WINDSOR >> Middletown coach Sal Morello thought this was going to be a close game. Windsor coach Rob Fleeting thought it would be a close game.
Morello and Fleeting were wrong.
Windsor, playing what Fleeting said was his team’s best game of the season by far, hammered Middletown 48-7 in front of 2,000 at Jack O’Brien Field at Windsor High School Wednesday evening.
“The kids did a great job in preparation,” Morello said. “I liked where we were coming in, I liked our game plan. I didn’t see this coming. We couldn’t go wide, we couldn’t go up the middle, we couldn’t pass and we couldn’t stop them.
“What was disappointing was that they smacked us early and we didn’t respond.”
Part of that smacking was Windsor quarterback Jakhari Grant who picked apart the Middletown secondary — a team strength, Morello believed.
Grant was 7-for-8 for 146 yards, good for four touchdowns, including three to Tyler Coyle. In fact, Grant completed the eighth pass to a Middletown defender so not one of his passes hit the ground.
Windsor (10-0), which has won 22 straight, also stopped Middletown’s offense cold. The Blue Dragons had only 178 yards — 112 yards on the ground on 37 carries, while quarterback Tyshaun James had only 65 yards passing on a 7-for-18 night. James, Middletown’s leading rusher with 76 yards on 17 carries, was sacked three times.
Fleeting was hard-pressed to explain how the game was so one-sided.
“Some things broke our way today,” Fleeting said. “Definitely this is the best we’ve played all year. But I don’t know why it was the kind of game it turned out to be. Middletown has a great program and that’s a very good team. But this kind of game can happen to anybody.
“While I am surprised at the outcome, I’m very proud of my team. They came ready to play tonight and things worked out pretty well for us.”
None of the things Morello said needed to happen did. Prior to the game he said he believed field position would be critical and right off the bat, kickoff returner Tywan Scharborough slipped and fell on the opening kickoff at his own 16-yard line.
While MHS got a first down, it was forced to punt from its 26 and while Evan Chicoine got off a decent 38-yard punt, that gave the Warriors a first down at its own 36 yard line.
The winners drove 64 yards in nine plays, overcoming an 11-yard loss on a bad snap, to score on a 39-yard pass from Grant to Coyle. With Eric Foster’s kick, Windsor took a 7-0 lead with 5:48 left in the first quarter.
Another key to the game, Morello felt, would be turnovers. Middletown lost that battle 3-1 and they were killers.
On its possession after the touchdown, the Blue Dragons moved from their own 31 to the Windsor 43, and converted a fourth-and-two on a direct snap to Hunter Belzo for the first down. But on the next play, Belzo fumbled giving Windsor excellent field position at the Windsor 47.
Again Windsor brushed aside an 8-yard loss and six plays later scored on a 6-yard run by Bennie Fulse (8 carries, 118 yards) and with a two-point conversion run by Fulse, led 15-0 with 11:23 to play in the first half.
Things got worse quickly for Middletown (8-2).
After a three-and-out and a short 30-yard punt by Chicoine from his own 13-yard line, Windsor got the ball at the MHS 43 and six plays later the Grant-to-Coyle tandem hooked up for a 2-yard TD pass and Windsor was cruising 21-0.
Middletown made a bid to get on the board late in the half when Hunter Belzo intercepted Grant’s pass and returned it to the Windsor 13. But after two runs by Belzo lost a yard, James was intercepted by Jordan Knight, who returned it to the Middletown 40-yard line. A personal foul call against the Dragons was tacked onto the return and Windsor had the ball at the MHS 25.
Two plays later Grant and Coyle teamed up again and with 20 seconds left in the half, Windsor was in command 27-0.
“We had a chance to get back in right there,” Morello said. “It would have given us something to build on at the half.”
Windsor ran exactly four plays in the entire third quarter — and scored on three of them. The first was a 67-yard run by Fulse at 10:59, The second was a 69-yard run by Tim Gardner with 8:10 showing, and the third — which came after a 14-yard touchdown run by James, was a 55-yard bomb from Grant to Isaiah Huff.
The Middletown defender actually made a good play on the ball, batting it out of Huff’s hands, but the carom went high in the air and Huff caught it a second time and ran the final 10 yards for the TD.
MHS lost a chance for a cosmetic TD late when Belzo fumbled on first and goal at the Windsor 1-yard line.
“They were bigger, stronger and faster and the better team won,” said Morello. “Are they 41 points better than us? I don’t think so, but they sure were better tonight.”
Middletown lineman Zalan Mumtaz suffered a neck injury and was removed on a stretcher and taken to the hospital. His condition is unknown.
Middletown is still alive for a Class L playoff berth, but needs to have games go its way today to clinch a spot.
Windsor clinched a home playoff game with the win Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.