MIDDLETOWN — It was billed as Middletown’s first test of the year. If so, it’s fair to say the Blue Dragons passed. Well, more than passed.
Playing in front of a crowd of 1,100 at Rosek-Skubel Stadium, Middletown handed Central Connecticut Conference foe Bristol Eastern its first loss of the young season, 40-0. Dario HIghsmith (12 carries, 116 Yards) scored three touchdowns and the Dragons’ defense registered its second consecutive shutout as MHS improved to 3-0.
“I’m much happier this week; happy with our effort,” said Middletown coach Sal Morello. “We played harder and we did a good job of eliminating the things that hurt us last week against Wethersfield. We had a great week of practice and the kids knew they had to play better and they did.”
Middletown, ranked fourth in the New Haven Register poll, scored the first time it touched the ball. The Dragons drove 61 yards in five plays with Yaamal Jackson (4-for-61 yards) scoring on a 29-yard run. A big play on the drive was a 30-yard completion from Highsmtih to Jacob Homar on third and 14.
An interception by Highsmith set up the next touchdown. On fourth down at the Middletown 30, Highsmith picked off Tom Curtin’s pass in the right flat and returned it 56 yards to the Bristol Eastern 20-yard line.
Four plays and a penalty against Eastern later, Highsmith scored from a yard out to give MHS a 14-0 lead after one.
Middletown scored on a big play in the second quarter as Sal Fazzino (10-for-45) took a pitch from Highsmith and ran 41 yards down the sideline for the touchdown. Van Uk’s third consecutive kick made it 21-0 at the half.
“I thought we moved the ball pretty well in the first half, but self-inflicted wounds hurt us,” said Eastern coach Mike Archangelo, whose team is 2-1. “We had them third and long a few times and they came up with big plays, or we committed penalties and turnovers.
“You can’t do that against a team like Middletown. And once we got down by three scores, we had to play catch-up and do things we might not otherwise do.”
The three-score deficit became four immediately in the second half.
On the first play from scrimmage of the half, Eastern’s Gerry Ouellette (11-for-64) was hit after a two yard gain and the ball popped high in the air. Middletown’s Isaiah King picked it off at the 28-yard line and returned it to the Eastern 10. Three plays later Highsmith scored from the 11-yard line for his second TD of the night. A bad snap on the point after led to a failed conversion run, but the Dragons were breezing 27-0.
After a three-and-out, Highsmith scored for the third time on an 84-yard jaunt and with Uk’s kick, MHS led 34-0 with 7:53 to go in the third.
“If Dario gets a crease, and our line did a nice job doing that for him, he can go 84 yards,” said Morello.
Middletown’s final score was a lineman’s dream come true. MHS drove from its 27 to the 4-yard line. On second down, Calvin Mackey fumbled, but lineman RaJahn Johnson picked up the ball at the four and ran it in for the touchdown.
“I thought we played great team defense tonight,” said Morello after his club held Eastern to 189 yards total offense. “Their No. 83 [receiver Kenny Smith] worried me. He’s a good player and we did a nice job on him.”
Smith caught four passes for just 36 yards. Overall Curtin was 8-for-24 for 58 yards.
“I thought we answered the test tonight,” said Morello. “Bristol Eastern will win its share of games this season.”
Middletown finished with 304 yards offense, 251 on the ground on 38 carries and 53 passing on a combined 3-for-6 effort by both Highsmith (1-for-3, 30 yards) and Austin Meeker (2-for-3, 23 yards)
Middletown plays at Fermi of Enfield Friday.