WEST HAVEN — It was quite clear that Tysen Comizio was the star of tonight’s game at Ken Strong Stadium. The Greenwich running back rushed for 253 yards on 30 carries and scored four touchdowns in a 48-20 victory over Xavier.
But even Comizio had to give a shoutout to his teammate, defensive end Tyler Blizzard, who blocked two punts in the third quarter when the game was still close to help the undefeated Cardinals avoid the upset and clinch a Class LL playoff berth.
“Tyler came up big for us,” Comizio said. “Those blocked punts were the turning point in the game.”
That wasn’t just a kid being humble and giving a teammate some love. It was a fact. Greenwich and Xavier were tied at 13 midway through the third quarter when Blizzard’s partially blocked punt set the Cardinals up at the Xavier 27. On the next play quarterback Gavin Muir ran 27 yards for the go-ahead score.
And on Xavier’s next possession the Falcons were forced to punt from their 32. This time Blizzard got all of it and the Cards recovered on the Xavier 5. Two plays later it was Comizio busting in from two yards out for a 27-13 lead.
A collective sigh of relief could almost be heard from the Greenwich sideline.
“We are a team that makes big plays,” Blizzard said. “My blocked punts tonight just so happened to be the ones that kick-started our engine.
Greenwich (9-0), the No. 2 team in the state behind Darien, scored 35 points in a 12-minute span after Blizzard’s first blocked punt. Considering that Greenwich came in averaging 48.5 points per game, the second-half explosion wasn’t a huge surprise. And for coach John Marinelli, the way it started wasn’t much of a shocker either.
“Hey Tyler, did you block any (punts) in practice this week,” Marinelli yelled to Blizzard after the game.
“All of them,” Blizzard answered.
So nobody, at least on the Greenwich side, was surprised.
“Yes, I saw that coming,” Marinelli said. “Tyler and the other kids work so hard at it all week. Honestly, special teams is probably our best phase of the game.”
Xavier (4-6) was staying with the heavily favored Cards for the first 2½ quarters. Greenwich took a 13-0 lead when Spencer Hartley raced 11 yards for a score three minutes in and Comizio rumbled 37 yards with seven minutes remaining in the half.
But the Falcons, led by Penn-State-bound quarterback Will Levis, rallied. First Levis hit Danny Taylor from 11 yards out with 3:50 remaining in the half, and then the same duo connected on a 59-yard strike four minutes into the third quarter to tie the game at 13.
“We were not worried at the point,” Comizio said. “We love adversity. Our heads are screwed on right.”
At that point Blizzard did his specialty twice and Cardinals could then rely on Comizio the rest of the way. Comizio had 168 yards and three scores in the second half, when the Falcons were expecting him to get the ball as the Cards managed the clock.
After the touchdowns by Muir and Comizio gave Greenwich a 27-13 lead, Xavier came back on another bomb from Levis to Taylor, this time from 58 yards, to make it a 27-20 game.
While Levis threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns, the Greenwich defense deserved a little credit holding the talented senior to just a 41 percent completion rate (17 for 41). Levis was just 5 for 18 in the second half.
Taylor, meanwhile, caught five balls for 162 yards and three scores. Aside from that, however, the Falcons could only muster six yards rushing on 24 attempts.
Compare that to Comizio.
“If you saw what he does in February and March in the weight room you’d understand why he is doing what he did tonight,” Marinelli said. “He is so dedicated. I love to see him be successful like this after working that hard.”
Comizio’s two-yard run made it 34-20 in the final minute of the third quarter and another scamper with nine minutes left on the clock in the fourth quarter made it 41-20.
Finally it was Muir (12 for 21 for 150 yards) and Charlie Ducret connecting on a 23-yard score that gave Greenwich five touchdowns in the span of 11 minutes and 52 seconds.
Greenwich will play at Staples on Thanksgiving Day. A win there and the Cards will wrap up a home game for the Class LL quarterfinals, with the final back at Ken Strong Stadium on Dec. 9.