Greenwich, Staples on a collision course

It looks like the FCIAC football championship will be at stake once again when rivals Greenwich and Staples meet on Thanksgiving morning at Cardinal Stadium.

Trinity Catholic’s heartbreaking 26-20 loss to Darien, coupled by Greenwich’s convincing 49-14 victory against host Brien McMahon Saturday set the Cardinals up to play for the FCIAC title for the second straight season.

While Trinity Catholic fell to 7-1, Greenwich improved to 7-0, as did defending FCIAC champion Staples, which routed Fairfield Warde, 49-20, on Saturday. The Cardinals must defeat Danbury at home on Thursday and Staples has to beat Westhill next week to play for the league championship on Thanksgiving.

Though the Cardinals were worried about winning their own game against McMahon on Saturday, they couldn’t help but ask for an occasional update on how the Trinity-Darien game, which also began at 1 p.m. Saturday, was going.

The Blue Wave topped Trinity with seven seconds remaining, as Nick Lombardo caught a 35-yard touchdown pass. Greenwich knows it has to take care of business Thursday against Danbury to take a step closer toward reaching one of its season-long goals.

“This game against Danbury is our Senior Night, so we are going to be coming out 100 percent,” Cardinals senior tight end/defensive end Joe Kelly said. “We are looking forward to playing for the FCIAC title.”

“Trinity losing to Darien makes our game against Staples on Thanksgiving even bigger than it already was,” Cardinals senior linebacker/running back Mark Bernstein said.

Using all of their weapons, the Cardinals continued to score points at a frenetic pace Saturday against McMahon. Senior Liam O’Neil completed 16 of 20 passes for 261 yards and four touchdowns, senior Alex McMurray ran for a pair of scores and Bernstein gained 86 yards and ran for a TD for the victors.

“Once again, we spread it around offensively,” O’Neil said. “It’s hard to stop us when we spread it out like that on offense across the board.”

Kelly, a tough matchup for anyone, had five receptions for 113 yards and three touchdowns, senior wide receiver Vincent Ferraro caught three passes for 59 yards, senior receiver Taylor Olmstead had three receptions for 50 yards and a TD and Jose Melo caught three passes for 18 yards for GHS, which has averaged 48 points per game this season.

“Our kids have a lot of confidence in our passing attack,” Greenwich coach Rich Albonizio said.

Speedy sophomore cornerback Austin Longi set the tone from the start, intercepting a pass from McMahon quarterback Matt Downey and returning it to the Senators’ 4-yard line on the game’s first possession. It was all Cardinals from there.

“I try to do as much as I can to help the team as a sophomore,” said Longi, who has also sparked the Cards in the return game.

The offensive line kept O’Neil upright in the pocket throughout the game. Senior Bob Decker, who usually starts at center, played tackle, as junior Vinny Murphy shifted to center. The move was made when senior lineman Nick Spano tweaked his ankle.

“All of our guys on the line played well,” O’Neil. “I would do anything for those guys, they’re such a great group.”

Senior defensive lineman Alex McGee had registered two sacks and was consistently in the Senators’ backfield, while the Cardinals’ secondary, featuring Longi, Olmstead, Sam Latto, Shawn Dunster and Mike Longo provided strong coverage.

Greenwich, which made last year’s Thanksgiving game against Staples a championship bout by defeating Danbury up at Danbury, will no doubt, hope to achieve the same results against the Hatters this year.

Dave Fierro