The offensive line was one of the units that experienced the most turnover due to graduation on the Greenwich football team, but through three games, junior quarterback James Rinello has had plenty of time to pass to his receivers, while the running backs have gained significant yards.
And that’s due to the Cardinals’ players in the trenches up front.
Greenwich, ranked third in the GameTimeCT Top 10 Poll, enters Saturday’s 4 p.m. game against host Bridgeport Central with a record of 3-0, having outscored its foes, 136-13 along the way. Cardinals first-year coach Anthony Morello is impressed with the cohesiveness and effectiveness he’s noticed from the offensive line.
“Fortunately, my experience with the offensive line position has put my nerves at ease a little bit,” said Morello, who spent a lot of time coaching the unit prior to taking over the head coaching reigns. “Graduating six excellent seniors on the offensive line, including four starters, was going to be a tough transition. But I knew through morning workouts both in the weight room and on the field, we were going to have kids that were hungry and motivated to play.”
Defeating Danbury, Trumbull and Norwalk its first three games, defending Class LL champion Greenwich has won the battle at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball each week. The Cards’ offensive line has helped the offense set the tone of each game with strong play at the point of attack.”
“It was a bit nerve wracking to replace that many kids on the line one at a time,” Morello said. “I was nervous about the talent and attitude from the younger kids. The seniors have been leaders on and off the field.”
Senior right tackle Callum Abernethy, one of the Cardinals’ captains, is the lone returning offensive lineman from the 2018 championship squad.
“Callum has been a three year starter for us,” Morello said. “He has really helped in the process in our team finding consistency on the line.”
Abernethy will continue his football career at the University of Pennsylvania.
“I remember when he (Abernethy) first came in he had size and strength and was so respectful,” Morello said. “What he does in the weight room and the leadership he’s shown as one of the captains has been so important to our team.”
David Nasimi has found his niche at left tackle this season and junior Sam Chard has performed well at right guard.
“David worked so hard in the weight room to prepare for the season and is fundamentally sound and smart,” Morello said. “He is a converted running back and is one of our most fundamentally sound offensive linemen.”
A quarterback during his Greenwich Youth Football League days, sophomore Michael Senisi is now the quarterback of the offensive line. He’s in his first season as the squad’s starting center.
“He’s now handling the snaps at a different angle — as a center,” Morello said of Senisi. “He is constantly working on his craft before and after practice and he comes in each day with a positive mindset and the desire to do better.”
Lining up at left guard is Josh Grijalba, who has also flourished in his first season as a starter.
“He sticks to defensive players like glue,” Morello said. “He is our best lineman in terms of pulls and traps and he always has a notebook in his hands, writing things down to work on. He is just scratching the surface with his potential.”
Senior Frank Toscano and sophomore William Janis are also contributing to the offensive line, with Janis filling in at the tackle positions.
“The future is bright for our offensive line,” Morello said. “The seniors, juniors and sophomores are jelling.”
Having dynamic offensive players such as junior wide receiver AJ Barber and junior running back Hunter Clark also helps the linemen, who don’t need to create much room for the speedy Clark to run, or the mobile Rinello to get the ball to Barber.
“It kind of works both ways with the quarterback, running backs, receivers and the offensive line, they help each other,” Morello said. “We are so talented at running back and wide receiver — we will take what the defense gives us. Our line has allowed James to get into a groove with good blocking and pass protection and our backs have helped our offensive linemen.”
The Cardinals are facing an 0-3 Bridgeport Central team on Saturday that Morello knows has plenty of upside.
“Bridgeport Central is big up front and very physical,” Morello said. “Their defensive line is one of the better defensive lines we will see all season. They will put you on the ground.”
EXTRA POINTS: Rinello has passed for 690 yards with 10 touchdowns and just one interception through three games. … Barber has 12 receptions for 252 yards and has caught five touchdown passes over three weeks. … Junior linebacker Vincent Ceci leads the squad with 30 tackles. … Senior lineman Eddy Iuteri has registered a team-high three sacks.