Staples outlasts Greenwich to win FCIAC title
46th FCIAC Championship
Staples 31, Greenwich 27
Greenwich 0 14 7 6 -- 27
Staples 3 7 7 14 -- 31
S -- Robbie Wolf 27 field goal
G -- Shane Nastahowki 1 run (Jesse Adelberg kick)
S -- Nick Kelly 8 run (Wolf kick)
G -- Liam O'Neil 1 run (Adelberg kick)
S -- James Fruscaiante 8 pass from Jack Massie (Wolf kick)
G -- Alex McMurray 69 pass from Joel Arroyo (Adelberg kick)
G -- Nastahowski 18 run (kick failed)
S -- Kelly 1 run (Wolf kick)
S -- Peter Bonenfant 16 pass from Massie (Wolf kick)
In a span of less than three hours Thursday, the Staples football team lived a dream and secured its legacy.
Sophomore quarterback Jack Massie connected with senior Peter Bonenfant on a 16-yard pass with 1:21 remaining for the go-ahead touchdown, and Staples held on for a riveting 31-27 Thanksgiving Day victory over rival Greenwich in the 1st annual Jerry McDougall FCIAC Championship game in Westport.
It is the sixth league title and third in the last nine years for the Wreckers (9-0), who continued their perfect season and clinched a home game in Tuesday's CIAC Class LL quarterfinals.
Of course, the win didn't come easy against a determined Cardinals squad that was not only gunning for a league-best 13th FCIAC crown, but fighting for their state playoff lives as well.
"This is unreal," said Staples junior Nick Kelly, who carried 22 times for 89 yards and a pair of touchdowns, including a 1-yard score with 7:00 left as the Wreckers battled back from a 27-17 fourth-quarter deficit. "This team has so much heart, and to beat a great team like Greenwich makes it all the more special."
Greenwich (8-2) took a 14-10 advantage into the intermission, but Staples -- which has shown resiliency in the second half all season -- regained the lead late in the third quarter on an 8-yard pass from Massie to senior James Fruscaiante (seven catches for 105 yards).
"This is a great feeling," said Fruscaiante, who dragged down Joel Arroyo one yard short of a first down on fourth-and-6 from the Greenwich 40 in the final minute, allowing the Wreckers to line up in victory formation on the next play. "Our coaches believe in us and there's just no quit in this team."
Shane Nastahowksi had two touchdown runs for Greenwich, which reached into its bag of tricks in the second half as Arroyo threw back to Alex McMurray on a double pass for a 69-yard touchdown, giving the visitors a 21-17 lead with 1:40 left in the third quarter.
That would set up one of the wildest fourth quarters in recent FCIAC Championship game memory.
Massie, who finished 15 of 20 for 215 yards, quickly shrugged off a rare interception to lead the Wreckers on their two long scoring drives over the final seven minutes.
The game-winning drive was kept alive by a 12-yard completion to Fruscaiante on fourth-and-6 from the Staples 44, and was capped on a third-and-8 play.
Staples -- one of only two unbeatens in Class LL -- will be the No. 2 seed, likely earning it a quarterfinal round matchup with Ridgefield. Norwalk (8-1) punched its ticket to the state tournament for the first time since 1998 courtesy of a 17-0 shutout of McMahon, and will be headed to No. 4 Conard
Greenwich, meanwhile, will miss states for the fourth straight season. Its only losses came against a pair of nine-win teams in New London and Staples.
Along with Staples' 14-10 victory over Central in the 2009 league finals, this was the closest FCIAC title game of the decade.
“I haven’t felt this heartbroken for a group of kids in a long time,” Greenwich coach Rich Albonizio said. “They deserved a better fate today. I’m proud of our players, they were a lot of fun to coach.”