WESTPORT >> It was an ending that the Staples High football team saw come too soon. Led by a three touchdown performance from Austin Longi, there seemed to be no stopping the Greenwich Cardinals on Thursday at Staples Stadium.
In a must-win game for the Wreckers to slip into the Class LL State Tournament, Staples was met with a relentless defense and an offense that made all the right plays. The Cardinals defeated Staples 27-7 to dash Staples’ playoff hopes and end a four-game Thanksgiving losing streak.
“We had to let Staples know they were in for a big fight on Thanksgiving,” Greenwich head coach Rich Albonizio said. “I thought the defense played their best game of the year against a very good offensive team. Staples is a great team and their quarterback is a terrific player. They hit, they are well-coached and are very difficult to play against because they can do so many things on offense. But this was our turn.”
Greenwich made its presence felt right from the get-go. After a stalled opening drive from the Wreckers, the Cardinals went right to business. A five-play drive was capitalized by Longi’s 4-yard run into the end zone to give Greenwich the 7-0 lead.
Longi made his presence felt again, this time on the defensive end. On Staples’ next possession he intercepted quarterback Jack Massie. It was opening statement from Greenwich that the Wreckers were in for a long morning. Despite the fact that the Cardinals were out of the playoff picture, it was still viewed as big game for Greenwich.
“We just knew we had to win,” said Longi, who finished with 225 rushing yards. “We don’t care what our records are vs. Staples, we just needed to win on Thanksgiving. It’s the biggest game of the year no matter what; it’s bigger than anything.”
Greenwich added to its lead in the second quarter as quarterback Matt Marzulla rushed for 15 yards to make it 13-0.
While the Cardinals’ offense settled into a rhythm, the defense made sure Staples didn’t. Led by the play of lineman Jack Wynne, Massie and the offense were never able to get anything going, and faced with multiple fourth down scenarios. Staples struggled to find a consistent offensive flow as the normal potent running game of Patrick Lesch and Jack Greenwald was held in check.
“I just thought up front we had a very, very rough day and we couldn’t move the ball with any sort of consistency,” Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said. “And you know defensively, we had Longi stopped a couple times, and he just made some great plays. I think all the credit goes to Greenwich, they played a great game. They were physically tougher than we were today.”
Greenwich took a 20-0 lead midway through the second quarter as Longi punched it in from 2-yards out, two plays after a huge 36-yard run on fourth down.
“When they needed three yards, they got four,” Petroccio said.
Staples’ long score of the game came 38 seconds before the half as Massie connected with senior Will Johnson for a 22-yard score.
Known for their second half comebacks this season, the Wreckers didn’t have one this time. It was more of the same, as Greenwich’s defense kept its pace and Staples couldn’t engineer anything.
Greenwic added its final score of the game as Longi capped off a memorable day, rushing down the sideline for 39 yards and the score.
“We just kind of self-destructed on both sides of the ball,” Petroccio said. “And before you know you’re down 27-7.”
For Staples and its seniors, it was a hard loss to end the season on. Massie finished with 100 yards through the air. Senior back Lesch finished his career going over the 1,000 yard rushing mark.
“He gave it all he had as he’s done for the last four years,” Petroccio said of three-year starting QB Massie. “He’s the type of kid that he’s going to be missed, big time. It’s a loss, we’ll learn from this. It was just not our day.”
STAPLES VS GREENWICH
GREENWICH 7 13 7 0 – 27
STAPLES 0 7 0 0 – 7
Greenwich: Austin Longi 4 run (Heerdt kick)
Greenwich: Matt Marzulla 15 run (Heerdt kick failed)
Greenwich: Longi 2 run (Heerdt kick)
Staples: Will Johnson 22 pass from Jack Massie (Gifford kick)
Greenwich: Longi 39 run (Heerdt kick)