Football: Shelton Gaels defeat Fairfield Prep, 10-7

One more time.

That was the task asked of the Shelton High defense at Rafferty Stadium on Friday night.

Trailing 10-7, Fairfield Prep had earned a first down at the Gaels’ 26-yard line with 2:30 remaining in this clash of SCC Tier I titans.

The Jesuits’ Doug Harrison carried the ball twice for seven yards, with Shelton linebacker Tyler Janik going into double digits with a pair of tackles.

Faced with a 4th-and-8 after an incomplete pass and a delay of game penalty, Prep quarterback J.P. Iaropoli went looking for Finn Duran on a post pattern.

Bracketed by a pair of defenders, the pass fell to the turf and Shelton had the ball and the victory.

“Every year, this is such a great rivalry,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said after his No. 5 ranked team in the GameTime CT football poll improved to 3-0. “Last year, it came down to the wire, this year, it comes down to the wire. It was a great high school football game. This is what high school football is all about.

“We had a great week of practice. We knew it was going to be a battle. Our defense was well prepared...It  was phenomenal all game.”

Led by linebackers’ Ray Weiner, Janik and Tyler Pjatak, and the d-line of Jake Breton, Zach McEwen, Philip Sissick and Jordino Mitale, Prep was limited to 26 yards of offense in the first half.

“We did a great job on defense in the first half,” Janik said. “In the second, they came out in some different schemes and we had to adjust. It was two tough teams going at it. He (Harrison) is a power runner and you can’t tackle high, you have to hit him in the legs to stop him.”

Six penalties for 55 yards, and a fumble, didn’t help the Jesuits in their four possession comprised of 28 plays.

Shelton didn’t fare much better with the ball. The Gaels garnered 72 yards, gave up an interception, and were flagged nine times for 78 yards.

A pair of big plays gave Shelton a leg up on its first series.

Paul Ferrigno returned the opening kickoff 50 yards to the Prep 44.

Jake Roberts, on 3rd-and-10 from the 33, scrambled from pressure. He broke a tackle, and helped by Brian Berritto’s seal block, gained 18 yards to move the chains to the 15.

As in all things on offense in this matchup, nothing came easy.

A pair of incomplete passes and a 3-yard run by Roberts got the ball to the 12.

Nick Andrade came on and booted a 29-yard field goal with 7:59 on the clock.

That kick would stand up through a defense-and-penalty dominated two periods of play.

Shelton had a chance to add to its lead in the waning minutes, before Joe Wuchiski intercepted a second down pass from the 7 in the end zone with 14 seconds left.

“I told them to win the second half,” Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “I know it’s cliche, but we made a big stop late in the first half and wanted to go forward from there.”

Prep (2-1) had to punt on its first series of the third quarter.

Aidan Derby’s kick took a bad bounce back toward the Prep goal line.

The Jesuits thought they had downed the kick; the Gaels’ David Yakowicz didn’t.

The senior picked up the loose ball and raced down the sideline for a shocking 54-yard touchdown. Andrade’s PAT made it 10-0.

“We teach that, (assistant) coach (Mike) Barone does a great job teaching that,” Roy said. “We tell the kids if they touch it, it’s live and nothing bad can happen, so pick the thing up and take a shot.”

Prep didn’t back down.

Harrison broke off a 60-yard touchdown run up the middle with 1:17 left in the third period.

Owen Cirilli did a great job getting the snap down and Murray McCarthy made the conversion to take the score to 10-7.

Shelton drove into Prep territory, but Joseph DeJesus intercepted a pass to get the ball back on the 35.

Prep earned a 3rd-and-1 at the Shelton 36, but Jack Carr recovered a fumble at the 32.

With the o-line getting a push and Georgio Ghazai (32 yards on six carries) being the workhorse, Shelton ran for four first downs and took almost seven minutes off the clock.

Prep’s Zachary Sheehan came off the edge to sack Roberts for an 9-yard loss to the 28.

A fourth down pass fell incomplete and Prep had one more opportunity.

Iaropoli went up top and hit the speedy Duran in stride for a 46-yard gain to the Gaels’ 26.

That set up the final set of plays.

“This is a great rivalry because both teams love to play football,” Hellstern said. “Each team gets fired up for each other and each team is filled with competitors.

“We are gracious in defeat and are eager to improve. This season is far from over. We have some things to clean up. Our players played extremely hard.”