STORRS >> Middletown football coach Sal Morello said prior to Friday’s game with E. O. Smith that he was looking forward to seeing how his team would respond to its stunning upset loss to Newington last week.
They responded pretty well.
Morello’s Blue Dragons parlayed an overpowering defense and a big play offense — plus the foot of kicker Mike Aresco — into a 48-6 blowout win in a Central Connecticut Conference game at Storrs. Smith beat Newington by 10 earlier this season.
“I thought we played better,” Morello understated. “I liked the way we came out in the beginning and we played with urgency and emotion the whole game. Even when a couple of things went wrong, we kept on playing hard and we stayed locked in for the whole 48 minutes.”
Middletown’s defense didn’t give E.O. Smith room to breathe. The Panthers didn’t get a first down until late in the second quarter and by that time Middletown was leading 21-0. Smith finished with two first downs in the half and 54 yards of offense including just 10 yards on the ground in 16 carries. Forty-two of those 54 yards came on one pass play.
“The defense played very well,” Morello said. “Smith runs a lot of formations and my kids did a great job of lining up well and staying home.”
E.O. Smith (3-5) finished with only 58 yards on the ground and 93 yards in the air while Middletown (7-1), which showed a varied attack, had 338 yards offense — 220 on the ground and 118 in the air.
“I was pleased with our balance,” Morello said. “We intentionally tried to limit Tyshaun’s carries [seven carries, 46 yards] and spread things out.”
It worked as there were 21 other carries by eight other players for 174 yards. At the end of the day, the big stars of this game on offense were quarterback Tyshaun James and receiver Justin McMillian .
McMillian touched the ball three times and scored on every touch.
After James scored in the first quarter on a 20-yard run following an E.O. Smith fumble, James hit McMillian on the third play of the second quarter in the far left corner of the end zone on fourth down from the E.O. Smith 29-yard line.
Middletown built the lead to 21-0 on a 53-yard run by McMillian with 6:22 to go in the half. The Dragons made it 24-0 when Aresco hit a 32-yard field goal with five seconds left before intermission
The duo of James and McMillian teamed up again with two minutes gone in the third quarter, this time from 34 yards out and MHS was out of sight at 31-0.
Aresco made his second field goal in as many tries late in the third, this time from 34 yards and the Dragons took a 34-0 lead to the fourth.
E.O. Smith got on the board with 10 minutes left in the game when Ryan Kaeser hit A.J. Tejada on a 21-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to 34-6, but Middletown quickly responded with a 31-yard touchdown run by DeShaun Bradshaw (7 carries, 55 yards) with 6:45 to play.
Then, with mostly subs playing and the clock on running time due to the CCC 35-point margin rule, the Dragons added another TD on a 5-yard run by Abdul Perry (3 carries, 21 yards) and Aresco’s sixth consecutive PAT with 2:24 remaining.
James suffered what turned out to be a minor injury that kept him out of a series in the second quarter, but second string quarterback Trevor Getek filled in.
“Trevor did a very nice job,” said Morello, of his second-string QB who is also the holder for Aresco. “He gets it and helped us tonight.”