Nineteen seniors will lead the Shelton High football team onto the field when coach Jeff Roy’s Gaels play host to Cheshire High in its season opener, with the 7 p.m. kickoff set for Thursday, Sept. 6, at West Haven High.
“This group has been together since youth football,” said Roy, who returns eight starters on offense and defense from a club that went 9-2 a year ago and made the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive season. “We have experienced players and they are excited to again be playing Shelton football.”
Cheshire is coming off a 6-4 campaign for this SCC Tier I contest. The Rams will be led by running backs Jake McAlinden (681 yards rushing, six scores) and Elijah Allston.
“Cheshire is very well coached (Don Drust) and have two very good running backs,” Roy said. “They like to blitz and bring pressure on defense. This has been a great battle over the years.”
Jake Roberts is back at quarterback for his senior season. He passed for 16 touchdowns, ran for nine more, and completed passes worth 1,823 yards. Roberts rushed for 524 yards.
“Having Jake back is a big plus,” Roy said of the 6-foot-1, 215-pound signal caller. “He sees the field well, has a great arm and knows when to tuck it away.”
Jack Carr will lead the ground game after rushing for 789 yards a year ago. The 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior accounted for five rushing touchdowns and caught 19 passes good for 270 yards and another three scores.
Junior Georgio Ghazal found the end zone five times.
Paul Ferrigno, Brian Berritto and David Yakowicz all return as top-flight receivers.
Ferrigno caught a team-high 36 passes for 417 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Berritto had 31 receptions for a team-best 474 yards and five touchdowns.
Yakowicz made 20 catches for 317 yards and three scores.
“We have good size up front,” Roy said of his offensive line of Kyle Corby at center, Ray Weiner and David Youngquist at guard and Isaiah DeLoatch and Jake Breton at tackles.
Michael Lockavitch will play tight end.
Nick Andrade is back to handle the kicking duties.
“Nick was All-League last year,” said Roy. “We’ve had a long line of great kickers and Nick is certainly All-State caliber. He was six for nine on field goals and changes the games with his punts and kickoffs.” Andrade accounted for 53 kicking points.
Defensively, the Gaels lost three of four starters up front with the graduation of All-Staters Jaryd Witkowski, Michael Casinelli and Ed Radzion.
“They will be missed, but I’m happy with our guys,” Roy said of Philip Sissick, Breton, Lockavitch and Zach McEwen. “They like to get after it.”
Lockavitch had a team-high eight quarterback sacks. McEwen had 4.5 sacks and Breton three.
Tyler Janik and Weiner lead the linebacking corp. Janik was in on 61 stops. Weiner had 59 tackles with three quarterback sacks.
Paul Ferrigno, Berritto, Yakowicz and Carr man the secondary.
“We have a lot of experience,” Roy said. “We had a short preseason with the heat and missed some days. But the players did the work (in the offseason) and are ready to start the season.”
Gael notes: Shelton’s Finn Stadium is expected to be ready for the Gaels’ game with Guilford on Sept. 28. Next week’s game with Xavier will again be played at West Haven High’s Ken Strong Stadium.
Sept. 6 — Cheshire 7
Sept 13 — Xavier 7
Sept. 21 — at Prep 6
Sept. 28 — Guilford 7
Oct. 12 — at Masuk 7
Oct. 19 — at North Haven 7
Oct. 26 — West Haven 7
Nov. 2 — at Amity 7
Nov. 9 — at Notre Dame 7
Nov. 22 — at Derby 10:30