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Greenwich Needs One More Win for Redemption

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 Greenwich’s football, a nonwinning season was stunning.

“You start to doubt yourself after going 5-5, and you wonder whether it’s 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 can’t win a championship without a great defense,” Albonizio said. “There have been times we’ve played great defense. And we’re 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 don’t think we’ve 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 don’t 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.

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for live updates from Thursday's game. Like The Daily Greenwich on Facebook .

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