WEST HAVEN >> As a junior, Zach Tuskowski obviously didn’t play much quarterback at Shelton last year — not as he rode the bench as all-everything quarterback Mark Piccirillo became a near legend around town. Tuskowski didn’t even play a whole lot of junior varsity either as a finger injury kept him out half the season.
So, on a roster stocked with returning senior talent, Tuskowski was the great unknown heading into the 2015 season.
But Shelton’s players and coaches knew what they were getting this year.
All Tuskowski needed to do now was make it happen.
And, boy, did he in a 48-27 victory over West Haven at Ken Strong Stadium Monday night. The senior Tuskowski completed 25 of 35 passes for 335 yard and four touchdowns as the Gaels zipped up and down the field against the Westies all evening and stayed unbeaten heading into their Week 6 bye.
“There’s always that question, but Zach has played in our program since he was a little kid,” said Shelton coach Jeff Roy, whose team is now 5-0 and will play Xavier Oct. 23. “We have confidence in kids that have come up through our program and understand what it’s like to be a Shelton football player. And when it’s their senior year, it’s their turn to step it up.
“So we had confidence in him from the beginning. It was his turn to step it up and he sure did that.”
Of course, it helps that just about every player surrounding him was a a part of Shelton’s run at a state championship last year. Tuskowski got all of them involved against a West Haven defense that had no answers.
“I just needed to prove myself in practice to the coaches that I could do it,” said Tuskowski, who won a the starting job over junior David Wells in the preseason. “Now I’m getting my chance and taking advantage of every moment. I had high confidence going in. I wasn’t a rookie by any means. I wasn’t new. I just went in and played.”
Kevin Robinson ran for a touchdown and caught another for an early 14-0 Shelton lead. And when he left with an injury, it was receiver Sam Kirk doing the honors by catching two more touchdown passes in 40 seconds to give the Gaels a 28-14 halftime lead.
“It’s not about me, it’s about everybody around me that helps me out,” Tuskowski said. “I’m lucky to have everyone that I’ve got. You’re nuthin’ without your line. I have confidence in every single receiver I have out there. I just throw them the ball and let them do what they do best.”
Actually, Kirk’s second touchdown — which was set up by a well-timed onside kick and recovery by kicker Joe Zoppi — came from Wells out of a single-wing formation.
West Haven, which amassed 390 total yard of offense, tried to keep pace. The Westies tied it up at 14 early in the second quarter and pulled to within 28-21 on Kyle Godfrey’s 7-yard touchdown run on their first drive of the third quarter.
But in the second half, it was the Tuskowski show again. He tossed a short touchdown passes to Chris Kanios and Sam Kirk (his third of the night) to all but put the game out of reach.
“Their quarterback just played great,” said West Haven coach Rich Boshea, whose team fell to 3-2. “Their receivers played great. Their offensive line played great. And our defense just wan’t up for it tonight.”
Shelton’s defense, meanwhile, chipped in with several key stops. West Haven quarterback Tim McCarthy threw for 234 yards, but was intercepted three times, twice by Wells and once by Kanios. Anthony Godfrey scored twice for West Haven and Chris Chance added a 55-yard touchdown catch late.
“Everybody talks about the Notre Dames and the West Havens as the teams to beat in the SCC, but we’re the defending champs. We’re the team to beat,” Kanios said. “And we’re going to be here for a long time.”
Shelton 48, West Haven 27
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) October 13, 2015
Shelton 14 14 6 14 — 48
West Haven 7 7 7 6 — 27
S–Kevin Robinson 1 run (Joe Zoppi kick)
S–Robinson 28 pass from Zach Tuskowski (Zoppi kick)
WH–Anthony Godfrey 4 run (Jose Conde kick)
WH–Anthony Godfrey 7 run (Jose Conde kick)
S–Sam Kirk 25 pass from Tuskowski (Zoppi kick)
S–Sam Kirk 38 pass from David Wells (Zoppi kick)
WH–Kyle Godfrey 2 run (Conde kick)
S–Chris Kanios 8 pass from Tuskowski (kick failed)
S–Sam Kirk 26 pass from Tuskowski (pass failed)
WH–Chris Chance 55 pass from Tim McCarthy (pass failed)
S–Peter Hoff 1 run (pass failed)
Records: Shelton 5-0, West Haven 3-2.
— Sean Patrick Bowley (@SPBowley) October 12, 2015