BRISTOL — Middletown relied heavily on its ground game to defeat a CCC opponent decisively for the second time in as many weeks.
The Blue Dragons rushed for all six of its touchdowns — two each by Tyreece Lumpkin and Xzavier Reyes — and the defense forced five turnovers in a 41-7 victory over Bristol Eastern Friday night at Alumni Field.
Middletown (2-0), playing the first of three consecutive road games, beat the Lancers for the eighth straight time. The teams have met every year since 2011. The Blue Dragons have won three by shutout and given up more than seven points just once.
Reyes broke the 100-yard mark again. A 1,000-yard rusher last season, the senior ran for 135 yards in Middletown’s season-opening win over Wethersfield and gained 130 against the Lancers.
“We have a lot of confidence in our offensive line, and our offense is built around our front,” coach Sal Morello said. “All 11 guys on offense are executing. There’s still work to be done, but this early in the season, the line is opening holes for some good running backs.”
The Lancers, who lost their opener 23-7 to E.O. Smith, fell to 0-2. They were missing their two best receivers, seniors Elijah Gagliardo and Jaden Laprise, because of injury.
“We knew Eastern could be missing some guys, but our focus this week was really on us,” Morello said, “and making improvements from week one.”
Middletown held Bristol Eastern to three and out on its two possessions before The Blue Dragons’ offense hit the gas.
Eastern punted and committed a personal foul for hitting the return man on the fair catch. The penalty set Middletown up at the Lancers’ 38-yard line, and on first down Lumpkin scampered through the middle and ate up all of those yards for the first score of the game.
After another Eastern punt, Reyes swept around left end on second down, turned the score and outran everyone en route to a 64-yard score and a 14-0 lead.
On the second play of the Lancers’ next possession, Kenny Fountain picked off Justin Marshall and returned it 41 yards to the 19. On fourth-and-21, Middletown went for it and quarterback Jonta’e Dempsey-Brown turned a broken play into a 30-yard scoring run.
“Man is he playing well,” Morello said.
Eastern’s next possession did not end well, either. Marshall was stripped of the ball from behind and Reyes recovered the fumble. Middletown did not turn it into points, but when Eastern’s next possession resulted in a botched snap of a punt and fumble at the 5, Middletown recovered and Reyes scored two plays later from a yard out. The Blue Dragons led 28-0 at halftime.
Lumpkin ran for a 4-yard touchdown with 7:45 left in the third quarter, but Matthew Aresco missed the PAT, making the score 34-0 and preventing a running clock to take effect. Aresco had been successful on his first four tries of the game and first nine of the season.
Morello was able to rest his starters spread in the fourth quarter and spread the playing time around.
Backup quarterback Chris Danas, who was under center for one possession in the first half, played most of the second half, and junior Khalil Shabazz scored on a 26-yard run with 2:45 left in the third quarter to put a wrap on Middletown’s offensive assault.
“Because of shortened preseason, at some point Danas has to get some work in,” Morello said. “Dempsey has been playing very well, but he plays both ways and I’ve got to keep Danas sharp.”
Lumpkin, who rushed for 120 yards in the opener, again flashed his versatility in the spread offense, rushing for 40 yards and catching four passes for 35 yards.
Last week, the Blue Dragons were penalized 11 times for 107 yards. On Friday, they kept the total down and only sabotaged themselves one time, when they committed two fouls at the tail end of their final possession of the first half.
“The only down side there is we were in a two-minute drill,” Morello said. “At least it will give me something to bark at ’em about when we look at the film.”
Bristol Eastern 7
Middletown21 7 13 0 — 41
Bristol Eastern0 0 0 7 — 7
M: Tyreece Lumpkin 38 run (Matthew Aresco kick)
M: Xzavier Reyes 64 run (Matthew Aresco kick)
M: Jonta’e Dempsey-Brown 30 run (Matthew Aresco kick)
M: Xzavier Reyes 1 run (Matthew Aresco kick)
M: Tyreece Lumpkin 4 run (kick failed)
M: Khalil Shabazz 26 run (Jack Kraeger kick)
BE: Dylan Garcia 23 run (Jack Bachand kick)
Records: Middletown 2-0, Bristol Eastern 0-2