Last year, the Shelton High football team finished a few yards short of winning its first state title since 2003.
With that in mind, the Gaels entered the upcoming campaign with a motto of “Unfinished Business” — complete with a banner adorning the entrance of Finn Stadium.
Coach Jeff Roy’s team went 12-1 in 2014, falling to Xavier High of Middletown, 28-27, in overtime, in the Class LL-Small Division championship.
Gone from that juggernaut are record-breaking quarterback Mark Piccirillo and defensive stalwarts Troy Vasilescu and Wadson Petithomme.
While those three players were keys to Shelton’s success, Roy, in his 12th season at the helm, returns a bevy of talented upperclassmen looking to lead the way back to the state championship.
Slotting back into Shelton’s no-huddle, spread, multiple-set offense are senior receivers Chris Kanios (28 catches for 658 yards, seven touchdowns), Kevin Robinson (36 catches for 785 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Sam Kirk (12 catches for 243 yards, one touchdown), senior tailback Peter Hoff (70 carries for 594 yards, nine touchdowns) and senior tight end Alex Kirk (26 catches for 501 yards, seven touchdowns).
Senior right tackle Matt Zelanin will once again anchor the offensive line, along with fellow returnees Peter Peng, a senior guard, and junior center Andrew Valeri. They will provide protection for quarterbacks Zach Tuskowski and David Wells.
Defensively, the Gaels will feature Peng, Valeri and senior Rafael DeSousa across the line, along with end Tyler Stevens.
The Kirks, Jonathan Sobotka and senior Ron Hubbard comprise the linebacking corps, while Keith Prior (two sacks), Hoff, Robinson (two interceptions) and Kanios will marshal the secondary.
Schedule-wise, Shelton will again face some of the stiffest competition in the state.
Xavier, Fairfield Prep, West Haven, Notre Dame of West Haven and Daniel Hand of Madison are all on the docket.
“We should be right in the mix with the other top teams,” Roy said.
Shelton opens the season on Friday night at 7, with Wilbur Cross paying a visit to Finn Stadium.