WESTPORT, Conn. – Joey Zelkowitz rushed for a conference title game record 317 yards as the Staples High football team came away with its second straight conference championship in a wild 48-30 victory over Greenwich on Thanksgiving morning.
Zelkowitz was named the game’s MVP after obliterating the old title game record of 226 yards set by Steve Longo of Greenwich in 2001. The Staples running back had broken the record by halftime, going into the break with 262 rushing yards.
As he has done his whole high school career, Zelkowitz heaped all the praise on his teammates.
“Our offensive line was incredible, as always,” he said. “I just followed behind my line, and there was a giant hole every time. We just wanted to come out and win.”
James Frusciante hauled in an acrobatic, leaping catch for a 24-yard touchdown to open the scoring on Staples’ first drive. Patrick Lesch dashed to the end zone from 11 yards out on Staples’ next drive to put the Wreckers up 14-0 early.
Then the conference championship became the Zelkowitz show. The senior ripped off touchdown runs of 57 and 61 yards in the first half, giving the Wreckers a 27-14 lead. Zelkowtiz’s longest run of the day, an 84-yard run deep into Greenwich territory late in the first half, broke the championship-game rushing record.
After Greenwich came up with a defensive stop on fourth down on its own goal line, Lance Lonergan intercepted a Greenwich pass for a 7-yard touchdown to put Staples up by 20 at halftime.
Staples would have dominated throughout had it not been for several miscues on special teams by the Wreckers. Greenwich returned a kickoff for a touchdown, ran a punt back into the Staples red zone and collected two points on a safety thanks to a muffed punt attempt by the Wreckers.
Alex McMurray almost singlehandedly got Greenwich back in the game with a pair of touchdown runs in the third quarter. The safety on the botched punt pulled the Cardinals within four points.
But that was as close as Greenwich got, as Wreckers quarterback Jack Massie added to the huge rushing total with a 46-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
Zelkowitz added the exclamation point on his record-setting afternoon with a 25-yard touchdown run – his third of the day – with just less than two minutes to play.
“Big-time players make big-time plays in big-time games,” Staples head coach Marce Petroccio said. “Joey deserves that record. He’s an unselfish kid, and he’s what our program is all about.”
With the victory, Staples locked up the top overall seed in the Class LL state tournament. The Wreckers will host eighth-seeded West Haven in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
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