College football: Mark Piccirillo follows Gaels’ lead

Wesleyan’s Mark Piccirillo threw a touchdown pass to force overtime versus Tufts and tossed the game-winner in the extra session on Saturday. — Steve McLaughlin photo (Wesleyan University)

Mark Piccirillo caught the vibe unleashed by the Shelton High football team on Friday night when the former Gael All-Stater led Wesleyan University to a 24-17 overtime win over Tufts University before a large crowd of home fans at Andrus Field in Middletown on Saturday night.

Coach Jeff Roy’s Gaels had come from behind in the final minute to post a 19-13 home win over Fairfield Prep a day earlier.

Piccirillo, a junior quarterback for coach Dan DiCenzo’s Cardinals, completed 23-for-37 passes for 279 yards as Wesleyan bounced back from a 30-27 season-opening loss at Middlebury.

“It was crazier than any of us like,” Piccirillo said. “Tufts is well coached and had a good game plan. We knew we had more plays (to make) and it came together in the fourth quarter.”

Piccirillo set career records at Shelton High for passing yards (5,976), passing touchdowns (64), total yards (8,835) and total touchdowns (110), breaking records previously set by NFL quarterback Dan Orlovsky.

“Mark is everything you want in a football player,” Roy said. “He is tough, smart, hard working and just an awesome kid to coach.”

Piccirillo threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Eric Meyreles with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter of this New England Small College Athletic Conference contest.

Taking over at their own 20 with 1:39 on the clock, Piccirillo completed a 3-yard pass on first down but was sacked on the next two plays.

Facing a 4th-and-15, he connected with Mark Breuler for a 33-yard completion to keep the drive going.

Making their way down the field with zero timeouts remaining, Piccirillo tossed a 24-yard pass into the back left corner of the end zone to Meyreles.

Corey Phillips’ PAT forced overtime.

“To be honest, I had to look at tape to fully recall everything that happened. I know it just felt good out there. We have a lot of skill players and our o-line was great all game. They (Tufts) dropped eight at times and I had to scramble some. Our offense is developing every day.”

Wesleyan got the ball first in the extra session, starting at Tufts’ 25.

Piccirillo rushed 11 yards on first down, and then found Breuler streaking into the end zone for 14-yard score.

The Jumbos had a chance to tie it, but McDonald was picked off three plays later as Shayne Kaminski sealed the win to cap off the comeback in front of a packed Corwin Stadium.

Piccirillo is coming off a sophomore season that saw the 5-foot-10, 190 pounder named second team All-NESCAC offense.

Starting all eight games, Piccirillo threw for 1,618 yards (202.3 yards/game) with 139 completions, 10 touchdowns and only two interceptions.

He led the team in rushing with 416 yards on 79 carries and five touchdowns.

As a freshman in 2015, he played in all eight games and was named Wesleyan Rookie of the Year.

He completed 43-of-57 passes for 526 yards and one touchdown.

He rushed 36 times for 133 yards and two scores

An Honor Roll student all four years at Shelton High and a CAPT Scholar, Piccirillo is a neuroscience major.

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