With hearts the size of their football helmets, Seniors Sam Latto and Michelangelo Federici set out last winter to create a buzz at Greenwich High School and their efforts have caught on.
Rewind to Jan 3, 2012 when the GHS Varsity Basketball Team had an important home game versus Trinity Catholic. "Fed" Federerici decided to support his friend and fellow football teammate Latto, who also plays on the basketball team, by attending the game with a contingent of spirited students.
Win Ignites A Fire
Greenwich pulled off an improbable 43-41 win in the final seconds of the game and Fed and company stormed the court in celebration. Little did they know that almost a year later, an idea which started as a way to "unify" GHS students attending games, would develop in a school brand called the Cardinal Crazies.
Following the Trinity game, the group continued attending baskteball games and even crossed over to rugby matches. In fact, the Cardinal Crazies were present at the famous GHS vs Xavier High School game in late April. Xavier was heavily favored, but the Cards scored twice in the final minutes of the match to beat their rivals for the first time since 1999 with a score of 31-22.
Getting Respect For Being Crazy
It was then that the Crazies' positive and spirited impact was acknowledged by the GHS faculty. Fed says that Gus Lindine, GHS Athletic Director, offered his support and complimented the group on the "respectful and courteous" manner which they conduct themselves.
According to Latto and Fed, Director of Student Services Diane Chiapetta Fox has been supportive from day one. Fox's support should come as no surprise since she herself was the Cardinal mascot back in the late 80s while attending GHS. "The Cardinal Crazies have been instrumental in increasing school spirit at GHS. The dynamic personalities of the students involved have been contagious to all that come in contact with them. I look forward to working with them in the future. Something very special is happening here at GHS; I am thrilled to be a part of it."
Back To The Future
The duo state that some of the more senior GHS faculty equate their efforts to the "GHS Zoo Band" that was active in the 70s and 80s at GHS. They explain that GHS actually is one of the "last schools to hop on the bandwagon" for this type of spirited support. They point to New Canaan High School's Bussey Bomb Squad as an example, but feel that given the size of GHS they can easily out-man and spirit their rivals.
Headmaster Chris Winters also feels and hears the "a resurgence of school spirit" and credits the Cardinal Crazies for "mightily contributing to that effort." Winters observes "our students realize that they attend an exceptional school with award-winning programs in Academics, the Arts, Athletics and more. They are happy to display their Cardinal pride. Even better is that our students cheer with respect: We root for our teams and programs not against others."
A New School Year, A New Kind Of Crazy
As the 2012-13 school year began, the Cardinal Crazies "hype" began to build-up. Back on September 14th, the Crazies arranged for a "spirit bus" to bring GHS support to the away football game versus Ridgefield, where former GPS Administrator Dr. Stacey Gross is now principal. The trip was a huge success with over 50 students attending.
Then came October 5th, with the GHS football team coming off of a bye week for their first Friday Night Lights game against Trumbull. The crowd that evening set a record with over 3,000 ticket sales. Like many other energetic groups, a t-shirt gun is used to literally pump up the crowd as well as kicking and throwing contest at half-time.The group strongly hopes to create a buzz for the Cards' iconic Thanksgiving Day game versus Staples.
It Takes A Village
While Latto and Fed are obviously on the field during football games, the Crazies are in good hands. The two leaders credit Senior Robert Breck who is the Cardinal Crazies Director of Sideline Operations, Senior Ryan Marks who is Vice President and his younger brother Sean who is the group's T-shirt designer for their continued contributions to the effort.
Cardinal Crazies t-shirts, available in short sleeve and tank, are on sale in the Student Activities office and they intend to sell them at football games as well.
The boys explain that they set out to be "conservative from the start" with a concerted effort to "support the teams." As the end of the fall sport seasons approaches, they are "gratified" that what started as cheering section at a basketball game has evolved into a "well-oiled machine."
Varsity Captains Vow Support
This school year, Latto and Fed decided to ramp up their efforts by creating a "Varsity Club" which includes all GHS Team Captains, Student Government President Jonathan Muhlrad as well as Latto and Fed. When the group met, there was a general consensus that the Cardinal Crazies should be supporting all teams as well as create a cross-team approach. Each team identified and highlighted 3 important games on their schedules where Cardinal Crazies support would be appreciated.
"Captains are leaders in the community," states Fed. By supporting other teams, the intent was to create a trickle down effect. For example, they attended the GHS Girls' Soccer Senior Night as well as a GHS Field Hockey game.
Close Your Eyes And Picture This
Probably the most spectacular show of support outside of football so far was at a GHS Girls' Swim Team home meet when 70 GHS Football Players showed up in the stands at the pool in uniform. Senior swimmer Jillian Leigh, who was surprised when looking out of the water to see the wall of football players in the stands, said "I got a lot more excited" at seeing the uniformed mass of players rooting her on.
Both boys are cleverly capitalizing on their experience by using the creation of the Cardinal Crazies as fodder for their college essays. In fact, Latto beams with pride revealing that by "writing about it," he "appreciates it more." He knows that it means a lot to the student athletes to have their peers cheering them on.
"This Is Your Town"
The two co-founders have a request of Greenwich parents: "bring your kids to GHS games." Exposing them to some good-natured, high-spirited Cardinal Craziness may not be such a bad experience for them to have.
Latto and Fed said that while they are "using football as a model," the goal is to "get the community more involved." They reveal that they would like to try to emulate that Friday Night Lights culture of the south where the entire town shuts down to attend the local football game.
Fed added that they would like to see town-wide support for GPS sports and offers a challenge: "It's your town! You don't need a kid in the system." He went on to say "fans attend pro football games and we have just as much heart as they do."
Come out and support the undefeated (7-0) Greenwich High School Football Team Thursday 6:00 pm at Cardinal Stadium. In addition to being "Senior Night," the Cardinals will face Danbury in a key game in their quest for the FCIAC title.
Go Big Red!