Last season’s matchup between FCIAC football rivals Greenwich and Norwalk saw the Cardinals and Bears combine for 96 points while making big plays throughout the game. So having extra time to prepare to face each other’s dynamic offensive unit on Monday could be a plus for both squads.
Greenwich (2-0) is coming off a bye week and hasn’t played since registering a 49-7 road win over Trinity Catholic on Sept. 16, while Norwalk (2-1) downed visiting Fairfield Ludlowe, 41-21, Sept. 22.
“It’s a big challenge. We were watching film and it looks like they could easily be 3-0,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “Offensively, their quarterback can tuck it and run it and he has a nice arm. They also have one of the best wide receivers in the league in AJ Hall, who is such a dynamic player and fun to watch. We’ll have our hands full on the defensive side of the ball trying to contain their quarterback. They have a lot of skill and firepower on offense.”
Said GHS senior defensive lineman/co-captain Nick Mcintosh: “Norwalk is a really strong 2-1 team with an athletic offense and a good quarterback. We have to lock in and play our assignments on defense.”
Through three games, Hall has 15 receptions for 207 yards, while sophomore quarterback Kyle Gordon has passed for 650 yards with eight touchdowns in his first season as a starter.
“Gordon has been tremendous,” Norwalk coach Sean Ireland said. “He’s only a sophomore, but he’s one of the best athletes on the team and he makes plays with both his arm and legs. If you didn’t look at the roster, you wouldn’t think he was a sophomore because of the poise he has shown.”
The Bears suffered a 62-34 loss to the Cardinals last season in a game that was close in the third quarter. Like Greenwich, Ireland knows his squad’s defensive unit must be in top form to contend with the Cardinals.
“We know Greenwich is going to be a tough matchup,” Ireland said. “They pose a lot of problems and they do things that you can’t teach or simulate in practice because of their tempo and depth.”
The Bears hope to slow down a Cardinals’ squad that has amassed 119 points over its first two games, including 70 in its season-opening win against Trumbull. Junior quarterback Gavin Muir has completed 38 of 53 passes (71 percent) for 527 yards with eight touchdown passes.
“Norwalk is a great football team, but we are going into the game hoping to play our game,” Muir said. “We have been practicing throughout the bye week and we have also gotten stronger because we were in the weight room. They have an athletic defensive line, defensive backs and linebackers, so we really have to execute our game plan.”
While Muir has led the Cardinals’ passing attack along with wide receivers Jael Negron, Lance Large and Henry Saleeby, junior running back Tysen Comizio has flourished on the ground (159 yards on 20 carries, four touchdowns).
“Norwalk is a team with a lot of great athletes, so we have to keep up with our execution and capitalize when they give us an opening,” GHS senior center/defensive lineman/co-captain Kyle Woodring said. “On the defensive side of the ball, we have to fly to the ball, get to the quarterback and not let him scramble.”
Surprisingly, Monday marks Greenwich’s first home game of the season. Their first two games were on the road prior to their bye.
“It’s good to get back to playing on our home field,” Woodring said. “Last year’s seniors went undefeated at home, so we hope to ride that momentum.”
Marinelli believes Greenwich must exhibit patience on offense against Norwalk.
“Defensively, Norwalk comes at you from all angles and they play good assignment defense,” Marinelli said. “So we have to put together drives and be efficient. That’s what we’ve done so far, we haven’t really stretched the field yet. We have put together drives and credit our offensive line for that.”
The Bears also must be primed for Greenwich’s depth and versatility.
“Once the ball is snapped you can’t focus on any one player on Greenwich,” Ireland said. “If we focus on No. 40 (Comizio) they’ll go to someone else. They have a lot of guys who make plays.
“Tempo is huge, they don’t have a lot of guys going both ways and we do, so if we can give our guys a break that will be great. They are a well-oiled machine, so we can’t turn the ball over and give them short fields to work with.”