Big and strong Gaels revved up for start of season
Staying healthy against a talent-laden schedule is the only concern for Shelton head coach Jeff Roy, as his team looks to qualify for its sixth consecutive trip to the Class LL playoffs.
Despite being the No. 1 seed in last year’s playoffs, Shelton drew New Canaan as an eighth seed and bowed out in the first round to the eventual state finalist who lost to Greenwich.
The Gaels graduated a host of key players from last year’s squad, including quarterback Jake Roberts, defensive standout Jack Carr, linebackers Ray Weiner and Tyler Janik and kicker Nick Andrade.
Despite this, Shelton has 21 seniors and Roy loves his team’s size and speed heading into the 2019 season.
“Week in and week out we play very good teams,” Roy said. “Our (crossover football) alliance games are with Newtown, East Hartford and NFA (a combined 24-6 in 2018) and then we play the top six teams in the SCC (Tier I). Our goal is to win enough games to make states.”
Jake Oddo, Tyler Pjatak and Georgio Ghazal are team captains.
James Curley and Mike Callinan are rising seniors who will be competing for the quarterback position, left open with the graduation of Jake Roberts (2,200 total yards, 31 touchdowns).
“Both grew up in our program and we are confident either can handle it,” Roy said. “We’ve run offenses where the quarterback runs a lot and other times when they don’t. James and Mike can both tuck it away when they need to.”
Ghazal ran for 377 yards and three touchdowns as a junior.
“Georgio is a big kid (5-10, 230) and loves to run downhill,” Roy said. “Michai Lynch (177 yards, 3 TDs) is 200 pounds and runs with a juke style. He is elusive.”
Shelton has added more single-wing formations to its Wildcat offense, and that means more work for Pjatak and Chris Thompson.
“We saw that we, any everyone else, had trouble stopping North Haven’s single-wing. We put it in and have added to it this season,” Roy said. “With the single wing, we can have three of our runners on the field at the same time and they all can do damage.
“David Niski and Mike Lockavitch are tight ends with size. Jake Oddo (8 catches, 93 yards, 2 TDs), Chris Thompson (7 catches, 48 yards, TD), Gavin Rohlman and Brian Modica can all play outside. All our guys played in all the passing leagues and can catch the football.
“Christian Rosa is a sophomore placekicker. I don’t know how, but when one graduates (Nick Andrade (49/51 PATS, 4 FG) we have another one ready to go.”
It is on the offensive line that game’s will be won or lost. Roy is betting on his front five.
“We like to run old school, man blocking with downfield blocking, isolation plays, guards pulling and a power game,” he said. “We want to control the line of scrimmage and with it the clock. We are big and like to get after it.”
Kyle Corby (6-0, 280) will center a line that has James Anderson (6-0, 255) and Craig Ferris (6-0, 240) at guards and Isaiah DeLoatch (6-4, 250) and Jacob Falcioni (6-2, 250) at tackle.
Shelton would like to, but realizes it can’t anymore, go with strictly a two-platoon system. The Gaels don’t have a true two-platoon, because frankly no team in the SCC can afford not to play their best.’
“We’ll have three or four guys doing both, and others who will situationally see reps on both sides of the ball,” Roy said. “On defense we have three guys we can rotate in up front with Philip Sissick (35 tackles, 3 QB sacks), Matt Weiner and Dylan Wikowski.
“Mike Lockavitch (38 tackles, 7.5 QB sacks) and David Niski (3 QB sacks) will be at defensive ends.
“Michai Lynch and Tim Santo will be inside linebackers. Jake Oddo (21 tackles) and Jacob DeMarco are the outside backers/strong safety.
“Tyler Pjatak (24 tackles, INT) returns to play free safety. Rob Correia, Brian Modica and Chris Thompson will be at the corners. Everyone on the backend (of the defense) have similar abilities and can play offense or defense in any given game.”
Roy loves the Gaels’ size and speed.
“We have good size up front on both offense and defense,” he said. “We are fast and aggressive and I’m happy with where we are. Our young kids are stepping up. We have a large class of seniors (21). I’ve never had another that put in the time and work in the offseason as these guys.”
Sept. 13 — WEST HAVEN**, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 — at East Hartford, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 — NORWICH FREE ACADEMY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — CHESHIRE**, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — NEWTOWN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 — at Xavier**, 7 p.m.
Nov. 1— at North Haven**, 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 — at Daniel Hand**, 7 p.m.
Nov. 22— FAIRFIELD PREP**, 7 p.m.
Nov. 28— at Derby, 10:30 a.m.
Home games in CAPS
Scheduling Alliance games in bold