COACH — JEFF ROY (16th year, 123-43)
CONFERENCE — SCC Tier I
PLAYOFF CLASS — LL (766 boys enrollment)
HOME — Finn Stadium, Shelton
2018 RECORD — 10-1
2019 OPENER — Sept. 13 vs. West Haven, 7 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITES — Maxpreps | TWITTER — @gaels_football
Jake Roberts, QB, Jack Carr, RB/SS, Brian Berritto, WR/DB, Paul Ferrigno, WR/DB, David Yakowicz, WR/DB, Ray Weiner, OL/LB, Jake Breton, DL/OL, Tyler Janik, LB, Nick Andrade, K/P
Staying healthy against a talent-laden schedule is the only concern for Shelton head coach Jeff Roy, as his team looks to qualify for the Class LL playoffs for the sixth-consecutive year.
Despite being the No. 1 seed in last year’s playoffs, Shelton drew New Canaan as an eighth seed and bowed out in the first round.
The Gaels graduated a host of key players from last year’s squad, including quarterback Jake Roberts, defensive standout Jack Carr, linebackers Ray Weiner and Tyler Janik and kicker Nick Andrade.
Despite this, Shelton has 21 seniors and Roy loves his team’s size and speed heading into the 2019 season.
“We have good size up front on both offense and defense,” the coach said. “We are fast and aggressive and I’m happy with where we are. Our young kids are stepping up. We have a large class of seniors. I’ve never had another that put in the time and work in the offseason as these guys.”
The biggest question will be who replaces two-year starting quarterback Jake Roberts, who accounted for 2,200 total yards (1,504 passing, 685 rushing) and 31 touchdowns in 2018. James Curley and Mike Callinan are rising seniors who will be competing for the job.
“Both grew up in our program and we are confident either can handle it,” Roy said of his two quarterbacks. “We’ve run offenses where the quarterback runs a lot and other times when they don’t. James and Mike can both tuck it away when they need to.”
After two years primarily spent in a backup role, the 5-foot-11, 230-pound Ghazal takes over for Carr as the primary ballcarrier. A punishing runner, Ghazal has run for 769 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons. He’ll be joined in the backfield by Michai Lynch.
“Georgio is a big kid and loves to run downhill,” Roy said. “Lynch is 200 pounds and runs with a juke style. He is elusive.”
Shelton has added more single-wing formations to its Wildcat offense, and that means more work for Tyler Pjatak and Chris Thompson.
“We saw that we and everyone else had trouble stopping North Haven’s single-wing,” Roy said. “We put it in and have added to it this season. With the single wing, we can have three of our runners on the field at the same time and they all can do damage.”
That should keep returning tight ends David Niski and Mike Lockavitch busy.
Though Shelton graduated its three top receivers, Paul Ferrigno, David Yakowicz and Brian Berritto, who accounted for more than 1,200 of Shelton’s passing yards, Jake Oddo, who showed a knack for big catches last year, is in line to be Shelton’s primary receiver alongside Chris Thompson, Gavin Rohlman and Brian Modica.
Shelton graduated All-State kicker and punter Nick Andrade, who made 10 field goals and 86 PATs in his career. Sophomore Christian Rosa is slated to replace him.
“I don’t know how, but when one graduates, we have another one ready to go,” Roy said.
It is on the offensive line that game’s will be won or lost. Roy is betting on his front five.
Kyle Corby (6-2, 280) will center a line that has James Anderson (6-1, 275) and Craig Ferris (6-1, 245) at guards, Jacob Falcioni (6-4, 282) and the massive Isaiah DeLoatch (6-6, 315) at tackle.
“We like to run old school, man blocking with downfield blocking, isolation plays, guards pulling and a power game,” he said. “We want to control the line of scrimmage and with it the clock. We are big and like to get after it.”
Defensively, Shelton will miss Janik, Weiner and Carr who were among the Gaels’ leading tacklers last year.
Lockavitch, who had 7 1/2 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss last year, and Niski (three sacks) will anchor the defensive ends. Philip Sissick (thee sacks), Matt Weiner and Dylan Wikowski rotating in the middle.
Shelton replaces just about its entire linebacking unit. Michai Lynch and Tim Santo will man the inside while Oddo and Jacob DeMarco man the outside.
Tyler Pjatak returns at safety along with corners Rob Correia, Brian Modica and Chris Thompson.
“Everyone on the backend have similar abilities and can play offense or defense in any given game,” Roy said.
In addition to its SCC Tier I games, which includes promoted two-time Class L champion Hand, Shelton was given three monster matchups by the Scheduling Alliance. The Gaels play East Hartford (CCC), Norwich Free Academy (ECC) and neighboring SWC rival Newtown, whom the Gaels have faced in three out of the last four seasons either in the regular season or playoffs (Shelton is 3-0 vs. Newtown between 2015-17).
Shelton plays four of its first five games at Finn Stadium and wrap up the regular season with four road games in four weeks, including three-consecutive road trips to Xavier, North Haven and Hand.
Shelton is the last team to beat Hand, way back in Week 2 of the 2017 season.
“Week-in and week-out we play very good teams,” Roy said. “Our alliance games are with Newtown, East Hartford and NFA (a combined 24-6 in 2018) and then we play the top six teams in the SCC. Our goal is to win enough games to make states.”
Sept. 13 — WEST HAVEN,** 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 — at East Hartford, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 — NORWICH FREE ACADEMY, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 — CHESHIRE,* 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 — NEWTOWN, 7 p.m.
Oct. 15 — at Xavier,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 1— at North Haven,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 — at Hand,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 22— FAIRFIELD PREP,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 28— at Derby, 10:30 a.m.
Home games in CAPS
Scheduling Alliance games in bold
An original version of this preview had incorrect heights and weights in the top player descriptions and elsewhere. It has been updated with the correct information.