Coach Mike DeFelice breaks down summer, looks toward season

Shelton football coach Mike DeFelice walked among his players with a different set of responsibilities at Finn Stadium on Monday afternoon.

While his official debut as head coach comes when North Haven visits on Sept. 10, DeFelice was happy to have his team around him learning tackling techniques and running patterns.

“This is what all the players and coaches have been looking forward to,” said DeFelice, who stepped in from his assistant post after Jeff Roy resigned following the 2019 season. “We’ve been lifting and running with our conditioning program in the summer. This week we’ll be able to gradually buildup to actionable football stuff on Saturday (when full contact begins).”

DeFelice, a 1996 graduate who played four years for coach Joe Benanto including on the 1995 Class LL state championship team, discussed how his coaching staff handled the down time.

“We’ve been using it as best we can,” DeFelice said of the long delay. “We can sit down and talk about all the X’s and O’s in the world. We can set up what we want to do on offensive and defense. But when it comes down to it, we have to see what we have. This is how we’ve always done things.”

He explained: “When we had Mark Piccirillo at quarterback (2014 Walter Camp Player of the Year) we ran the ball a lot with him. Then we had Zach Tuskowski (2015-16) and we didn’t. He wasn’t runner so we threw the ball.”

The preseason will dictate how the Gaels game plan.

“On both sides of the ball, we have to see who our personnel are and what they are capable of doing,” DeFelice said. “That dictates what we are going to do. Once we see who we have on the defensive line, we may play a different front. If we have more linebackers, that changes what we do on the field. Once we see them in drills, we can see where they fit into our scheme.”

The three days of OTA’s (organized team activities) weren’t necessary for Shelton.

“The idea (from the CIAC) was okay. But weren’t going to watch film from a couple of years ago,” DeFelice said. “We handed out our equipment a little bit at a time over the summer when the guys were conditioning. Our playbook is online for the kids to look at. It was a good idea to get teams organized but we were already ready to go in that regard.”

Shelton will meet Masuk in a controlled scrimmage on Tuesday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. at Finn Stadium.

“We won’t do any live kicking. The teams will line up and do 10 punts each with an automatic fair catch,” DeFelice said. “Same thing with field goals and extra points. Nothing live. Then we will scrimmage. On fourth down if you are going to punt, we will move the ball 40 yards down the field.”

Shelton’s live scrimmage is at Ansonia.

DeFelice said: “When I was a sophomore in 1993, that was the last time we played them in the regular season. That was in the old Housatonic League. My junior year was the first year of the SCC.”

CT Alliance games

“It was the same schedule we were going to have two years ago,” DeFelice said of playing four non-league CT Alliance games. “When we saw that schedule, we knew what those teams were going to be (talent-scheme wise). Now it is kind of a crapshoot for everyone. I don’t know what Greenwich, NFA, Trumbull or Newtown have. It’s going to be interesting the first couple of weeks to see how it plays out.”

COVID

“We are doing what we can to keep everyone safe. When we are in the building we will mask up. That was the gist of the CIAC document that came out the other day,” DeFelice said. “There was a meeting over the summer before conditioning. I said: ‘Hey fellas, I’m not telling you what to do about getting vaccinated. It’s you and your family’s choice, your parent’s choice.’ I didn’t push it, I just explained that if they are sitting in say science class and a student comes down with COVID, they might miss 10 days for contact tracing. That could be two games. I wanted them to keep that in mind and to do what they thought was best for them.”

william.bloxsom@hearstmediact.com Twitter: @blox354