GREENWICH – In the days leading up to today’s Class LL semifinal matchup against undefeated Newtown, if you wanted to find Greenwich assistant coach Bryan Hocter, there was only one place you needed to look.
The Cardinals’ war room.
“Coach Hocter, he spent a lot of time in the war room, breaking down film, like he always does,” Greenwich senior defensive end Emilio Camou said. “And he finds the weaknesses, all the little things like that.”
He found the little things, the big things and pretty much everything. Hocter’s defense held the Nighthawks to 31 yards passing and negative-1 yards rushing, while blocking a punt, intercepting a pass and making, unofficially, nine sacks in a 50-0 rout that sent the Cardinals into next weekend’s championship against FCIAC rival New Canaan, which defeated Fairfield Prep, 38-7.
Game time and site are still to be determined.
“It’s the ultimate reward,” said Cardinals coach John Marinelli, who will face his father Lou — the New Canaan coach — once again. “It’s such a long journey … I’m so proud of the kids. The effort … they got themselves back here. These kids are on a mission.”
Greenwich’s mission started last Dec. 9, after the Cardinals lost to Darien in the title game. They have spent this season focused on one thing: getting back to the finals.
Now they have.
“We always wanted to get back to the championship and hopefully we’ll come out with a win this time,” said quarterback Gavin Muir, who was 14 of 20 for 181 yards and four touchdowns. “We knew (Newtown) was defensively sound but our receivers were able to make plays and I had all the time in the world back there. The O-line, they’ve been doing their job all year and they were great today.”
Muir threw touchdown passes of 15 yards to Stephen Bennett, 57 yards to AJ Barber, 13 yards to Lance Large and 10 yards to Will Montesi. Muri also ran for a score (1-yard) and running back Tysen Comizio scored on a two-yard run, the highlight of a day where he rushed 15 times for 69 yards.
“Gavin is a player, he put us in some good spots today,” Marinelli said. “I think everyone kind of forgot about Tysen Comizio, but he came to play today. He runs very efficiently.”
The Cardinals took the lead on its second possession of the game, getting solid field position at the Nighthawks’ 29-yard line after a 16-yard punt return by Large. It took just five plays to make it 7-0. From there, the floodgates opened. Eight times Greenwich started drives in Newtown territory. It scored seven times, with four touchdowns and three field goals.
“That means so much to coach Hocter and the seniors,” Marinelli said. “We’ve been a defensive football team all season. We’ve been able to get up on teams and force offenses out of what they normally do. We’ve got some crazy guys on the defensive side of the ball. They’re excited each and every day in practice.”
Added Camou: “It’s just tradition, not giving up a lot of points. Coach Hocter … he was in the war room for 14 hours one day, breaking down film. I can’t imagine what that’s like. We just wanted to protect our house, we haven’t lost here in, like, three years, so we don’t give anyone an opportunity.”
Greenwich led 33-0 at halftime and the only question remaining was when the running clock would start. That came with 7:21 left in the third, on Comizio’s TD.
Along with the touchdowns, Ben Howarth kicked field goals of 36 and 20 yards and Tobias Turnbull added a 23-yard field goal and five extra points.
“All three phases of the game were working,” Marinelli said. “That score does not indicate how good a football team they are. Our kids just came out and executed. They were focused. They’ve been on a mission. I’m not taking any credit, I’m giving it all back to the kids.”
“Defensively, we just practiced what we needed to practice all week. We knew exactly what we needed to do,” senior lineman Mozi Bici said. “Emilio (Camou), he’s on the other side of me and he makes a play and then I want to make a play … we’re best friends, on and off the field. It’s just great.
“This was our mission, to get back (to the finals). We’re ready to go. That team (New Canaan) put up the most points (14, Greenwich only allowed 40 points all season) on us all season. They’re going to be a really hard opponent.”