GREENWICH — Even down by 20 points at halftime, Ridgefield found another level in the second half. The No. 9 Tigers started moving the ball on No. 4 Greenwich at Cardinal Stadium and threatened to make a game of it again.
Big plays from the Greenwich defense denied them that chance. The Cardinals recovered a fumble near their own goal line to end the third quarter, returned a fumble for a score in the fourth and beat Ridgefield 27-7 on a chilly, sometimes-windy Saturday night.
“It was a tough one. They were a good team,” said Greenwich’s Evan Weigold, who took that fumble back 60 yards for the final score of the evening. “We just had to put our feet down at halftime.”
Greenwich (8-1) moved the ball spectacularly well with short fields on its first two series, more sporadically after that for a while, and precious little in the second half as Ridgefield (7-2) fought back. Owen Matthews’ 12-yard touchdown to Nick Agliardo made it 20-7 with 5:23 left in the third quarter, and then Xander Scavone’s sack helped get the ball back for the Tigers.
“We knew that we were confident enough to do enough good things to be successful. I felt the kids came out with a lot of confidence in the second half,” Ridgefield coach Kevin Callahan said. “Most cases, 20-0 at halftime, there’s not much left, but the kids knew there was a lot left.”
Owen Gaydos pulled in a third-down conversion to help move the ball deep into Cardinals territory. On second-and-goal from the 1 on the last play of the third quarter, the ball came out. Greenwich recovered.
“If they scored there, it would’ve been a game. It would’ve been tough to keep them out of the end zone,” Weigold said.
Weigold’s fumble return came on a fourth-down play that would’ve given Greenwich the ball back anyway with just over five minutes to go.
“I saw it on the ground. Everyone was swarming to the ball,” Weigold said. “I didn’t hear a whistle. I said, all right, I’ll run it back.”
James Rinello threw three first-half touchdowns for the Cardinals, two to Mason Muir, one to Matthew Pilc.
“We knew A.J. (Barber, who later left with cramps) would be the focus of attention. We tried to use him as a decoy as much as possible,” Greenwich coach Anthony Morello said.
“James was seeing the field really well. He was seeing the field well in the second half as well. We didn’t execute when we needed to.”
PLAYER OF THE GAME
James Rinello completed his first nine passes, went 13-for-16 for 109 yards and three touchdowns in the first half, and finished 15-for-22 for 123.
TO THE WIRE
Ridgefield completes its season at home the night before Thanksgiving against Danbury (5-4). Greenwich wraps up at Staples (2-7) on Thanksgiving morning.
Neither has yet clinched a Class LL playoff spot; Ridgefield could have clinched with a win Saturday. Both can clinch with wins in their last games.
THEIR FLAG WAS STILL THERE
The Cardinals controlled the first half despite eight penalties for 61 yards. They won despite finishing with 13 penalties for 97 yards.
“The last few weeks, penalties have been an issue. The most concerning ones are the personal fouls,” Morello said. “I don’t mind aggressive penalties on defense. Offsides are going to happen; that’s just the style of what we play. But we have at least three offensive holding penalties a game.”
“It was a big statement win for us. The defense showed they could stop anyone. Our offense showed we could score on anyone. It was a fun experience to get the seniors a win in possibly their final time on this field.” —Rinello