Football

Special Start Carries Greenwich To 48-0 Win Over Norwalk

Teammates congratulate Greenwich’s Matt Davey after he returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

GREENWICH — Sixteen days off didn’t have a negative effect on the overall fluidity that has carried Greenwich to a commanding start.

The next question is whether another 12 days, or New Canaan, can alter that.

Gramoz Bici blocked a punt after Norwalk’s first possession tonight and Matt Davey returned it for a touchdown. Stephen Bennett’s long punt return three plays later set up Jack Warren’s 4-yard touchdown run.

Greenwich’s Gramoz Bici blocks a punt by Norwalk’s Ben Bonebrake. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Less than three minutes in the Cardinals had a 14-0 lead and rolled to a 48-0 victory over the Bears in their home opener to improve to 3-0.

“Special teams did a great job today and have for the last two games, setting up the offense and defense and putting them in great positions,” said Robert Lanni, one of the Cardinals’ defensive leaders. “We were working hard over the week off, we were taking the time to get healthy. That was a big point for Coach Marinelli. We came out and, some mistakes here and there, but in the end we got the job done.”

The Cardinals (3-0) may be the last team in need of such a quirky schedule, with 28 days off in all before and after tonight’s game. They have outscored opponents by a 167-23 margin. With running clocks, the starters have received little more playing time than NFL starters in the preseason.

Greenwich’s Stephen Bennett returns a punt in the first quarter to set up a score. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

“We were all getting anxious, getting ready to play, now we have to get ready for our next game,” Lanni said. “We have to take it one game at a time, otherwise we won’t find the success we’re looking for.”

That will be defined by at least surpassing the accomplishments of a year ago, when the Cardinals qualified for the state playoffs in coach John Marinelli’s second season. That ended with a first-round loss to eventual Class LL champion Darien.

The Greenwich players won’t say it publicly, but they want more.

“They played well,” Marinelli said. “They don’t care who they go up against, they just play. They don’t back down from anybody. I always worry coming off of a bye.”

Tysen Comizio rushed for 139 yards and two scores. Quarterback Gavin Muir had one touchdown pass, the result of a great run after the catch by Jael Negron that went for 35 yards on the last play of the first half. That made the score 35-0 and kept the clock running in the second half.

Norwalk running back Jakari Walker tries to break through the Greenwich defense. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Perhaps the best insights into the Cardinals’ start would be better observed not by what they do on game days, but in the ones leading up to them.

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“The culture of the team is great,” Marinelli said. “When you show up to practice, these guys care. That’s the most important piece. The culture is brought back. I credit the senior class. They had never won. They don’t know what it is like to win. Now that they are put into a position of leadership, they are doing great things.”

Norwalk was 2-1 coming in and has a number of offensive weapons, but the Greenwich defense allowed just 224 yards and was seldom threatened.

In a season where there has been little theater, perhaps the one looming question is where the Cardinals stand on the pole. Are they up there with Darien, New Canaan and St. Joseph, title contenders, or a rung below?

Greenwich’s Jael Negron cannot make a catch on a pass just out of his reach. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

That answer will come a week from Saturday, when the Cardinals host New Canaan.

“It has been nice to get some time off. I don’t think people realize how much time we put into this,” Lanni said. “We know there are tests on our schedule that are yet to come. We’re just looking one game at a time and once we get those tests that will dictate how we’re ranked.”

Bears coach Sean Ireland gave Greenwich a ringing endorsement.

“I’ve seen a bunch of good teams play, either against or scouting them, and they are right up there with all of them,” Ireland said. “They’re a very good team, very well coached. They can play with anybody. When a team is that good, it has something you can’t replicate in practice, they have an advantage. We can’t replicate their speed and their tempo. It’s hard to say with a 48-0 score, but I thought our defense played OK. We’re tough, we will bounce back.”

Greenwich’s Tysen Comizio looks for running room. He finished with two touchdowns. (Photo: Mark Conrad)

Marinelli said the Cardinals will adopt the same mindset until New Canaan that they took before Norwalk.

“We’re going to go back and grade the film, see what we did wrong and what we did right,” Marinelli said.

Marinelli Bowl 3 — New Canaan is coached by Marinelli’s father, Lou — will have a different dynamic this year, one the coaches will prefer. Unlike the two previous meetings, this will be less about father and son and more about the players.

With one loss, the Rams cannot afford another with Darien still ahead. The Cardinals feel they are ready to win a big game, not just get cosmetic points for being competitive.

“Our kids work too hard — and my dad would say the same thing — they work too hard for the spotlight to be on the two coaches,” Marinelli said. “It is not a great day for us and I know you’re tired of hearing it. We move forward from here.”