FAIRFIELD — If the Greenwich football team fails to win a second straight state championship, it likely will not be due to a lack of mental preparation.
It would be easy to dismiss the Cardinals’ last two wins, including tonight’s 58-0 rout of Fairfield Ludlowe, as simply overpowering outmanned competition. But coming off the loss to Darien, they have flexed their muscles early, first last week against Trinity/Wright Tech, something that was lacking during the first month.
The Cardinals (7-1) needed just 12 plays to take a 28-0 lead. AJ Barber got untracked early, scoring on a 26-yard run less than two minutes in.
“I think that we started off really well today and that’s something we haven’t done a lot of this year so far, and that was awesome,” said Greenwich defensive lineman Eddy Iuteri. “It showed how we practice. We practiced well all week. We wanted to start off fast and we did.”
Ludlowe’s first possession ended with Iuteri forcing a fumble on a sack, which was recovered by Will Montesi. After a run by Barber, quarterback James Rinello hit Kobe Comizio for a 38-yard score.
“We thought we had some advantages on the edge,” added Greenwich coach Anthony Morello. “They like to shoot their ends a lot inside and by using the running back as a blocker we were able to set up some nice things for our receivers on the jet. We wanted to use our team speed on the edges tonight and that’s what led to the early scores.”
Before the quarter was over Rinello added touchdown passes to Barber (34 yards) and Mason Muir (15 yards) for a 28-0 lead.
“It was a point of emphasis this week to start fast and the kids did tonight,” said Morello, who coached in a cutoff sweatshirt on a frigid night. “Ludlowe has done some great things this year, especially offensively, and we saw some things we liked from an offensive perspective and we were able to capitalize early. And the defense was just so physical all game. The kids came out and played inspired football. It doesn’t really matter who the opponent is right now we just have to come out and keep winning.”
Rinello hit Barber again in the third quarter, after Danny Perez scored on a run, but the biggest celebration for Greenwich came on the play before halftime, when Iuteri intercepted a deflected ball. The team swarmed to the co-captain after he was knocked out of bounds on a return.
“I was pretty excited about it,” Iuteri said. “I was pretty nervous under the ball, I thought I was going to drop it. I tried to run it back but it was a lot of fun.”
Added Morello, “You don’t see numbers in the 50s and 60s getting interceptions all that often so I was really happy for Eddy. No one deserved that more. You could see by the kids’ excitement.”
Another captain had a more successful route to the end zone on a return. Evan Weigold closed out the scoring after picking up a fumble on a sack and taking it 65 yards.
“We preach physicality,” Iuteri said. “The defense knew in order to win this game we need to be more physical than they were and I think we were. It showed on the scoreboard. We’ve got to win out in our minds and we have tough competition ahead. We’re looking forward to getting after it and we know what we have to do in order to make a state championship run.”
The Cardinals have their second big game of the regular season next Saturday at home against Ridgefield, which also has one loss and is in the chase for a Class LL bid.
“We said this was a playoff game and the day we lost to Darien we had to win out based on points that we need to score,” Morello said. “We can’t afford to be 8-2 wondering if we can make the playoffs. Every game from this point on is a playoff game and this was no exception.”
It was a long evening for the Falcons (5-3). Coach Mitch Ross, after a 42-0 loss to Darien on opening night, said tonight would be a chance to see how far his team has come.
“It still serves as a measuring stick,” Ross said. “They’re a good team. They’re very physical, they’re very strong and as a measuring stick we know we still have a ways to go. We suspected we had a ways to go and it was proven on the field tonight. We will build from here. It does serve as a goal in that this isn’t something we can really fix by coaching them up. They have to lift more. We have to get stronger as a team in order to get to the next level.”