After a poor second half cost the Shelton High football team a chance to win last week, the Gaels bounced back and made enough plays over the final 24 minutes to post a 21-19 victory over Hand of Madison before 1,200 on a balmy mid-September Friday night at Finn Stadium.
“That was the difference in this game,” said Shelton coach Jeff Roy. “Last week, we didn’t make the plays in the third and fourth quarter. This week, we did. Our kids responded.”
The Gaels improve to 1-1 on the season.
Hand, which moved down to the Southern Connecticut Conference’s Tier 2 this season, falls to 1-1.
The Tigers pulled within 21-19 with 2:47 left in the game.
If not for failed conversion on a bad snap in the first quarter, it would have been a one-point difference and Hand could have kicked the PAT to tie the score.
But instead, the Tigers had to go for the two-point conversion to try and tie it.
The two-point try was doomed from the start as the Hand running back inadvertently nudged Hand quarterback Phoenix Billings after the shotgun snap.
Billings then rolled to the right but the Shelton defense was already there.
Just as Billings was about to step out of bounds on the failed conversion, a Hand player throw a vicious illegal block on a Shelton player, but the Gaels were also penalized after the play, setting up a key decision for Roy.
According to Roy, “There was a crack back block on them, and taunting on us afterward. If I took the (illegal block) penalty, it would have been offsetting penalties and they would have had another shot (at the two-point conversion).”
So Roy declined the Hand penalty and the two-point conversion attempt was ruled to have failed.
Hand accepted the Shelton penalty after the conversion attempt and kicked off from the Gael 45.
Shelton’s Paul Ferrigno recovered the ensuing onside kick at the Shelton 35.
On a night when rushing yards were hard to come by for the Gaels save for one big play, quarterback Jake Roberts kept the ball on a 3rd-and-3 and picked up four yards behind the blocking of Ray Weiner, David Youngquist and Eric Zelanin to get the first down and seal the 21-19 Shelton victory.
“We had a great week of practice,” said Roy after the tough 28-10 loss to Cheshire given that Shelton led 10-7 in the third quarter in that game. “I am really proud of the way they played.”
The Shelton offense struggled to move the ball consistently, and came up with three long plays for all the scoring they would need.
The first was a 70-yard catch-and run from Roberts to Ferrigno, with the speedy Ferrigno catching the ball on a short seam pass and racing untouched the rest of the way.
The second was a Jack Carr 79-yard touchdown run on a simple hand off to the left, with Carr never getting touched and breaking it open.
The third and final Shelton score came on screen pass from Roberts to Carr, that Carr busted for a 67-yard touchdown to give Shelton a 21-13 lead with 4:18 left in the third quarter.
Junior kicker Nick Andrade made all three PATs on the night, which proved to be the difference.
Shelton’s defense and special teams came up with big plays, too.
Aside from the two-point conversion stop, Brian Berritto recorded an interception and tipped another pass that led to a Jake Falanga pick.
Senior captain Michael Casinelli recovered a punt that was muffed by a Hand return man in the fourth quarter.
The Gaels host Fairfield Prep (2-0) Friday night at Finn Stadium in a 7 p.m. contest.