The Shelton High football team stayed with sixth-ranked Cheshire for 40-plus minutes Friday night before Shelton’s inexperience shone through in a 28-10 Ram win before about 2,100 fans at Cheshire’s Alumni Field on Friday night.
“We battled them. I am proud of our kids. We have a very young team,” said Shelton coach Jeff Roy, whose team graduated 28 seniors last year. “I thought they came out and played toe-to-toe. We gave them everything they could handle.”
The Gaels led 10-7 early in the third quarter, before Shelton’s inexperience proved to be the difference against Cheshire, the most experienced team in the Southern Connecticut Conference’s Tier 1.
An interception and return gave Cheshire the ball at the Gael 18.
The Shelton defense had held Cheshire scoreless in a red zone trip the previous possession, but this time the Rams broke through on a 3-yard touchdown run for a 14-10 lead, an advantage they would not relinquish.
Still trailing by just four points midway through the fourth quarter, the Shelton defense had forced Cheshire to punt the ball away but a 15-yard roughing-the-kicker penalty on the Gaels allowed Cheshire to keep the ball.
That was the beginning of the end for Shelton, as Cheshire made the Gaels pay for the miscue by adding a decisive 26-yard touchdown pass with 5:24 left in the game to make it 21-10.
A Shelton turnover on a sack led to Cheshire’s fourth and final touchdown of the game, and a final score of 28-10.
“I told the kids, ‘When you’re playing tough teams like that in the second half, the games come down to a couple plays,’” said Roy. “[Cheshire] made the plays when they needed to in the second half.”
The Gaels had Cheshire on the ropes early in the game, moving 65 yards on the game’s opening drive to take a 3-0 lead on a Nick Andrade 32-yard field goal.
The Rams answered later in the first quarter with a 93-yard scoring drive highlighted by completions of 52 and 13 yards, the last of which found the end zone for a 7-3 Cheshire lead.
The Gaels proved resilient, taking the ensuing kickoff and marching 80 yards in just seven plays.
A Jake Robert’s 52-yard pass to fellow junior Brian Berritto eventually led to a Jack Carr 4-yard touchdown run as Shelton regained a 10-7 advantage.
Roberts, in his first start, completed 13-of-24 passes for 131 yards, and added a team-high 33 yards rushing. Carr rushed 10 times for 30 yards and Shelton’s only touchdown.
Carr recorded 10 tackles to lead the Gael defense, while Tyler Janik added eight.
The Gaels host Hand of Madison (1-0) in the Gaels’ season opener at Finn Stadium Friday night. Game time is 7 p.m.