West Haven, Darien, New Canaan -- indeed, the first three games of the season couldn't be much tougher for the Greenwich High School football team this fall in what will be a season of new challenges.

"We're going to play some of our toughest games right off the bat, but we love the challenge and we'll be ready to play each team," said Cardinals defensive end Jack Harrington, who will serve as one of the four senior captains of the 2013 squad. "We're looking forward to getting back on the field. I think we will play some really good football."

Greenwich, which has appeared in the FCIAC championship game the past two seasons, was already on the field Saturday, providing a glimpse of its 2013 team at its annual Spring Red and White Game at Cardinal Stadium. Watching the hard-hitting scrimmage, it was apparent the Cardinals knew they had little time to waste to prepare for the upcoming season. Besides a new-look schedule -- GHS is facing West Haven for the first time in recent memory, Darien for the first time since 2008, New Canaan (first meeting since 2009) and Trinity Catholic (last game vs. Crusaders, 2004) to name a few, the Cardinals will enter their 2013 campaign without more than 30 seniors from last fall's team.

"We're very inexperienced at certain positions," said Greenwich coach and recent FCIAC Hall of Fame inductee Rich Albonizio, who has guided the Cardinals' varsity program since 1997. "We lost a lot of skill kids and some offensive linemen. But I think we'll be fine. We do have some kids at skill positions coming back. It's just a matter of them jelling."

Jose Melo and Matt Marzulla started at quarterback for the Cards' Red and White teams, respectively Saturday. Melo, who started in place of injured Liam O'Neil the first several games of the 2012 season, will most likely call the signals for the Cardinals' spread offense in the fall. He was pleased with what transpired in the squad's spring scrimmage.

"It was really productive," said Melo, a rising senior, who will be one of the team's quad-captains in the fall. "There were a couple of reads that could have gone better, but I thought a lot of underclassmen stepped up for us today. We look good when we have the linemen working together."

Albonizio was impressed by his two quarterback's play.

"I thought both quarterbacks read exceptionally well and also ran well," said Albonizio, who has led Greenwich to five FCIAC titles. "They took some licks and got right back up. We have two good quarterbacks."

Saturday's Red and White game was a defensive-oriented affair, as is usually the case in scrimmages. Running back Austin Longi scored the game's only offensive touchdown, sprinting 40 yards to the end zone off a sweep to the left in the second quarter to give the Red squad a 7-0 edge.

Longi, who took some snaps under center in the state playoff game against Xavier, was a playmaker on offense, defense and special teams for Greenwich as a sophomore last season.

"Austin is special," said Albonizio, whose Cardinals lost to Staples in the FCIAC final and Xavier in the Class LL quarterfinals in 2012. "He can break a touchdown offensively, defensively and can hurt you in the return game. He's a weapon on both sides of the ball."

Longi and Tommy Rappa received the bulk of the carries for the Red team, while Kendrick Pozo, Nick Shepis and Ryan Pasquali helped pace the White squad's running game. They will look to fill the void left by seniors Alex McMurray, Mark Bernstein and Dan Claroni. Linebacker Pete Agro put the Red Team two scores ahead when he recovered a fumble and ran it back 44 yards in the third quarter.

Wide receiver Justin Henry, who is new to the team, impressed the coaching staff with a pair of 30-plus yard receptions. The Cards, indeed, need their receivers to step up to compensate for the loss of seniors Vincent Ferraro, Joe Kelly and Taylor Olmstead.

"I thought everyone played pretty well and I think we have a chance to be a good team this year," said rising senior defensive end Jack Wynne, also one of the team's captains. "If everyone works hard during the summer we'll be a strong team. We have a lot of talent, so there's no reason why we can't go back to the FCIAC championship game and states."

Said quad-captain Justin Gaccione, who anchors the offensive line: "Everyone is focused on learning their assignments and I think it showed today. The Xavier loss is in the back of my mind, I did not like the way the season ended last year, so hopefully we can make it different this year."

david.fierro@scni.com; 203-625-4423