SHELTON >> Mark Piccirillo has assumed legendary status in Shelton, just like the NFL quarterback he surpassed as the school’s all-time leading passer.
From the beard Piccirillo grew — and refused to shave until the Gaels lost — to an unbeaten regular season and an appearance in the Class LL-Small state championship game, it was certainly a memorable senior season for Piccirillo.
He broke the single-season record for passing yards and touchdowns previously held by Dan Orlovsky, the most celebrated football player in Shelton history. Orlovsky went on to lead UConn to its first bowl appearance in 2004 and just wrapped up his 10th NFL season as a backup with the Detroit Lions.
“He set the bar pretty high as far as records are concerned,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “His total yards are clearly above anybody here.”
Piccirillo, the Register Area MVP, passed for 2,530 yards and 30 touchdowns this season. A three-year starter, he also set school records for career passing yards (5.976), passing touchdowns (64) and total yards (8,835).
“It pretty much was (everything I expected),” Piccirillo said. “The coaches got us ready every game and I wanted to play the best I could every game. I pretty much tried to do that. Obviously every game doesn’t go your way. This year everything kind of was falling into place. So this year, especially, was just a special year for me and everyone, including all my friends.”
While dangerous as a passer, Piccirillo was just as much of a threat when running the ball. He rushed 226 times for 1,614 yards and 23 touchdowns and became the first Shelton player to run for more than 1,400 yards in a season since all-state tailback Geoff Schultz in 2007.
In true warrior fashion, Piccirillo played the last six games with a broken right kneecap. He had surgery last week to repair that injury in addition to fixing a torn tendon.
“He was reliable,” Roy said. “Every time we needed a big play, he came up with a big play for us. He did it for three years. He was a leader, he practiced hard and he played hard. Everything you want out of a kid, he was it.”
Starting for three seasons certainly proved invaluable.
“The game really slows down, so you see everything a lot better,” Piccirillo said. “Throwing the ball, obviously, was a big part of our offense, and I think I did a better job as the years went on in learning how to make better reads. (Starting for three years) helped a lot. You really learn how to understand everything.”
As a senior, Piccirillo guided the Gaels to their first unbeaten regular season since 2000, Orlovsky’s final year at Shelton. The Gaels also reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2007.
After dispatching Hall in the state semifinals, Shelton advanced to the championship game against fellow Southern Connecticut Conference member Xavier, a team the Gaels defeated in the regular season.
But Shelton suffered a heartbreaking, 28-27 overtime loss and missed out on winning its first state championship since 2003.
With the game tied at 21 with less than a minute remaining, Shelton had a 1st-and-goal at the Xavier 1. Piccirillo called his own number and lunged toward the end zone. The ball popped out and Xavier recovered, although Piccirillo insists he was down. Xavier prevailed in OT, shattering the Gaels’ championship dreams.
“What he did for us for three years, a couple of plays, or not winning it at the end, shouldn’t take away from that,” Roy said.
Despite the disappointing conclusion to an otherwise remarkable season and career, Piccirillo has no regrets.
“The whole team, we learned that we can overcome a lot,” Piccirillo said. “Over the course of the season it was like that. We had to come from behind a few times and win games. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out your way and you just have to move on. It’s not the end of the world. The whole team, including me, we realized that.
“We did a lot of special things this year. It just didn’t come out the whole fairytale ending that we wanted, but it’s alright.”
- MVP Mark Piccirillo
- Coach of the Year: Tim King, Valley Regional / Old Lyme
- Pos. Player School Ht. Wt. Yr.
- QB Mark Piccirillo Shelton 5-10 190 Sr.
- RB Andrew Yamin Cheshire 5-11 205 Sr.
- RB Jake Ward Morgan 5-10 190 Sr.
- RB Tajik Bagley Ansonia 5-11 185 Jr.
- WR Nico Ragaini Notre Dame-WH 6-0 175 So.
- WR Zatrell Lyons West Haven 6-1 165 Sr.
- OL Anthony Palazzolo Fairfield Prep 6-6 323 Sr.
- OL Tanner Kern Xavier 6-4 294 Sr.
- OL Cullen Clairmont Cheshire 6-1 280 Sr.
- OL Kyle Cullen Notre Dame-WH 6-4 252 Sr.
- OL Mike Masnato North Haven 5-10 190 Jr.
- K Andrew Verre Xavier 5-9 178 Sr.
- ATH Colton Smith Fairfield Prep 6-1 183 Sr.
- Pos. Player School Ht. Wt. Yr.
- DL Chidi Broderick Xavier 6-1 240 Sr.
- DL Tom Gallagher North Haven 5-9 205 Sr.
- DL Paul Marinan Xavier 6-0 200 Sr.
- LB Troy Vasilescu Shelton 5-11 205 Sr.
- LB Justin Cheverier Valley Reg./ OL 5-10 212 Sr.
- LB Tim Jambor Notre Dame-WH 5-9 190 Sr.
- LB David Mikos North Haven 5-10 190 Jr.
- DB Wadson Petithomme Shelton 6-1 180 Sr.
- DB Tyler Bailey Ansonia 5-10 179 Jr.
- DB Scott Sweitzer Hand 6-2 205 Sr.
- DB Austin Calamita North Branford 6-0 178 Sr.
- P Chris Jean-Pierre Valley Reg./OL 6-1 203 Sr.
- UT Chris Kanios Shelton 5-11 160 Jr.