GREENWICH, Conn. – Greenwich’s Taylor Olmstead blocked the punt, scooped up the football and sprinted untouched into the end zone. Just like that, Greenwich was back in the league championship game.
Olmstead’s 35-yard return sparked the Cardinals to a 17-7 victory over a tough Danbury squad Thursday night. The Cardinals improved to 8-0 in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference and 8-1 overall. They will most likely face Staples (7-0) on Thanksgiving Day for the league championship. The Wreckers meet winless Westhill on Saturday.
Olmstead, a junior, had a big hand in helping the Cardinals get there. Greenwich led 3-0 early after a 34-yard field goal by Jesse Adelberg in the first quarter. Greenwich forced a punt on Danbury’s offensive series in the second half. After a poor snap, Danbury’s punter tried to get the kick off. Olmstead raced in and blocked it cleanly. The ball popped up perfectly, and he was off and running with nothing but the end zone in front of him.
“I had a blocked punt earlier in the season, but nothing like that,’’ Olmstead said. “I was just lucky to get the ball in my hands and give some energy to my team. I knew it would give us a big spark, and it would help us win the game.”
Greenwich’s defense was the other key. The Cardinals limited speedy Danbury running back James Harrington to 44 yards on 16 carries. The Hatters’ only score came with 1:51 left on a 14-yard run by Harrington. Greenwich held Danbury to nine first downs and 85 yards rushing. Alex McMurray and Mike Longo had interceptions.
“They’re scary good,’’ Greenwich coach Rich Albonizio said. “I was having nightmares about them. To play that kind of defense against them is a credit to our kids.”
Greenwich mustered little offense of its own. Running back Shane Nastahowski rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries and finished the Cardinals’ scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. They also managed just nine first downs and had a paltry 62 yards through the air.
The most important thing for Albonizio and the Cardinals was to get the win and return to the league championship game. The last time the Cardinals won the league title was in 2007, when they won at Staples, 37-0, on Thanksgiving Day. They also won the state Class LL championship that year.
“It means our program is back,’’ Albonizio said. “We always want be fighting for a chance to play in that game. We have a little bit our confidence back, a little back of our swagger back.”