Barber, Muir unstoppable as Greenwich shuts out New Canaan for CIAC Class LL state title
With A.J. Barber catching and throwing touchdowns, Gavin Muir consistently moving an up-tempo offense and the defense displaying its usual dominance, the first half just kept getting better and better for Greenwich in Saturday’s Class LL football final against New Canaan.
By the time the first 24 minutes of play concluded, the Cardinals held a commanding 27-point lead and were soaring toward something it hadn’t reached since 2007 — the state title.
Putting a huge exclamation point on undefeated season, Greenwich rolled from start to finish in registering a resounding 34-0 win over New Canaan in the championship CIAC Class LL Tournament before a big crowd a Boyle Stadium.
This father-vs.-son coaching matchup, featuring Greenwich’s John Marinelli and New Canaan’s Lou Marinelli, saw the Cardinals seize a 27-0 halftime advantage en route to sealing their unbeaten season with its 13th victory.
“I don’t want it to end, I want to keep playing,” John Marinelli said. “This is a great group of boys, they were the first freshman class in 2015 when I got hired. They are great, high character kids and I’m emotional, because I don’t want it to end.”
Barber, the son of former New York Giants star running back Tiki Barber, had nine receptions for 153 yards and three touchdowns and he also threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to sophomore running back Hunter Clark off a trick play.
“Winning the championship feels amazing,” said Barber, a sophomore. “After last year, when we lost to Darien in the finals, our only goal was to get back to where we were today and have a different outcome.”
Muir passed for 268 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score for Greenwich, which ended its memorable season with its sixth shutout.
“It feels great to come out here and do it in this fashion,” said Muir, a senior, who produced a fitting finish to his standout Cardinals career. “Everyone played great and it was nice to see us get the shutout.”
New Canaan, which entered the matchup with seven straight victories, had trouble extending drives against Greenwich’s speedy defense and slowing down its faced-paced offense.
“I am proud of my son, he did a hell of a job,” Rams coach Lou Marinelli said of John’s coaching performance. “If that’s not the best team in the state, I don’t know who is. No team has come within 28 points of them all season. We had no answer for them. Their defense took away everything we tried to do.”
Junior quarterback Drew Pyne passed for 101 yards for the eighth-seeded Rams (11-2).
“It speaks volumes for us that we made it to the state final after starting the season 3-2,” Pyne said. “This was the closest team I’ve ever played for and I’m going to miss the seniors on the team. It will be hard to see them go.”
SETTING THE TONE
Greenwich, ranked No. 1 in the state in GameTimeCt.com’s poll, imposed its will in the first half. The Cards drove 62 yards in five plays for the game’s first score.
After catching an 8-yard pass from Muir, putting the ball on the 2-yard line, Barber hauled in a Muir pass in the end zone the ensuing play, giving GHS a 7-0 lead with 2:27 remaining in the first quarter.
Senior Lance Large’s 33-yard reception off a pass from senior wideout Stephen Bennett on a trick play called arsenal, keyed the drive.
The Cardinals extended their edge their ensuing drive, with Muir connecting with the elusive Barber down field for a 60-yard touchdown at the 10:43 mark of the second quarter.
Barber began the season with a three-touchdown game against Trumbull and capped it with Saturday’s sensational showing.
“He is wise beyond his years,” John Marinelli said of Barber. “All of the seniors have pushed him and treated him like a kid brother. They’ve challenged him to get better and better and he’s been an incredible player for us.”