By Derek Turner
ENFIELD >> The first play from scrimmage for Middletown set the tone for the entire game as the Blue Dragons ran right by Fermi, 43-8, Friday night in Enfield.
Junior quarterback Dario Highsmith started scoring early and fast. The signal caller took the first snap from scrimmage, ran left behind his blocks and broke down the sideline in front of his own bench for 69 yards and Middletown (4-0) was ahead 7-0.
“We came out ready to play, did what we had to do early,” said Middletown oach Sal Morello.
After a three and out forced by the Blue Dragons defense, Highsmith was faced with a first and 18 after a holding call. He attempted his first pass of the game ann d it was picked off about 20 yards downfield by Falcons free safety Bailey Raymond.
Still, the Falcons (0-4) couldn’t get anything going offensively, thus forced to punt.
Jacob Homar had not returned the first two punts directed his way, but the third he fielded at his own 24 yard line. The senior weaved through potential tacklers for a 76 yard return to the endzone.
With about four minutes left in the first quarter, Middletown started to distribute the ball. Yamaal Jackson, Isaiah Tompkins and Sal Fazzino each took a handoff before Highsmith (140 yards rushing with three TD’s) would break another long run, this one for 46 yards.
“Our identity is run the ball and be physical, we have three backs that we use, we run our quarterback and the offensive line is starting to gel,” said Morello.
It seemed like the game had just started and Middletown was already leading 21-0.
Field position for the fourth ranked team in the state wasn’t necessary tonight, but the special teams helped out anyway, partially blocking the next Fermi punt to give the offense the ball on the Falcons 25 yard line.
Even when Highsmith made a mistake, he still scored.
He dropped the snap, picked up the ball off the turf and scurried to the right for 25 yards and his third score of the game.
The Highsmith to Homar connection for a 2-point conversion made it 28-0 with 2:14 remaining in the first.
That would be it for Highsmith as Morello took out his star quarterback with the big lead in order to get some younger guys some time.
“We got Dario going early, he did what he had to do and then we just tried to, as the game was going on, distribute the ball and get as many kids get as many touches as we could,” said Morello.
Austin Meeker took over behind center, but that didn’t slow the Blue Dragons attack. Jackson took a handoff at the Fermi 47 yard line all the way, extending the lead to 36-0.
In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Middletown had the ball again and scored—again.
Meeker ran an option to the right, shuffled the ball to Homar who made it 75 yards downfield for a score. This was the third time in the first half that Middletown scored on their first play of a drive and with 6:58 left in the first half, the Blue Dragons led 43-0.
Middletown punted once in the first half and it set up the longest play of the game for Fermi, a 69 yard throw and catch from Andrew Wilcox to Raymond, who was forced down inside the 10 yard line as the first half came to an end.
“It took them a while to understand that we’re in a fight,” said Fermi head coach Joe Tata.
One touchdown and extra-point away from the CIAC score management policy taking effect, Middletown let up, slightly.
Fermi began the second half with the ball and recorded its first drive of more than four downs. On a third and five from their own 16, Wilcox found Raymond again for 61 yards down the right sideline, but the Falcons failed to punch one in from 12 yards out, turning the ball over on downs.
Middletown basically ran the ball up the middle for the rest of the game.
“Sal’s a respectful guy, he gave us the ball the second half,” said Tata.
Wilcox found Latin Taylor twice and Raymond another time to set up the only Fermi touchdown. On a first and 10 from the Middletown 24 yard line with 8:29 left in the third quarter, Wilcox hit Frank Kusta down the left side who beat his defender to the end zone.
The next two drives resulted in a punt, one from each team. Middletown’s final possession of the game looked good when Meeker found Sam LaMaine for 40 yards downfield, but the junior quarterback gave it away on a fumble the very next play.
Fermi was driving as time was winding down. They made it 14 yards out when time expired.
“I could have called timeout, put another one in; I don’t play that game,” said Tata. “He (Morello) and I have a mutual respect for one another.”
This was not the toughest game for Middletown, but it’s also not a throw-away. The Blue Dragons were able to play some of their younger guys and see what they have in case they need them down the road this season, but as Morello stated, they are always building for next year.
“In a game like this, it’s nice to go against a competition that has the desire and the will and the strength to keep moving,” said Tata.
Both coaches were pleased with the way the teams handled themselves in such a lopsided victory and have nothing but respect for each other and their programs.
“I think the biggest thing is handling yourself with class and move on and get ready for Hartford Public,” said Morello.