Greenwich football tops Fairfield Prep, 27-6, in Class LL quarters

Just one day before embarking on what it hopes will be a deep state tournament run, the undefeated Greenwich football team moved into the No. 1 spot in the Connecticut polls.

The Cardinals weren’t about to let the accolades distract from the task at hand.

“It’s just a number to us,” senior co-captain Robert Lanni said of being ranked No. 1. “The papers are saying it and now, we’ve just got to come out and prove it every game.”

Quarterback Gavin Muir gets set to throw a pass. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

Greenwich started the state tournament with its 11th consecutive victory, pulling away in the fourth quarter for a 27-6 win over the Fairfield Prep Jesuits in the CIAC Class LL quarterfinals Tuesday night at Greenwich High School.

Gavin Muir passed for 260 yards and threw a pair of deep touchdown passes to Jeremiah Harris to lead the way offensively, but it was a stellar defensive effort which stole the show, as the Cards dominated the line of scrimmage while allowing the Jesuits into the end zone just once.

“Our defense was playing well and our defensive staff did a tremendous job of game-planning for them,” head coach John Marinelli said. “All year long, our defense has been solid. Everyone talks about our offense, but our defense and special teams are our best phases.”

With the win, No. 1 Greenwich (11-0) advanced to the Class LL semifinals for the first time in 10 years. The Cardinals will host No. 4 South Windsor (10-1) in the semis at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3.

“I credit our seniors and our captains for getting us to this point and now, you’ve got a home game in the state semifinals,” Marinelli said. “If you’re a high school senior and you’re playing football, what could be better than having seven home games in a year. It’s awesome.”

The top-seeded Cards wasted little time attacking the Prep defense.

On the game’s first play from scrimmage, Muir hit Stephen Bennett for a 30-yard pass connection to the Greenwich 47-yard line, and on the second play, the junior QB went deep down the middle to Harris for a 53-yard score.

Kicker Zach Moore, who had two field goals and three PATs in the game, booted the extra point.

Two plays, 36 seconds, and a 7-0 lead.

“That was huge,” Lanni said. “We love it when our offense comes out and scores right off the bat. It was great momentum for the offense, the defense and special teams. That really started it off for us tonight.”

Jeremiah Harris gets away from a Prep defender en route to a fourth-quarter touchdown. — Dave Stewart/HAN network photo

It was also a great start for Muir, who was playing with an ankle sprain.

“He played hurt and now he’s got days to go back and get healthy,” Marinelli said. “It’s an ankle sprain so each day it’s going to get better and better. He’ll be closer to 100% on Sunday. There’s a warrior. There’s no way he was not playing today. I tried — I asked him are you sure? He came out here and was an absolute warrior.”

The Jesuits responded to the early deficit as Chris Duffy had a great kickoff return down to the Greenwich 20-yard line. Prep then converted a fourth down to set up a first-and-goal at the nine-yard line.

The Cardinal defense, which featured linemen Tyler Blizzard, Mozi Bici, Nick McIntosh and Kyle Woodring, along with linebackers Lanni and Jack Feda, came through with a goal-line stand.

On fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Greenwich forced a fumble and Blizzard recovered, ending the threat.

Jeremiah Harris (6) and Jael Negron (1) celebrate a touchdown in the fourth quarter. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

“We had the mentality that this is our line right here and they’re not going to cross it,” Lanni said. “It’s the culmination of all of our hard work and preparation for situations like that. We’re a hard-nosed, blue-collar defense. They can’t win if they can’t score, so that’s how we come out and play every game.”

Prep did managed to break through in the second quarter when quarterback Will Lucas broke loose for a 12-yard score with 7:40 to play in the half. The PAT attempt was blocked, so Greenwich remained in front, 7-6.

The Cardinals put three points on the board when Moore kicked a 42-yard field goal, after a roughing the punter penalty on the Jesuits kept the drive alive.

Moore also added a 25-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Cardinals a 13-6 lead at halftime.

The teams traded punts in the third quarter before Greenwich put the game away with two TDs in the fourth.

Tysen Comizio scored on a seven-yard run to make it 20-6 with 8:40 remaining and, after the Cardinal defense stopped Prep on downs, Muir again went deep to Harris for a 43-yard score with 6:12 remaining.

“It was a sloppy first half on offense and then coming out in the second half and dominating the line of scrimmage, I felt, was the key,” Marinelli said. “Once we got them to bite up, we iced the game going up over the top. It was a great job in the second half in all three phases.”

Now, Greenwich will turn its attention to the South Windsor Bobcats and what they will bring to Cardinal Stadium in the semis.

“South Windsor is very athletic,” Marinelli said. “We have seen some film on them, and we have to be ready. It’s a 10-1 team and they’re not practicing all week to make the No.1 team in the state look good. We’ve got get back to work and we’ve got unfinished business that we need to solve.”

Greenwich’s Jael Negron gets away from a Fairfield Prep defender after a catch during Tuesday’s Class LL quartertfinal game at Cardinal Stadium. — Dave Stewart/HAN Network photo

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