SHELTON >> Host Shelton was in a bit of an unfamiliar place Saturday night early in the second quarter against SCC Division I rival Xavier.
Riding a 26-game regular-season win streak, the Gaels were not only down on the scoreboard, they were getting manhandled by a Falcons team that wanted no part of a second loss this early in the season.
But there was no panic on the Shelton sideline, nor was there any in the players they were directing.
After a few adjustments, the Gaels ran off 31 unanswered points and held on for a 38-35 victory at Finn Stadium in a game pushed back a day due to the death of Shelton sophomore and band member Jonathan Sabo, who was remembered with a moment of silence prior to kickoff.
“We didn’t panic,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “My assistant coaches did a great job of making some adjustments. We’ve been down before. We were down to Notre Dame in the third quarter a couple of weeks ago. We tell our kids we can’t get too high or too low, we just have to keep playing.”
Shelton quarterback David Wells was sacked three times in the first quarter as the third-ranked Gaels (4-0) managed only 6 total yards.
Meanwhile, his Xavier counterpart, Will Levis, completed his first seven passes, two of them for touchdowns, one to Joseph Galatie and another to Kyle MacGillis to put the Falcons up 14-0.
Xavier (2-2) was driving again early in the second quarter when Levis’ first incompletion was an interception by Shelton captain Justin Greene. Suddenly, the Gaels sprung to life.
With the Falcons intent on not letting Wells run — he finished with just 14 yards on 14 carries — he threw instead, hitting sophomore Jack Carr from 14 yards out to get his team on the board and then connecting with Anthony Schiavo, who made a great catch and run for a 76-yard TD that tied the game at 14.
Just before the half, after Wells’ arm carried Shelton most of the way, he ran it in from 3 yards out to put the Gaels up 21-14 at the half.
Shelton rushed for only 23 yards as a team in the first half, but Carr made it 31 straight Gael points when he got loose for an 81-yard scoring run to make it 31-14, which it remained after three quarters.
But Xavier did not go away easily. Levis started to find his range and Glenn Cunningham suddenly found room to run. Two scored in four minutes closed the Falcons to within 31-28 with 7:54 left.
However, Shelton — as it’s done plenty of times over the last couple of seasons — responded with a scoring drive. On 4th-and-goal from the 5, Wells found Schiavo in the corner of the end zone to make it 38-28 with just 3:43 remaining.
Xavier scored again on a Levis run with 1:43 left and despite Wells pouncing on their ensuing onside kick attempt, the Falcons got one more shot with the ball down 38-35 with 35 seconds remaining.
But Xavier got only to the Shelton 48 when a Levis desperation pass fell incomplete and the Gaels finally had their 26th straight regular season victory.
“They were throwing haymakers. We were throwing haymakers,” Roy said. “That was just a great high school football game. Both teams played great. I was proud of the way we kept responding.”
Wells finished 13-of-20 passing for 260 yards, with 177 of those going to Schiavo on six receptions. Despite just six yards in the opening quarter, the Gaels finished with 415 against a good defensive team.
Even with the struggles in the middle of the game, Levis had 278 passing on 17-of-33, while Cunningham ran for 122 yards on 23 carries. But all that offense wasn’t quite enough on this night.
“I think we got a little complacent,” Xavier coach Sean Marinan said. “We were feeling it a little too much and Shelton took advantage of it. They’re a great team and you can’t give them what we gave them and expect to win. Unfortunately, it took us too long to get it amped back up again.”
Shelton 38, Xavier 35
Xavier 14 0 0 21 — 35
Shelton 0 21 10 7 — 38
X—Joseph Galatie 57 pass from Will Levis (Samuel Norris kick)
X—Kyle MacGillis 28 pass from Will Levis (Norris kick)
S—Jack Carr 13 pass from David Wells (Joe Zoppi kick)
S—Anthony Schiavo 76 pass from David Wells (Zoppi kick)
S—David Wells 3 run (Zoppi kick)
S—Joe Zoppi 31 FG
S—Jack Carr 81 run (Zoppi kick)
X—Owen Gonzalez 17 pass from Will Levis (Norris kick)
X—Glenn Cunningham 7 run (Norris kick)
S—Anthony Schiavo 5 pass from David Wells (Zoppi kick)
X—Will Levis 3 run (Norris kick)
Team records: Shelton 4-0; Xavier 2-2