Mark down Shelton High football head coach Jeff Roy as a newly appointed member of Darien High believers after his Gaels lost a 39-7 decision to the Blue Wave in the Class LL state finals at Veteran’s Stadium in New Britain on Saturday.
“That’s an excellent football team,” Roy said. “In my mind they are the best team in the state….They have it all, they really don’t have any weakness…Defensively they are just tough up front…They have an all around excellent team.”
Darien improved to 12-0 behind four interceptions, including two that were returned for touchdowns and helped the second-seeded Wave take an 18-0 lead into the half.
Shelton, which finished 12-1, lost starting quarterback Zach Tuskowski to a broken collarbone on the top-seeded Gaels’ second possession. Junior David Wells came in to call signals, but the locals had trouble moving the ball against a stout Darien defense.
Chris Trifone returned an interception on Shelton’s first play from scrimmage for 20 yards and a touchdown. Alex Kirk blocked the PAT, but the Wave led 6-0 with only 16 seconds off the clock.
Shelton was set back on its second series by Tuskowski’s injury, an illegal blocking penalty and an unsportsmanlike conduct call.
Darien got the ball back on Shelton’s 20 following Hudson Hamill’s fine punt return.
Four plays later, Tim Graham threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Hamill for a 12-0 lead.
The team’s traded empty possession before Shelton moved the chains on a pair of Keith Prior carries and a Kirk pass reception.
After moving to the Darien 33-yard line, the drive stalled and the pocket collapsed around Wells on 4th-and-7 for an 11-yard loss.
Shelton held Darien on downs at its 30-yard line with Jonathan Sobatka and Wells making key plays.
Shelton earned one first down and had the ball on its 32, when the Wave’s Rob Trifone returned an interception 48 yards for an 18-0 lead with 5:58 remaining in the half.
Shelton ran off nine offensive plays, with Anthony Schiavo (10 yards) and Joe Zoppi (13 yards) making catches good for first downs. Again Darien held on downs. Then the Wave drove down field to the Gaels’ 13, where Sobotka intercepted a slip screen pass intended for Shelby Grant with eight seconds left.
Darien took the second half kickoff and scored on Grant’s 2-yard run. Riley Stewart kicked the PAT.
Mark Schmidt came away with Darien’s third interception to get the ball back on the Shelton 11. Grant scored on a 7-yard run two plays later and the score moved to 32-0.
Darien next went 72 yards in 11 plays in a drive that encompassed two periods. Hamill caught a perfectly-thrown 37-yard pass for the touchdown.
Shelton got on the board with 5:06 remaining when Kevin Robinson caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Wells. Zoppi kicked the PAT.
Darien outgained Shelton 329-124 in total yards and had the edge in first downs, 39-7.
Wells finished 11 for 20 passing for 95 yards. Robinson had six catches for 86 yards. Prior had 11 carries for 20 yards.
Sobatka led the Gaels’ defense with nine tackles. Kirk and Ron Hubbard each had six tackles and Prior five.