It isn’t often that a team finds itself in a must-win situation on opening day.
“We needed a win to get into FCIACs and states, which is our ultimate goal,” Greenwich’s Taylor Olmstead said on Monday, just under 72 hours after the Cardinals had gone on the road for a critical 20-7 win against Ridgefield.
With just a nine-game schedule — Greenwich did not pick up a non-league opponent for its bye week — and few opportunities for bonus points — a loss would have been a difficult obstacle to overcome in the quest to return to the FCIAC championship game and earn a state playoff berth.
This is the second year in a row the Cardinals’ defense stymied Ridgefield in week one.
“Ridgefield is a great team and played us tough last year,” Olmstead said of Greenwich’s 16-3 win. “We knew we had to fire on all cylinders against them.”
Olmstead had a key interception of Ridgefield quarterback Connor Rowe in the end zone in the third quarter, but there were plenty of heroes on this day. With Greenwich quarterback Liam O’Neil sidelined with an injury for the second straight year, Jose Melo stepped up and completed 11 of 18 passes for 246 yards. He had a 70-yard touchdown pass to Joe Kelly.
“It was very bad what happened to (O’Neil),” Olmstead said. “I feel bad for him. I’m glad we had Jose and Alex (McMurray to step in). McMurray scored on a 3-yard run.
It was a disheartening repeat for a Ridgefield team that came into the season with high hopes, which can still be realized.
And Greenwich could be looking at a repeat of a year ago, playing for the FCIAC title and needing a win to earn a state tournament berth. It was denied both by Staples last November.
“It’s a great way to start off the season against a good team,” Olmstead said. “Now we just have to take it game by game and look to move forward.”
A Trey for Trey
Junior running Trey Forney only carried the ball 20 times for Brien McMahon last season.
“We did have some seniors in front of him,” explained Senators coach A.J. Albano. “But obviously we knew he was going to be a good player.”
Forney had his coming out party on Friday night. He scored on a 98-yard run on the first play from scrimmage, took the second-half kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown and, in the final minute, took a screen pass 79 yards for the winning score as the Senators rallied to beat Fairfield Warde, 33-28.
“He’s got good speed, good awareness and he’s a big-play player,” Albano said. “No one knew about him. We told him now he has an X on his back. He’s a weapon starting to come into his own.”
On the winning play, Albano told Forney to get as many yards as he could and then get out of bounds. Instead, he cut back across the field and could not be chased down.
Albano said Forney is going to be the perfect complement to Kyle Jordan, who scored twice against Warde.
“You can’t focus on just one,” Albano said. “We have thunder and lightning.”
Game of the Week
Norwalk (1-0) at Stamford (1-0), Friday, 6 p.m. The Black Knights will cap off an emotional week by retiring the number of Marcus Dixon, the former star who died in a tragic accident last week. Both teams opened with wins. This is the first of three straight games against Stamford schools for the Bears before having to go back to back against New Canaan and Ridgefield. Stamford has Ridgefield and St. Joseph on deck. This game could set the direction for one team’s season.
The Fab 5
1. STAPLES. The Twitter-sphere was abuzz as news spread that the Wreckers were tied with St. Joseph, 14-14, late in the third quarter. Then came five touchdowns in just under 16 minutes, as Staples displayed the explosiveness many expect to result in twin titles this fall.
2. GREENWICH. While many thought the absence of O’Neil would tilt the odds in Ridgefield’s favor, the Cardinals used it as a motivator to prove they indeed remain a major player.
3. DARIEN. The Blue Wave scored on their first four possessions and dominated a team they were supposed to dominate.
4. NEW CANAAN. The most impressive part of the Rams’ win over Bassick? Ten different players caught passes. And three of the team’s best receivers were sidelined with injuries.
5. RIDGEFIELD. Another dejecting opener for a Ridgefield team that felt confident it could navigate the road to the FCIAC final. On the bright side, the Tigers right now look like a favorite in their final nine games and can easily get back to the state playoffs. And, with a few breaks before, who knows.