SHELTON >> Senior Ron Hubbard has been a dominant force for the Shelton defense all season. Against Newtown on Monday night, Hubbard proved he’s just as valuable on the other side of the ball.
Hubbard had two rushing touchdowns and threw for another on a trick play as the top-seeded Gaels held off No. 4 Newtown 35-28 in the Class LL state semifinals before 2,200 at Finn Stadium.
Shelton, ranked fourth in the Register Top 10 Poll, will face fellow unbeaten Darien (11-0) for the state championship on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Willow Brook Park in New Britain.
The Gaels (12-0) advance to a state final for the second straight season. Shelton lost to SCC rival Xavier in the Class LL-Small championship last year.
“It’s very meaningful for us,” Hubbard said. “We’ve been working so hard this whole year. We really didn’t even have an offseason. Everyone’s been in the weight room and everyone’s been working hard to get back to this. We want nothing but a perfect season, so that’s where we are right now.”
Hubbard tossed a 7-yard touchdown to junior Jonathan Sobotka on a halfback option for the game’s first touchdown. Hubbard then scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter and on a 10-yard run for what proved to be the eventual winning touchdown in the fourth.
After senior Peter Hoff broke a leg in a quarterfinal victory over West Haven, Hubbard and fellow senior Keith Prior shared duties at running back Monday.
“Coach (Jeff Roy) told me to be ready,” Hubbard said. “If they need me, I would step up. I’m fine with it. You just have to be ready. It just worked out tonight that I needed to step up.”
Hubbard’s 10-yard score gave Shelton a 35-21 lead with 9:11 left. Justin Dunn then threw his third touchdown of the game, a 5-yarder to Ethan Carpenter, to cut the Gaels’ lead to seven with 4:26 left.
On the ensuing possession, Newtown burned its remaining timeouts to try to stop the clock, but a crucial 2-yard run for a first down by Hubbard allowed Shelton to run out the clock.
Kevin Robinson and Anthony Schiavo caught touchdown passes of 25 and 24 yards, respectively, from senior Zach Tuskowski as Shelton led 21-14 at halftime.
“We stopped the run well, we just gave up big plays,” Newtown coach Steve George said. “We were in position to make them, but they won the jump balls tonight. Hats off to them.”
Schiavo made seven receptions for 116 yards, while Robinson had five catches for 83 yards. Shelton was also playing without receivers Chris Kanios and Sam Kirk, who both suffered season-ending injuries during the regular season.
“We have depth,” Robinson said. “Next man up. We have playmakers. It shows that we’re resilient because we can bounce back. That’s what makes teams great.”
Mike Doyle had a 12-yard touchdown run and Ben Mason caught a 38-yard touchdown from Dunn in the first half for the Nighthawks (10-2). Mason also caught a 5-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The teams combined for six turnovers in the first half, including a Newtown fumble on the Shelton 1-yard line.
“That’s hard to battle back from,” George said. “But these kids did.”
David Wells, Michael Casinelli and Hubbard recovered fumbles for Shelton.
“It’s a great group of kids and coaches,” Roy said. “They work hard, and they got us back to the (title) game this year.”
Shelton 35, Newtown 28
Newtown 7 7 0 14 0 — 28
Shelton 14 7 7 7 0 — 35
S—Jonathan Sobotka 7 pass from Ron Hubbard (Joe Zoppi kick)
N—Mike Doyle 12 run (Ryan Kost kick)
S—Kevin Robinson 35 pass from Zach Tuskowski (Zoppi kick)
N—Ben Mason 38 pass from Justin Dunn (Kost kick)
S—Anthony Schiavo 24 pass from Zach Tuskowski (Zoppi kick)
S—Ron Hubbard 1 run (Zoppi kick)
N—Ben Mason 5 pass from Justin Dunn (Kost kick)
S—Ron Hubbard 10 run (Zoppi kick)
N—Ethan Carpenter 5 pass from Justin Dunn (Kost kick)
Team records: Shelton 12-0; Newtown 10-2