GREENWICH — Most of what has transpired this season for the Greenwich football team stems from 362 days ago. The players talk about December 9, depending on the conversation, in either ominous or inspirational tones.
“Probably what resonates the most for me is the final score,” said Cardinals running back Tysen Comizio. “That’s something that I will never forget. We were having a great season and it didn’t finish the way we wanted.”
That score was 31-22, and the day was last year’s Class LL championship game. Darien had the 31 and won its third straight state title. Greenwich earned praise for a memorable season that ultimately was nice but unsatisfying.
Now the Cardinals are back in the title game. Back at 12-0. Back at Boyle Stadium. And back against another FCIAC opponent. This time, on Saturday, it will be New Canaan.
The Cardinals were never happy just to be in the final last season, though in reality they exceeded the expectations of everyone except the players and coaches in the locker room.
“They’re on a mission,” Greenwich coach John Marinelli said. “They set out from day one and said they didn’t like how that loss tasted and obviously that’s a great motivator. To their credit they came back and worked really hard to have this opportunity again.”
Greenwich and New Canaan met in the fifth week of the season. The Cardinals came away with a 42-14 win, scoring three touchdowns in the opening minutes. It remans the Cardinals closest game of a dominant season. And it was a turning point for the Rams, who at 3-2 used it as a chance to reboot. They have won seven straight games and believe they are better equipped now to produce a different outcome.
“I think it’s a great matchup,” Comizio said. “Obviously they’re a great football team. We love competition so I am happy we get to play them but I also know how good a team they are and I know they are a completely different team from when we first played them. I’m excited.”
It is a credit to the players and the programs that any talk of a Marinelli Bowl — New Canaan’s Lou Marinelli will be coaching against his son — has been remarkably muted. This is the fifth meeting since John Marinelli was hired at Greenwich. The family novelty started to change last year.
Marinelli was the offensive coordinator at New Canaan prior to his arrival at Greenwich, so preparing for a state final was an almost annual rite.
“I actually had a lot of help learning how to get ready for these games at New Canaan and on that staff,” Marinelli said. “From what started in 2008. I learned how to make a practice schedule, how to get the kids the training room hours and make sure they are taking care of their bodies and making sure to take care of the preparation to play on short notice. I don’t think anything changes from this year to last year. We’re just setting practice schedules and getting in what we think we need to get in and not work them too hard so they have fresh legs for Saturday.”
The Greenwich players, going back to the spring game and then training camp, have returned to the theme of getting another chance to accomplish what it failed to a year ago. They felt they should have defeated Darien last year and had a chance to late in the fourth quarter, getting the ball down 24-22.
“The Monday after our season ended we were back in the weight room getting ready for this season,” said Emilio Camou, one of five Greenwich defensive players named to the All-FCIAC team. “We remember all the work we put in from the beginning of the offseason. Seeing it being taken away from us, they ripped it out of our hands. We’re playing angry and with a lot of heart and we’re going to leave it all out there because that was not a good feeling last year. We’re facing a different team this year. We already faced them but they are coming at us a different team. We’re not going to take them lightly.”
This has been a near-perfect season for the Cardinals, but that will provide little consolation without one more win.
“There’s definitely a scar there from last year but it’s a completely different year, a different team,” Comizio said. “We’re just focused on what our goal was at the beginning of the season and that’s to win it.”