By Andy Hutchison
Special to CIACsports.com
SHELTON, Conn. – Ridgefield High School’s Collin Lowe went up for the ball along with Shelton’s Paul Ferrigno, and both players got their hands on the pigskin as they went down to the turf. After a moment, Lowe emerged with possession, the official raised his arms to signal touchdown, and the Tigers were on their way to the state championship game.
The go-ahead score, on a 20-yard pass from quarterback Drew Fowler with only 1:14 remaining, propelled the seventh-seeded Tigers past host and sixth-seeded Shelton 44-41 on Monday night.
Ridgefield will take on top-seeded Darien in the Saturday, Dec. 10 championship game; kickoff, in West Haven, is set for 2:30 p.m.
“I don’t think there really is a better way than a last-second catch in the end zone,” Lowe said. “We both had it in the end zone; we were fighting for it on the ground.”
“His will came through for us down there,” Ridgefield Coach Kevin Callahan said.
The Shelton sideline and fan base contested that Ferrigno had possession when he hit the ground.
“I thought he intercepted the football,” said Shelton Coach Jeff Roy, adding that he was proud of his team’s effort. “It was a great game and it was a battle all the way. We made too many mistakes.”
Shelton struck first when quarterback David Wells scored on a 48-yard rush. Ronnie Rich’s 1 yard TD run extended the lead. The Tigers got on the board on Petros Papadopoulos’ 27-yard field goal, making the score 14-3 after one quarter of play.
In the second, Wells rushed 41 yards for a score to make it 21-3. Then the Tigers began their first comeback of the night.
Fowler hooked up with Shane Palmer on a 68-yard score, then connected with Christopher Longo on a 3-yard score. Following an Alexander Call fumble recovery at the Shelton 15 yard line, Ridgefield claimed its first lead of the night on the next play. Fowler again passed to Longo for a 15-yard score and a 24-21 Tiger lead.
Shelton reclaimed the advantage later in the wild second quarter as Wells completed a 23-yard TD pass to Anthony Schiavo. The extra point was no good but the Gaels led 27-24 at the half.
Ridgefield went back on top in the third when Fowler hit Luke Gaydos on a 9-yard scoring strike. The Tigers dominated possession time in the third, held Shelton to just seven plays in the quarter, and held a 31-27 lead heading to the fourth.
The Gaels went back in the lead on Wells’ 28-yard TD run and extended the lead to 41-31 on a Wells burst up the middle on a keeper from 20 yards out.
Palmer’s 9-yard TD reception with 3:38 left pulled the Tigers to within 41-37; the extra point missed.
Ridgefield forced a Shelton punt and drove 55 yards in 52 seconds to score the game-winning TD.
“It came down to making a couple plays when we had to,” Callahan said. “These kids are never out of it.”
The Tigers have overcome deficits, including the state quarterfinals against No. 2 West Haven, throughout the campaign.
“If there’s a team ready to play Darien in the championship I feel it’s us,” Callahan said.
Ridgefield 3 21 7 13 – 44
Shelton 14 13 0 14 — 41
S – David Wells 48 run (Joe Zoppi kick) 10:59
S – Ronnie Rich 1 run (Zoppi kick) 4:31
R – Petros Papadopoulos 27 field goal 2:02
S – Wells 41 run (Zoppi kick) 11:43
R – Shane Palmer 68 pass from Drew Fowler (Papadopoulos kick) 9:49
R – Christopher Longo 3 pass from Fowler (Papadopoulos kick) 6:59
R – Longo 15 pass from Fowler (Papadopoulos kick) 6:37
S – Anthony Schiavo 23 pass from Wells (kick failed) 3:20
R – Luke Gaydos 9 pass from Fowler (Papadopoulos kick) 8:17
S – Wells 28 run (Zoppi kick) 10:12
S – Wells 20 run (Zoppi kick) 4:55
R – Palmer 9 pass from Fowler 3:38 (kick failed)
R – Collin Lowe 20 pass from Fowler (Papadopoulos kick) 1:14
Passing: S – David Wells 8-for-21-150 yards (1 TD, 1 INT); R – Drew Fowler 26-for-41-344 (6 TD); Chris Longo 0-1.
Receiving: S – Anthony Schiavo 2-69, Paul Ferrigno 2-41, Joe Zoppi 2-14, Ronnie Rich 1-18, Jack Carr 1-8; R – Chris Longo 11-97, Shane Palmer 6-132, Collin Lowe 7-100, Luke Gaydos 2-15.
Rushing: S – Schiavo 3-25, Wells 18-209, Rich 13-41, Carr 1 (-5); R – Fowler 12-54, Shane Palmer 7-5.