SHELTON >> Cheshire coach Don Drust always preaches about winning the turnover battle. His Rams forced three turnovers but surrendered four, which ultimately cost Cheshire in a key SCC Division I tilt with Shelton in a contest between teams ranked in the Register Top 10 Poll.
Sophomore Paul Ferringo made two interceptions, while junior Armando Martinez made an interception and blocked a punt to pace the host Gaels to a 34-20 victory Friday at Finn Stadium.
No. 3 Shelton (7-0) has now won 29 straight regular season games.
“I think we improved a lot (on defense),” Martinez said. “We practiced it a lot.”
The Gaels led 28-20 at halftime. Senior Joe Zoppi kicked field goals of 22 and 24 points in the third quarter, including one that game after a Cheshire turnover.
“You don’t come in here, lose the turnover battle and win a football game,” Drust said. “That’s football. That doesn’t happen.”
Shelton drove 59 yards on 10 plays, capped by sophomore Jack Carr’s 1-yard touchdown run, on the game’s opening possession to give the Gaels a 7-0 lead. Junior Mike Casinelli then recovered a Cheshire fumble and Shelton scored four plays later when senior quarterback David Wells ran it in from 1-yard out to give the Gaels a 14-0 lead. Shelton scored a third time in the first quarter after Martinez’s blocked punt. Wells hit Zoppi on a 52-yard pass, before Zoppi fumbled at the plane of the goal line. Shelton senior David D’Amore fell on the ball for a Gaels’ touchdown and a 21-0 lead.
Cheshire junior Jack Raba scored on a 1-yard run to cut the Shelton lead to 21-6 in the first quarter. Raba then connected with Michael Jeffery for an 81-yard touchdown and with junior Thomas Wnunk for a 36-yard touchdown in the second quarter. In between, Wells found senior Anthony Schiavo on a 10-yard scoring strike.
“I’m proud of my kids,” Drust said. “We hung around, we stuck with it. There was no quit down 21-0. We kept playing, we played hard. We have to find a way to execute. We’re going to watch the film, get better and learn from it.”
Raba completed 16 of 36 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Jeffery caught seven passes for 134 yards and one touchdown. Jeffery also made an interception, while junior Nick Nelson made an interception and recovered a fumble.
Wells completed 14 of 29 passes for 206 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. Senior running back Ronnie Rich rushed 28 times for 155 yards. Rich carried 18 times for 113 yards in the second half. Shelton senior running back Jon Sobotka has mainly played on defense of late while he recovers from an ankle injury. Carr left this game with an apparent MCL sprain in his left knee, so Rich was called upon to carry the load in the running game.
“Honestly, I love it,” Rich said. “I used to play defense, not really anymore, but I’m never going to say no to getting the ball. I do what I have to do for my team.”
Shelton did not allow the No. 10 Rams (5-2) to score in the second half.
“We blew a couple of coverages in the first half that hurt us,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “But then in the second half, we made some adjustments. The defensive coaches did a great job and we were able to shut them down in the second half. That was big. Our defense played great in the second half.”
Shelton 34, Cheshire 20
Cheshire 6 14 0 0 — 20
Shelton 21 7 6 0 — 34
S—Jack Carr 1 run (Joe Zoppi kick)
S—David Wells 1 run (Zoppi kick)
S—David D’Amore 1 fumb ret (Zoppi kick)
C—Jack Raba 1 run (kick failed)
C—Michael Jeffery 81 pass from Jack Raba (Ethan Bronson kick)
S—Anthony Schiavo 10 pass from David Wells (Zoppi kick)
C—Tom Wnuck 36 pass from Jack Raba (Ethan Bronson)
S—Joe Zoppi 22 FG
S—Joe Zoppi 24 FG
Team records: Shelton 7-0; Cheshire 5-2