The top-seeded Shelton High football team’s ability to move the ball through the air despite a cold, steady rain throughout the game proved to be the difference on Tuesday night.
The Gaels earned a 40-20 Class LL quarterfinal victory over eighth-seeded West Haven in front of 450 fans at Finn Stadium on Tuesday night to advance to the state semifinals.
Senior quarterback Zach Tuskowski completed 13-of-19 passes for 191 and three touchdowns, coupled with senior running back Peter Hoff’s 196 yards rushing and a touchdown on 23 carries, helped the Gaels defeat a one-dimensional West Haven for the second time this season.
The Westies (7-4) ran the ball effectively, accumulating 245 yards on 41 rushes. But it was West Haven’s inability to move the ball through the air that was the difference, particularly when it was trying to come back in the second half.
West Haven completed just 3-of-10 passes on the night for a paltry 16 yards.
“We’ve been able to throw the ball all year. We’ve been executing our offense,” said Shelton Coach Jeff Roy. “The rain really didn’t affect our passing game that much. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Shelton advances to Monday’s Class LL semifinal round with a 6:30 p.m. contest against fourth-seeded Newtown at Finn Stadium.
Trailing West Haven 8-7 midway through the first quarter, Tuskowski threw a pair of touchdowns to Alex Kirk covering 36 and 17 yards, respectively, to give Shelton a 20-8 lead.
Hoff put an exclamation point on Shelton’s first half by busting an inside handoff for 58 yards and a Shelton touchdown just 15 seconds before halftime, extending Shelton’s lead to 26-8.
West Haven pulled to within two scores twice in the second half, including cutting Shelton’s lead to 33-20 with 10:46 left in the game.
But Ronald Hubbard’s 7-yard sack of West Haven quarterback Tim McCarthy on a second-and-4 play on West Haven’s ensuing possession led to the Westies punting the ball two plays later.
West Haven never threatened to score on their final three possessions of the game.