West Haven edged Shelton 35-26 at Ken Strong Stadium on Friday for its ninth-straight win. Quarterback Duane Gary rushed for a 9-yard run with 3:21 remaining to cap the scoring, as the Blue Devils clinched a berth in the Class LL state playoffs with one game left.
Gary — a 5-foot-8, 158-pound senior — rushed for 97 yards, including 81 in the second half. He formed a potent duo on the ground with senior tailback Ervin Phillips, who 137 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.
“Ervin is obviously a fantastic back, but the quarterback just always seemed to make big plays and make people miss all year on all the films we watched,” Shelton coach Jeff Roy said. “He was actually the guy we were worried about. That’s kind of what happened, he’s kind of the guy that beat us. We had trouble tackling him.
“He’s got great speed, he’s a great back.”
Gary came into game with 730 yards and 13 touchdowns on 87 carries, good for an 8.3 average.
The Gaels — minus senior tailback Jason Thompson, who broke his clavicle in a 15-12 loss to Xavier last week — turned to the air to pick up much of their offense. Senior quarterback Mark Piccirillo threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns, but also chucked a pair of costly interceptions to Marshont Little.
Sophomore tailback Peter Hoff rushed nine times for 33 yards and caught five passes for 36 yards in Thompson’s absence.
“With Jason out, we wanted to throw the ball a little more,” Roy said, “but I thought Hoff really stepped up. He ran great tonight for us. He’s going to be a good back for us.”
Thompson racked up 1,141 yards and 10 touchdowns on 156 carries this season.
“That was hard coming out without him. The first quarter, we came out really slow,” said Piccirillo, as the Gaels fell behind 13-0 after one. “It was weird without him. We kind of started to bounce back, but it just didn’t turn out our way.”