GREENWICH, Conn. The Greenwich High football team has relied on its rock-solid defense all season. But when they needed it most, the Cardinals had no answer for Staples High sophomore quarterback Jack Massie in the conference championship game Thursday.
Greenwich could not hold onto its commanding 27-17 lead with 11 minutes to play. Staples rode a pair of late 60-yard drives, including the go-ahead strike with 1:16 left, to stun the Cardinals, 31-27, to win the conference title. The loss also eliminates Greenwich from state playoff contention.
Momentum was firmly on Greenwichs side when it pulled off the play of the year late in the third quarter. From his own 32-yard line, Cardinals quarterback Liam ONeil threw a lateral pass to wide receiver Joel Arroyo. The Greenwich receiver then threw back across the field to a wide-open Alex McMurray, who scampered 68 yards to give the Cardinals a 20-17 lead.
We needed something to get our momentum back, and it worked there. But we had too many penalties. We couldnt stop the pass, Greenwich head coach Rich Albonizio said. I thought we covered the run pretty well, but we gave up to many big passes. Our coverage wasnt tight enough.
The game looked even more in hand when Nick Pulitano intercepted Massie just two plays later. Greenwichs workhorse running back Shane Nastahowski blew past defenders for a 23-yard score, giving the Cardinals a commanding 10-point lead.
But Staples would not give in, as Massie orchestrated a 13-play drive that cut Greenwichs lead to three. Staples came up with a huge stop on defense on the next Greenwich possession, forcing a punt.
Greenwich came up with a stop of its own, holding Staples to fourth down on its own 45-yard line. Staples went into punt formation, but a lineman was missing on the field, forcing the Wreckers to call a timeout.
Staples head coach Marce Petroccio instead elected to go for it. Massie threw a laser to James Frusciante for a clutch 11 yards to keep the drive alive. Five plays later, Massie lofted a 16-yard fade pass to Peter Bonenfant for the eventual game-winning score.
Greenwich was hit with six crucial penalties. Despite a pair of touchdowns, Nastahowski was held to just 61 yards rushing. McMurray rushed for 51 yards out of the wildcat formation and received for another 78 yards. ONeil was limited to 58 yards passing and was out-passed by Arroyo just on the trick play.
Greenwich improved from 5-5 in 2010 to finish this season at 8-2. It was short of the Cardinals goal, though, Albonizio said. For us, this isnt where we should be. Were supposed to play next week. Thats what our program is about.
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