GREENWICH — Kevin Iobbi, the versatile running back, receiver and return specialist, has done everything through the first half of the season for the Greenwich High School football team.
About all Iobbi lacks, he admitted, is a nickname.
In light of Iobbi’s performance in Saturday’s 42-32 win over Trumbull, may I propose, unless anyone has something more apt, The Answer.
When the Cardinals needed a first down, Iobbi was the answer. When they needed a big play, Iobbi was the answer. When they needed a third- or fourth-down conversion, whether it was a power run up the middle or, in one case, a one-handed catch on a screen that went for 33 yards, Iobbi was the answer.
“Yeah, The Answer, it’s the Kevin Iobbi show right now,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said after the expected slugfest between two Class LL heavyweights. “It’s because our receivers are blocking downfield. You saw us showcase our receivers in the Darien game. We have the full package. It comes down to what are you going to try and take away.”
The Eagles tried to neutralize Iobbi, and had some initial success, holding him to negative yardage on five carries. But Iobbi wore them down, rushing for 242 yards and four scores and catching three passes for another 48. He had over 100 yards on returns, nearly turning a punt into a long touchdown run on the final play of the first half.
Iobbi came in averaging 250 total yards a game. As the Cardinals’ offensive line has improved, and Connor Langan has grown more comfortable at quarterback, with a good stable of receivers, Iobbi has become even more effective.
“We’ve definitely got the passing game working now,” Iobbi said. “Connor Langan is working very well. He is making his reads. When we have our passing game and running game going, we’re a tough team to beat.”
In a game that had huge implications for the state playoff race, the Cardinals improved to 4-1 at the midway point. Their lone loss was to Darien, the state’s top-ranked team, and that game was a battle.
Marinelli may have tried to downplay the long-term importance this week, but the reality is next week the Cardinals travel to New Canaan in a game that is sure to be hyped because it will be the second meeting between father and son in the so-called Marinelli Bowl. Greenwich’s season ends with Ridgefield and Staples, two schools that could also be playing for playoff berths.
So it was hard to minimize the impact of Saturday’s win against the Eagles, who entered in a similar situation.
“Coach Marinelli had us prepared for a fight,” Iobbi said.”We knew they were a great team. You have to take some and dish some out.”
Trumbull (3-2), which got two touchdown passes and a scoring run from quarterback Johnny McElroy, took a 7-0 lead and fell behind, 14-7, before the teams traded scores for a 21-21 halftime tie.
The Eagles went ahead on Ryan Ruff’s 33-yard field goal early in the third quarter, but Iobbi returned the ensuing kickoff 45 yards and carried the ball seven times and had a catch in a drive that resulted in a missed field goal.
The series had import as the Greenwich defense held, got the ball back on the Eagles’ 30 after a bad punt and went ahead for good on Langan’s 19-yard touchdown pass to Matt Morganti.
Trumbull went three-and-out again and Iobbi got the ball on five of six plays, the last a 1-yard run that made the score 35-24.
After an exchange of turnovers, McElroy, who has had a terrific season, worked his magic a final time, finding Peter Raverta for a 30-yard touchdown on 4th and 27 and then hitting Danny Hoffman on the conversion to cut the deficit to 35-32 with 5:35 left.
Marinelli fed the ball to Iobbi the next four plays, and he broke the last one 58 yards for the exclamation-point score.
“I was following Chris Novakowski,” Iobbi said, referring to one of the team’s starting tackles. “I put my hand on him. He’s pretty big and I’m pretty small so they couldn’t see me. One cut and that was it.”
After a Greenwich interception, Iobbi ran for two more first downs, the latter a gain of 35 when he went down rather than risk a turnover or going out of bounds and stopping the clock.
“I’m able to trust my blockers,” Iobbi said. “I tell them to turn them one way and it’s easy for me. I know which way. I think I’m good at reading blocks.”
It was a frustrating loss for the Eagles, though not as bad as the season opener against Ridgefield.
Trumbull coach Bob Maffei said there were no special packages to contain Iobbi.
“He just follows his blockers and blends in.” Maffei said. “He’s tough. He’s tough to bring down.”
Of the rest of the game, Maffei added, “I thought offensively we were OK. Johnny made a lot of nice plays on his own. It is what it is. We got a lot of football left.”
Marinelli was able to coach a lot of gifted players as New Canaan’s offensive coordinator. Now, in Iobbi, he has the first of what he hopes will be a number of stars in Greenwich.
“Shifty, elusive, vision. He steps on people’s toes, he doesn’t wait,” Marinelli said of Iobbi. “He’s very gifted. He’s not going to run you over. Kevin Iobbi is the best running back in the league right now, I don’t think anyone can doubt that. What he has done against great competition.”
Iobbi gets another chance Friday night at New Canaan.
“It’s going to be a fight again,” Iobbi said. “We’re sitting in a good position right now but it is going to be a heck of a lot better if we go to 5-1 next week.”