The first day of practice is like a holiday for football coaches, especially for someone in his first season at the helm, guiding his alma mater.
Such was the case for Anthony Morello Monday, as his tenure on the field officially began with Greenwich’s opening practice. An assistant coach for the Cardinals since 2011, Morello was hired as head coach in July. He replaces John Marinelli, who spent four successful seasons with the Cardinals, the last of which ended with a victory in the CIAC Class LL championship game.
“It’s exciting to to have everyone back together again and just exciting to be out here with the same coaches I’ve had the pleasure of coaching with for the past however many years,” said Morello, a 2005 Greenwich High graduate.
Though he has a new coaching role, Morello felt right at home on the squad’s practice field Monday afternoon.
“It feels a little different, but I’ve been through many seasons coaching,” Morello said. “What I’ve noticed more about taking on the head coaching role is the behind-the-scenes work, the stuff you do when the players aren’t around. Being out here on the field today — this was the most normal time for me since the hiring, the transition.”
Greenwich held its spring football session in June, so the anticipation for the opening practice with pads on was building.
“It definitely felt good to have the pads back on and hitting some people,” said senior defensive lineman Edward Iuteri, one of the Cardinals’ five captains. “The last time we did so was in the spring, but it felt like a year ago.”
Added senior running back/captain Jack Warren: “It was a long offseason and we were looking forward to getting back out there again. Everyone is eager to show what they can do to help the team.”
Here’s a quick look at the Cardinals.
Quarterback competition: Juniors James Rinello and Cage Lasley are among the quarterbacks vying for the starting spot. Gavin Muir, who passed for 2,474 yards with 31 touchdowns during Greenwich 13-0 2018 campaign graduated and is playing at Dartmouth College.
“They are learning,” Morello said. “Our system is in place and our quarterbacks were fortunate to have two years under coach Marinelli and our new quarterbacks coach Eddie Groth has been doing a great job of continuing that same mindset. Our quarterbacks are out here to compete, but at the same time it is great to see them picking each other up and motivate each other.”
Carrying the load: Tysen Comizio, the Cards’ leading rusher in 2018 (787 yards, 14 touchdowns) is playing at the University of Pennsylvania. Seeking to fill the void are Warren, senior captain Spencer Hartley and junior Hunter Clark. The position is one of significant depth.
“We have a lot of guys in this group,” Warren said. “We really go can’t wrong there, so I think we have the potential to be really good in this area.”
Said Hartley: “I can’t wait for the season to start and get going. I like what we have going on with our receivers, our quarterbacks and our running backs. Our defense is always strong too.”
Ready to catch on: AJ Barber, coming off a sophomore season that produced 446 receiving yards, returns to pace the receiving corps, which could also be sparked by Kobe Comizio, Matthew Pilc, Jason Gussis, Chason Barber and tight end Will Montesi.
Strong up front: Senior UPenn-bound Callum Abernethy is the lone returning starter on the offensive line, where he will line up at tackle.
“We’re getting better and better every day,” Abernethy said. “We have a really young group and a lot of guys fighting for positions. A lot of spots are up for grabs.”
Iuteri and Will Montesi should help pace the defensive line.
“Everyone is playing physical and ready to go,” Iuteri said. “Our defensive line is complemented really well.”
Game breaker: AJ Barber displayed his big-play ability numerous times during the 2018 season, including the Cardinals’ 34-0 win against New Canaan in the state final and can test every secondary.
Watch out for: Warren missed the final seven games last fall with an injury, but is full recovered now and has the potential to power the Cards’ running attack.
Captain’s comments: “It feels good to be a captain of this team,” senior linebacker Evan Weigold said. “We obviously, have one of the biggest programs in the state and New England, so it’s a lot of work, but it’s great. We’re getting to see a lot of new guys get reps, which is fun to watch.”