The Greenwich High School football team had several chances but were unable to complete the comeback against Trumbull High School Friday night at McDougall Stadium, as the Eagles held on for the 28-23 victory.
The Big Red defense, which gave up 28 points in the first half against the Eagles, came up huge in the second and held Trumbull scoreless the remainder of the game. On the offensive side of the ball, the Cardinals were solid in the first half, but they were unable to turn the corner in the second and get over the hump.
“Offensively we played great in the fist half and terrible on defense,” GHS head coach John Marinelli said. “In the second half we were flat on offense and great on defense. We just need to play better team defense, get more consistent on offense and come out and play for all four quarters.”
Trailing 28-17 late in the third quarter, Greenwich started making its move. After a fake punt didn’t give Trumbull a first down, Big Red took over the ball with 3:01 to play on Greenwich 16.
After GHS quarterback Frank Alfano called his own number twice and combined for 11 yards, he stepped back on his third play of the drive and found Tyler Ferris for the short pass. Ferris then turned on the jets and blew by the THS defense to complete the 73-yard touchdown play to cut the deficit to 28-23.
From there, it was up to the Greenwich defense. Ten plays into its drive, Trumbull found themselves on the Greenwich 4, courtesy of a pass interference call on Greenwich and a 21-yard pass completion from quarterback John McElroy to Dan Hoffman on fourth down.
However, the GHS defense stood tall. After Hoffman ran three years on a first down and goal at the Greenwich 4, Trumbull wasn’t able to get any closer as the GHS defense stood tall and forced a turnover on downs.
“The defense in the second half really came out and played really well,” Marinelli said. “The problem is that we have to put four quarters together and we have yet to do that. We are pretty talented, but sometimes we make some stupid mistakes and it comes back to get you.”
With the ball in Greenwich’s possession and facing a third down and seven at the Greenwich 3, Alfano took the ball on the keeper, sprinted past several defenders and ran for 20 yards and the first down. While the Alfano run kept the drive alive, Big Red was forced to punt four plays later.
Big Red’s defense did its part, by forcing Trumbull to punt on its remaining possessions. However, the offense wasn’t able to get anything going the rest of the way, going three-and-out on its next possession and turning the ball over with an interception with less than a minute to play.
“We kicked ourselves in the foot in the first half,” Marinelli said. “Defensively we have a lot of adjustments that we need to make and offensively Trumbull did some things to stall our run game a little bit. Our passing game also needs to come on a little more. At the end of the day, we need to get back to work, keep building and keep on grinding.”
In the first half, Greenwich and Trumbull were firing on all cylinders offensively. Trumbull got the ball first and made the most of its first possession, marching eight plays down the field and scoring when McElroy threw a screen to Markeese Woods that went for 18 yards and a touchdown with 9:46 left in the first.
Greenwich didn’t take long to respond. On the second play from scrimmage, Alfano found Henry Saleeby open for a 14-yard gain. Two plays later, Alfano once again hit the screen pass, this time to Ferris, who sprinted 48 yards for the touchdown and 7-6 lead.
The Cardinals took the lead with 2:01 to play in the quarter. Starting on the Trumbull 40, Saleeby was a target again, as it was quarterback Nic Smoller who found the tight end for 17 yards. Kevin Iobbi then did the rest, rushing twice for nine yards each and a touchdown.
Big Red’s lead didn’t last long. Hoffman took the ensuing kickoff back to the Greenwich 13 and two plays later it was Hoffman who caught the McElroy pass for the 14-yard touchdown with 1:06 to play.
With the score now tied at 14, Greenwich had its next drive from the 19-yard line, but a fumble on the first play from scrimmage gave Trumbull the ball at the GHS 17-yard line. Three plays later it was the familiar combo of McElroy and Hoffman, who once again connected for the 12-yard touchdown to give Trumbull the 20-14 lead heading into the second quarter.
With 4:46 to play in the first half, Soh Nakayama connected on a 26-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 20-17, but Trumbull struck at the end of the first half, literally.
After marching down the field, Trumbull had the ball on the Greenwich 26 with 15.2 seconds to play. McElroy darted out of the pocket and with all the time in the world, found Dustin Siqueira in the back corner of the end zone with one-half a second left in the half for the 26-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 28-17 lead at the break.
“Trumbull is a good football team,” Marinelli said. “They pass the ball around and do a good job protecting the quarterback,” Marinelli said. “They’re a good team and you can’t give a good team the opportunities that we did. We turned the ball over way too much and the penalties stalled our drives. We made too many mistakes and Trumbull executed off the mistakes we made.”
With the loss, Greenwich fell to 2-2 on the season.
Despite the loss, Marinelli did single out several standout players in his opinion.
“Jake Herman on defense played a great game and I thought Scooter Harrington was a warrior out there,” Marinelli said. “Both quarterbacks had their moments and Kevin Iobbi was really strong. Tyler Ferris is a great kid and does some pretty good things with the football. We need to find a way to get him the ball more and more. We have a lot to work on, but we can also take a lot of positives out of it. We are continuing to build this thing and this was a tough loss. It’s going to sting a little bit, but we have to rebound right away.”
However, there’s no rest for Greenwich. Next Saturday, Big Red has a big game on its schedule. Not only is state champion New Canaan High School coming into Cardinal Stadium, but the game is Greenwich’s Homecoming contest, so emotions will naturally be at an all-time high.
“It’s very important for us to go back to work,” Marinelli said. “For us it’s getting in the mindset and coming out every day in practice, so that way we can put together four quarters of football. We are getting there. We have to rebound from this game. Our senior leadership is tremendous and our captains do such a great job. So I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. This is a learning experience.”