Greenwich football crushes Danbury to clinch FCIAC title berth
Updated 1:34 am, Friday, November 16, 2012
One win went a very long way for the Greenwich High School football team Thursday night.
The Cardinals accomplished two season-long goals with one resounding, Senior Night victory against visiting Danbury, sealing a spot in the state tournament for the first time since 2007 and earning their second straight berth in the FCIAC championship game.
Imposing its will from the outset, Greenwich seized a commanding first-half lead en route to routing Danbury 54-8 at Cardinal Stadium.
Greenwich (8-0) will once again play rival Staples (8-0) for the FCIAC title on Thanksgiving morning for the FCIAC title. The Wreckers, who cruised past Westhill Friday, edged the Cardinals in the finals a year ago, 31-27.
"A lesser team might have looked past Danbury tonight, but we knew how important this game was," Cardinals senior quarterback Liam O'Neil said. "It's been a long time since we've been in states so this was real important tonight. We got it going from the get go."
O'Neil completed 8-of-12 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown, senior Alex McMurray ran for a pair of scores and sophomore playmaker Austin Longi returned a punt and an interception back for touchdowns for the Cardinals, who led 41-0 at the half.
"I thought the kids played well, our defense made some big plays," Greenwich coach Rich Albonizio said. "I feel really good about how our team is playing. Last year, our Seniors knocked on the door and just missed making states, this year, they got the door open a little bit."
The Cardinals drove 79 yards in six plays on their first possession and never looked back. Senior wide receiver Vincent Ferraro's 33-yard catch and run keyed the drive, which was concluded by McMurray's 4-yard run.
The speedy McMurray (10 carries, 51 yards) added an 11-yard run off a sweep in the opening quarter and the Cardinals put the game out of reach, scoring three times during a two-minute span in the second quarter. Senior Dan Claroni bulled his way into the end zone from 5 yards out with 8:41 remaining in the second quarter, O'Neil connected with senior tight end Joe Kelly for a 46-yard touchdown at the 7:15 mark and Longi ran an interception back 47 yards 30 seconds later, making it a 34-0 game. Longi capped the Cards' huge first half, running a punt back 30 yards untouched for a touchdown.
"I got my opportunity on a tipped pass for an interception and took it back," Longi said. "On the punt I just made the most of my opportunity. As a sophomore, I'm trying to contribute as much as possible to the team's success."
The Hatters (2-7) threatened to score on their second possession of the game, driving to Greenwich's 11-yard line. But on fourth down, junior quarterback Elijah Duffy had his pass batted down by Cardinals junior lineman Jack Harrington.
"We drove the field got into the red zone and we couldn't punch it in," said Danbury coach Dan Donovan, who saw the Cardinals shut down his running backs Corey Chaffee and Alfred Valentine. "We're not as big and as strong as they are so we couldn't use power to get up the field. They shut down our run game and are just a really good, well-coached team."
Cardinals safety Taylor Olmstead, one of the 30-plus seniors who was honored prior to the game during the Senior Night ceremony, ran an interception back 97 yards in the second half.
"We knew with a win today it was huge to lock in FCIACs and a state playoff berth," Olmstead said. "We wanted to come out with a bang and leave it all out on the field. Now we are going to get ready to prepare for Staples."
After junior running back Nick Schepis scored on a 35-yard run down the right sideline, the Cards took a 54-0 lead and faced a dilemma. Fearing their coach could be suspended for the Staples game due to the state's 50-point rule, the Cardinals allowed sophomore Tysheen McCrea to return the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. Donovan and Albonizio met at midfield following the play to discuss what transpired.
"The only way they could get in trouble is I turn them in and I'm not going to turn him in," Donovan said. "He was doing what he was supposed to do he had his second team in and was running between the tackles. I wasn't going to turn him and I told him that."
As for the Cardinals' showdown against Staples, Albonizio knows what the task at hand is for his squad.
"We have to play our best football, we have to play well on both sides of the ball and our kicking game has to click," Albonizio said. "Two great teams with most of their players back from last year -- it should be a great game."
Greenwich 54, Danbury 8
DANBURY 0 0 0 8--8
GREENWICH 13 28 7 6--54
G -- Alex McMurray 4 run kick failed
G -- McMurray 11 run (Jesse Adelberg kick)
G -- Dan Claroni 5 run (Adelberg kick)
G -- Joe Kelly 46 pass from Liam O'Neil (Adelberg kick)
G -- Austin Longi 47 interception return (Adelberg kick)
G -- Longi 30 punt return (Adelberg kick)
G -- Taylor Olmstead 97 interception return (Adelberg kick)
G -- Nick Schepis 35 run (run failed)
D -- Tysheen McCrea 75 kickoff return (Akim Moffitt run)
Records: Danbury 2-7, Greenwich 8-0