Special to CIACsports.com
SHELTON — Up by just one score and facing a critical third down situation with nearly three minutes left in the game, the Shelton football team wasn’t concerned with who would make the play or if they would make it.
As been the motto all season for the beaten-down Gaels, it’s been a next-man up mentality.
Shelton picked up the first, and then a few plays later, senior Ron Hubbard added another first down on a run to seal the 35-28 victory over visiting Newtown Monday evening at Finn Stadium in the Class LL state semifinals.
“Well, it was huge,” said senior receiver Kevin Robinson, who caught one TD. “It really doesn’t matter who we put on the field, they believe….we have playmakers.”
Top seeded Shelton (12-0) now advances to its second straight state title game on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Veterans Stadium in New Britain against No. 2 Darien, a 49-7 winner over Southington.
“You know, it’s just great to be back in the state championship game,” Robinson said. “And this is just all that we want.”
It wasn’t an easy win as Shelton literally needed every inch to survive a fast and physical fourth-seeded Newtown squad.
Up 35-21 with under 10 minutes to play, the Nighthawks’ Justin Dunn connected on a 5-yard score to the far right corner with Ethan Carpenter to bring Newtown within one possession.
But again, it was Shelton’s resiliency that came through at the end, as the Gaels were able to run out the clock with a final drive with under five minutes to play. Shelton was playing without running back Peter Hoff who recently broke his leg.
“We just played hard-nosed football and got out of there with a victory,” Shelton head coach Jeff Roy said.
Shelton was led by Hubbard, who finished with two rushing TDS in the second half and passed for another in the first quarter.
For Newtown (10-2) the story of the night was not being able to finish.
In a first half that saw a combined six turnovers, Newtown had its chances, but couldn’t convert. The Nighthawks did control the run game, but it was the big plays that were the dagger.
Tied at 14 late in the second quarter, Shelton quarterback Zach Tuskowski connected with Anthony Schiavo, who made a on a 24-yard highlight reel TD catch with three defenders of him.
At the start of the third after a three and out, it was a bad snap that gave Shelton great field position. The Gaels were able to use it as Hubbard punched it in from 1-yard out for the 28-14 advantage.
“We stopped the run well, we just gave up big plays,” Newtown head coach Steve George said. “We were close.”
Mason led the Nighthawks with two scores.
Robinson said his team was confident they could produce against Newtown.
“We believe in our skills over anybody else,” he said. “We think we have the best offense in the league.”
Shelton 35, Newtown 28
Newtown 7 7 0 14—28
Shelton 14 7 7 7—35
S—John Sobotka 7 pass from Ron Hubbard (Joe Zoppi kick good)
N- Mike Doyle 12 run (Ryan Kost kick)
S- Kevin Robinson 35 pass from Zach Tuskowski (Zoppi kick good)
N— Ben Mason 38 pass from Justin Dunn (Kost kick good)
S—Anthony Schiavo 24 pass from Tuskowski (Zoppi kick good)
S—Hubbard 1 run (kick good)
N- Mason 5 pass from Dunn (Kost kick good)
S – Hubbard 10 run (Zoppi kick good)
N- Ethan Carpenter 5 pass from Dunn (Kost kick good
RUSHING—Newtown, Jared Pearson 23-132-1, Mike Doyle 8-50-1, Ethan Carpenter 6-55, Hunter Cobb 7-39, Ben Mason 6-34; Shelton,Keith Prior 9-54
PASSING—Newtown, Dunn 7-16-3-94; Shelton, Zach Tuskowski 14-21-207-2-1
RECEIVING-Newton, Carpenter 3-26, Mason 3-62, Doyle 1-6; Shelton, Schiavo 7-116-1, Robinson 5-83-1, Sobotka 1-7-1, Prior 1-8