Mark Piccirillo’s play on Friday night belied both his age and experience.
Shelton High’s sophomore quarterback, appearing in just his second varsity game and making his first start, accounted for 377 of the 500 yards churned out by the Gael offense in a relatively easy 31-8 victory over Foran of Milford in a Southern Connecticut Conference interdivision match up before close to 1,200 fans at Finn Stadium.
“Mark played an excellent game,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “A sophomore, in his first start… He threw the ball on time, and didn’t turn it over.”
Shelton had no turnovers, and played a strong overall game to improve to 1-1 and drop Foran to 0-2.
“It’s something to build on,” said Roy of the victory.
The Gaels never trailed, taking the opening kickoff and marching 65 yards in nine plays to take a 7-0 lead four minutes into the game.
Piccirillo led the drive by connecting on all five passes that he threw, including an 18-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kyle Drost (six catches, 104 yards).
A goal-line stand, with Tommy Gottschalk and Michael Ortoli combining to stop a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line, gave the ball back to the Gaels.
Starting at its own two-yard line, Shelton drove the length of the field, including 66 yards over the final two plays, a 31-yard pass from Piccirillo to Drost, and a 35-yard screen pass from Piccirillo to Matt Feigenblat.
Feigenblat (11 carries, 41 yards; two catches, 41 yards) took the catch-and-carry the distance to double Shelton’s lead to 14-0 two plays into the second quarter.
It was Feigenblat’s first varsity touchdown.
Two possessions later, the Gaels added to their lead, this time with Ed Groth converting a 39-yard field goal out of Wadson Petithomme’s hold to take a 17-0 lead with 5:01 left in the first half.
Groth, whose kick easily had enough distance to clear the crossbar, has become a key weapon for the Gaels.
“We’ve got a heck of a weapon,” Roy said of Groth, who was 4-for-4 on PATS. “He has no problem kicking 40, 45-yard field goals. It’s definitely a weapon.”
The only blemish defensively on the night came on Foran’s ensuing drive.
Lions’ receiver Connor Cadrin beat the Gael secondary and hauled in a 65-yard touchdown pass from sophomore quarterback Jake Kasuba.
Foran’s Zach White added the two-point conversion run to make it 17-8.
The Lion defense then stopped Shelton’s William Karcher a yard short of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal play from the Foran two-yard line with nine seconds left in the first half to seemingly take the momentum into the halftime.
Foran received the opening kickoff to start the third quarter, but failed to capitalize on the opportunity to cut further into Shelton’s lead. The Lions punted after just three plays.
Starting at their 41, the Gaels padded their lead with a nine-play drive, aided by a roughing the punter penalty on the Lions that kept the drive alive.
Jagger Kalagian (eight carries, 26 yards) bulled his way through the Foran defensive line with help from offensive linemen Gottschalk, Donald Schiffer, Christopher Sinko, Austin Peel and Eric Howard for a nine-yard touchdown run.
Groth added his third PAT to make it 24-8 midway through the third quarter.
Shelton added an insurance touchdown early in the third quarter on Karcher’s seven-yard touchdown run, helped by a key block by Michael Pingree. Groth’s extra point made it 31-8.
The Gael defense dominated the Foran offense in the second half, allowing the Lions only one first down on 29 yards.
Eddie Kochiss picked off a pair of Foran passes to lead the second half defensive effort.
On the night, Jim Farrell recorded a team-leading eight tackles, while Ortoli added five.
Kochiss also added four catches for 51 yards offensively.
About the only bad news for the Gaels Friday night was that Feigenblat (concussion) and Kalagian (ankle) both left the game with injuries.
Roy was not sure whether Feigenblat would be able to play in this week’s game.
“We’re going to have to evaluate him,” he said.
Roy was more optimistic that Kalagian would be able to play, which is critical considering that the Gaels are already without starting running back Jason Thompson, who suffered a shoulder injury in the Cheshire game.
Karcher and sophomore Troy Vasilescu both saw time at running back for Shelton after Feigenblat and Kalagian left the game.
Shelton now enters a key early portion of its schedule with games against SCC Housatonic Division foes Amity (1-1) and Fairfield Prep (2-0) the next two weeks, followed by a visit to Veteran’s Stadium in West Haven to take on Notre Dame (1-1).
Amity travels Finn Stadium Friday night coming off a 58-14 drubbing of Sheehan. While the Gaels have beaten the Spartans in six straight, and 13 of their last 14 meetings, Roy knows Friday night’s contest will not be easy.
“There’s nothing easy [in the SCC],” said Roy. “Amity, Fairfield Prep and Notre Dame are all tough games.”
Shelton opponents are a perfect 4-for-4 on two-point conversions, but 0-1 on PATs… Foran and Shelton combined for 504 yards of offense in the first half Friday night, but only 210 on the second half… Groth averaged 33 yards a kick on three punts, and also added a touchback on a kickoff… Roy, in his ninth season at the Shelton helm, owns a 58-28 record.