By PHIL BRODSKY
Orange Live Sports Writer
With 10 minutes, 10 seconds left in the fourth quarter in Saturday’s Southern Connecticut Conference Division I showdown at Finn Stadium in Shelton, Amity clung to a 28-26 lead over the host Gaels. Following a Spartan punt, Shelton took possession of the ball at its own 44-yard line. The Gaels’ sophomore quarterback, Mark Piccirillo proceeded to march his team 56 yards in 10 plays and close out what proved to be the game-winning drive with an 11 yard touchdown toss to Kyle Drost. Now coming from behind to lead 32-28, Shelton added insult to injury as Piccirillo added a two point conversion pass to Will Karcher. Shelton held a 34-28 advantage with 5:34 left to play. After giving up 28 points, the Gael defense dug in and proceeded to run out the clock and secure its second win in three decisions.
“I thought we played pretty well but had some breakdowns in the second and fourth quarters,” Spartan Coach Bert Mozealous said. “We played hard but our inexperience in our defensive secondary showed at key times and offensive mistakes cost us possession of the ball at crucial times in the game. We missed key assignments and our decision making left a lot to be desired in the second and fourth quarters.”
Shelton returned the game’s opening kickoff to the Amity 40 and drove to the 17 before settling for Ed Groth’s 34 yard field goal. Setting up shop at its own 20, the Spartans launched their first drive that resulted in the first of Dave Attolino’s three touchdowns. His two yard run and Lyle Luth’s conversion kick gave the visitors a 7-3 advantage. Set up by a 45 yard punt return early in the second quarter, Amity extended its lead to 14-3 on Attolino’s eight yard run and Luth’s PAT.
With three minutes left in the first half, the Gaels reduced their deficit to 14-10 on Piccirillo’s nine yard keeper. Amity went three-and-out and booted the ball away on fourth down. Piccirillo and Co. marched to the Spartan 27. With four seconds left in the first half, Groth’s 41 yard field goal made it a one point game (14-13) at the end of the first half.
Mozealous added, “We had the lead but couldn’t hold them back in the second and fourth quarters. Except for Cory Ricks at one corner, our defensive secondary is very young, inexperienced, and not very tall. We are only 5-8, 5-9, and 5-8 and didn’t cover their receivers very effectively. Knowing that Cory (Ricks) has a lot of experience and does a good job, they didn’t throw the ball to his side. Instead, they chose to throw at our small, inexperienced sophomores on the other side. We allowed Shelton to break containment on their last touchdown. On top of that, we had no pass rush so we couldn’t put any pressure on their quarterback. He’s only a sophomore but did a great job and got the ball away very quickly.”
Piccirillo ended up completing 16 of his 25 passes for 218 yards and two touchdowns. In addition, he rushed for 60 yards and a score on his 14 carries.
The two long-time rivals swapped pair s of scores during a hectic third quarter. Set up by Dave Buono’s kickoff return to the Shelton 22, Amity extended its advantage to 21-13 on Attolino’s six yard score. He ended up with 135 yards and three scores on his 22 carries. Shelton quickly responded with Piccirillo connecting with Eddie Kochiss on a 30 yards scoring strike. Trailing 21-19, the Gaels went for a potentially game-tying two point conversion pass but his throw was intercepted.
Following Buono’s kickoff return to the Gaels’ 32, later in the third quarter, he cashed in on a two yard run that gave his team a 28-19 lead. In the final moments of the third session, Shelton running back Jason Thompson dove into the end zone from a yard out that once again slashed the Amity lead back to only two points (28-26). Thompson cashed out with 12 carries for 51 yards and a touchdown.
“Even though we lost, I thought our offensive line did a pretty good job but losing tackle Dennis Flanagan with an ankle sprain in the third quarter hindered us. He’s a key player up front but after he got hurt, he had no mobility and couldn’t go back into the game. I hope he’s ready to next week against Guilford.
Led by Attolino’s great day running the ball, Amity picked up 280 yards overland but quarterback James Semmonella completed only four of his 10 throws for a meager 57 yards. In their first three games, the 1-2 Spartans have averaged 33 points, 336 rushing yards, 45 passing yard per game and have completed only 18% of their throws.
On Friday, Amity hosts Guilford Friday in a 7 p.m. SCC inter-divisional clash at Bill Johnson Field.