GREENWICH — Two touchdown catches by Jeremiah Harris, two field goals by Zach Moore and one strong defensive effort was the winning formula for the Greenwich High School football team Tuesday night, in a game where yards were tougher to come by than usual.
Embroiled in a seven-point game against Fairfield Prep in the fourth quarter, Greenwich gained some breathing room late and advanced to a matchup it hasn’t competed in in quite a while — the Class LL Tournament semifinals.
Junior quarterback Gavin Muir threw a pair of touchdown passes for top-seeded Greenwich, which posted a 27-6 victory over eighth-seeded Fairfield Prep in the CIAC Class LL Tournament quarterfinals at Cardinal Stadium.
The 11-0 Cardinals, who played against Fairfield Prep for the first time since 2006, advanced to Sunday’s 12:30 p.m. semifinals against South Windsor.
The triumph put Greenwich in the state semifinals for the first time since it won the Class LL title in 2007.
“It feels very good to be going to the semifinals,” said Harris a senior, who totaled 96 receiving yards. “It was very important that we came out hot and play the level we know we are capable of playing.”
Muir, who sat out the second half of Greenwich’s Thanksgiving Day win against Staples with an injured ankle, was impressive in his return, completed 22 of 32 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns.
“Gavin is a warrior,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “There was no way he was not going to play. He is an absolute warrior.”
The Jesuits finished their season at 8-3.
“More than anything else, I’m really proud of our team’s effort,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “Greenwich is a fine football program and a team to reckon with. But we gave them a good battle and did a good job tonight. For our players coming back, they will build on this and only get better.”
It didn’t take Greenwich long to score the game’s first touchdown. Muir completed a 29-yard pass to wide receiver Stephen Bennett on the first play from scrimmage, putting the ball on Fairfield Prep’s 47-yard line. The next play Muir threw a 53-yard touchdown to senior wideout Harris, who got wide open behind the Jesuits’ secondary. Moore kicked the extra point, giving the Cardinals a 7-0 lead 36 seconds into the opening quarter.
“We have been practicing that play and it turned out to be very good,” Harris said. “He just threw it in there and we executed the play well.”
The Jesuits closed to within 7-6 on their first possession of the second quarter. Senior quarterback Will Lucas’ 12-yard run off a shotgun draw capped Fairfield Prep’s 82-yard scoring drive. Senior running back Justin Keith’s 33-yard reception off a catch-and-run put the ball on the Greenwich 1-yard line. A holding penalty on the ensuing play moved the ball back to the Cards’ 12, but Lucas ran it into the end zone on the next play with just over seven minutes left in the second quarter.
“They are the No. 1 team in the state, but I thought we did a good job of hanging with them,” Keith said. “We fought through injuries and adversity to make the playoffs. We don’t like the way tonight finished, but it was a good season.”
The Cardinals extended their lead on Moore’s 42-yard field goal with 4:25 left in the second quarter, making it 10-6.
Senior Tysen Comizio, who lined up in the wildcat, threw a 17-yard pass to sophomore Jack Warren on the drive, setting the Cards up on the Jesuits’ 33-yard line.
Greenwich took a 13-6 advantage into halftime when Moore split the uprights again on a field goal attempt. Starting on their own 12-yard line, the Cardinals drove to the Jesuits’ 8, behind receptions of 22 and 11 yards by senior Henry Saleeby (three receptions, 40 yards).
“Zach is such a weapon,” Marinelli said. “He is going to Middlebury and he is going to make them happy, because he is a phenomenal kicker. His punting game was even better tonight.”
Fairfield Prep threatened to score on it’s opening drive of the game, but its march stalled at Greenwich’s 2-yard line.
After Greenwich took a 7-0 edge, senior Christopher Duffy returned the ensuing kickoff to the Cards’ 20-yard line. On fourth down from the 2-yard line, GHS defensive end Tyler Blizzard recovered a fumbled snap, ending the drive.
Greenwich junior defensive back Charlie Ducret intercepted a pass from Lucas in the first half. Pressuring Lucas on the play was senior linebacker Robert Lanni. Junior Gramoz Bici and Nick Mcintosh also helped anchor the Cardinals’ stingy defense.
“Our defensive line built a wall and we maintained our gap responsibilities,” Mcintosh said. “We were very excited to play this game.”
Said Marinelli: “Our defense is playing at a high level and is fun to watch.”
The Jesuits’ defense stepped throughout, behind defensive lineman Tom Donohue and linebacker Reed Hammond, both of whom registered first-half sacks.
After a scoreless third quarter, Greenwich padded it’s lead on Comizio’s 7-yard touchdown run up the middle gave the Cardinals a 20-7 advantage with 8:40 to go in the third quarter. Harris’ 57-yard touchdown catch sealed the scoring with 6:12 remaining in the fourth quarter.
“We played our game for most of the game, but the fourth quarter we dropped off a little and they made a couple of plays,” Keith said.
“Now that we are moving onto the semifinals we hope to keep it rolling and get to states,” Bici said. “We are hoping to win it all.”
GREENWICH 27, FAIRFIELD PREP 6
FAIRFIELD PREP 0 6 0 0 — 6
GREENWICH 7 6 0 14 — 27
G — Jeremiah Harris 53 pass Gavin Muir (Zach Moore kick)
FP — Will Lucas 12 run (kick failed)
G — Zach Moore 42 field goal
G — Zach Moore 25 field goal
G — Tysen Comizio 7 run
G — Harris 43 pass from Muir