The football season ended for West Hartford’s Hall High School with a playoff loss.
By Paul Palmer. Photos by Carrie LaSpada
Hall’s football season came to an end Tuesday night with a 42-28 home loss to Shelton in the quarterfinals of the CIAC, Class LL Tournament.
When the fourth-seeded Warriors look back on the game, they will regret the self-inflicted mistakes they made that handed the ball and game to the fifth-seeded Gaels. A pair of interceptions of Warriors quarterback Eli Salomons ended promising drives and were turned into 14 points by Shelton.
Then, late in the fourth quarter, down by 14 points but playing some of their best ball, Hall jumped offsides on a fourth-and-4 for Shelton. Not only did that give Shelton a fresh set of downs, but it also let them run more time off the clock before Tyler Rich would run it in with 3:03 to play, sealing the game.
Coming into the contest, Hall knew it was going to have to find a way to deal with the Shelton running game. On the opening drive, the Gaels did not even use a quarterback, opting instead to go direct snap to running backs, Rich, Shane Santiago, and Ayden Sepkaski. Behind an offensive line that averages 265 pounds, Shelton marched the ball down the field with Santiago capping off the drive with a short run with 8:24 to play.
Hall would come right back with a long drive of its own. Using a balanced rushing and passing attack, the Warriors would tie it when Leo Perreira would punch it in from about half a yard out. Both defenses would hold on the next possessions, before Shelton reverted to the direct snap running game to complete a 63-yard drive with Sepkaski running it in off the left side for his first score of the night.
The momentum of the game would swing on the next two Hall possessions. After moving the ball from their own 20 deep into Shelton territory, Salomons was picked off by Aiden King. He returned it to the Hall 46 with 4:01 to play in the half. A quick, five-play drive ended with Sepkaski fumbling the direct snap but picking it up and racing into the end zone for the 21-7 lead.
On the next Hall possession, King would once again pick off Salomons and this time return it to the 37 with just over a minute to play in the half. Shelton used a draw to Sepkaski and an 8-yard screen pass to him to put the ball at the half yard line. Rich would run it in on a direct snap for a 28-7 Shelton at the half.
Hall received the second half kick and Logan Murphy’s three catches helped propel the Warriors into Shelton territory, but an incomplete pass on fourth down would end the drive. Down 21, Hall managed to put together a drive from the Shelton 47 after a punt.
Salomons hit Murphy with a pass to the 13 and Perreira ran it in from the 2 with 5:29 to go in the third, to cut it to a 14-point deficit.
In their only other loss of the season, the Hall defense could not find a way to stop Maloney’s rushing game when it needed to. The same was true Tuesday, as Shelton once again took their time, rushing the ball play after play, eating up yards and clock before Rich scored from eight yards out on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Trailing by 21, Hall kept fighting as Salomons hit Angelo Culmo with a long pas down the near sideline to put the ball at the Shelton 16. The Gaels would later be called for pass interference and Hall had the ball at the 8. It was time for a little razzle dazzle as Salomons flipped to Perreira, who ran right, but flipped it to Matt Farber who came running in from the wing, and Farber went in to make it 35-21 with 11:24 to play.
Hall coach Frank Robinson then called for the on-sides kick and Hall recovered it at its own 46. But on a fourth-and-1 at the Shelton 3, Joe Giliotti batted down Salomons’ pass to give the ball back to the visitors.
On the ensuing drive, Hall’s defense held Shelton to a fourth-and-4 before that nail in the coffin offsides penalty.
After Rich’s third score of the night, Hall would mount one more attack. Murphy again helped lead the way with several strong catches before Salmons would find Farber in the back of the end zone. But it was too little too late as there were just 43 seconds to play and Hall was down 14.
Shelton would run the ball twice on their final possession before the clock would expire.
Hall ends the season at 9-2, and Shelton improves to the same mark, with the Gaels moving on to the Class LL semifinal.
Like what you see here? Click here to subscribe to We-Ha’s newsletter so you’ll always be in the know about what’s happening in West Hartford! Click the blue button below to become a supporter of We-Ha.com and our efforts to continue producing quality journalism.