FARMINGTON – There could be a serious spike in membership in the Chris Danas Fan Club following his virtuoso performance Saturday.
The Middletown High senior quarterback’s biggest admirers, of course, are his receivers.
Danas threw for 515 yards and five touchdowns on 28 of 38 passing as the Blue Dragons defeated Farmington 37-21 in a CCC Division II East game for their second straight win.
The yardage total is a school record and the seventh-most all time for a single game according to the Connecticut High School Football Record Book. (The single game record is 615 by Tanner Kingsley of Woodland in 2012).
“I’ve never had a quarterback do that,” veteran Middletown coach Sal Morello said.
Danas was sharp all day regardless of the situation. He completed 19 of 25 throws in the first half for 244 yards and two scores as the Dragons built a 17-0 lead halftime lead.
Middletown pulled away when Danas threw for touchdowns on the Dragons’ first two possessions of the third quarter — an 87-yard strike to Anthony Pappa over the middle and a deep ball to Alexander Rios down the right sideline that went for 52 yards.
“I’m so happy Chris is my quarterback. He made great throws all day long,” said Pappa, who had three receptions for 105 yards. “He was throwing great all day and has been all season. That ball was perfect, right in my hands. He’s been having a great year.”
Fellow junior Kyle Despres was the biggest beneficiary of Danas’ accuracy, catching 11 balls for 225 yards (134 coming in the first half) and two touchdowns as Middletown exploited the middle of the field for double-digit gains that quickly added up – for everyone.
“Chris threw a beautiful ball every time,” Despres said. “He’s a hard-working quarterback and we train every day, especially in the offseason. He deserved his spot a long time ago.”
Danas’ favorite moment of the day was the throw to Pappa on a post route at midfield on third down.
“I got hit right after I threw it and I remember I was on the ground watching him catch it,” Danas said. “And I got up and ran (toward Pappa after the score). That was the moment when I thought, yeah, we’re good.”
Josiah Albert (seven catches, 84 yards) also caught a touchdown pass and sophomore running back Shaun Gaskins rushed for 48 yards on 10 carries as Middletown piled up 600 yards of offense.
“Chris had a huge game and he did a tremendous job of taking what (the Indians) were giving him,” Morello said. “They played a lot of man to man and that was a favorable matchup for us.”
Though a first-year starter, Danas won over his teammates long ago with his work ethic and patience behind last year’s starter, Jonta’e Dempsey-Brown. Danas has thrown for 1,687 yards and 15 TDs in six games, which hasn’t surprised his coach.
“He’s a focused kid in practice. He puts the ball on the money,” Morello said. “He’s locked in and he understands the offense. A lot’s been asked of him this year with our young line. Every week he’s getting better.”
Farmington quarterback Jacob Conrad threw for 225 yards and connected with fellow senior Michael Gregory for touchdown strikes of 28 and 20 yards. Niko Bouzakis had a team-high 127 receiving yards and Gregory caught nine balls for 90 yards.
Junior Matthew Aresco’s 24-yard field goal put Middletown on the board after its opening drive stalled inside the 10-yard line.
The Blue Dragons’ next drive was a sight to see – 85 yards on 19 plays, with Danas completing 11 of 14 throws, the capper a 2-yard toss to Albert for the score. Despres’ 14-yard catch with 1:52 to go in the second quarter gave Middletown its 17-point halftime advantage.
Defensively, “we have to pick our poison,” Farmington coach Chris Marchol said. “Middletown is fast. Do we stay back or put five or six in the box?”
Farmington (2-4) did not get on the board until the final two minutes of the third quarter, when Conrad found Gregory for his first touchdown.
The Indians produced some momentum after quickly holding Middletown to three and out and were driving inside the 20 as the third quarter ended, but Despres intercepted Conrad at the 16-yard line.
The Dragons again were held to three and out, though, and muffed the punt, giving Farmington possession at the 25. On the next play, Conrad found Gregory on an out route near the goal line for the touchdown. He threw to Gregory again for the conversion, trimming Middletown’s lead to -31-15 with 8:57 remaining in the game.
The Indians’ optimism dissolved when, on the first play of Middletown’s next possession, Danas found Despres crossing over the middle and the receiver turned it into a 65-yard scoring play.
“We were trying to be aggressive (in coverage) in the second half because we needed to get the ball back,” Marchol said.
Conrad scored Farmington’s final touchdown on a 4-yard run with 2:35 left.
The Indians just got through with a difficult three-game stretch against Wethersfield, Windsor and the Dragons, all losses.
Wethersfield is off to a 5-1 start and hosts Middletown on Friday night. Farmington hung with the Eagles in the trenches in the 14-0 defeat, and now Middletown gears up for perhaps its biggest game before the season finale at Windsor.
“Today was great,” Danas said, “but you just got to follow it up. What are we going to do next week? What are we going to do the week after? You’ve got to take it a day at a time.”