Derby High School scored what may have been the biggest upset in the history of their Thanksgiving Day rivalry with cross-river foe Shelton with an amazing fourth quarter comeback. Trailing 12 -0 entering the last quarter, the Raiders got a touchdown pass from E. J. Henderson to Jose Rivera to pull within 6 points. After stopping Shelton on downs, diminutive Adam Manning, Derby's all time leader in passing reception, emerged as Derby's hero with a 76 yard punt return to the Shelton 1 yard line. Two plays later, Mike Orazietti bulled into the end zone with the tying touchdown run. Manning then followed with a perfect extra point giving Derby the lead with under 7 minutes to play.
Shelton had two more chances in the game, but a Glen Samogie 37 yard field goal attempt missed and then Derby stopped the Gaels on downs and ran out the clock. Though the weather was crystal clear and cold, the playing field was a combination of mud and ice following Wednesday's snow. Shelton's ground crew did an excellent job in removing the snow, but the sun turned an overnight freeze into a slippery surface that made conditions difficult for both teams.
Shelton seemed to adjust best in the early going as William Mannions scored on a 32 yard run. When Joe Czarnecki's took the ball around end for a 21 yard sprint and a dive into the end zone in the third quarter, it looked as though the Gaels were headed for victory. But Derby was not being denied today.
The victory was Derby's first in the ancient rivalry since 1996. The win in the 92nd game of the series puts Derby slightly ahead in the series with 43 wins 42 losses and 7 ties.
The loss was a crushing defeat for the Gaels who may have lost a spot in the state playoffs. It also cost them outright possession of the Housatonic Division title by dropping them into a tie with Amity. However, the Gaels had a terrific season with an 8-3 record in what many had predicted was going to be a re-building year in Shelton. For Derby, the win was all about pride and salvaging a difficult season. The team finishes with a 3-8 record, but has many fine underclassmen returning next year.
* pictures courtesy of Mayor Marc Garofalo.