SHELTON – SHELTON — The outcome of the 107th meeting between Valley football rivals Shelton and Derby was no longer in doubt once the Thursday’s game hit halftime.
The Gaels were well on their way to a 49-8 victory, their 13th straight in what has become a one-sided rivalry. Quarterback Jake Roberts, who accounted for all four touchdowns in the first half, was replaced in the second half, as were other Gaels.
The Thanksgiving game for Shelton was about keeping everyone healthy as the Class LL state playoffs begin Tuesday. And according to Shelton coach Jeff Roy, everyone is.
“We spent a lot of time focusing on defense, starting in the off-season, to spring practice, to summer to August and it has shown. We have played much better defense this year,” Roy said.
The Shelton coaches crunched all the numbers for all the different Class LL state playoff scenarios long before Thursday’s kickoff. And with what unfolded before their result became official, the Gaels (9-1) knew by the postgame huddle who they would be hosting. And it will be a familiar opponent.
No. 7 seed West Haven will travel to No. 2 Shelton in a rematch of Southern Connecticut Conference Tier 1 rivals. Shelton won at West Haven 38-28 on Oct. 27.
The Westies lost a chance at a home game when they fell at Fairfield Prep, which slipped into the No. 8 spot.
“We knew if both Darien and West Haven lost, we would get West Haven,” Roy said. “West Haven and Prep is a battle. I’m not surprised.”
Roberts, the Silver Turkey Award winner, only needed to throw for 102 yards and the three touchdowns to Brian Berritto (9 yards), Michael Casinelli (16) and Jack Carr (14) in the opening half. Roberts also ran one from 3 yards out with 18.1 seconds left in the first quarter to make it 14-0.
Derby coach George French knew he needed a perfect game to have a chance. The Red Raiders hung around for a little while. But after gaining 21 yards on their first possession, the Red Raiders were held to just 36 the remainder of the first half.
“We tried to make them use their brains a little more than their brawn because they are a bigger, stronger team than us. They have a lot of depth and are well-coached,” French said. “So we figure early on, if we could shake them up by changing formations and modifying some things, maybe we can keep control of the ball and be in the game and early on we did, we absolutely did. Our problem was we just couldn’t get the play we needed to punch a score in.”
Shelton, which has won nine straight, led 28-0 at halftime. George Ghazal scored the next two touchdowns for the Gaels on a 45-yard punt return and a 49-yard run in the third quarter.
“We knew Derby would throw some wrinkles at us,” Roy said. “They played us tough early. We made the adjustments, the kids made the plays in the second quarter to take control of the game.”
Sandwiched in between those two scores was Derby’s only touchdown: Ja’kwan Hale caught a 36-yard pass from quarterback Tom Abel (15-29, 169 yards). Abel also ran in the two-point conversion.
Michai Lynch Barnes scored the final touchdown for Shelton in the fourth.
“You can’t give them a score that easy right away,” French said about Ghazal’s punt return. “That deflated us a little bit. We played as hard as we could, we just didn’t execute when we needed to.”