SHELTON — They had a short week coming in, and they’ll have a short week going out, but the Shelton Gaels insisted on business as usual Thursday morning at Finn Stadium.
They took care of what needed to be done, beating Derby 62-6 in the 108th meeting between the schools, a Valley tradition on Thanksgiving.
The No. 4 Gaels, on four days’ rest after playing a rescheduled game with West Haven on Saturday, completed a 10-0 regular season and will be the top seed in the Class LL playoffs, welcoming New Canaan on Tuesday night at 6:30.
“A lot of things are clicking,” said senior lineman Jake Breton, a co-captain. “We’re practicing a lot during the week and getting all of our timing down.”
The Gaels scored four touchdowns on their first 12 offensive plays, and that was all the action the first string saw. Paul Ferrigno ran a punt back 65 yards for a touchdown to end Derby’s next drive, and David Yakowicz’s 30-yard interception return gave the Gaels a 42-0 lead.
“We’re playing our best football right now,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “We’re healthy. Like I said last week, we’re hitting on all cylinders. We’re playing very well, both sides of the ball. Hopefully we continue to do that throughout the playoffs.”
New Canaan’s 17-14 win over No. 1 Darien both clinched the top seed for Shelton and set the Gaels’ date with New Canaan. If Shelton wins, it would play a home semifinal as well.
Derby had a few big plays, including Zerion Montgomery’s 61-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, but finished 4-6 and hasn’t won on Thanksgiving since 2002.
“It was a tough year. We had a lot of injuries, we had a lot of everything this year,” Derby coach George French said, “but the kids kept fighting. They’re going to fight to the end, and that’s all you can ask.”
The Red Raiders came in off back-to-back wins against Crosby and Kennedy, scoring 66 and 44 points in the victories.
“We popped a couple of wins the last few weeks, thought we could have a little momentum. It didn’t work out that way,” French said.
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Shelton quarterback Jake Roberts was awarded the Silver Turkey as the game’s MVP, running for a touchdown and throwing two to Brian Berritto.
Though Thanksgiving was the earliest it could be, it was reportedly among the coldest on record. The temperature appeared to sit in the 20s during the game, tolerable when the wind wasn’t blowing. But the wind blew, chasing some fans to the concession stand or further.
As Breton talked postgame, French passed by and put a hand on his shoulder. “Heck of a player right here, tough as nails,” the coach said.
At halftime, each school’s cheerleaders led a cheer toward their own side, then turned around and led a cheer for the other school. (They then disappeared awhile, hopefully staying warm.)
This was originally a Derby home game, but ongoing renovations at Ryan Field moved it across the Housatonic River to Finn Stadium, newly redone itself.
“We, not to make excuses, but we didn’t have this field for the first two months. We’d been practicing up top in the rain, the mud, the heat, lost practice time,” Roy said.
“We just kind of never got into a rhythm. Now, we’re playing consistently, we’re back on our field, we’ve got our timing down.”
SHELTON 62, DERBY 6
DERBY0 0 0 6—6
SHELTON21 27 0 14—62
S—Jake Roberts 1 run (Nick Andrade kick)
S—Georgio Ghazal 2 run (Andrade kick)
S—Brian Berritto 20 pass Roberts (Andrade kick)
S—Berritto 49 pass Roberts (Andrade kick)
S—Paul Ferrigno 65 punt return (Andrade kick)
S—David Yakowicz 30 interception return (Andrade kick)
S—Tim Santos 2 run (kick failed)
S—Santos 5 run (Cristiano Rosa kick)
D—Zerion Montgomery 61 run (run failed)
S—Michael Monaco 2 run (Rosa kick)
Records: Derby 4-6; Shelton 10-0.