The Shelton High football team will visit Notre Dame of West Haven at Veteran’s Stadium in a crossroad game for both Southern Connecticut Conference Division I clubs at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Both teams are coming off dominating losses — the Gaels to Fairfield Prep (42-3) and the Green Knights to Cheshire High (48-13).
Shelton is 2-2 on the season, with winnable games over Lyman Hall of Wallingford and Hamden High next on the schedule.
The Gaels close out the campaign home to top-ranked Xavier of Middletown, at second-ranked Daniel Hand of Madison, and at Derby High.
Shelton lost to Cheshire, 30-23, in its season opener. Notre Dame (1-3) was tied with Cheshire, 13-13, at the half before the Rams (3-1) took control.
Cameron Tucker is a bruising running back for the Knights, with 722 yards on 95 carries and six touchdowns.
Andrew Natale is a sophomore quarterback and Chris Perry his top receiver.
Notre Dame is averaging 259 yards per game on the ground, so the Shelton front seven will be tested.
Jim Farrell, Chris Federicci, Mike Ortoli and Tommy Gottschalk have been the top tacklers for Shelton this season.
Offensively, Shelton relies on the passing and running of sophomore quarterback Mark Piccirillo, the running of Jason Thompson, Matt Fiegenblat and Jagger Kalagian, and the pass catching of Eddie Kochiss, Kyle Drost and Mike Pingree.
With four field goals and nine conversion kicks to his credit, Ed Groth’s place kicking gives Shelton an edge in every game.
Chris Sinko centers an offensive line that includes Gottschalk and Eric Howard at guard and Don Schiffer and Austin Peel at tackle.
In the loss to Fairfield Prep at Alumni Field, the Jesuits scored on five of six possessions and ran for 220-plus yards in the first half to take a 35-3 lead.
The Gaels had three opportunities to score in the second quarter.
After Prep took a 14-0 lead, Pingree returned the kickoff 80 yards to the Jesuits’ five-yard line.
Prep held here, and Shelton settled for Groth’s 23-yard field goal with 8:51 remaining in the half.
Prep increased its lead to 28-3, before Piccirillo made perfect passes on consecutive plays around a Shelton timeout, only to have the potential scoring tosses dropped.
“If we made a couple of plays in the first half it could have been closer,” Roy said.
“But they [Prep] were great. We tried to load the box, but they were pretty physical up front. Once they get running that offense, they’re hard to stop.”
Shelton’s best offensive drive came late in the first quarter.
Piccirillo gained 11 yards on a first-down keeper to move the ball to the Gaels’ 31-yard line.
Thompson followed a Gottschalk block for a four-yard gain, before Piccirillo received enough time to find Kochriss crossing the formation for 32 yards to the Prep 33.
The Jesuits’ Tony Fox blew up a running play at the line of scrimmage, but Piccirillo found Drost open on the left hashmark for a 10-yard gain.
On third-and-two, the Prep defense threw Piccirillo for a three-yard loss and a fourth-down pass to Drost fell incomplete.
Said Prep coach Tom Shea:
“We can’t be a good team until we beat an elite team. That [Shelton] is an elite team. We’ve played them eight or nine times and we beat them here in 2006.
“We’ve had no luck at Finn Stadium. That’s what makes them such a great program.
“This was a big victory for us.”