Shelton’s spread offense this year is a combination of the system it ran the last two seasons, which both culminated in trips to a state championship game.
Although the Gaels graduated their quarterback (Zach Tuskowski), leading rusher Peter Hoff and a slew of receivers, including Kevin Robinson and Alex Kirk, Shelton’s offense looked in peak form in a 42-6 victory over Amity in Week 1.
Senior David Wells replaced Tuskowski at quarterback. Wells saw some action at the position last season when Tuskowski was sidelined with injury. Wells played at quarterback in a loss to Darien in the Class LL state championship game in 2015.
Unlike Tuskowski, Wells is a threat to both pass and run.
“Last year Zach was not a runner at all,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “He had zero yardage from the quarterback position rushing. Wells is the complete opposite, he’s one of the fastest kids on the team. He’s a good runner, so we’re running some different things with him.”
The Gaels’ offense this season is a bit reminiscent to 2014, when Mark Piccirillo piloted Shelton to the state championship game before losing to SCC foe Xavier. Piccirillo passed for 2,530 yards and 30 touchdowns and rushed for 1,614 yards and 23 touchdowns while being named the Register All-Area MVP that year.
“It (the offense) is a little similar to what we did a couple of years ago with Mark Pic,” Roy said. “It’s not as much power football as with him because (Wells) is more of a speed runner than an inside guy. Mark was like a fullback back there. So, yea, we’re doing some different things. We’re mixing in a lot of the stuff we did with Mark, and a lot of the stuff we did last year, so it’s a combination of both.
“We don’t want to run him (Wells) inside too much. We don’t want him to get beat up.”
Shelton (1-0), ranked third in the Register Top 10 Poll, plays in the SCC Division I, arguably the state’s most competitive division. The Gaels host Division I opponent Notre Dame-West Haven, also a playoff team the last two seasons, Friday night at 7 at Finn Stadium.
While Wells is capable of leading Shelton downfield through the air, the Gaels have a talented running back corps that includes senior captain Jon Sobotka (6-foot-1, 210 pounds).
“He’s more of our power back,” Roy said.
Senior Ronnie Rich (5-10, 200) and sophomore Jack Carr (6-0, 170) also saw action out of the backfield against Amity.
“Ronnie Rich has been doing really well at tailback,” Roy said. “He hits the hole hard. And Carr, I think he’s going to be a special player for us in a few years. He’s getting reps for us at both sides of the ball.”
Sobotka believes Shelton’s offense, which also features receivers Anthony Schiavo and Joe Zoppi, is as versatile as any in the state.
“Me and Ronnie, I feel we’re up there with the top running backs in the state,” Sobotka said. “We can get the job done. Wells can get the job done, definitely, liked he showed last season when he had to step in for Zach Tuskowski. I think we’re a multi-threat team. Teams need to watch our for both aspects of the game.”
Senior captain Robert Valeri is a three-year starter on the offensive line which is, once again, one of the team’s strengths.
“I think the offensive line is one of the more powerful ones we’ve had in the last couple of years,” Valeri said. “I really think that’s going to help us with the run game and set up our pass attack.”
Sobotka and Carr also play at linebacker, while Rich is a defensive end. Senior captain Justin Greene is a linebacker. The Gaels will look to shutdown Notre Dame quarterback Chris Elias and all-state receiver Nico Ragaini.
“I definitely think we did really well on defense in Week 1,” Greene said. “We held them to zero points the whole first half. We hit hard, we know how to communicate, and we have depth all around.”
Notre Dame is coming off a 26-21 loss to Bishop Hendricken (R.I.) and will look to avoid an 0-2 start.
“They’re going to come here ready to play, we know that,” Roy said.