By Rob Adams
Greenwich High junior quarterback Gavin Muir threw three touchdown passes and ran for another as Greenwich built up a 22-0 lead and beat New Canaan, 36-21.
“They’re a great football team,” Greenwich head coach John Marinelli said. “I think, for our kids, to be in a game with a team like New Canaan and come out with a win, it says a lot about this group of kids.”
The Cardinals (4-0, 4-0 FCIAC) beat the Rams for the first time since the 2006 FCIAC Championship. Coincidentally, members of the 2006 and 2007 FCIAC and state champions were at Cardinal Stadium for the game, and were brought onto the field for a halftime ceremony.
The teams traded punts to open the game before Greenwich got the ball after a Rams punted again to the NC 40. Three plays later, Muir found senior receiver Jael Negron in the back right corner of the east end zone for a 21-yard score and a 7-0 lead.
Following a New Canaan punt their own 39 yard line, Big Red was in business again. The Cardinals marched to the end zone, capped by a Tysen Comizio two-yard run.
Leading 14-0 after one quarter, the Cardinals struck again. On first down at the Ram 21 yard line, Muir rolled right and lofted the ball to an open Henry Saleeby. The senior made the catch, and then caught a two-point conversion on a jump pass thrown by junior Gramoz Bici.
The Cardinals led 22-0 with 11:00 remaining in the first half. So the game was over, right?
Not so fast.
The Rams went on a nine-play, 75-yard drive in six minutes in nineteen seconds, with senior Owen Shin (21 carries, 123 yards) stepping into the end zone from a yard out. The Rams (3-2, 3-2 FCIAC) converted two fourth downs on the drive to cut deficit to 22-7.
“I felt like our defense anchored it and it forced a long drive,” Marinelli said. “That fits to our mold on offense.”
Entering the second half, the Rams found themselves with renewed confidence. The offense was revived in back of Shin and sophomore quarterback Drew Pyne (20 of 31 for 280 yards).
In a game with a few twists and turns, Pyne provided one of his own. With the ball at the Greenwich 3 on first-and-goal, Pyne took the snap and ran into the end zone. The Cardinals let up, thinking they had heard an officials whistle. Pyne jumped for joy as the officials confirmed there was no official, awarding Pyne a touchdown.
Suddenly, the 22-point lead was down to just eight at 22-14.
The Cardinals looked like they were driving to extend the lead, but the effort was snuffed out as a 43-yard field goal try by Zach Moore was blocked by Zach Miller of New Canaan.
Both teams stalled as the third quarter ended but the Cardinals would find the end zone again to start the fourth. On third-and-nine at the Rams 33, the combination of Muir and Negron worked again, with the receiver sprinting into the end zone to push the lead to 29-14.
With the clock now working against them, New Canaan got the ball back on a Moore punt. Shin then sprinted to the Greenwich 33 yards. Pyne then threaded the needle to Patrick Metzger for 32 yards to the GHS 1. Junior running back J.R. Moore crashed into the end zone one play later. Suddenly the Greenwich lead was down to 29-21.
On the ensuing drive, Greenwich looked like they were satisfied with running the ball to work the clock down. Muir (18 of 28, 177 yards, 3 TD’s, 1 INT) found an opportunity to win the game with his feet.
Using a perfect play fake to Comizio, Muir sprinted to the left and went 72 yards into the end zone for the final score of the day.
“I thought the last play – in the heat of the moment, with a young team and a young quarterback, to pull the ball when it’s supposed to be a running back play, I thought that was something,” Marinelli said. “You can’t be afraid in these games. You can’t be conservative.”
After essentially playing only two games in a month, Greenwich now gets down to a regular schedule. Westhill comes to Cardinal Stadium next Saturday at 3 p.m. for Homecoming.
In the meantime, Greenwich can’t hide anymore.
“This means that we’re a state championship contender,” Marinelli said.
“Coach said we have to take it one game at a time,” captain Robert Lanni said. “We had our first test this week and we had a lot of adversity. I thought we responded well. Today was a special day.
There is no doubt about it. The Cardinals are real.