SIMSBURY — Middletown High’s football team is practically in the playoffs.
The Blue Dragons (9-1) all but clinched a CIAC Class L playoff berth with a 31-13 win over Simsbury in a Central Connecticut Conference interdivisional game played at Simsbury High Friday night. One or two things need to swing their way, but the odds are heavily in the Dragons’ favor.
Middletown turned in a dominating first half, holding Simsbury to a net of seven yards while racing to a 28-0 halftime lead. MHS led 31-0 in the fourth quarter before Simsbury scored two touchdowns against the MHS reserves. Most of Middletown’s starters played very little of the second half and quarterback Dario Highsmith (10 carries, 112 yards) didn’t play at all after intermission.
“I thought we played very well in the first half and I thought our defense was excellent,” said MHS coach Sal Morello. “We hadn’t seen their offense before and it’s important that we read the keys and stay disciplined and we did.
“Once we had the game secured, I didn’t care about the final score. That’s why I took everybody out. I wanted to get out of here with the win and no more injuries.”
Mission accomplished on both counts.
Middletown took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, turning a fumble into seven points. After Simsbury picked off an Austin Meeker pass — he split the quarterbacking duties with Highsmith and QB’d the entire second half — Simsbury’s Brad Helmkamp fumbled it right back at the Simsbury 27 yard line.
On first down, Highsmith ran the required 27 yards for the touchdown and with 6 minutes left, the Dragons were up by a touchdown. Eleven seconds later, they were up by two TDs.
On the ensuing kickoff, Middletown’s Hunter Belzo ripped the ball out of the returner’s arms at the 20 and raced into the end zone. With Van Uk’s kick, MHS led 14-0 after one.
But what pleased Morello the most this night was what happened on the Dragons’ next possession.
Middletown got the ball on its own 1-foot line and proceeded to drive 99 yards on 13 plays to score and take a 21-0 lead at 9:48 of the second quarter. The Dragons did it with a diversified attack as four different players carried the ball. The TD was scored by Yaamal Jackson on a 1-yard run.
“I loved that 99-yard drive,” said Morello. “A lot guys carried the ball, we threw it, too, and we scored. Loved it.”
Middletown took advantage of another Simsbury turnover to put the game out of reach with 1:12 left in the half. On fourth down, the snap sailed over punter Kyle Dougherty’s head and MHS recovered the ball on the Trojans’ 24-yard line. After an incomplete pass, Highsmith hit Jacob Homar on a 19-yard pass to the 5-yard line and on the next play, Sal Fazzino (10 carries, 56 yards) scored on a 4-yard touchdown run
“We did what we had to do tonight,” said Morello. “We took advantage of turnovers and the kids played very hard. Now we have time to rest and heal before we play Windsor [on Thanksgiving Eve].”
Middletown’s final score was a 27-yard field goal by Uk at the 7:03 mark of the third that gave MHS a 31-0 lead.
Simsbury got a touchdown on an 8-yard pass from Grasson Foster to Dougherty with 6:14 left in the game and another on a 48-yard run by Sam Collins with 3:16 left.
Middletown had 229 yards offense, mostly in the first half and mostly — 208 yards of it — on the ground. Simsbury finished with 142 yards offense, 87 of those coming on its two late touchdown drives against the Middletown reserves.
Simsbury fell to 2-7.
Note: This article originally stated Middletown had clinched a state playoff berth even though it technically has not, according to statistics provided by CIAC. This has been corrected to reflect this error.