Touchdown or touchback? Call fuels Shelton-Newtown game

Shelton football coach Mike DeFelice talks with officials during game with Newtown.

Shelton football coach Mike DeFelice talks with officials during game with Newtown.

David G. Whitham / For Hearst Connecticut Media

SHELTON — Touchdown maybe. Safety no way. Touchback probable.

Impactful on Shelton’s eventual 31-28 win over Newtown — oh yeah.

Shelton receiver Ricky Feola caught a pass on the Newtown 10-yard line early in the fourth quarter. The junior spun away from one tackle. He pulled a jersey-tugging defender four more yards. Three Nighthawks hit Feola as he stretched for the goal line.

The ball came loose.

Feola and teammates celebrated what they determined to be a touchdown.

Newtown’s Jack Chappa recovered the ball in the end zone. His teammates hugged him and pushed him through the back of the end zone. No score.

Rarely has an impending decision from one call drawn such a reaction. Lungs of disgruntled coaches were stretched to be heard. Spectators, on their feet for most of the contest between CT Football Alliance rivals, were compelled to come forward to voice their opinion.

Media members, team alumni, and those holding the chains spoke quietly.

Shelton, the No. 9 ranked team in the GameTimeCt Top 10 Poll, either had its lead improve to 23-14 or a 4-2 Newtown team would have a chance to score on a second straight possession and go in front.

A touchdown signal had never been made. After one brief conference, a sign for a safety had been shown for stepped out of the end zone. A longer discussion gave the ball to Newtown at its 20 after a touchback was ruled.

“I thought it was a touchdown,” Shelton coach Mike DeFelice said. “I thought the ball came loose after he was in the end zone. It’s their call. It the long run it doesn’t matter what I think.”

Video review from the opposite sideline was no help. It didn’t show when the ball came out. Calling for a safety was out because Chappa never stepped on the field of play.

The ruling resulted in an exciting finish between Shelton, ranked third for a Class LL playoff spot, and coach Bob Pattison’s Nighthawks ranked seventh in Class LL.

Newtown needed only four plays to take the lead. Quarterback Dylan Magazu threw to Caleb Smith in the flat. Smith, who had shown himself to be a bruising runner, displayed his speed in running 66 yards for a touchdown.

There was 6:58 remaining on the clock.

Feola caught a pass from Michael Kinik for a Shelton first down. Tyler Rich ran three times to move the chains to the Newtown 44. The clock was closing in on the three-minute mark.

Kinik found John De Camps down the left sideline for a 44-yard touchdown. Cristiano Rosa, whose three field goals had helped the Gaels to a 17-14 halftime lead, nailed his second PAT. It was 24-21 Shelton.

Newtown had 3:10 left to overcome the deficit.

But Shelton’s Jake Girad and Mike Lockavitch combined to extend the lead.

Girad forced a fumble. Lockavitch picked up the loose ball and ran 34 yards for a touchdown.

There was 2:56 remaining on the clock.

Magazu threw a rainbow strike to Eric Gray for a 74-yard touchdown. It was Maguza’s fourth scoring pass, and third in the final period.

There was 2:06 remaining on the clock.

Shelton ran the ball three times. Newtown used its three timeouts.

There was 1:20 remaining on the clock.

It was 4th-and inches.

Shane Santiago took a direct snap. He went off the left side of the offense line.

When the pile of players unscrambled, Shelton had its first down by the length of the football.

Two snaps of the ball, twice taking a knee, ended the game. Not the discussion. Twitter: @blox354 Twitter: @blox354