The lights were turned out on the Shelton High football team Friday night, both literally and figuratively
Literally, one of the four banks of lights at Finn Stadium went out with 2:13 left in the first half with Shelton leading Daniel Hand of Madison 28-21. The rest of the game was played without that set of lights.
Figuratively, the Tigers turned out the lights on the Gaels with nine points over the game’s final 3:45, including a 30-yard field goal with 24 seconds left that gave Hand a 44-41 victory over Shelton before a crowd of about 1,000.
“It was a great high school football game,” said Shelton Coach Jeff Roy after losing to the 6-1 Tigers “We just came up on the short end of the stick.”
Shelton falls to 5-2 on the season, and saw its Class LL playoff hopes take a tumble, as the Gaels fell from a tie for second place to ninth place.Only the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
“We’ve got to grind back next week,” said Roy, whose team plays its final home game of the season Friday night at 7 against Hamden (3-4). “The season’s not over.”
The game went back-and-forth with the teams tied on six occasions.
The Gaels broke a 35-35 tie early in the fourth quarter on a Mark Piccirillo one-yard keeper. Shelton failed on the PAT, but still led 41-35.
The drive was the most impressive of the night for the Gaels, who started at their three-yard line. Key plays included a 50-yard Mike Pingree run, and a 6-yard Piccirillo-to-Jason Thompson pass on fourth-and-five from the Tiger 17.
The game’s turning point came on a Hand fourth-and-three at the Gael 3-yard line with four minutes left in the game.
Hand quarterback Nick van Dell rolled to his right looking to throw the ball, but had nothing. But he was able to avoid the Shelton pressure, scramble back to his left, and find an open Jacob Mirando in the end zone for a three-yard touchdown pass. Hand failed on the PAT, but the score was tied 41-41 with 3:45 left.
“We just didn’t make the plays at the end that we need to,” said Roy.
The Gael offense, which had scored touchdowns on consecutive possessions came up empty after taking the ball over at the Hand 33. Pingree gained two yards on first down, but Thompson was then stuffed for a two-yard loss. Piccirillo dropped back to pass on third-and-10, but with no one open, was forced to scramble and gained just three yards. Shelton punted on fourth down.
The Tigers took over on their own 35 with 2:12 remaining in the game and quickly gained 36 yards on a simple running play.
They than converted a critical third-and-two from the Shelton 21 with a 7-yard completion to the Shelton 14.
Hand got as far as the Gael 7, but a delay of game penalty cost the Tigers five yards. On third-and-eight from the Gael 12, van Dell threw an incompletion, setting up a 30-yard field goal try with 29 seconds left.
Hands’s Tyler Phan, who moments earlier had failed on a PAT, split the uprights with a few yards to spare to give Hand a 44-41 lead with 24 seconds remaining.
Shelton had one last chance. After Pingree returned the ensuing kickoff to the Shelton 31, Piccirillo completed passes to Thompson (12 yards) and Kyle Drost (33 yards) to move the ball to the Hand 25 with just one second remaining.
Piccirillo rolled to his right on the game’s final play and hoisted a ball toward Drost in the right side of the end zone. But Hand was double covering Drost and intercepted the ball.
Offensively, the Gaels amassed 401 yards, not including an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Pingree.
Pingree added 94 yards rushing and one touchdown on nine carries playing quarterback in one of the Gaels’ offensive packages for the game. He also caught three passes for good measure.
Thompson led the Gaels on the ground with 123 yards on 23 carries. He was most effective in the first quarter when he ran 13 times for 73 yards and a touchdown. He also caught six passes for 64 yards and another score.
Piccirillo, still not 100 percent after suffering a hamstring injury early in the Wilbur Cross victory, didn’t start but he didn’t stay on the bench for long.
He entered the game on the third play from scrimmage and played the rest of the night, occasionally lining up at receiver when Pingree played quarterback.
Piccirillo completed 15-of-22 passes for 169 yards and one score, and added two more touchdowns on one-yard keepers.
“Offensively, we did some really nice things,” said Roy. “We just needed to make more plays defensively.”
Shelton lost sophomore lineman Matthew Zelanin to a broken wrist late in the third quarter. Fellow sophomore Peter Peng replaced Zelanin… Junior Wadson Petithomme (interception), Drost (interception) and Pingree (fumble recovery) recorded three turnovers for the Shelton defense… The game was delayed for about 15 minutes due to one of the banks of lights going out. The cause of the outage was believed to be a short in the wiring. Shelton Athletic Director John Niski was optimistic that the problem would be fixed this week. Shelton is scheduled to honor its senior football players and cheerleaders before the Hamden Friday night at Finn Stadium.