NORTH HAVEN — Shelton’s Tyler Pjatak rushed for a career high 180 yards and five touchdowns on 14 carries as Shelton easily handled North Haven 41-12 in an SCC Tier I contest at Vanacore Field Friday night.
That Pjatak has become Shelton’s lead running back this season is a surprise to everyone, including Pjatak.
“I had no idea I was going to play running back this season, to be honest,” said Pjatak, a senior who logged five varsity carries as a sophomore and none as a junior. “I just stepped my way in there and I love it.”
And so does Shelton coach Jeff Roy, whose team won its second straight game to improve to 5-2 on the season, including 3-0 in the SCC’s Tier I.
“He’s just one of those seniors who really stepped up this year,” said Roy of Pjatak. “Beginning of the year, he was probably our second or third running back. And now he’s our No. 1 guy. He’s having a hell of a year.”
Pjatak did most of his damage in the first half, scoring four times as the Gaels never trailed.
Still, the Indians (3-4, 0-3) trailed by just one score, 14-6, early in the second quarter with a first-and-goal at the Gaels 10 and a chance to keep the pressure on Shelton.
But North Haven’s Corey Hooks was stripped of the football and Shelton’s Philip Sissick scooped up the ball and returned it to the North Haven 18.
Not only did the Indians not get the score, but the Gaels capitalized on the fumble recovery with a 10-play, 82-yard touchdown drive.
Shelton’s James Curley connected with David Niski from 21 yards out to make it a 21-6 Shelton lead with 5:44 left in the first half as the Gaels took control for good.
“Plays like that do shift momentum, but we have to figure out how to manage that and bounce back from that,” North Haven coach Anthony Sagnella said. “I don’t think we responded very well after that.”
Pjatak, who also recorded six tackles on defense, added two more touchdowns before leaving the game late in the third quarter with the Gaels comfortably ahead, 41-6.
North Haven, which was coming off easy victories over Staples and Pomperaug, added an Albert Hooks touchdown run late in the game for the final margin of 41-12.
Shelton, which has a bye next week, now sets its sights on a November 15 visit to the Surf Club in Madison to take on top-ranked and unbeaten Hand.
The two-time defending SCC Tier I champion Gaels will be a decided underdog against the Tigers, but Roy believes his team is playing its best football of the season.
“That was by far our best football game as a whole,” said Roy of the North Haven victory. “All facets of the game, I thought we played really well. I thought it was our best overall effort of the season.”
Since the SCC went to a tier structure in 2016, Shelton has defeated North Haven all four times the schools have played (41-12 in 2019; 28-24 in 2018; 31-20 in 2017; and 35-34 in 2016).
PLAYER OF THE GAME
Tyler Pjatak, Shelton. The senior rushed 14 times for 180 yards and 5 TDs, to go along with 6 tackles on defense. Pjatak, used sparingly at running back early in the season, is now Shelton’s leading rusher with 698 yards 14 TDs on the season. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards in four of Shelton’s last five games.
“I feel really good. Like I said, we’ve been having good practices, the kids are working hard, and I think we are playing our best football right now. We’ve got a bye week and then we’ve got Hand coming up, so we’ll be excited for that one” — Jeff Roy, Shelton Coach