HARTFORD >> If ever there was a game in which the final score says nothing about the kind of game it was, then the Middletown at Hartford Public game Friday night is it.
The final score was 51-40. Ignore it. Here’s why.
The game was a mismatch. Middletown thoroughly outclassed Public and with a 51-12 lead with 11 minutes to go, Blue Dragons coach Sal Morello called off the dogs and sent in his junior varsity. Hartford Public coach Harry Bellucci ignored the gesture, left his first-stringers in, called onside kicks after his team scored and even called time outs when Morello instructed his quarterback to take knees.
Morello was furious.
“I try to be nice,” he said. “So what do they get from running up scores against my jayvees? I try to do the right thing and all I get is risking getting a young kid hurt because he’s left his varsity in. And if I put my starters back in and they get hurt in a game we’ve already won, then what? They are calling times out when we’re taking knees?
To have an idea how thoroughly Middletown dominated this game, consider these numbers. In the first half, at which MHS led 37-12, Public had exactly minus eight yards rushing. Middletown had 323.
When Austin Meeker scored on an 11-yard run with 11:48 left in the game giving the Blue Dragons a 51-12 lead, MHS had 401 yards in offense to Public’s 192.
“For the first three quarters when the varsity was in, we played well,” said Morello. “We’ve got to tighten some things up, but all the things we didn’t do right are correctable. Dario [Highsmith, 19 carries, 170 yards, a rushing touchdown and a 53-yard touchdown pass to Gene Footman] is getting back in form and Isaiah [Thompkins] was very good on offense and defense.”
Thompkins carried the ball nine times for 79 yards, scored two touchdowns and intercepted a pass.
Bellucci admitted his team was no match for Middletown, but also defended his actions that infuriated Morello.
“I understand Sal’s point, but I’m trying to coach my football team,” he said. “We need to have our kids to play so we can play at the level that a team like Middletown plays, which we are not capable of now. We got pushed around for most of the game and we just wanted to push back.”
Middletown (4-1) scored on its first possession, driving 71 yards six plays with Thompkins scoring from four yards out. The Dragons took advantage of a bad snap on a Public punt to score a field goal when Mike Aresco hit from 20 yards out to build the lead to 10-0 with 6:44 left in the first.
The Blue Dragons took a 17-0 lead at 7:51 of the first on a 3-yard run by Calvin Mackay and after Public got on the board with a 5-yard run by Raymond Colon,
Middletown immediately answered with the aforementioned 53-yard bomb from Highsmith to Footman.
Three plays later, defensive lineman Lesandro Ramirez stripped the ball from a Public runner and returned it 29 yards to give MHS a 30-6 lead.
Public (2-3) scored on a 47-yard pass from Shamar Richards to Tyereque Rodriguez with 3:21 left, but the Dragons zipped down the field for another score, an 11-yard run by Highsmith with 1:44 left in the half. That score was set up by a 55-yard run by Highsmith.
Middletown got a 1-yard touchdown run from Thompkins with 7:33 to go in the third quarter, a run that capped a six-play, 44-yard drive. The interception by
Thompkins set up the final MHS score on Meeker’s run.
Then the nonsense began as Public scored four touchdowns as Morello cleared his bench.
“I was very happy with our offensive line tonight,” said Morello. “They are improving and playing much better.”
Middletown is home with Bristol Central Friday at 7 p.m. in its annual Homecoming game.