Zach Tuskowski threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns when coach Jeff Roy’s Shelton High football team defeated West Haven High, 48-27, in an SCC showdown at Ken Strong Stadium on Columbus Day evening. Shelton improved to 5-0. West Haven is 3-2.
“Zach played a great game tonight,” Roy said of his 5-11, 160-pound senior quarterback, who completed 23 of his 32 passes without an interception. “He’s making his reads, getting more comfortable every game, and getting the ball to our athletes in space.”
Tuskowski hit on 17-of-22 passes in the first half for 186 yards and three scores.
“I watch film and get prepared mentally,” Tuskowski said of the challenge in replacing All-State signal caller Mark Piccirillo. “Without my receivers and O-line nothing would have happened today. They all stepped up big and I’m lucky to have the guys I have.”
With Matt Liscio, Matt Zelanin, Peter Peng, Rob Valeri and Steve Parravano leading the way, Shelton took the opening kickoff 90 yards to score in 15 plays. Kevin Robinson found the end zone from two yards out with 6:59 left in the first period.
Joe Zoppi, whose most important kick didn’t go very far (more about that later), made the first of five conversions. Tuskowski was 6-for-8 on the drive for 46 yards.
“The protection upfront was great,” Roy said. “I don’t remember Zach getting touched once in the pocket. It was a total team effort. Everyone did their job.”
After a West Haven empty possession, Chris Kanios returned the punt 32 yards to the Blue Devils’ 41. Peter Hoff, who worked hard for every yard to help set up the passing game, broke off a 14-yard run. Tuskowski then threw to Robinson for a 27-yard touchdown. The PAT made it 14-0 to the delight of the strong Shelton fanbase.
West Haven shrugged off the deficit and came back with a pair of touchdowns of its own.
Anthony Godfrey capped a 70-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run with 47 seconds left in the first quarter.
After a Shelton punt, the Westies went 43 yards in a tough 11 plays before Godfrey got to the edge and scored from 7 yards out. Jose Conde’s second PAT made it 14-14 midway through the second period.
“We had a great week of practice,” Roy said. “We told them that we were going to face adversity. We knew West Haven was coming back. We had to keep executing the game plan.”
Tuskowski hit quick routes for gains of 20 yards to Robinson and 11 yards to Kanios before hooking up with Sam Kirk on a 27-yard score, hitting his receiver in strike up the near sideline.
Zoppi’s conversion kick gave Shelton a seven-point lead; his next boot gave them the momentum that carried them to victory.
Zoppi recovered his own onside kick at the 47-yard line. Two plays later off play action from a tight formation, David Wells connected with Kirk for a 38-yard touchdown and a 28-14 lead.
“We worked on that play this week,” Roy said of the onside kick. “We were looking to surprise them and I told the players we were going to run it. We went out and executed it.”
West Haven looked to get one score back, as Tim McCarthy led them down field to the Shelton 31. But Wells intercepted a seam pass at the 10 and returned it to midfield, where the Gaels threatened before Zoppi’s 45-yard field goal try was short.
West Haven received the second half kickoff and used the cutback ability of Chris Chance, Anthony Godfrey and Kyle Godfrey to get in position to score on Kyle Godfrey’s 2-yard run.
Tuskowski hadn’t cooled off, however. He completed five passes for 64 yards on the ensuing drive, including a perfectly timed come back pass to Kanios for an 8-yard score. Shelton led 34-21 after a blocked conversion kick with 4:55 left in the third.
Shelton’s defense, led by Ron Hubbard, Alex Kirk, Tyler Stevens, Dan Barone, Rafael Desousa, Mike Casinelli, Ed Radzion, Ron Rich and Sam Kirk, kept battling the determined Westies.
Shelton got the ball back at its 26, and this time went 74 yards in 13 plays to add to its lead.
Anthony Schiavo came up big with a third-down catch good for 17 yards, Tuskowski, off a waggle rollout, was hit from behind by Marquis Lockhart while he delivered a 26-yard touchdown pass to Sam Kirk for a 40-21 advantage.
Kanios stopped the next Westie drive with an interception on the two-yard line.
After a punt, McCarthy hit a wide-open Chance for a 55-yard touchdown with 4:51 remaining.
Shelton responded with a scoring drive of its own. Zoppi made a 23-yard field goal, but a personal foul call gave the Gaels a new set of downs. Hoff then scored on a one-yard run.
Wells’ second interception, on the Shelton 5-yard line, sewed up the win.
“We couldn’t stop them,” West Haven head coach Rick Boshea said. “Winning big games is about making big plays. They did; we didn’t.”