The Shelton High football team had all the answers in its first test of the 2015 campaign Friday night.
The fifth-ranked Gaels, runner-ups in the Class LL-Small Division last year, dominated Wilbur Cross in all facets of the game in a 49-14 Southern Connecticut Conference inter-conference victory before about 750 at Finn Stadium.
And the score could have been far worse.
Shelton scored on its first six possessions, and seven of its first eight. Already up 42-0 late in the first half, the Gaels took the ball over on the Wilbur Cross 47-yard line and ran the ball three times before punting for its first and only time of the night.
The Governors scored on their first possession of the second half, but Shelton coach Jeff Roy had already started to pull his defensive starters. Wilbur Cross, 7-4 last year but hit hard by graduation losses, never seriously threatened to score in the first half.
On this night, Shelton wouldn’t miss graduated three-year starting quarterback Mark Piccirillo and his 53 combined passing and rushing touchdowns from a year ago. The 2014 Walter Camp Player of the Year Award winner in Connecticut is now a freshman at Wesleyan University.
Enter senior Zach Tuskowski. Making his first varsity start at quarterback, Tuskowski more than held his own. He completed his first six passes and finished the night 11-of-13 for 149 yards and three touchdowns.
“We wanted to get Zach a little confidence. First start, we wanted to get him a nice pass,” said Roy of a four-yard completion from Tuskowski to Schiavo on the game’s first play from scrimmage. Peter Hoff ran 40 yards on the next play, and then capped the short three-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 Shelton lead just one minute into the game.
“I have all the confidence in the world in the kid,” continued Roy. “He’s a senior…It’s his time to step it up. He proved tonight that he can be an excellent quarterback for us.”
Sam Kirk was Tuskowski’s favorite target, catching four balls for 75 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Kevin Robinson added three catches for 59 yards and a score, while Schiavo caught two passes and Joe Zoppi and Hoff one each.
Shelton’s running game was just as effective. Hoff made the most of just nine carries, scoring three times and accumulating 90 yards. Junior Ron Rich added an eight-yard touchdown run and Jonathan Sobotka 33 yards on four carries.
The Gaels totaled 343 offensive yards, a number that would have been much higher had Roy not started to pull back on the reins late in the first half.
Roy was quick to applaud the Shelton offensive line of Matthew Liscio, Steven Parravano, Robert Valeri, Peter Peng and Matthew Zelanin.
“Our offensive line is a veteran offensive line,” he said. “We have four out of five returning starters that are seniors. I challenged them going in. We have a few injuries in the skill areas. I kind of challenged the offensive line ‘You guys have to take it over.’”
While they were all in the game, Shelton’s starting defense blanked the Governors. Defensive highlights included interceptions by Keith Prior, Kirk and Kyle Sastram, and sacks by Jonathan Sobotka and tri-captain Ronald Hubbard.
Roy was pleased with the first game, especially with two key starters — seniors Chris Kanios and Alex Kirk -— sidelined due to injury.
“The first test and the kids came out and played well,” said Roy. “Zach did one heck of a job. He came out, executed the offense and did a great job for us.”
Roy knows the schedule will get tougher, starting with Friday night’s SCC Division I West tilt with Fairfield Prep. Kickoff at Finn Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Jesuits (0-1) are coming off a 34-0 loss to a very good Notre Dame of West Haven team, and will try to right their season with an upset of Shelton.
“They’re going to be ready to play for us,” said Roy, whose team is defending SCC Division I West champion. “It’s a big match-up for us and them. It should be a great night.“
Roy said that Kanios’ status is “week-to-week right now.” Alex Kirk is “probably going to be a couple more weeks.”…Robinson punted just once, for 47 yards, pinning Wilbur Cross at its one-yard line…The PAT team of Hubbard (snapper), Prior (holder) and Zoppi (kicker) was a perfect 7-for-7.