GREENWICH — One play, one touchdown. That’s how Sunday’s CIAC Class LL Tournament semifinal-round game began for the Greenwich High School football team, which wasted little time in taking the lead on a South Windsor squad that aims to play from ahead and control the tempo.
Junior quarterback Gavin Muir’s 63-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Stephen Bennett on the first play from scrimmage was a good omen for the Cardinals, who used big plays to reach a destination it hasn’t been to in a decade — the state finals.
Muir threw two touchdown passes, junior Tysen Comizio ran for a pair of scores and top-seeded Greenwich used another strong defensive effort to defeat fourth-seeded South Windsor, 36-7, in the Class LL semifinals at Cardinal Stadium.
With the win the Cardinals (12-0) advanced to the Class LL finals, where they will play Darien. The Blue Wave beat West Haven in the other Class LL semifinal on Sunday.
“I feel happy for the kids, the town, the community, everyone involved in this program to get back to this point,” Cardinals third-year coach John Marinelli said. “It is great for our community to make it to the state finals for the first time in a while.”
Senior wider receiver Patrick Wilson caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Connor Kapisak in the first half for the Bobcats, who finished their season at 10-2.
“We were able to get to the semifinals, which is great,” South Windsor coach Dave Hodge said. “Unfortunately, for us today, we had some penalties, missed assignments and bad snaps. When you run the ball the way we do, you can’t have too many of those. Greenwich has a great football team, give them credit.”
Behind an impressive offensive line, Comizio used his shiftiness, speed and strength to rush for 143 yards on 17 carries. He also added 55 receiving yards.
“South Windsor was physical, but we stuck to our responsibilities and we executed,” said Comizio, a junior. “I can’t wait to play the Blue Wave in the finals. We know we are in for a tough game. We have to practice hard and come out harder than them.”
QUICK SCORE, BIG PLAYS
Greenwich seized a 7-0 lead when Muir (205 passing yards) spotted Bennett wide open down the left sideline and connected with him for a 63-yard touchdown off a catch and run 17 seconds into the opening quarter.
“I just ran and the ball was there,” said Bennett, who had 68 receiving yards. “That early touchdown was great, we were able to set the tone.”
Said Hodge: “It was a broken coverage, which hasn’t happened too much to us. Unfortunately, it happened today.”
South Windsor held the ball for 11 plays on its first drive, which stalled at Greenwich’s 41-yard line. The Cardinals took a 14-0 advantage on Comizio’s 39-yard run on the last play of the first quarter.
“It’s something we worked on all week and we were able to take advantage of the gaps on their defensive line,” Comizio said of his first touchdown. “I couldn’t ask for more from our offensive line on that play and I just ran as hard as I could. When we hold our blocks, good things happen.”
With 1:48 remaining in the third quarter, Greenwich increased its lead. Senior Jeremiah Harris snared a 23-yard scoring strike from Muir in the back of the end zone. Zach Moore kicked the extra point and the home team held a 21-0 edge.
“Early in the season we saw the potential in our team,” Harris said. “We just kept working and that’s what got us here.”
The Bobcats closed to within 21-7 with just 14.7 seconds to go in the second quarter. Kapisak found Wilson behind the Cards’ secondary for a 38-yard touchdown pass, making it a two-score game heading into halftime. The Bobcats’ signal-caller passed for 163 yards.
Following a scoreles third quarter, GHS went ahead, 24-7, when Moore split the uprights on a 44-yard field goal attempt with 9:21 remaining. Comizio added a 9-yard touchdown run at the 3:37 mark and Spencer Hartley reached the end zone on a 3-yard run in the final minute.
“South Windsor is a tough team that fought hard the whole time,” GHS senior center Kyle Woodring said. “Once we started running the ball it opened up our passing game and once our offense gets rolling with tempo we can do some dangerous things.”
Meanwhile, Greenwich was effective in slowing down South Windsor’s vaunted running attack. Senior Julian Ibes rushed for 52 yards for the Bobcats.
“They offered a lot for us to try to contain, it was a great job by our defense,” Marinelli said. “They are a good, well-coached football team, so for us to knock them off says a lot about us.”
Senior defensive end Tyler Blizzard registered 2.5 sacks, junior defensive end Gramoz Bici had two sacks and seniors Robert Lanni and Emilio Camou each had one sack for the Cards.
Junior Hunter Cusimano intercepted a Kapsiak pass and Harris had an interception for GHS. … Camou recovered a fumble for the Cardinals.
“Making it to the state finals is the best thing I could have ever imagined for our team,” Blizzard said. “Playing Darien in the finals is the ultimate ending. It will be a battle of both towns.”
GREENWICH 36, SOUTH WINDSOR 7
SOUTH WINDSOR 0 7 0 0 — 7
GREENWICH 14 7 0 15 — 36
G — Stephen Bennett 63 pass Gavin Muir (Zach Moore kick)
G — Tysen Comizio 39 run (Moore kick)
G — Jeremiah Harris 23 pass Muir (Moore kick)
SW — Patrick Wilson 38 pass Connor Kapisak (Kyle Bromley kick)
G — Zach Moore 44 field goal
G — Comizio 9 run (kick failed)
G — Spencer Hartley 3 run (run failed)