Football: Jack Carr carries Shelton Gaels to victory

Junior running back Jack Carr was asked to carry more of the load when the Shelton High football team defeated Amity High, 27-17, on a blustery early November Friday night in front of about 1,300 at Finn Stadium.

The seventh-ranked Gaels beat Amity for the 12th straight time, and 19th out of the last 20 times the two teams have played (2005 Amity win).

Shelton is  7-1 overall, 4-1 in the Southern Connecticut Conference’s Tier 1, and winners of seven straight games. The Spartans, playing in the SCC’s Tier 2 this season, fell to 2-6 overall.

The Gaels played most of the game without banged up junior quarterback Jake Roberts (sprained knee), including all of the second half. That meant Carr had his number called.

Carr was the workhorse for Shelton, toting the ball 36 times for 248 yards — both career-highs by a wide margin — and two touchdowns. As if that wasn’t enough, he also led the receivers with three catches for 23 yards, and completed 2-of-3 passes out of the wildcat formation for another 13 yards.

“Our kids came through,” said Shelton coach Jeff Roy. “Our quarterback tried to play a little bit but he couldn’t. So, we went to the wildcat with Carr and he had a heck of a game. And at times we went to our sophomore quarterback James Curley (2-of-4, 42 yards), who threw a couple nice balls and managed the game at the end.”

Carr’s performance brought another Shelton back to mind.

“Yes, that’s who he reminded me of,” said Roy, referring to former Shelton All State bruising running back Geoff Schultz (class of 2008). “There was a point when you try not to get beat up too much. But we’re down a QB and a receiver. I told the offensive line, you’ve got to take over and let Jack do his thing.”

Eddie Radzion, Jake Breton, Eric Zelanin, Ray Weiner and David Youngquist did just that.

“We were down Paul Ferrigno also,” said Roy of his junior receiver/defensive back who didn’t dress due to an injury. “So, we were down a couple guys. The other guys went out there and did what they had to do.”

Up 17-0 on a Georgio Ghazal 11-yard touchdown run, Nick Andrade 31-yard field goal and Carr’s 7-yard touchdown run, the Spartans put a scare into Shelton, scoring 10 straight points in about four minutes spanning the end of the first half and beginning of the second.

Their lead cut to one score, the Gaels came up with a critical drive late in the third quarter moving from their own 30 to the Amity 23.

With a helping wind and a good snap and hold from Michael Casinelli and Tyler Pjatak, respectively, Andrade converted a career-long 40-yard field goal with six seconds left in the quarter to make it a two-score game at 20-10.

“What a weapon,” said Roy of his junior kicker who is tied for second in the state with six field goals made. “To put us up two scores which was huge. Once we got up two scores there in the fourth quarter, it was a little more comfortable.”

Carr added a 3-yard scoring run to make it 27-10 with 2:54 left in the game.

But the Spartans answered quickly, moving 73 yards in just 43 seconds to cut Shelton’s lead back to 27-17.

Ghazal recovered Amity’s ensuing onside kick, and Shelton was able to run out the clock for its seventh straight victory.

“We knew they’d come and battle us,” said Roy. “Their kids came and played tough, but our kids responded when we needed to.”

Shelton’s defense had another solid performance in the victory.

Tyler Janik recorded a team-high nine tackles, and Casinelli recorded a sacked, forced a fumble and recovered it all on the same play to set up Carr’s first touchdown.

The Gaels will look to move one step closer to their fourth straight state playoff appearance on Friday, when they host Notre Dame of West Haven (2-6 overall, 0-4 SCC Tier 1) for a 7 p.m. kickoff.

“Notre Dame is another good football team, and we have to come out next week ready to go again,” said Roy. “Every game we play is coming down to the fourth quarter.”

Gael notes: Shelton is tied with Naugatuck (8-0) for third in the CIAC Class LL point rankings.  Darien is first, followed by Greenwich; both are undefeated. Fellow SCC schools West Haven (5th), Fairfield Prep (9th), Cheshire (11th) and Wilbur Cross (12th) are all still in the mix to earn one of eight playoff spots.

Of teams that report punting statistics to MaxPreps, Andrade is tied for 22nd in the nation and is first in Connecticut with punts inside the 20-yard line with 16. Andrade is averaging 40.0 yards per punt on 25 punts this season.