Staples (8-0) vs. Greenwich (8-1)
When: Thursday, 10 a.m.
Where: Staples Field, Westport
FCIAC titles: Staples 5 (2009, 2003, 1997, 1975, 1967); Greenwich 12 (2007, 2006, 2004, 2002, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1987, 1983, 1982, 1981, 1974)
MSGVarsity.com will be live-streaming Thursday morning’s FCIAC Championship, a Turkey Day title tilt between rivals Greenwich and Staples that has all the trimmings.
Winners of six straight, the soaring Cardinals can clinch a spot in the state tournament for the first time since 2007 and add to their trophy case which is stocked with a league-best 12 FCIAC crowns.
The only unbeaten team left in the league, the Wreckers are making their fifth appearance in the FCIAC finals over the last eight seasons and have already wrapped up one of the eight CIAC Class LL tournament berths.
Since the perennial powers began playing on Thanksgiving in 2005, Staples is 4-2 against Greenwich and has won the last two meetings – including a 27-8 victory at Cardinal Stadium in 2010.
Greenwich, however, has won the only two league championship games between the schools – and was a 37-0 victor in the 2007 FCIAC final, which was also held in Westport on Thanksgiving. In the last matchup at Staples Field, the Wreckers clinched a state playoff berth with a wild 30-28 win.
The Cardinals, whose only loss came against New London in Week 3, have one of the top two-way players in the state in 6-foot-1, 220-pound Shane Nastahowksi – who has received offers from Division 1 programs Temple and Akron to name a few.
Nastahowski (102.8 yards per game, 19 total TDs) leads a versatile rushing attack that churns out over 233 yards per contest. Senior Mike Daly and juniors Mark Bernstein and Alex McMurray, a threat out of the Wildcat, are the other primary ballcarriers.
Junior Liam O’Neil (605 yards, 5 Tds, 2 INT) and favorite target Joel Arroyo (22 catches, 339 yards) highlight the passing game for the FCIACs highest-scoring offense (37.4 ppg), which goes up against one of the league’s stingiest defenses led by tackling machines Kevin Kearney, Robbie Wolf and Lance Lonergan. Pieter Hoets (8 sacks) and Mikell Washington (7 sacks) lead the way for a unit that brought down opposing quarterbacks 43 times.
The matchup is just as intriguing on the other side of the ball as Staples, which averages a shade over 35 points and 376 yards per contest, runs smack into a Greenwich defense that has allowed just 139 points all season.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Massie has connected with senior James Fruscaiante 18 times for 437 yards and five touchdowns. That big-play combination is supported by a ground game that has piled up over 253 yards per game.
Junior Joey Zelkowitz has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury, but has still rushed for 800 yards and 10 touchdowns. If Zelkowitz can’t go, that means more carries for Nick Kelly (640 yards from scrimmage, 12 TDs) and Jon Heil (503 total yards, 5 TDs).
Nastahowki, Daly and Taylor Olmstead are the top tacklers for the Cardinals, while Kyle Camacho and Alex McGee have comebined for 6.5 sacks.