Plenty of positive vibes emanated from the Greenwich High School football team following last week’s 36-21 win over rival New Canaan — a victory marking the Cardinals’ first triumph over the Rams since 2006.
Yet though the Cardinals were pleased about their latest win, which raised their record to 4-0, they knew they had little time to reflect on the exciting outcome.
It was back to business on Monday for Greenwich, which is gearing up for its Homecoming Day FCIAC West Division matchup against a formidable Westhill squad. The Vikings sport a record of 4-1 under coach Frank Marcucio.
“Last week’s win was great for the community and for our program,” said GHS coach John Marinelli, who coached against his father Lou during last Saturday’s game against New Canaan. “It may have surprised some people, but we went into the game knowing we had a good chance to win. I don’t know if it was a shock to the kids or the coaching staff. We have a confident group that goes about their business every day. It was obviously a game on the calendar that we circled, but we also realized it was game four on our schedule.”
Ranked third in the CIAC Class LL standings, the Cardinals know they must be ready to play a Vikings team that’s defeated three FCIAC foes already so far this season. Westhill gave Greenwich all it could handle last season in dropping a tight 22-16 decision to the Cardinals.
“Last year we were sitting on pins and needles for 47 out of 48 minutes of the game against Westhill,” Marinelli said. “Westhill had chances to win last year’s game and we felt fortunate to come out with the win. They took advantage of some of the mistakes we made and I’m sure they’re going to use that game as motivation. Our kids are excited too, it’s Homecoming week with so much going on, so there is a lot of school spirit involved.”
Greenwich’s defense, which consistently pressured New Canaan quarterback Drew Pyne and did a solid job in pass coverage last week, must focus on Westhill running back Saquan Kelly and quarterback AJ Laccona. Coming off a bye, the Vikings’ last game saw them post a 45-27 win over Capital Prep, with Laconna throwing four touchdown passes and Kelly running for two scores.
“Westhill has a very athletic quarterback and a really good running back, who gets downhill fast,” Marinelli said. “Their quarterback is a tough kid, who can scramble and is also good in the pocket. You need to have someone constantly in his face.”
Through five games, Laconna has thrown for 820 yards and 13 touchdowns. Kelly, meanwhile, has powered Westhill’s running attack, already amassing 747 yards on the ground.
“He does a great job of fighting for extra yards after contact, so we have to be sure we are swarming to the football,” Marinelli said of Kelly.
Tackling wasn’t much of an issue a week ago for the Cards, who were sound defensively throughout.
“Our athleticism on defense is an advantage,” Marinelli said. “We spent two weeks working on not letting Drew Pyne scramble and our ability from keeping him from going across the line of scrimmage for the most part, was key. A large part of that was because of our athleticism.”
Westhill will try to do what no team has accomplished yet — keep Greenwich from lighting the scoreboard frequently. Junior quarterback Gavin Muir had another standout game in his squad’s fourth game, passing for 183 yards with three touchdowns and one interception. For the season, he has 845 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“Gavin made one mistake against New Canaan and each mistake has been a learning experience for him,” Marinelli said. “He knows the right emotions to use in a game and he continues to develop. Our offensive line did a great job last week, allowing only one sack.”
Junior Tysen Comizio leads Greenwich’s ground game with 356 yards through four games with seven touchdowns, while senior Jael Negron (15 receptions, 293 yards, seven touchdowns) and senior Henry Saleeby (13 receptions, 209 yards) have paced the Cards’ receiving corps.
“Westhill’s defense creates a lot of matchup issues,” Marinelli said. “They can show up in pretty much anything. Their secondary and linebackers are tough and a lot of their linemen are big and physical like New Canaan. We’ll have to adjust to what they’re doing on game day. Last year, it took us a while to adjust.”
MARINELLI HONORED BY JETS
The New York Jets and Gatorade announced Thursday that Marinelli was this week’s recipient of the New York Jets High School Coach of the Week award. Through Gatorade’s sponsorship, the monetary award to benefit the school’s football program was $2,000. Along with the award, Greenwich received an automatic bid to compete in the 2018 New York Jets 7 on 7 Tournament.
Marinelli will be presented with a certificate and an award ball when the Jets play the Los Angeles Chargers at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 24.