MIDDLETOWN >> Middletown High’s football team is getting better.
That was the assessment of Blue Dragons coach Sal Morello following his team’s fourth straight win, a 47-8 blowout over Bristol Central in front of a Homecoming Night crowd of 1,500 at Rosek-Skubel Stadium Friday night.
“Week to week, we’re getting better,” Morello said. “The kids are locked in, in practice and they are doing things better than they were doing a month ago.”
Dario Highsmith, clearly getting back to form after an injury-plagued summer, led the way with 209 yards rushing on 24 carries good for three touchdowns. He also threw for two more TDs on a 4-for-6, 95-yard performance.
But it was his judgment that Morello liked.
“Those first two touchdowns were important,” he said. “Those were both great reads by a four-year quarterback. And the offensive line executed perfectly.”
The plays of which Morello spoke came in the first quarter and set the tone. On Middletown’s first play from scrimmage, Highsmith ran for a 48-yard score. With 1:06 left in the first, Highsmith found Kejoun West alone down the left sideline and hit him in stride for a 67-yard touchdown that gave the Blue Dragons a 13-0 lead after one.
“We talked about the big play all week in practice,” Bristol Central coach Jeff Papazian said. “But it’s hard to replicate that speed and size in practice. Middletown’s one of the top teams in the state.”
The Blue Dragons scored twice more in the second quarter. Highsmith capped a six-play, 66-yard drive with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Shawn Houle with 9:14 left.
That was followed by a five-play, 46-yard drive that was set up by an interception by Houle at the 15-yard line which he returned to the Central 46. Highsmith carried the ball on all five plays, scoring from the 11-yard line with 54 seconds left in the half as MHS took a 27-0 lead at intermission.
Middletown held the Rams to 103 yards in the half – 41 on the ground – while piling up 272 itself.
The score ballooned to 33-0 in the third on a touchdown that was set up by yet another interception – MHS had three – this one by Jordan West. He picked off a Noah Cruz (7-for-20, three interceptions, 62 yards) pass at the Central 27 and returned it to the 13-yard line. Hunter Belzo picked up 11 of those required yards on two carries before Highsmith scored from the 2-yard line.
Central then marched 65 yards on six plays with D’Andre Conaway doing all the work, scoring on a 1-yard run. With Conaway’s two-point conversion, the lead was cut to 33-8.
“We came out flat,” Papazian said. “That slow start hurt us. But in the third quarter we came out much better and I thought Conaway played very well.”
Conaway finished with 124 yards on 14 carries after being held to just 15 yards in the first half.
But that was as close as Central (3-2) would get.
Middletown (5-1) got a 9-yard TD run from Houle with 7:23 left to play and Tywan Scarborough scored on a 21-yard run with 2:44 left in the game. Freshman kicker Mike Aresco converted on five of seven PATs. One was blocked and one hit the post.
“I thought we played well,” Morello said. “We have to do a better job of coming out for the third quarter. We still are looking for a full 48-minute game. But I thought our defense did a nice job overall and Isaiah Thompkins was just outstanding at linebacker. He had a little calf issue during the week, so we didn’t run him [one carry, 29 yards] much. Since we have some depth at running back, we used a lot of guys.”
The guys not named Highsmith combined for 113 yards as Middletown had eight players carry the ball for 322 yards on 41 carries. Add 101 passing yards and the Dragons had 432 yards of offense.
Central finished with 261 yards offense, including 199 on the ground. most of that in the second half.
Middletown is home again Friday night hosting Maloney (4-2) at 7 p.m.