SOUTH WINDSOR >> Middletown had a to work a bit for this one, but sparked by a strong second-half defensive effort and a 234-yard passing night by quarterback Tyshaun James, Middletown won a battle of Central Connecticut Conference unbeatens, 37-14 over South Windsor at Rye St. Park Friday night.
Middletown led 21-6 at the half, but a third quarter touchdown on a 20-yard pass to Connor Dunn from QB Connor Kapisak (11-for-29, 127 yards), cut the lead to 21-14. After a power failure suspended play for 20 minutes, Middletown dominated the rest of the way.
A 28-yard field goal by Mike Aresco, a 15-yard touchdown run by James — who ran for three scores and passed for two — and a 31-yard TD strike from James to Nico Cavaliere had the Blue Dragons (3-0) win going away.
“This was a good team win,” Middletown coach Sal Morello said. “We faced a little adversity and maybe in years past, this might have been one that slipped away. We made a great stand when the lights came back on, then went on a drive to get a field goal that was huge.”
The defensive stand Morello mentioned came after a decision that almost came back to bite the coach.
After the TD and two-point conversion cut the lead to a touchdown, South Windsor kicked the ball out of bounds. Morello refused the penalty and made South Windsor kick again instead of taking the ball at his 35.
That didn’t work as Deshaun Bradshaw fumbled the kick and South Windsor recovered at the MHS 30-yard line. Two plays picked up 15 yards, but on first down at the MIddletown 15, Kapisak was sacked for a 10-yard loss — Middletown sacked him four times, all in the second half — back to the 25.
“They didn’t want to kick to us, so I just figured that if I moved them back five yards, they might have to,” Morello said. “I didn’t figure on the fumble.”
That’s when the lights failed.
“Actually that helped us,” Morello said. “It gave us a little time to regroup and after that we played very well on both sides of the ball.”
South Windsor proceeded to go backwards for nine yards on another sack and a penalty and punted to the MHS 15-yard line.
The Dragons drove the length of the field, but lost a 9-yard touchdown by James on a holding call. The drive stalled at the 9-yard line, but Aresco’s field goal widened the lead to 24-14.
South Windsor (2-1) went nowhere and made an interesting decision to go for it on fourth and two from its own 33-yard line. The pass was incomplete and Middletown made the Bobcats pay when James scored from 15-yards out with 8:17 left to give MHS a 31-14 lead.
The subsequent South Windsor drive stalled with MHS taking over on downs at the South Windsor 28. On fourth down, James hit Cavaliere from 31 yards out down the far sideline for the 37-14 win.
“South Windsor is a good football team,” Morello said. “Bet they win seven, eight games. They fought very hard. But we made some big plays when we had to make them. A couple of penalties hurt. One might have cost us a touchdown on our opening drive, and another hold took away a James score, but we got the field goal.
“Then DeAaron [Lawrence, 5 catches, 53 yards) just dropped what was a sure TD in the first half, but that happens. He has the best hands on the team. Just happens.”
South Windsor scored first on a 5-yard run by Julian Ibes and Middletown answered with a 2-yard run by James and with Aresco’s kick led 7-6 after one.
The Dragons put two TDs on the board in the second quarter, one on another 2-yard run by James and a 59-yard bomb from James to Justin McMillian with 2:36 left in the first half.
Middletown finished with 390 yards offense and got good performances from Bradshaw (10 carries, 69 yards) and Stone Belzo, who had 24 yards on just four carries. James finished with 16 completions in 28 tries. He ran the ball 20 times for 66 yards.
McMillian caught two passes for 81 yards and C.J. Sprowl had 6 catches for 42 yards. South Windsor’s Dunn had five receptions for 65 yards.
Middletown’s defense held South Windsor to 177 yards, just 50 on the ground in 30 carries and 72 total in the second half. The Bobcats could manage just 22 yards after the lights went out.
Middletown is at Hartford Public at Dillon Stadium Friday at 7 p.m.