MIDDLETOWN - Shelton had lots of time during its bye week to contemplate consecutive losses to Cheshire and Newtown. And whether it had the mettle to regain its footing in the Class LL playoff hunt.

The Gaels took a positive step in that direction Friday night by holding off Xavier 28-21 and avoiding a third loss after a wild 48 minutes with a slew of big plays - and big mistakes - at Palmer Field.

“I told the boys at halftime, this was going to be a dogfight and we’ve got to go back out and finish it,” said Shelton senior running back Tyler Pjatak, who ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns. “We were definitely fired up for this game. We just want to prove to (people) that we’re not out of this, that we’re still in it.”

The Gaels (4-2), who recently fell out of the GameTime CT Top 10, led by two touchdowns at halftime, and even though Xavier pushed and pushed in the second half, the Shelton defense produced its biggest stop of the night in the closing seconds.

Xavier’s final drive was a heart-stopper for both sides.

Facing fourth-and-20 from its own 30, Xavier quarterback Drew Kron threw a 48-yard completion to KJ Grisham with 2:26 remaining to keep the suspense going. Four plays and two big Shelton defensive stops later, Xavier again had a hill to climb with a fourth-and-25 at the Gaels’ 37.

Following a timeout with 39 seconds left, and with six Gaels dropping into coverage, Kron completed a screen pass to Ryan Miner to start the play. Miner reversed the ball, flipping it to Grisham, but it was ever so slightly out of his reach at around the 25.

Shelton pounced on the fumble with 15 seconds left, ending the Falcons’ winning streak at three.

“It was like an inch away from me,” said Grisham, who caught two touchdown passes from Kron. “It was right there, but I went in too fast. If I would have hesitated for a split second, then I would have probably went in for a touchdown.”

The Falcons (3-3) still had the good feeling of a 15-point comeback win over Fairfield Prep two weeks ago to draw on in the fourth quarter before coming up empty.

“For as many mistakes as we made, our kids kept fighting and fighting and fighting, and they didn’t quit and they battled and battled,” Xavier coach Andy Guyon said. “That’s a really, really good football team and we hung with them. That should give our kids all the confidence in the world, that they can play with anybody.”

Xavier (3-3) got another big performance from Kron, a sophomore who won the job in preseason. He completed 18 of 34 passes for 268 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception, and he also ran for 102 yards.

Shelton’s deciding touchdown in the game came after Xavier, instead of punting the ball, turned it over on downs near midfield with a minute left in the first half.

The Gaels had a 21-14 lead at that point, enough clock and two timeouts on their side, and even a field goal from big-footed sophomore Cristiano Rosa would have been a nice bonus at the break.

Instead, Shelton went for broke and cashed in on 49-yard pass play from Curley to David Niski, who beat his man and reached the 4-yard line. Pjatak took the direct snap and scored on the next play to put the Gaels ahead 28-14.

Shelton was poised to go up by three touchdowns late in the third quarter.

Tim Santos intercepted a pass from Kron on fourth down that would have gotten Xavier its third score of the game. On first down from its own 3, Pjatak burst through the middle of the line for what would have been a 97-yard score, but he was stripped at the goal line by Ryan Miner, who recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback.

The Falcons scored on the ensuing drive, on a 14-yard Grisham touchdown catch on the first play of the fourth quarter. The score was set up by Kron’s 64-yard run on the first play after Pjatak’s fumble.

SHELTON 28, XAVIER 21

SHELTON 14 14 0 0-28

XAVIER 7 7 0 7—21

S—Georgio Ghazal 14-yard run (Cristiano Rosa kick)

S—Tyler Pjatak 3-yard run (Rosa kick)

X—Marcellius Ruiz 4-yard pass from Drew Kron (Ethan Belzek kick)

S—Ghazal 30-yard run (Rosa kick)

X—Kareem Grisham 7-yard pass from Kron (Belzek kick)

S—Pjatak 4-yard run (Rosa kick)

X—Grisham 14-yard pass from Kron (Belzek kick)

Records: Xavier 3-3; Shelton 4-2.