With a vocal Greenwich crowd rooting for their high school boys soccer team Saturday and an undefeated regular season on the line, the home team wasn't about to let visiting Staples stand in the way.
Patrick Santini scored twice and the rest of Greenwich's talented senior class rose to the occasion, too, as the Cardinals quickly responded from a second-half deficit and pulled away for a 4-1 victory over their Westport rivals in a showdown between FCIAC Western Division powerhouses.
The win raised Greenwich's record to 11-0-1, and was a huge step toward securing the league's regular season championship and top seed in the FCIAC tournament. Staples fell to 8-2-2.
It was also the Cardinals' second straight regular-season triumph over the Wreckers, the league's most decorated program.
"They've certainly had their share of success against us over the years," Greenwich coach Kurt Putnam said. "They've become our biggest rival, and I was really proud of how the boys responded. They showed resiliency, and have showed that type of character throughout the season."
"I'm not sure the final score was indicative of how competitive the game was for the first 60 minutes or so," said Staples coach Dan Woog.
"Psychologically we had to adjust to Noah (Schwaeber) coming out," Woog said of the Wrecker goalie's departure with a possible concussion. "He's been a real sparkplug for us.
"But I give Greenwich a lot of credit," Woog added. "They're a well-coached, senior-dominated team and they came though. Hopefully we'll get a chance to play again in the post-season."
But it wouldn't take the Cardinals long to score the equalizer, which came courtesy of senior Jon Palmer less than three minutes later.
The complexion of the game would change soon thereafter when Staples' Schwaeber was taken out the game.
Less than four minutes after Schwaeber's departure, Greenwich got what turned out to be the game-winner on a finish by senior Ryan Flippin, who snuck the ball in just under the crossbar.
"I had a dream about scoring and it felt awesome to come through in that situation," said Flippin, who anchored the Cardinals defense along with Palmer and Will Gittings. "Staples played hard and physical like we knew they would, but we were pretty organized. This was a big win for us."
Mateo Gowland, who had several near misses and was a catalyst to the victory, assisted on Santini's first goal with 14:44 remaining.
Santini then put an exclamation point on the match with 6:23 left off a pass from Sebi Hickman.
"Jon and Ryan got the big goals and I was just able to finish it off," Santini said. "It was a great atmosphere, and we fed off of that. We really wanted to keep our undefeated season going."
Greenwich 4, Staples 1
STAPLES 0 1--1
GREENWICH 0 4 -- 4
Goals: S -- Andrew Puchala; G -- Patrick Santini 2, Ryan Flippin, Jon Palmer. Assists: S -- Diego Alanis; G -- Mateo Gowland, Sebi Hickman. Shots: S -- 7; G -- 12. Goalies: S -- Noah Schwaeber (4 saves), Brenden Price (2 saves); G -- Santiago Irigoyen (4 saves). Records: S 8-2-2; G 11-0-1.