The Shelton High football team has had a season of agonizingly close calls.
After narrow losses to Southern Connecticut Conference frontrunners Fairfield Prep (38-28), Daniel Hand (44-41), Xavier (15-12) and West Haven (35-26), the Gaels have a chance to close out their season on a positive note when they travel to Lou DeFilippo Field to lock horns with Derby High on Thanksgiving Day.
“Obviously we’re really disappointed with the record,” Roy said. “But our kids came out and fought and they battled every Friday night.
“We had a couple of bad breaks over the course of the season and lost a couple of close games, but the kids never blinked. They kept fighting.”
The Gaels will continue that fight for one more day, when they travel to border rival Derby for the 10:30 a.m. kickoff in the 103rd meeting between the two schools.
Coach George French’s Red Raiders (5-5) are also seeking to end the season on a positive note — after five losses in their last six games derailed a 4-0 start. Derby has not beaten Shelton since 2002 and trails the overall series 52-43-7.
“Derby is a season in itself,” Roy said. “We have two weeks to get ready for them… I know our kids will come ready to play.”
Leading the charge for Shelton will be junior quarterback Mark Piccirillo, directing an offense that averages nearly 425 yards per game.
Piccirillo has completed 119-of-187 passes for 1,740 yards, with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s also a threat on the ground, notching 97 carries for 556 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Leading rusher and top pass-catcher Jason Thompson, with 1,141 yards rushing, 41 catches and 14 total touchdowns, was lost for the season on Nov. 8, after suffering a collarbone injury against Xavier.
Senior speedster Michael Pingree, with 541 yards rushing to go along with 35 receptions for 589 yards and 12 total touchdowns, is another dual threat for the Gaels.
Kyle Drost, a 6-4 senior tight end, is a matchup headache in the passing game for the opposition — with 21 catches for 400 yards and four touchdowns.
Sophomores Peter Hoff and Kevin Robinson give Roy two more playmakers on offense.
Defensively, senior Marquet Humphrey leads the way with 77 tackles and one sack. Junior Troy Vasilescu (76 tackles, one interception) and senior Mike Ortoli (53 tackles) round out the linebacking corps.
Pingree and Wadson Petithomme are tied for the team lead with three interceptions apiece, while Drost and Ed Deptula have two each.
The Shelton defense will be in for a big test facing an explosive Derby offense, triggered by prolific junior quarterback Mike Kreiger.
Kreiger does it all for the Red Raiders, throwing for 2,005 yards (22 touchdowns and seven interceptions) and running for a team-high 717 yards and eight touchdowns.
Derby also lost a talented senior tailback to injury, as Tyrae Small sustained a season-ending injury in the Red Raiders’ 62-28 defeat to Ansonia High back on Oct. 11.
With Small sidelined, Kreiger and sophomore tailback Ricky Bartone (371 yards rushing, three scores) have done the bulk of the running.
Senior receivers Tyler Dobek, Sal Frosceno, Jordan LaRue and Josh Russell have combined to catch 119 of Kreiger’s 135 completions.
Dobek is Derby’s top target, with 48 receptions for 633 yards and eight touchdowns.
Overall, it should be an exciting matchup between two teams that are looking to finish up with a season-defining victory.
“We all know we’re a much better team than that 6-4 record,” Roy said.