Greenwich football team holds annual Red & White game

New Greenwich High School football coach John Marinelli talks to members of his staff during Friday's Spring Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium. Bob Luckey photo

New Greenwich High School football coach John Marinelli talks to members of his staff during Friday’s Spring Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium. Bob Luckey photo

Spring football couldn’t have come soon enough for Greenwich first-year coach John Marinelli and his players.

Marinelli and the Cardinals were eager to get the spring season going so they could get to know each other and begin implementing the new systems the team will utilize on both sides of the ball. The Cardinals’ new coach saw a lot of positive signs during Friday’s Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium and of course, certain areas the squad needs to tighten up.

“We have a lot of work to do,” Marinelli said. “It was a very good spring from a getting-to-know-you perspective. It gave the players a chance to understand our philosophy and get an idea of where we are coming from. We will focus on cutting down on our mental mistakes, so we can hit the ground running in August.”

Scenes from the Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium. Bob Luckey photo.

Scenes from the Red & White game at Cardinal Stadium. Bob Luckey photo.

Over the summer, the Cardinals will follow an organized weight training schedule and concentrate on its conditioning in preparation for the upcoming season.

During the Red & White game, Nic Smoller, Frank Alfano,  Matt Sircelli and Cole Hartley took most of the snaps at quarterback for Greenwich. The 6-foot-5 Smoller, who will be a senior in the fall, got the start for the White team, while Alfano (a junior in the fall) started for the red squad. Alfano was effective as a starter last season, when Matt Marzulla went down with an injury.

Smoller threw a touchdown pass to wide receiver Henry Saleeby on the white team’s third possession, then connected with receiver Anthony Ferraro (a junior in the fall) on the conversion pass, making it 8-0 early in the game. Smoller’s 35-yard scoring strike to the speedy Ferraro gave the White team a 14-0 lead.

Defensive back Bailey Ballone provided one of the game’s highlights intercepting a pass and dashing 80 yards to the end zone, giving the White squad a 20-6 second-quarter advantage.

“We have some really good receivers, defensive backs and linebackers,” Marinelli said. “Our team is energetic and excited, the future looks bright.”

In the second half, Alfano, who also played for the White team, threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to sure-handed wide receiver Joey Lanni. Lanni, who will be a senior in the fall, caught a 75-yard touchdown pass in one-handed style on a play that saw Alfano throw a lateral to Connor Langan. Langan then passed the ball down field to an open Lanni.

Hartley threw a touchdown pass for the Red team, hitting receiver Joseph Santillo in the second half. As for the running game, Kevin Iobbi (junior in the fall) got a bunch of carries early on for the white squad, while Elijah King was featured a bit for the red team. Smoller displayed his strong arm throughout, while Alfano showed the mobility that made him a threat last season.

Defensively, the line gained penetration on numerous occasions, making it difficult to run the ball. Lanni also had an interception – he picked off several passes last season.

Ian Bannon, Kevin Woodring, Scooter Harrington and Luke Bienstock, all of whom will be seniors in the fall, are the Cards’ captains. Harrington is slated to line up at tight end/defensive end, Bienstock is a powerful running back and Bannon and Woodring anchor the offensive line.

“Ian Bannon and Kevin Woodring have really taken ownership of these guys,” Marinelli said. “They are great role models and they do so much for the team. They really stand out in the trenches. All of our captains are great leaders.”

Under Marinelli as an offensive coordinator, New Canaan was one of the highest-scoring teams in the state for several years. His offensive system is sophisticated and takes time to learn, so the players will use the summer months studying up and getting used to it on their own, before training camp commences in late August.

“We have kids who can play the quarterback position,” Marinelli said. “We’ll see how they develop and who is learning it. We have a high-paced, no huddle offense and we want to get in as many plays as we can. Our goal is to average around 85 plays per game, which is very doable. New Canaan used to have the fastest offense in the state, now Greenwich does.”

Here’s Greenwich’s 2015 schedule: September 18, Trinity Catholic, away, 4 p.m.; Sept. 26, Darien, home, 4 p.m.; Oct. 2, Bridgeport Central, away, 6 p.m.; Oct. 16, Trumbull, away, 7 p.m.; Oct. 24, New Canaan, home, 3 p.m.; Oct. 30, Fairfield Ludlowe, away, 7 p.m.; Nov. 6, Norwalk, home, 7 p.m.; Nov. 13, Ridgefield, home, 7 p.m.; Nov. 26, Staples, away, 10 a.m.

Here’s the story that ran in Greenwich Time on the Red & White game:

Dave Fierro