BRISTOL — Dario Highsmith ran for 346 yards on 24 carries good for two touchdowns, threw for two more in a 5-for-5, 58 yard performance as Middletown pulled away from Bristol Central to win 49-21, in a Central Connecticut Conference game played at Muzzy Field Friday night.
This was a much more competitive game than most thought it would be as Central closed to 28-21 in the third quarter before Middletown (6-0) scored the game’s final 21 points.
“We have a lot to work on,” said unhappy Middletown coach Sal Morello. “I will say I was pleased that we responded every time after Central scored. We actually need games like this, games in which the other team pushes back. It enables us to see what kind of character we have, and I thought we showed character tonight.
“But we did not tackle well and our kick coverage was awful. And three personal foul penalties? We’re going to fix that.”
Middletown scored two first quarter touchdowns to take a quick 14-0 lead. Yaamal Jackson scored on a 6-yard run with 4:17 to go in the quarter and after a three and out, Highsmith ran 85 yards with 2:21 to go and it looked like an another day at the beach.
Turned out to be a rocky beach.
Central (2-3) answered with a 41-yard lightning bolt TD from Keon Walton, the longest TD against Middletown this season. But again the Blue Dragons responded in kind when Highsmith ran 56 yards for a score on Middletown’s first play from scrimmage and with 24 seconds left in the first quarter, the Dragons led 21-7.
Central didn’t go away.
After Tyler Burrow returned the kickoff 41 yards to the MHS 48, the Rams drove the required 48 yards — aided by a face mask penalty on fourth down against Middletown — and Burrow punched it in from a yard out with 4:56 left in the half to cut the lead to 21-14.
Middletown drove to the 21, but Highsmith fumbled with just over a minute remaining. Morello had all three of his times out left and called one after each play and Central was forced to punt from its 21. Walton got off an awful punt that went exactly seven yards, and MHS was set up on the 28-yard line.
On first down, Highsmith hit Jacob Homar for a touchdown with 12 seconds to go and MHS took a 28-14 halftime lead.
“That was a huge touchdown,” said Morello. “It gave us a cushion.”
A cushion Middletown needed.
On Central’s first possession of the second half, Walton again broke a long one, and this 48-yard touchdown became the longest MHS has surrendered this season. At 28-21, Middletown found itself in a competitive game in the second half, something that hadn’t happened all season.
“We knew we had to play a perfect game on offense and defense to have a chance tonight,” said Central coach Sal Cintorino. “We both had 11 guys out there, but they have that quarterback [Highsmith] and he’s hard to stop.
“I’m proud of how our kids played. What we can take out of this is we can compete with one of the best teams in the state. That’s a great team Sal [Morello] has, one that has a chance to go a long way this season.”
MHS responded to the Central score with a 41-yard TD run by Highsmith at 7:53, and after recovering a Walton fumble moments later, drove 52 yards in five plays with Highsmith passing for a 7-yard score to Julian Carroway to give the Dragons a 42-21 lead with 4:17 to go in the third.
Highsmith ran 40 yards for his fourth rushing TD of the night on the first play of the fourth quarter and at 49-21 — Van Uk hit all seven PATs — MHS had this one secured. Subs from both teams played most of the fourth quarter.
Middletown linebacker/running back Isaiah Thompkins suffered an ankle injury on his first carry and didn’t play the rest of the game.
“He’s out; I don’t know for how long,” said Morello. “We really missed him on defense tonight, but other kids played and that’s why it’s called a team.”
MHS finished with 443 yards offense, 385 on the ground. Bristol Central had 217 yards offense with Walton picking up 111 yards on 11 carries. Quarterback Jarrett Michaels was 6-for-12, for 49 yards. Jacob Homar intercepted him and nearly ran it back for a touchdown to end the first half. Homar also had a touchdown catch.
“Homar is a terrific receiver” said Morello. “He played well tonight.”
Middletown plays Maloney at Falcon Field in Meriden Friday at 6:30 p.m.