MIDDLETOWN >> Football games are won in the trenches and at the end of the day, that’s how Middletown defeated Farmington 21-7 in front of 2,000 fans at Rosek-Skubel Stadium Friday night.
That, and of course, Dario Highsmith.
The Blue Dragons quarterback ran for 288 yards on 26 carries as Middletown piled up 352 yards on the ground while holding Farmington to just 36 rushing yards. With the win, Middletown improved to 8-0 and tightened their grip on a Class L playoff spot.
It was the guys up front for Middletown that both coaches saw as a key difference.
“I thought our offensive line was awesome,” said Middletown coach Sal Morello. “David and Anthony Bednarz, Derek Bonaparte, Rajahn Johnson and Jeff Woodcock were great tonight.”
Farmington (7-1), which finished with 204 yards offense – 168 through the air – and just 55 total yards in the second half, knew what hit them.
“We weren’t ready for their physicality,” said Farmington coach Chris Machol. “We knew what they do, but they do it so well. Once we settled in, I thought we played well, but we couldn’t get much going on the ground. They were more physical than we were.”
What Morello didn’t like about the game was his team’s penchant for committing penalties. The Blue Dragons were flagged 11 times for 80 yards. One wiped out a 33-yard touchdown by Highsmith, another killed a Middletown interception that was returned to the Farmington 20-yard line and back-to-back penalties set up Farmington’s only score.
“We survived,” said Morello. “I said before the game that we had to avoid silly penalties and we didn’t. But what I did like is that we hung on through adversity. We didn’t panic and kept on playing and that’s a sign of both a good football team and a veteran football team. It was not our best game, but we played very hard.”
Middletown took a 7-0 lead on its second play from scrimmage when Highsmith ran 62-yards for a touchdown and with Van Uk’s kick, MHS had the lead just 57 seconds into the game.
On its next possession was when Highsmith had a touchdown called back and from that point until late in the half, neither team scored.
Farmington got to the MHS 15-yard line midway through the period, but the drive stalled and MHS took over at its own 16.
The Blue Dragons marched 84 yards in 13 plays with Yaamal Jackson (11 carries, 56 yards) scoring from 6 yards out. With Uk’s kick, Middletown led 14-0 with just 48 seconds left in the half.
But two egregious penalties – a 15-yard personal foul and a 10-yard defensive holding call set the Indians up on the MHS 39-yard line and quarterback Jeremy Buck (10-for-27, 168 yards) hit Ivan Guadalupe for a stunning touchdown with 18 seconds left to cut the lead to 14-7 at the half.
“Except for that one play, I thought our defense played very well,” said Morello.
The second half was a defensive struggle as neither team could score until Middletown put the game away late in the fourth quarter.
Middletown began the fourth quarter with a drive that began at its own 23 and in 15 plays and eight and a half minutes, moved to the Farmington 12. But with 3:27 to play in the game, Uk missed a 28-yard field goal.
But Farmington picked up only two yards in three plays and on fourth down had no choice but to go for it from their 22 yard line. Buck’s pass fell incomplete and on the first play from scrimmage, Jackson ran 22 yards for the game-wrapping touchdown.
“We survived our self-inflicted wounds,” said Morello. “Farmington is a very good football team and we gave them things. Too many penalties. Hey, there aren’t many plays in the playbook for third and 20.”
Middletown plays at New London Friday.