Another win this week would go a long way for the Greenwich and Ridgefield football teams.
The issue is, just one team will be victorious since these two formidable FCIAC foes are facing each other in one of their biggest matchups of the season.
Both team’s enter Saturday’s 4 p.m. game at Cardinal Stadium with identical 7-1 records with two games remaining in the regular season. The Tigers are ranked fourth in Class LL, while the Cardinals are No. 7. A win would put the victor in prime position to qualify for the CIAC Class LL Tournament. A loss could hinder the playoff hopes of either squad.
“Our team is motivated and there is no reason for us to look ahead,” GHS coach Anthony Morello said. “We have a great opponent that we are facing here on Saturday. The team is hungry and I am too — this is crunch time.”
Morello, who is in his first season as coach of the Cardinals, is pleased with his squad’s position at this point of the season.
“Considering all the factors, we are right where we want to be,” Morello said. “I told the kids on Monday, that everything they have hoped for is right there for the taking. They have been supportive of me and the coaching staff from Day 1 and we have set ourselves up this year and for years to come.”
Coached by Kevin Callahan, the Tigers have also set themselves up nicely for a postseason berth. Rebounding from a loss to powerhouse St. Joseph, Ridgefield has won its last two games, allowing only 12 points in the process.
“Ridgefield is a great football team that’s very sound and well-coached on both sides of the ball,” Morello said. “They have given us fits in the past and we have had no real common opponents, so it’s hard to gage them.”
Saturday’s matchup marks the fifth season in a row the Cardinals and Tigers will tangle. Greenwich posted a 33-3 win at Ridgefield last season and edged the Tigers at home, 26-21. Ridgefield beat Greenwich in 2016 (30-21) and 2017 (37-7).
The Cardinals, who are coming off a 58-0 rout of Fairfield Ludlowe a week ago, are facing one of the better offenses they have gone up against this season in the form of Ridgefield.
Senior Owen Matthews has passed for 1,248 yards with nine touchdown passes, while sophomore Kai Prohaszka has totaled a team-leading 530 yards to pace the Tigers’ offense.
“Ridgefield’s offense is very balanced behind Matthews,” Morello said. “He does a great job of spreading the ball around and if you try to take something away from them, they do a great job of making adjustments. They are unlike some of the teams we play in recent weeks.”
Greenwich counters with senior quarterback James Rinello (1,690 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, just two interceptions), junior Hunter Clark (242 rushing yards) and junior AJ Barber (531 receiving yards) and junior Kobe Comizio (493 yards receiving).
Throughout the season, Greenwich’s depth has made a difference on both sides of the field.
“The most exciting part of where we are as a program is that we are deep at every position,” Morello said. “We’ve had a lot of different players start and we have utilized our numbers and depth during practice and games.”
Leadership from senior captains Eddy Iuteri, Rinello, Evan Weigold, Callum Abernethy and Spencer Hartley has also contributed significantly to the squad’s 7-1 record.
“The seniors have taken the sophomore and junior class under their wing, which has been huge,” Morello said. “They have been an extension of the coaching staff. A new head coach is a big change for a senior class and they’ve handle it so well.”
Iuteri, a defensive lineman, linebackers Vincent Ceci (84 tackles), TJ Abbazia (64 tackles) and Evan Weigold (35 tackles) will be relied upon to help slow down the Tigers’ potent offense on Saturday.
On offense, patience will be one of the keys for the Cards.
“We have t be patient offensively and we need to finish and sustain drives,” said Morello, whose squad will celebrate its Senior Day on Saturday. We can’t go backwards, or have penalties. Field position and special teams play will, of course, play huge roles in the game.”