SHELTON >> In the decisive final quarter, Shelton never quit.
But Fairfield Prep never relented.
Twice the host Gaels cut the lead to three. Both times, quarterback Colton Smith and the Jesuits answered.
Smith, a junior, twice answered Shelton scores with touchdown runs of his own in the fourth quarter to help Fairfield Prep fend off the Gaels 38-28 in this Southern Connecticut Conference Division I West contest Friday at Finn Stadium.
Shelton (4-1), ranked seventh in the Register Top 10 Poll, cut the lead to 24-21 with four minutes left. Smith, though, went 80 yards to pay dirt on the first play of the ensuing possession.
The Gaels again cut it to three on a nifty 34-yard catch-and-run from Mark Piccirillo to Kyle Drost with 1:53 remaining.
But it took Fairfield Prep (4-1) just two plays to score on the next drive, capped by Smith’s 49-yard touchdown run.
Smith finished with 208 yards on 17 carries and four touchdowns. He also completed 11 of 18 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown.
“We really wanted it,” Smith said. “We showed we had heart against St. Joe’s (in a 36-34 loss on Sept. 20); that was heartbreaking. Now, we just came out and showed what we had.”
Those two long touchdowns runs, and the inability to capitalize on several scoring opportunities in the first half, ended Shelton’s perfect season. The Gaels missed a field goal and turned the ball over on downs on the Jesuits’ 26 in the first quarter, and again failed to convert on fourth down in Fairfield Prep territory in the second quarter.
“I thought we let too many opportunities go in that first quarter,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “You have to make those plays against good teams. You have to make them, and we didn’t. That was the difference.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Smith scored on a 13-yard run and connected with John DelliSanti on a 10-yard touchdown pass. In between, Jason Thompson (10 receptions, 169 yards) caught a 56-yard touchdown pass from Piccirillo. The Jesuits led 12-7 at the intermission.
Smith and Thompson (10 carries, 52 yards) traded touchdown runs in the third quarter as Fairfield Prep clung to an 18-13 lead.
DelliSanti scored on an 11-yard run to put Prep up by 11 in the fourth quarter, but the Gaels quickly cut the lead to 24-21 on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Piccirillo to Michael Pingree.
The Jesuits were playing without junior running back Joe Ganim, who missed the game due to illness.
“Our line picked up his slack,” Smith said. “Also, our backs (Andrew) Vegliante and (Nick) Crowle did a great job of finding the holes and hitting them hard.”
Piccirillo completed 29 of 49 passes for 392 yards and three touchdowns, but he was intercepted twice.
Jake Buckley and Stephen Walsh made interceptions for the Jesuits. Walsh also connected for a 60-yard punt.
“I think (our defensive performance) was the epitome of bend, but not break,” Crowle said. “We stood when we needed to. Obviously we gave up some big plays. They’re a very talented football team, but we shut them down when we needed to.”
Fairfield Prep 38, Shelton 28
Fairfield Prep 0 12 6 20 — 38
Shelton 0 7 6 15 — 28
F—Colton Smith 13 run (kick failed)
S—Jason Thompson 56 pass from Mark Piccirillo (Joe Zoppi kick)
F—John DelliSanti 10 pass from Colton Smith (kick failed)Third quarter
F—Colton Smith 9 run (pass failed)
S—Jason Thompson 6 run (pass failed)Fourth quarter
F—John DelliSanti 11 run (pass failed)
S—Mike Pingree 13 pass from Mark Piccirillo (Kyle Drost catch from Piccirillo)
F—Colton Smith 80 run (Sean Morrison kick)
S—Kyle Drost 34 pass from Mark Piccirillo (Zoppi kick)
F—Colton Smith 49 run (Morrison kick)
Team records: Shelton 4-1; Fairfield Prep 4-1