GREENWICH, Conn. Just a year ago, Greenwich played Staples in a meaningless Thanksgiving Day game that capped a dismal, injury-riddled season for the Cardinals. But with a victory this Thursday, Greenwich would completely turn its fortunes around with a conference championship and a berth in the state tournament.
The 2010 season was a bad one for Greenwich football. How bad? Legendary head coach Rich Albonizio considered retiring after the Cardinals posted a 5-5 record. With the pedigree of Greenwichs football, a nonwinning season was stunning.
You start to doubt yourself after going 5-5, and you wonder whether its time to get out of the business, Albonizio said. But these kids this year reinforced my beliefs that through hard work and dedication and staying healthy our program is back where we feel we should be.
Greenwich has been carried by its defense to a perfect 8-0 record in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Greenwich is ranked third in the conference in interceptions and fourth in sacks.
You cant win a championship without a great defense, Albonizio said. There have been times weve played great defense. And were going to have to do the same thing in order to win a championship.
One knock against Greenwich is that it benefited from an easy schedule. Its opponents were a combined 19-49 this season. Greenwich struggled against the two teams it played with winning records, falling to New London in an out-of-conference game.
Greenwich will face its toughest opponent by far in Staples when the teams meet at 10 a.m. Thursday at Staples. The Wreckers have averaged more than 35 points a game and lead the state in sacks. Staples also leads the conference in total tackles.
Greenwich's offense is led by Shane Nastahowski and a pounding running attack. The Cardinal captain is second in the conference in touchdowns scored with 19.
The team that makes the fewest mistakes will win. I dont think weve played our best game on both sides of the ball yet, Albonizio said. This would be a good time to do it.
Albonizio admitted that a conference championship and a state playoff berth would put this season high on his list. People were starting to doubt us, he said. Even now I dont think we get as much respect as we used to. A win would get us back where we think we should be.
Watch Main Street Connect's " FCIAC Football Fast Five " for a full breakdown of the big Thanksgiving Day title game.
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