Joe Zoppi has been a standout place kicker for Shelton High since his freshman year.
That didn’t lessen the pressure when the current senior prepared to kick a conversion with the Gaels game with North Haven tied at 34 with 3:48 remaining.
“When they missed that PAT (leading 34-28), I knew that could be the difference maker and with Joey we had all the confidence in the world,” said Shelton coach Jeff Roy’s, whose 100th career win also came as the Gaels improved to 6-0 on the season (4-0 in Tier I) with their 35-34 victory at Mike Vanacore Field.
“It’s snap (Jonathan Sobatka), hold (Santino Duarte) and kick,” said Zoppi, who made all five of his conversions and opened the scoring in this SCC matchup with a 5-yard touchdown reception from David Wells.
“We realize there aren’t any gimmies in the SCC. It’s almost always going to come down to the last few plays.”
Shelton ended the first half in spectacular fashion.
With the game tied at 21, Sobatka broke through to block a North Haven punt and Justin Greene recovered the ball for a touchdown.
There was only 31 seconds remaining in the half.
Shelton started fast, scoring on its first possession and making it a 14-0 game on Jack Carr’s 1-yard run with 4:16 remaining in the opening period.
With Chris Goodman, Ray Weiner, Robert Valeri, Dan Barone, Matt Liscio and David Brown providing pass protection and downhill run support, Shelton moved the ball at will on its first two series.
North Haven, now 3-3 on the season, used its multiple formations out of its single-wing to climb back in the game.
The Indians’ Jamorea Hooks scored on a 1-yard run and Jack Steinman caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Kyle Melillo.
Colin Finkle nailed both PATs and the game was tied at 14 with 10:28 left to play in the second quarter.
Between the Indian touchdowns, Zoppi missed a 32-yard field goal.
North Haven scored on its third straight possession to make it a 21-14 game, as Thomas Dodge scored on a 7-yard run with nine minutes left in the second period.
Shelton regained its stride here.
Armando Martinez returned the kickoff 34 yards with Carr throwing the key block.
Wells then connected with David D’Amore on a deep ball down the sideline for a 40-yard gain to the North Haven 15.
A holding penalty didn’t slow the Gaels.
Wells, who played a poised game in the pocket, moved up to create space and threw a 20-yard touchdown strike to Paul Ferrigno to deadlock the game at 21.
It came less than a minute after the Indian score.
North Haven took the second half kickoff and drove 79 yards in 10 plays, before Mark Montano scored on a 20-yard run to tie things.
An exchange of fumbles left North Haven with the ball on its 45.
Eight plays later, three snaps into the final period, Montano scored from 11 yards out.
This time the PAT was wide, leaving Shelton’s deficit at 34-28.
The Gaels gave the ball back on downs at the Indians’ 28 with 8:13 left to play.
Carr’s blitz forced an errant pass that was intercepted by Martinez at the North Haven 44.
With another opportunity, Wells completed passes to Ferrigno for 10 yards and Zoppi for 21.
He ran twice to move the chains to the 25.
Three plays later he found Anthony Schiavo for the tying 10-yard touchdown pass.
Zoppi’s conversion kick gave Shelton the lead.
Duarte stopped North Haven on its next series with an interception at the 48 yard line.
Shelton kept the ball on the ground to run out the clock.
On 4th-and-4 from the 29, Ronnie Rich fought for the extra yards for the game-clinching first down.