Shelton powers past Prep, keeps playoff hopes alive
SHELTON — Postseason was the theme Friday evening when Fairfield Prep and Shelton squared off in a heavyweight battle. Despite both teams having down campaigns in the win column by their standards, both the Jesuits and Gaels were still alive at kickoff to play past Thanksgiving.
Finishing with 507 yards of offense, including a combined 375 yards on the ground by seniors Georgio Ghazal and Tyler Pjatak, Shelton scored 42 unanswered points on its way to a 49-19 Senior Night victory over the Jesuits in a Southern Connecticut Conference Tier 1 contest at Finn Stadium in Shelton.
“We said we were not going to change what we were doing,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said of his team running the ball so often. “We thought we were a little bigger than them up front, and we put some tweaks into our single wing. We were going to run it until they stopped it.”
Pjatak finished with 213 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while Ghazal had three touchdown runs and 162 yards rushing on 19 carries.
“This feels tremendous,” Pjatak said. “Our game plan coming in was to ground and pound and that is exactly what we did. We are all happy. It is Senior Night and we came out with a good victory.”
Leading 21-13 at the half, Shelton put the game away with three third quarter touchdowns, two of which came following Fairfield Prep turnovers.
“We got beat up in the second half,” Fairfield Prep coach Keith Hellstern said. “We got out physicalled. There is no other way to say it. We did not have an answer for their single wing. We put some things in we thought would work and they did not.”
Tim Santos got the Gaels going in the third quarter with an interception of a Robert Long pass. One play later, Pjatak ran in from 18 yards out for a 28-13 lead.
A turnover on the ensuing kickoff gave Shelton possession on the Prep 48, where the Gaels needed just three plays to take a 35-13 advantage, following a 40-yard score by Ghazal.
“It was an unbelievable atmosphere,” Ghazal said. “I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else. I thank these seniors one hundred, one thousand percent from the bottom of my heart.”
Michai Lynch Barnes ran in from 8 yards out for a 42-13 lead after three quarters, before a 2-yard score by Chris Thompson increased the margin to 49-13.
After allowing the first score of the game on Fairfield Prep’s opening possession of the game when Sean Nelson capped a 45-yard drive with a 9-yard score, the Gaels dominated the rest of the opening half.
Shelton (6-3) allowed 41 yards in the opening quarter, then turned up the defensive efforts even more in the second 12 minutes, allowing just six yards of offense to the Jesuits in the second quarter.
Isaiah DeLoatch, James Anderson, Kyle Corby, Craig Ferris and Jacob Falcioni did the blocking for the Gaels, who held a 247-47 yardage advantage in the first half. Shelton needed just two plays to match Prep’s opening score when Pjatak raced 64 yards to even the game at seven.
With the Gaels moving again to add to their point total, the Jesuits made a huge defensive play when a pass play by the Gaels was fumbled into the hands of Zachary Conn. The Prep junior turned the other way and ran 80 yards for a 13-7 Prep lead with 5:42 remaining in the half.
“We did not blink,” Ghazal said. “They hit us with the first onside and they got some momentum. But, we knew we had to stop that. We finished strong.”
The Jesuits (5-4) missed the extra point and that was a sign of things to come in the final minutes of the half. The Gaels needed seven plays to march 56 yards, capped with a 9-yard run by Ghazal with 1:51 remaining in the half for a 14-13 lead.
The duo of Pjatak and Ghazal combined for 223 yards on the ground in the opening half and were the key components in Shelton taking a 21-13 lead with 22 seconds to go in the half.
After an interception by Barnes gave Shelton possession at the Prep 20, runs by Ghazal and Pjatak got the Gaels to the 1-yard line, before Ghazal scored on the next play.
“We knew it was do or die,” Pjatak said. “We had to beat this team to have a shot at playoffs.”
Shelton’s defense held Prep to just 163 yards of offense in the game, with the final 53 coming on a touchdown run by Dean Tsiranides with 2:12 remaining.
“The defense was flying around,” Roy said. “The guys were getting after it. We were being aggressive. Our game plan was to attack them on defense.”
PLAYERS OF THE GAME
Tyler Pjatak and Georgio Ghazal — Shelton running backs combined to run for 375 yards and five touchdowns. Pjatak finished with 213 yards and a pair of scores, while Ghazal finished with 162 yards and three touchdowns.
SHELTON 49, FAIRFIELD PREP 19
FAIRFIELD PREP 7 6 0 6 — 19
SHELTON 7 14 21 7 — 49
F - Sean Nelson 9 run (James Urban kick) 7:21
S - Tyler Pjatak 64 run (Cristiano Rosa kick) 6:29
F - Zachary Conn 80 fumble return (Kick failed) 5:42
S - Georgio Ghazal 9 run (Rosa kick) 1:51
S - Ghazal 1 run (Rosa kick) 0:22
S - Pjatak 18 run (Rosa kick) 9:57
S - Ghazal 40 run (Rosa kick) 8:17
S - Michai Lynch Barnes 8 run (Rosa kick) 2:40
S - Chris Thompson 2 run (Rosa kick) 3:14
F — Dean Tsiranides 53 run (Pass failed) 2:12
Records: FP 5-4; S 6-3