In what would turn out to be a classic football evening, the Shelton Seahawks defeated the Meriden Raiders, 16-12, to capture the eighth-grade American Youth Football state championship last Sunday at Falcon Field in Meriden.
The Hawks next play in the New England Regional semifinals, where they will face the Framingham (Mass.) Flyers next Sunday at Waterbury’s Municipal Stadium for the chance to play in the New England Championship finals.
In the state game, Meriden struck first behind a strong power run game to take an early lead. Shelton’s Nate Miller blocked the extra point to keep it at 6-0.
In the second quarter, both teams traded multiple possessions. Meriden had one drive deep into the Shelton territory only to be turned back by a David Berritto interception in the end zone.
With time running out in the half, Shelton quarterback David Wells hit Jon Sobotka in stride for a spectacular 92-yard touchdown pass-and-catch down the middle of the field to knot the score at 6.
Joe Zoppi kicked the conversion to give the Seahawks the lead an 8-6 lead.
The Mid-Conn League champion Raiders returned the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for a score to regain the lead.
After a failed extra-point attempt, Shelton went to the locker room down 12-8.
The Hawks returned to the field determined to shut down the Raider offense, and after both teams traded possessions again, the fourth quarter arrived with Shelton still down 12-8.
The Seahawks began to ear down the Raiders, as they took the ball with eight minutes left in the game and marched down the field.
Meriden had no answer to the strong running and pass catching of Berritto, Sobotka and Matt Keklik.
The offense line of Miller, Mike Simons, Matt Liscio, Joe Kucky, JJ Lever, Tre Genova and Dan Barone did a great job blocking, and Keklik ran 23 yards on a trap play for a touchdown.
Zoppi split the upright for the extra point to put Shelton ahead for good 16-12 with four minutes left.
Defensively, the Seahawks would shut down the Raiders as the unit of Sobotka, Miller, Barone, Jake Camerino, Keklick, Wells, Nick Galluppo, Liscio, Tim Schiffer, Valeri and Zoppi stood strong and allowed the Raiders only two first downs in the second half.
Players on head coach Jeff Lever’s state championship team are Tim Schiffer, Dan Barone, Matt Keklik, David Berritto, David Wells, Joe Zoppi, Justin Greene, Robert Valeri, Jon Sobotka, Joe Ciliberti, Vincent Schiavone, Jake Camerino, Mike Simons, Matt Liscio, Nate Miller, Porter McKinnon, Tre Genova, JJ Lever, Carl Kopf, Nick Galluppo and Joe Kucky.