Shelton High football coach Jeff Roy wants to win division and state championships. But the fact that Shelton’s 32-7 victory over Hamden on Senior Night at Finn Stadium on Friday earned the Gaels their eighth straight winning season brought a sense of satisfaction.
“It’s something that is pretty nice,” Roy said. “We pride ourselves on consistently winning.”
The win, before a crowd of about 700, gave Shelton a 6-2 overall mark, 2-1 in the SCC Division I West. It not only secured Shelton’s streak of winning seasons, but keeps the Gaels in the mix for what they want most — championships.
Shelton last won the SCC Division I West title in 2007. It also made it to the state championship game that season, losing to Greenwich in the final. The Gaels’ last state title came in 2003.
In order to qualify for this season’s Class LL playoffs, Shelton would likely need to win at least two of its final three games, if not all three.
That’s no small task considering all three games are on the road, and two of the remaining opponents — West Haven (7-1) and Xavier (6-2) — are also in the hunt for Class LL playoff berths.
“We control our own destiny,” said Roy, whose team currently sits in the 8th and final playoff spot in the Class LL standings. “We need to go out and beat Xavier next week. It’s no secret.”
A victory over Xavier would also keep the Gaels in the picture for a share of the SCC Division I West title, although they would then need Xavier (2-0 Division I West) to turn around and beat Fairfield Prep (2-0 SCC Division I West) the following week to likely forge a three-way tie at the top.
Versus Hamden, the Gaels relied on their aerial attack and defense to turn in a relatively easy win over the Green Dragons (3-5).
Shelton was missing two starting offensive lineman due to injury, Matthew Zelanin and Christopher Pawlowski. Additionally, Hamden’s defensive alignment forced Shelton to go to the air.
“They were loading the box on us, forcing us to throw,” said Roy of Hamden looking to shut down Jason Thompson.
That was no problem for junior quarterback Mark Piccirillo, who completed 14-of-19 passes on the night for 229 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Shelton offense.
Piccirillo’s 50-yard strike to Mike Pingree 2:42 into the game gave Shelton the lead for good.
Shelton added three more touchdowns in the first half — Piccirillo runs of five— and one-yard, and a Thompson seven-yard run — to take a 26-0 halftime lead.
The only momentum Hamden was able to generate on the night came at the beginning of the third quarter, when the Green Dragons’ Trevor Perry returned the opening kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown to pull within 26-7, and recovered a Gael fumble two plays later at the Hamden 44.
The Green Dragons proceeded to drive the ball down to the Shelton 21, where they had a first-and-10. Big defensive plays by Christian Federici, Kyle Drost and Troy Vasilescu forced Hamden to turn over the ball on downs.
Shelton took over at its 19 and drove 81 yards in seven plays to put a decisive score on the board in the form of a 44-yard Piccirillo-to-Pingree touchdown pass.
Shelton failed on the two-point conversion, but led 32-7 with 2:17 left in the game.
Pingree finished the night with five catches for 136 yards and two touchdown catches.
Thompson, limited to a season low 50 yards on 15 carries rushing, led Shelton with six catches for 38 yards.
Roy turned to his bench midway through the fourth quarter, giving all of his healthy senior reserves an opportunity to play on Senior Night, as well as get his underclassmen valuable varsity experience.
The highlight of the final six minutes was the return of senior linebacker Jeremy Taramelli from a pre-season torn ACL. Taramelli was involved in two tackles Friday night.
“It was nice for him. He worked his tail off all off-season,” said Roy of Taramelli, who figured to be a two-way starter for Shelton before the injury.
With Shelton’s SCC Division I West title and Class LL playoff hopes riding on its final three games of the season, Roy told his team after the game to be ready for a good week of practice.
Kickoff for the Xavier game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday at Palmer Field in Middletown.
Wadson Petithomme and Pingree recorded interceptions for the Shelton defense, while Vasilescu recovered a fumble caused by Jacob Grasso.
Junior Wesley Sekelski recorded a pair of sacks for the Gael
Zelanin, who broke his wrist in the Daniel Hand game, is out for the season.
Pawlowski was injured early last week during practice. He could have played in an emergency situation against Hamden. Roy expects Pawlowski to play against Xavier.
The Gaels are 52-24 over the last seven-plus seasons.