By Rob Adams
The top-seeded Greenwich High School football team knocked off the 8th-seeded Fairfield Prep Jesuits, 27-6 at Cardinal Stadium on Tuesday night. The win in the CIAC Class LL quarterfinals puts the Cardinals in the state semis for the first time since 2007.
Gavin Muir threw two touchdowns to Jeremiah Harris, and Tysen Comizio ran for a score to power the Cardinals attack, as they improved to 11-0 on the season. Big Red will face South Windsor on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. for the right to advance to the state championship.
The Bobcats – from the Central Connecticut Conference – defeated Naugatuck, 35-13 to move on to the semifinal game.
The Cardinals wasted no time getting on the scoreboard. On the second play from scrimmage, Muir (17 of 29 for 177 yards and 2 touchdowns) found Harris over the middle for a 53-yard touchdown. Zach Moore’s extra point was good and the Cardinals led 7-0 with 11:24 to play in the first.
Muir – who suffered a sprained ankle against Staples on Thanksgiving – wasn’t as mobile as usual, but gave the credit to the guys up front.
“I was banged up last week, but I rested it this week, and the line gave me protection,” Muir said. “I didn’t have to do much. It was a great team win today.”
“We wanted to ground and pound them,” Greenwich head coach John Marinelli said, referring to the running game. “We made mistakes up front early. I credit the movement on the defensive line they had.”
The game would stay that way into the second quarter, when Prep quarterback Will Lucas sprinted into the end zone on a quarterback draw. The extra point was no good, allowing the Cardinals to retain a 7-6 lead.
Lucas was the leading rusher for the Jesuits (8-3), securing 39 yards on 14 carries. He was 8 of 20 threw the air for 71 yards and an interception, as he was picked off by Charlie Ducret in the first quarter.
Greenwich tacked on the first of Moore’s field goals, from 42 yards out, with 4:25 to go in the first half to extend the lead to 10-6. The Cardinals got the ball once more before the end of the half, as they moved to the Prep 15.
On first down, Moore took a direct snap as he lined up to kick a field goal and tried to hit co-captain Henry Saleeby on a trick play. The pass fell incomplete, leaving under 10 seconds remaining in the half.
On second down, Moore lined up for a field goal, and kicked a 25-yarder as time expired in the half. Greenwich trotted off with a 13-6 lead.
“Thank God we have a field goal kicker,” Marinelli said. “But we don’t want to kick field goals. It was a sloppy first half on offense.
“I thought it was a great job in the second half on all three phases of the game.”
The hard-fought effort between the two teams continued in the second half, as they played to a scoreless draw, leaving the Cardinals up by seven. Once again, Big Red dialed up a strong defensive effort, limiting the Jesuits to only 128 total yards.
In the fourth quarter, the Cardinals put the game away, in back of Comizio. The junior fought for 68 yards on 13 carries, wearing the Jesuit defense down with his bulldozing style. He found a hole up the middle and scored from 7 yards out with 8:40 to play to give the Cardinals some breathing room at 20-6.
Less than two minutes later, Muir quieted the large Prep cheering section for good, as he once again connected with Harris for a 57-yard touchdown to close out the scoring.
“We were right there with them for the three quarters,” Fairfield Prep head coach Keith Hellstern said. “Defense played pretty well but gave up a couple of long passes, which put us in a hole. I thought the boys played with great effort.
“I think we held up pretty well for the most part. I’m very proud of them.”
Now comes the semis on Sunday at Cardinal Stadium.
“It’s great to get that monkey off our back,” Marinelli said, in reference to his first playoff win as a head coach.
“We’ve got to be prepared” he added, discussing South Windsor. “They’re very athletic. They run an unconventional offense, compared to what we see in the FCIAC.”
“We have a home game in the state semifinals? It’s awesome.”