Football: Shelton wins, Joe Zoppi ties record

Shelton Ronnie Rich ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns for playoff-bound Gaels. — Andy Hutchison photo

Shelton’s Ronnie Rich (23) ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns for the playoff-bound Gaels. — Andy Hutchison photo

Shelton High coasted past Derby High, 44-8 in the 106th meeting between the two schools before about 2,000 fans at Finn Stadium in Shelton on Thanksgiving Day.

Shelton (8-2) defeated Derby for the 14th straight time and now leads the series 56-43-7.

The Red Raiders (2-8) have defeated Shelton just once in the last 20 years.

More importantly for Shelton, the Gaels qualified for the state playoffs for the third straight year.  Sixth-seeded Shelton will travel to third-seeded Newtown High Tuesday to take on the undefeated Nighthawks in a Class LL quarterfinal matchup. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.

Shelton-Newtown is a rematch of last year’s Class LL semifinal game in which Shelton defeated Newtown, 35-28.

On Thanksgiving, senior Joe Zoppi caught a pair of touchdown passes, kicked three field goals and five extra points to help the Gaels to victory. His final field goal, a 30-yarder midway through the third quarter, tied the Connecticut state record for most career field goals with 20.  Zoppi is locked in with Brookfield’s Dane Borges and New Canaan’s Peter Swindell.

Zoppi was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.

The outcome of Thursday’s game was never in doubt. Shelton scored on six of its seven first half possessions and added a special team’s score on a Michael Casinelli blocked punt and Santino Durante recovery and return.
“We had a good week of practice and they came out and executed in that first half on both sides of the ball and special teams,” said Shelton Ccach Jeff Roy, whose team led 41-0 at the intermission.

In limited action — Shelton started pulling its starters with 8:36 left in the second quarter — running back Ronnie Rich ran 11 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. David Wells completed 4-of-6 passes for 124 yards and two more scores.

Zoppi, who caught both touchdown passes, added field goals of 30 and 32 yards in the first half.

“That was important to us, to obviously to get the victory and come out and play well in that first half, and then be able to get the kids out of there so we can be healthy for states,” said Roy.  “We’re going into states this year as a healthy football team unlike last year.”

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