MIDDLETOWN >> Ahh, sweet revenge.
As glorious as the 2014 Class LL-Small state championship overtime victory was to Xavier, it was equally agonizing to previously undefeated Shelton.
Just short of a year later, Shelton found redemption.
The unbeaten and fifth-ranked Gaels crushed Xavier 42-7 in front of 1,000 spectators at Palmer Field Friday night, ending Xavier’s playoff hopes.
“The kids had this game circled on the schedule,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “I’m not going to lie. They wanted it bad and they played very well.”
Shelton (6-0) dominated every phase of the game. Operating without his top two receivers, Kevin Robinson and standout senior Chris Kanios, who broke his leg on the second play of the game, Shelton quarterback Zach Tuskowski was brilliant. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns.
Running back Peter Hoff also had a big game, rushing for 182 yards on 26 carries and a lightning-bolt touchdown run of 75 yards.
“Our quarterback did a great job. We were without our top-two receivers,” said Roy, who later confirmed that Kanios would be lost for the remainder of his career. “But other kids stepped up and Tuskowski didn’t miss a beat. We have a lot of depth and that showed tonight.”
Both coaches agreed that the first touchdown was big. It came on fourth and six at the Xavier 40-yard line less than three minutes into the game.
“I didn’t want to punt,” said Roy. “We wanted to be aggressive. We have athletes and I wanted to get them the ball.”
They got the ball, all right.
Tuskowski hit Alex Kirk in stride ahead of the field for a 40-yard touchdown and with Joe Zoppi’s kick, Shelton had a quick 7-0 led.
“We were out of position on that fourth down play,” Xavier coach Sean Marinan said. “Our inexperience continued to hurt us tonight. Last week against NFA, we were in the right position most of the time. We didn’t always make the plays, but at least we were in the right positions. That didn’t happen tonight.”
Shelton took a 14-0 lead with 4:46 left in the first quarter when Hoff bolted 75 yards up the middle, outrunning the Xavier secondary. The Gaels built the lead to 21-0 on a 21-yard TD pass from Tuskowski to Anthony Schaivo with 1:44 left in the half.
Shelton held Xavier to 48 yards offense in the first half.
“I thought our defense was tremendous,” said Roy. “On offense, we did what we usually do. We were able to run the ball early and that opened up some things for us. We also were able to pick up their blitz and throw the ball.”
Shelton finished with 391 yards offense.
Xavier (3-4) got on the board in the third quarter on a 2-yard run by Glenn Cunningham (29 carries, 115 yards) and with Dominick Reynolds’ kick, cut the lead to 21-7.
But that lasted all of 16 seconds, which was the time it took Sam Kirk to return the kickoff 85 yards for the touchdown that ended the game.
“We kicked the ball right down the middle, not on the numbers as we wanted,” Marinan said. “When I saw that, I knew we were in trouble. I thought we might be getting back in the game, but that ended that.”
Tuskowski threw a 74-yard TD pass to Alex Kirk as time ran out in the third quarter. Roy, who had subbed at quarterback early in the fourth quarter, put Tuskowski back in with less than seven minutes remaining and he threw his fourth touchdown pass, a 22-yard strike to Alex Kirk with 6:17 left to play.
Xavier finished with 220 yards offense — quarterback Will Levis was 7-for-21, for 71 yards — with most of that coming in the second half.
Shelton 42, Xavier 7
Team records: Shelton 6-0, Xavier 3-4