Shelton High’s football team capitalized on early chances to build a 21-0 first quarter lead en route to a 35-28 road victory over Newtown High at Blue & Gold Stadium on Friday night.
This was an interconference battle, but a familiar matchup between the Southern Connecticut Conference Gaels and the South-West Conference’s Nighthawks. The teams met in the state playoffs in the past couple of years with Shelton winning both battles.
It looked as if the locals would have their way in this one, but the Nighthawks battled back from 28-7 down to eventually make it a one-score game with possession and a chance to tie it.
“They faced some adversity, we faced some and our kids responded,” said Shelton offensive coordinator Mike DeFelice, who served as interim lead coach for the contest with regular head coach Jeff Roy absent because of a leg injury.
DeFelice was greeted with an ice water bucket bath courtesy of the players when the postgame huddle broke.
Newtown attempted an onside kick to begin the game.
The Gaels recovered and cashed in when quarterback Jake Roberts connected with Paul Ferrigno on a 25-yard score.
The Gaels quickly added to the lead on a Roberts to Brian Berritto 79-yard connection.
Roberts ran the ball in for a score and Shelton seemed on the verge of pulling away.
Shelton was looking for more, driving in Newtown territory when Shea Talbot intercepted a pass.
A 69 yard catch-and-run by Jack Miller set up Newtown’s first score, on the opening play of the second quarter, when Ryan Kost found Riley Ward in the end zone from eight yards out.
Shelton responded with Tyler Janik’s 3-yard score just 2:05 later.
Newtown answered back, only 37 seconds later, on Miller’s 54-yard TD catch over the middle, making the score 28-14 with 9:07 remaining in the opening half.
The Nighthawks threatened to close the gap before the break, but Berritto intercepted a pass to end one opportunity and Ray Weiner sacked Kost and Ferrigno broke up a pass play to thwart a late threat.
Both defenses were in bend but don’t break mode in the third quarter and neither team scored again until the fourth.
Shelton built a 35-14 lead on a play fake, as Roberts threw to David Yakowicz for an 11 yard score with 10:16 to play. The play was made possible, in part, by success on 4th and two at the Newtown 42. Shelton lined up to punt, but executed a fake as Janik took a direct snap and ran the ball five yards to move the chains.
Once again, Newtown responded within seconds.
Kost threw a pass to Joe Pagett for a 33-yard score, making it 35-21 with 9:47 to go.
Newtown took over on downs and Kost again connected with Pagett, who bounced and spun off would-be tacklers for a 69-yard scoring play, bringing the tally to 35-28 with 3:56 left.
“It looked like we were going to shut the door on them and they did an outstanding job of responding,” DeFelice said of the Nighthawks.
Yakowicz recovered an onside kick at the Shelton 49.
After a Shelton punt gave Newtown the ball at its own 43 with 2:43 left, Berritto broke up a pass and Michael Casinelli’s quarterback sack sealed the win.