NEW CANAAN — This was the week when the Marinelli name did not appear on the marquee prior to tonight’s pivotal FCIAC matchup between Greenwich and New Canaan. It was less about father and son and more about their teams and the long term goals.
And by the end of the Cardinals’ decisive 42-14 win, the closing credits featured names like Muir, Comizio and Bici.
The Cardinals scored three times in just under three minutes to start the game, and after New Canaan had stabilized the situation and seemed headed to halftime down by just a touchdown, they took advantage of a fumble on a punt return to regain the momentum and land the telling blow.
“We always emphasize starting fast, and I think that showed in the first quarter,” said Greenwich running back Tysen Comizio, who scored twice and had 195 total yards rushing and receiving. “Things were really flowing. We got our guys hyped up. We knew we had a target on our backs. We came out and had a great first quarter.”
Quarterback Gavin Muir, whose consistency ironically might be the reason he receives less acclaim than is due, completed 12 of 19 passes for 262 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for two scores.
“The kids played well,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “We were able to run the ball effectively and Gavin is under the radar. Wherever he goes to school next year they have a great one because the kid’s a competitor. He just competes, competes, competes. He doesn’t want to be outworked.”
Muir’s ability to extend plays was the reason for the quick start that set the tone, and that came from Marinelli having him serve as the scout-team quarterback this week during practice, simulating New Canaan’s Drew Pyne.
“We had a bunch of scramble drills in practice because they bring a lot of pressure, Marinelli said. “He was our scout team quarterback. He practiced as Drew Pyne, so that was his Drew Pyne impression.”
Greenwich drove 69 yards after the opening kickoff, with Muir finding Lance Large alone in the end zone on a 21-yard play. New Canaan went three and out and Muir’s 36-yard pass to Stephen Bennett set up the quarterback’s 2-yard run that made the score 14-0.
The Rams fumbled the ensuing kickoff, Muir found Bennett open for a 33-yard touchdown and the Cardinals had a 21-0 lead just over five minutes in.
“He’s a great athlete and our receivers are good,” Marinelli said. “They are so smart. They know how to get open. We took advantage of some things and Gavin had to ad lib. I think the scout team practice really helped him.”
New Canaan coach Lou Marinelli, who lost to his son for the second straight time after winning the first two meetings, was as stunned as the rest of the Dunning Field crowd.
“It was an ass-kicking,” Lou Marinelli said. “They took it to us from the opening kickoff and they never let up. When you are playing a good team you can’t fumble the ball three times on special teams, you can’t create the penalties that we did but aside from that they’re very good. We couldn’t match them. The quarterback is certainly very good, they run a good scheme.”
Still, the Rams rallied in the second quarter behind two touchdown passes from Pyne (23 of 37, 201 yards) to Quintin O’Connell (eight catches for 100 yards) that made the score 21-14 with 2:54 left in the half.
That would have been a satisfying outcome for the Rams heading into the break as their pressure started to contain Muir and shut down the ground game.
But the Rams fumbled a punt when they might have had a chance to tie the game. Muir turned it into a 4-yard touchdown run with 10 seconds left.
After New Canaan turned the ball over without a first down to start the third quarter, Muir hit Comizio, who played football with Pyne as kids in Mamaroneck, over the middle for a 29-yard touchdown that effectively ended the game.
“We never wanted to take our foot of the pedal because we know they are a great football team and have some great athletes,” Comizio said. “We had to play as hard we can.”
Greenwich’s pass rush, led be two sacks from Mozi Bici, was also a determining factor.
“They did an excellent job,” John Marinelli said.
New Canaan finds itself in the same position it did a year ago: with a 3-2 record at the halfway mark and likely needing a win over Darien on Thanksgiving to have a chance at qualifying for the Class LL playoffs.
“Everybody thought because we would be good because we have a lot of D1 guys, but D1 guys don’t necessarily make great teams,” Lou Marinelli said, referring to Pyne, Jack Stewart, Jack Conley and Garrett Braden, who have all given verbals to top programs. “I think with all the expectation because of where everyone was going everybody just assumed we would be so good. So did I. It hasn’t panned out yet so we have to go back to work.”
The Cardinals are 4-0, looking at a second bye in a four week-span. There is an excellent chance they will take an undefeated record into the postseason, as they did a year ago, ending with a loss to Darien in the Class LL championship.
“We’re feeling great,” Comizio said. “Unfortunately we have another bye week. We’re hungry. We are going to take advantage of it and get healthy. We’ve got a great thing going so we have to stay smart.”