Trumbull outlasts Greenwich in gridiron slugfest

In a wild gridiron battle at McDougall Stadium, the Trumbull and Greenwich football teams kept on matching spectacular play with spectacular play.

However in the end, it was the Eagles that found the end zone last. With the score tied at 44-44, Mark Cesare sprinted 10 yards for the go-ahead touchdown scoring with 1:49 and gave Trumbull the thrilling 50-44 victory.

“It was like a ping-pong game,” Trumbull head coach Bob Maffei said. “There were two outstanding offenses. We played a pretty great offensive game today. It was a great high school football game.”

“We took the lead, but they got third and long and we would give up a first down,” Greenwich High head coach Rich Albonizio said. “We just couldn’t cover them. We tried blitzing, we tried playing man, we tried playing zone and we tried to rush three. We tried everything.”

For Greenwich High’s Austin Longi, this was definitely a bittersweet evening. The Big Red junior was unstopped whenever he got his hands on the ball.

“He’s phenomenal,” Albonizio said. “Every time he gets the ball, it looks like he could score. We were saying on the sideline to just get the ball to Austin.”

Running all over the field at any given moment, Longi netted 330 yards on the ground on 26 carries and five touchdowns. He also had an interception while playing defense.

“I did what I did, but it wasn’t enough,” Longi said. “Those 300 yards mean nothing when you get an ‘L.’ As a team it’s going to be tough, but we need to rebound. We still have five more games. We are halfway through the season, but I need to keep my teammates up and the captains have to keep the team up so we could have a good rest of the year.”

Not to be outdone was Nick Roberts, who also had a game to remember. The THS quarterback threw for 372 yards and three touchdowns to help the Eagles pull off the exciting victory.

“We knew that if he had some time, he was very good,” Albonizio said. “When he got rushed a little bit, he wasn’t the same quarterback. But they picked up on our blitzes. They did a great job protecting him. When you blitz, if you play a man-to-man, and give him that much time, he’s going to find somebody open. He was excellent.”

While the finish of the game will be talked about for quite some time, early on it appeared that Trumbull was going to pull away from Big Red early. Highlighted by a 23-yard run by GHS quarterback Matt Marzulla, Longi’s 11-yard run gave Greenwich the early 6-0 lead.

Trumbull cut the deficit in half on its next possession, as Lang Bragg hit a 38-yard field goal. The drive started when Roberts found Quentin Brunetti wide open for the 49-yard reception.

From there, it was all Eagles, as they capitalized on three Greenwich turnovers and converted them for touchdowns to help build a 31-18 lead to end the half.

“I was confused because Norwalk held them to 28 points and they already had 31 on us,” Albonizio said. “It’s mind-boggling to me how we could give up that many points. We did a little better in the second half.”

Instead of getting down because of the halftime deficit, Greenwich clawed right back into the game. They started the second half with an impressive nine-play drive that saw Longi run three yards for the touchdown.

On defense, Longi came through in a big way during Trumbull’s ensuing possession, making the leaping interception and giving Big Red the ball back with solid field position.

Less than two minutes later, Big Red’s Tommy Rappa plowed through the middle eight yards for the touchdown and knotted the game at 31-31.

“We knew that we had to come out strong to start the second half,” Longi said. “We fought and fought, but didn’t fight enough. When I took the ball to the outside or cut it back, that opened up the quarterback read. We were close, but came up just short.”

Trumbull regained the lead on its next possession, as Liam Moore had the three-yard touchdown reception. The drive was highlighted by a 36-yard reception by Thomas Hayduk on third down and 16 and an 11-yard reception by Stephen Nagy on fourth down and four.

“We’ve been doing that all year really,” said Maffei, describing his offense’s effectiveness on third and fourth downs. “As long as our guys catch the ball, and Nick gets protection, that is what’s going to happen. We caught the ball in traffic a lot of times and hung on for the first down.”

While Roberts was throwing with ease, Greenwich’s Longi was making the long runs look effortless. On Greenwich’s next possession, Longi took the first play for 32 yards. After losing a yard on the next play, Longi once again took the handoff and this time sprinted down the THS sideline for the 35-yard touchdown run with 10:29 to play in the fourth.

After Jack Weigold picked off Roberts on Trumbull’s next drive, the Cards grabbed its first lead since the score was 6-3 back in the first quarter, as Longi connected on the 28-yard touchdown run to make the score 44-37.

“We had to set our edges a little better,” Maffei said. “And we also needed to come up and tackle.”

That’s when Roberts kept his cool and helped the Eagles take over the game. Roberts had back-to-back receptions to Brunetti, of 14 and 41 yards respectively, and found the end zone when Cesare ran four yards up the middle with 5:05 to play.

“We had a good offense, but we fumbled twice and threw one pick,” Albonizio said. “Our running game looked great, but we needed better protection in our passing game.”

With the victory, Trumbull improved to 5-1 overall and a perfect 5-0 in the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference. Greenwich fell to 3-3 overall and 2-3 in conference play.