The 2018 season ended with a championship for the Greenwich High School football team, which captured its first CIAC Class LL title since 2007 on its way to registering a record of 13-0.
Greenwich’s 2019 season officially begins Sept. 14 with against Danbury, but Saturday’s annual spring Red and White game was as coach John Marinelli said, a significant prelude.
Saturday’s intra-squad Red and White scrimmage at Cardinal Stadium Saturday evening gave the coaching staff a glimpse of this fall’s team, gave the younger players to showcase their skills and the more experienced competitors an opportunity to display their leadership improvement.
“We are all dialed in this spring, it’s great for the young kids to step up and show the coaches what they’ve got, because we lost a lot of people to graduation there’s a chance for people to show their skills,” said Cardinals running back Jack Warren, who will serve as one of the squad’s five senior captains in the fall.
The always anticipated Red and White game followed two weeks of practice and two weeks after the Cardinals received their Class LL championship rings.
“It’s good to have the team back together after a long offseason,” Warren said. “It’s a good way to end the school year. Having the barbecue after the spring game is nice — it’s a good way for everyone to come together.”
Saturday’s Red and White game and the whole spring football experience was especially important to this group of Cardinals. A total of 33 seniors from last season’s championship team departed, including captains Gavin Muir (standout quarterback), Mozi Bici (defensive end, the state’s player of the year), linebacker Jack Feda (one of the team’s leading tacklers), running back Tysen Comizio (the Cardinals’ leading rusher) and defensive back Charlie Ducret.
“That is what high school football is all about you develop players and when it’s their time they try to make the most of it,” Marinelli said. “It’s our job as coaches to provide the tools for them to make the most of their experience.”
Marinelli believes spring football is a significant asset.
“One of the reasons why Connecticut football is on the map from a recruiting standpoint is because there is lot of football being played and a lot of participation. Spring football is a prelude. As coaches, every time you have a whistle in hand and you are out on the field it’s a great day.”
Joining Warren at the running back position this fall is Spencer Hartley, who like Warren, turned in a solid junior season in 2018.
“We have a lot of depth at running back,” Hartley said. “We have Jack Warren, who is a great running back a lot of kids behind us, who will also get some time. This team has a lot of motivation and we are not really focusing on what we accomplished last year. We are doing a great job of moving on.”
Said Marinelli: “Running back has always been a position of strength at Greenwich, which has produced so many good running backs over the years.”
Scoring on the Cardinals’ defense was an issue for the opposition last fall and though the team graduated numerous standout performers, defensive tackle Edward Iuteri and linebacker Evan Weigold will return and will be relied upon to bring much-needed leadership to the group.
“We have three new guys coming in on our defensive line and they are all stepping up and as a whole we are stepping up,” Iuteri said.
The experience of claiming the state title is an asset the Cardinals bring into the upcoming season.
“Winning last year pushes us even harder to win even more,” Iuteri said. “We know nothing is given to us, we have to take it for ourselves and we are ready for the challenge. We had a lot of senior leadership last year. They showed us how it was done and everyone learned from them.”
Weigold broke his left ankle while competing for Greenwich’s rugby team at the National Championships in Utah, recently. He underwent surgery, will soon begin physical therapy and he hopes to return for the start of the fall season. He will line up at the outside linebacker position.
“We have two juniors and one senior this year, we have a good shot of having a good linebacker corps,” Weigold said. “There are some big holes to fill, but these young guys are doing a good job of learning from last year and trying to get better for the spring. Last year, our defense was insane, the numbers didn’t lie. We had a very good defense all around.”
The departure of Muir, who will soon graduate and take his skills at quarterback to Dartmouth College, leaves the position open. James Rinello, Carson Bylciw and Cage Lasley, all of whom will be juniors in the fall, are each competing for the starting quarterback role. They each saw action in the Red and White game, directing the offense.
“Spring football is a great experience,” Lasley said. “The younger kids learn our offense, they learn our culture and they learn how to play fast. Everyone is battling for a job and it’s great all around. We are moving around fast and the execution will come, are all working hard. These guys push me to me by best and I push them to be their best.”
Said Bylciw: “It’s a tremendous honor to compete for the job as starting quarterback. I am working as hard as I can and it’s a great feeling to be a part of this team. Our offense has a lot of potential and a lot of guys are stepping up this year. This offense has the potential to put up a lot of points.”
Rinello served as Muir’s backup last season.
“The quarterback competition really helps motivate you when you have other guys all going for the same job,” Rinello said. “Our offense has tons of potential with a great group of guys to work with. Every spot we have new guys that should step up.”
Wide receiver AJ Barber emerged as one of the Cardinals’ main offensive threats during his sophomore season in 2018. He began his sophomore season with three touchdown receptions against Trumbull and ended it with a nine-reception 153-yard game in Greenwich’s 34-0 win over rival New Canaan in the Class LL finals. He also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass.
“The push that the seniors gave me the entire year helped me to play better,” Barber said. “That championship game does come up in my dreams sometimes, but now the job of the returning players is to teach the younger guys how to get to the point we were last year. We still think about last season a little bit, but we are looking forward to the future and hopefully, bringing another championship to Greenwich High School.”
Callum Abernethy, a rising senior, is the lone returning starter on the offensive line.
“We don’t have our offensive line set for the season, but we have some seniors who are expected to lead us,” said Abernethy, a right tackle. “In terms of who is playing where, we are not sure yet, guys are competing for jobs. It’s going to be fun being a senior on the team, because the past two years I was the youngest guy on the line. It should be exciting to see what we can do. I had great captains before me, so me and the other guys will be ready to go.”
Earning the status as defending Class LL champion, means the Cardinals must be at their best each game this fall.
“We have become the hunted, not the hunter, which we were before,” Marinelli said. “It’s nice to be back on top with some of the other great programs like New Canaan, Darien and St. Joseph, which is where we are supposed to be. Now we have to sustain it.”
Added Warren: “Hopefully, we can get back to where we were last year. We know we have a target on our back, so we are looking forward to the challenges that we will face.”