfect at 3-0.

“This will be a big game for them and us, and hopefully, it’ll be a big crowd,” Lou said. “Ultimately, it’s about high school football and having those kids enjoy a fun game.”

“I think my dad and I did a really good job of trying to keep the spotlight on the kids every year,” John said. “I’m going against my dad, I know that, but when we’re on the field, I never really felt like I was going against my dad once the game actually started.”

Lou pointed out that win or lose, the game has a bittersweet feeling for him.

“From a personal side, I do find this one of the hardest things I have to do,” Lou said. “I want him to be successful, but I want our kids to be successful, too. There’s just no win in it for me, no matter what happens.

“There’s no way he can know what I feel, because he doesn’t have a son. As a parent, it’s tough.”

New Canaan has won six straight games against Greenwich, including last year’s 40-16 decision at Dunning Field, but the Cardinals have looked pretty impressive so far, winning their first three games by a combined score of 167-23. They topped Trumbull 70-16 in their opener, and followed up with wins over Trinity 49-7, and Norwalk 48-0.

“I’ve watched them since the passing league in the winter and it seems like every week they get better and better,” Lou said. “They started the season really well, and they keep improving, and like any undefeated team, they don’t know that they can lose. So, we’re going to have our hands full.”

“We’re still trying to find ourselves and I know that’s tough to say,” John said. “We haven’t played four quarters yet and I thought some of the teams we’ve played would challenge us a little more. But credit our kids — they came out and took advantage of almost every opportunity they’ve had to make plays.”

Greenwich has a relatively young roster, with a pair of offensive standouts from the junior class in quarterback Gavin Muir (6-foot-2, 207 pounds) and running back Tysen Comizio (5-11, 188).

Muir is 47-for-70 passing for 662 yards and nine touchdowns with just two interceptions, while Comizio had rushed 31 times for 284 yards — a 9.2 average — with six TDs, and nine receptions for 155 yards and two more TDs.

The wide receiver corps features a pair of seniors leading the way. Jael Negron (6-4, 192) has 13 catches for 234 yards and five TDs, and Henry Saleeby (6-2, 192) has eight catches for 137 yards.

The Cardinals have just three seniors starting on a defense which has allowed an average of just 7.6 points per game. Junior OLB Mozie Bici (6-2, 189) leads the team in sacks with five, tackles with 32, and tackles for a loss with nine.

Other standouts include junior LB Jack Feda (6-2, 189) and junior DE Emilo Camou (6-0, 187).

New Canaan, which opened the year with a 38-35 loss to St. Joseph, has been back on track the last few games, beating Danbury 42-7, Trumbull 61-14, and Westhill 49-7. Even so, their head coach said there’s still a lot of work to be done.

“It’s a work in progress, but we’re further along towards where we want to be than we were in week one,” Lou said. “We’re finding out more about our team as we go forward. Some younger kids are starting to step up; when you get injuries, we have other kids who we can look to; and we have a lot of kids to work with.”

Sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne has picked up steam, completing 61-of-96 passes for 920 yards and 12 TDs with four interceptions. He has also rushed for three touchdowns.

His favorite targets have been junior Quintin O’Connell, who has 20 receptions for 296 yards and seven TDs, and senior Justin Greco, who has 10 receptions for 194 yards and three TDs; while senior Owen Shin leads the ground attack with 41 carries for 304 yards and two TDs.

On defense, junior OLB Garrett Braden is having a standout season with a team-best seven sacks and eight tackles for a loss, to go along with 27 tackles.

Senior LB Grant Morse leads the team in tackles with 42 and has three sacks and five tackles for a loss, while senior Seamus O’Hora has 27 tackles, two sacks, and five tackles for a loss.

Of the challenge of facing a traditional power like New Canaan, John Marinelli said his players are looking forward to it.

“I just hope we don’t come out scared, tentative or tense,” he said. “I hope they just play loose and play the way they’re capable of playing. At the end of the day, you want to play the best and New Canaan and Darien are the best. New Canaan is next on our schedule, so we’ll see how we measure up to the class of the state and the league.”

As for the Rams, Lou Marinelli was asked about his team’s progression so far this fall.

“Are we where we want to be?,” he said. “It’ll tell you on Saturday.”

New Canaan QB Drew Pyne looks for a target during the Rams’ win over Westhill on Sept. 28 at Stamford’s Boyle Stadium. — Dave Stewart photo

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