Shelton football turns turnovers into TDs in win over Cheshire

SHELTON – For 29 minutes, Shelton was flat in what was a must win game for the Gaels.

But over a period of 3:17 in the third quarter and three turnovers later that led to touchdowns, Shelton wiped out a Cheshire lead and knocked off the Rams 34-14 in a key Southern Connecticut Conference football contest at Finn Stadium. Both teams are in the hunt for CIAC Class L berths. Shelton was sixth in the ratings and Cheshire seventh. The top eight teams make the playoffs. Darien is rated eighth.

Cheshire led 14-6 with 7:01 remaining in the third quarter and was driving downfield in an effort to extend its lead. However, Shelton’s Ricky Feola had other ideas as he jumped in front of Cheshire quarterback Mike Simeone’s pass intended for Charles Kurtz at the Gaels’ 25-yard line. Feola returned it 75 yards untouched and with David Dojlidko’s two-point conversion run, it was tied at 14-14.

“I felt the tight end running the out and I knew the quarterback was going to throw it there,” Feola said. “We had to make a big play, so I sacrifice jumped it.”

It was part of some key adjustments made on defense at halftime by the Gaels.

“We knew they were spreading our defense out,” Feola said. “They were running their receivers pretty wide and were getting our corners out of the way so they could run the ball. We started to send some blitzes off the back side to stop the option plays.”   

But that was just the start of Cheshire giveaways in the third quarter.

After moving the ball near midfield, quarterback Michael Simeone’s pitch to Jeffery Gonzalez (103 yards rushing) hit him in the right shoulder and bounced right into the hands of Shelton’s Ben Hoponick. Two plays later, Dojlidko (77 yards rushing) scored the second of his two touchdowns on the night with a 37-yard scamper that gave Shelton the lead for good, 20-14.

The Gaels tacked on another touchdown thanks to another interception return, this time by John De Camps, who raced 45 yards for the score to complete a wild 3:17 stretch.

“You can’t do that against anybody,” Cheshire coach Don Drust said. “You turn the ball over and give up points on turnovers, you lose football games. I don’t care what level or who you’re playing, you lose football games.”

Aiden Sepkaski tacked on a 29-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to finish off the scoring.

Cheshire was held scoreless in the second half.

“Our defense responded great after we were a little flat in the first half,” Shelton coach Mike DeFelice said. “We were missing tackles, but the defense in the second half played lights out.”

Cheshire had taken the early lead when it recovered an onsides kick to open the game and then Simeone connected with Matt Jeffery for a 46-yard pass play on the first snap from scrimmage. Simeone followed with a two-yard jaunt to make it 7-0.

“You come into this environment, and we know what it’s like,” Drust said. “It’s their Senior Day and you know the energy with that. For us, it was to try and steal an extra possession and take momentum.”

After Dojlidko scored from 19 yards out later in the opening quarter, and Gonzalez scored from nine yards out to make it 14-6 at the break.

For both teams, the ramifications were huge as they are both 5-3 with two games remaining. Shelton is sixth and Cheshire seventh in the crowded CIAC Class L field.

“Four losses would be scary,” DeFelice said. “We wanted to get back on the right foot with a win here. The kids were down in the dumps after last week (a 16-15 loss to Fairfield Prep), but we told them if we win out and go 7-3, we’ll get in.”

Shelton 34, Cheshire 14

CHESHIRE 7 7 0 0 – 14
SHELTON 6 0 22 6 – 34
C – Mike Simeone 2 run (Micah Galloza kick), 10:44
S – David Dojlidko 19 run (kick blocked), 5:11
C – Jeffery Gonzalez 9 run (Galloza kick), 9:45
S – Ricky Feola 75 interception return (Dojlidko run), 7:01
S – Dojlidko 37 run (kick failed), 4:42
S – John DeCamps 45 interception return (Dojlidko run), 3:44
S – Aiden Sepkaski 29 run (kick failed), 3:22
Records: Shelton 5-3, Cheshire 5-3