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Staples Shoots for Wire-to-Wire Title Run

WESTPORT, Conn. – The Staples High School football team, picked by many to win the conference, did not disappoint this season. Led by its trademark rock-solid defense and a breakout season from junior running back Joey Zelkowitz, Staples dominated the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference from wire to wire.

Now Staples will try to put the cherry on top of its stellar regular season. The Wreckers host Greenwich at 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day for the conference championship.

“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Greenwich and their tradition,” Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said. “When we started here 19 years ago, Greenwich was the program we tried to emulate. Eventually, the rivalry grew, and now we have some classic football games.”

Despite graduating 25 seniors, Petroccio has again built an impressive defense. The Wreckers lead the state in sacks thanks to the efforts of Pieter Hoets (eight sacks) and Mikell Washington (seven sacks). They are third in the state and first in the conference in total tackles and have outscored opponents an average of 35-15.

“We’ve got a bunch of young kids who just believe they can’t lose,” Petroccio said. “When you combine that with some great senior leadership, you have a recipe for success. We’re fortunate to be where we are, and we’re excited about it.”

The Cardinals, meanwhile, come into Thursday’s showdown fighting for their playoff lives. A victory would propel Greenwich to the Class LL playoffs, while a loss would send them home. Greenwich rebounded from an injury-riddled 5-5 season in 2010 to post an undefeated record in the conference.

“A 5-5 year in Greenwich is like locusts coming. It might happen once every two centuries or something,” Petroccio joked. "I think the fact that Coach Albonizio got his kids together to turn the ship around says a lot about the tradition and the commitment at his school.”

Petroccio said the game plan will be simple Thursday: stop the Greenwich run game. The Cardinals’ pounding ground attack is led by senior Shane Nastahowski. The Cardinal captain is second in the conference in touchdowns scored with 19.

“I think if we can slow down Shane Nastahowski and make them punt, we’ll be competitive,” Petroccio said. “If not, it’ll be a long day for us.”

Staples’ lead running back Joey Zelkowitz is recovering from a separated shoulder and will be a game-time decision, according to Petroccio. The Wreckers may rely more on the arm of sophomore starting quarterback Jack Massie. Staples has already clinched a Class LL state playoff berth.

Watch Main Street Connect's " FCIAC Football Fast Five " for a full breakdown of the big Thanksgiving Day title game.

Follow Eric Gendron on Twitter for live updates from Thursday's game. Like The Daily Westport on Facebook .

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