Football: Shelton readying for Division title defense (Video)

When kicking off the second annual SCC Football Media Night, Commissioner Al Carbone pointed out that six coaches are new to the SCC — the largest turnover in the SCC’s 22-year history.

Two of those coaches, Ted Czipega of Amity and Fairfield Prep’s Keith Hellstern, will be competing in the SCC Division I West alongside last year’s division champion Shelton High (12-1 in 2014), defending Class LL Small champion Xavier High of Middletown (9-3) and Hamden High (2-9).

Shelton, represented at Media Night by assistant coach Dan Dunaj and seniors Peter Hoff, Ron Hubbard and Alex Kirk, fell in the state final, 28-27 in overtime, to Xavier, as the Falcons won their fourth state title in five years.

“We’re excited about the season,” Dunaj said. “We have lots of goals ahead of us.”

Despite losing record-breaking quarterback Mark Piccirillo, head coach Jeff Roy’s Gaels return eight starters on offense and six on defense — including their entire secondary.

Placekicker Joe Zoppi and punter Kevin Robinson also return to spearhead the special teams.

“I think this year, the kids are a little more motivated to go,” Dunaj said, referring to the narrow loss to Xavier in the state final.

Xavier is led by head coach coach Sean Marinan, in his 14th year helming the Falcons. Marinan is the longest-tenured coach in Division I West, with 12-year veteran Roy a close second.

“This is the premier league in the state,” Marinan said. “The main reason is you guys, the players.”

With four state crowns in five years, the Falcons have butted heads with some of the toughest competition across the state. But none of that compares to the weekly grind of competing in the SCC.

“It’s bar none the best league in the state,” he said. “If you want to be best, you have to beat the best.”

Hamden High, coming off a 2-9 season, can attest to the difficulty of the SCC schedule. Head coach Toddy Dowty said the Green Dragons had their best offseason in years.

“The kids are staying with it,” he said. “We’ve had very good attendance.”

As for the teams with first-year head coaches, Hellstern takes over at Fairfield Prep, with the Jesuits coming off of a 7-4 campaign.

“We weren’t happy with 7-4 last season,” Hellstern said. “We’re looking forward to a tremendous season.

“A lot of our strengths have to do with team chemistry. Physically and mentally, we’ll be ready to go.”

At Amity, former Spartan standout Czipega enters his first season on sidelines in Woodbridge.

Czipega was an All-SCC running back and linebacker at Amity, before playing collegiately at Florida Atlantic University.

According to Carbone, Czipega is the first SCC student-athlete to transition to head coach at an SCC school.

“Our goal is to be 1-0 every week,” Czipega said.

All five SCC Division I West teams open their seasons on Sept. 11.