With 55 seconds left in a tied Class LL Small Division state final at Ken Strong Stadium, Shelton High faced a first-and-goal from the Xavier High 1-yard line. The Gaels were a mere yard away from possibly securing their first state championship since 2003.
Unfortunately for the locals, senior quarterback Mark Piccirillo fumbled the ball on the ensuing snap and Xavier’s John Sullivan recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
From there, the game went into overtime when the Falcons stalled at the Gael 35.
After Shelton (12-1) scored on the opening possession of OT, with Piccirillo throwing an 11-yard touchdown to Alex Kirk on third down, Xavier buckled down again. Kaleb Lutton blocked Joe Zoppi’s extra-point attempt to keep the Gael edge at six points.
Falcon quarterback Michael Scherer then rushed for a 5-yard touchdown to forge a deadlock at 27, before placekicker Andrew Verre won it for Xavier (9-3) by drilling the PAT to seal the 28-27 triumph.
It was Xavier’s fourth state championship in five years and fifth overall.
The Falcons took a 14-6 lead at halftime, behind the hard running of Scherer and sophomore tailback Glenn Cunningham. Cunningham, who carried 28 times for 162 yards, scored a 9-yard touchdown in the opening stanza.
Piccirillo then fired a 65-yard touchdown pass to Shane Corcoran, but Zoppi’s PAT was blocked by Spencer McManus.
Cunningham punched in a 1-yard score to give Xavier a 14-6 edge at the break, before Chris Kanios returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown. The junior then ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game at 14 with 10:03 left in the third quarter.
Shelton’s defense looked to take control, bottling up Scherer (20 carries for 91 yards) and Cunningham for the rest of the frame.
Kevin Robinson gave Shelton its first lead of the game with 39 seconds left in the third quarter, hauling in a 53-yard scoring strike from Piccirillo.
Scherer led the Falcons down the field, capping a 12-play scoring drive with a 3-yard run with 6:21 left in the fourth quarter.
That set up the late-game drama, as Shelton’s third turnover of the game proved to be its most costly.
For the full game story, check out next week’s Herald.