WINDSOR — Rob Fleeting has been coaching football at Windsor long enough to know a 21-point lead never feels quite good enough, especially if you build it right out of the chute.
The Warriors put Middletown at a three-touchdown disadvantage 7 minutes and 55 seconds into Friday night’s CCC Division II rivalry game, then held off a furious fourth-quarter threat by the Blue Dragons for a 35-21 victory at Jack O’Brien Stadium.
The win gave Windsor (7-3) its second straight division championship over Middletown.
“It’s always a good matchup. You can’t relax against those guys,” Fleeting said. “Me and Sal are very similar. We’re intense. All we preach to our kids is you can’t stop playing and you can’t stop fighting. You never promise a win, but you can promise how hard we’ll play. And that’s what we do, we keep playing hard.”
The win also pushed the Warriors into the eighth and final playoff spot in Class L ahead of Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day games still to be played.
“There’s still time on the clock for us,” Fleeting said. “As long as we’re alive, we’re alive.”
CCC Division II East Champions! pic.twitter.com/ISgwiQRtrr
— @WHSathletics (@WHSathleticsCT) November 27, 2019
Junior running back Bernard Lee nearly equaled his weight (220 pounds) in yards as he piled up 209 on the ground on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns.
“He’s something else,” Fleeting said.
Senior Primo Spears had a receiving touchdown and a 77-yard punt return for a score and quarterback Elijah Cromartie threw for 162 yards and ran for a touchdown.
Middletown finished with a 6-4 record after having qualified for the playoffs the previous seven seasons.
“Hey, you can’t spot them 21-0 in a big game,” coach Sal Morello said. “Credit to my kids, they battled, but you can’t walk out here and spot them 21 points. I don’t know if it was nerves, or a slow start for us, but then we settled down. We never quit and we had a chance.”
Middletown was behind 21-7 at the half and 28-14 after three quarters before making a serious run at the lead.
Sophomore Shaun Gaskins scored from two yards out two minutes into the fourth quarter and Matthew Aresco’s PAT made it a 28-21 game, and when the Blue Dragons’ defense held Windsor on downs at the 6-yard line with 5:34 remaining, the Warriors’ 21-0 lead seemed like yesterday.
But then came a crusher of a call that deep-sixed Middletown’s chance to tie the game at 28.
On first down at his own 11, Blue Dragons quarterback Chris Danas (18 of 40 for 250 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions) found Kristian Glemaud streaking over the middle, wide open. Glemaud beat a would-be tackler to the left sideline and appeared headed for a touchdown when he was pulled down at about the Windsor 5.
However, as Glemaud broke away, a Middletown coach was called for sideline interference by the side judge. The spot foul near midfield killed what would have been a 70-yard gain and, ultimately, the drive.
“Just frustrating to have a call like that,” Morello said. “I have no explanation for it. It set us back 40 yards.”
Middletown ended up failing to convert on fourth-and-5 from the 50. Windsor turned around and marched downfield, with Spears making a big fourth-down catch and Lee scoring on the next play, a 35-yard blast up the middle with 1:14 to go for the final margin.
Middletown lost two options on offense from the second quarter on after receivers Tyron Scharborough (lower left leg) and Josiah Albert (right knee) went off within three minutes of each other.
“The kids held up. They did the best they could,” Morello said. “No excuse, we were just shorthanded, and that’s the way it is.”
WINDSOR 35, MIDDLETOWN 21
Middletown 0 7 7 7—21
Windsor 21 0 7 7—35
W—Primo Spears 20 catch from Elijah Cromartie (Boden Gapko Kick)
W—Bernard Lee 1 run (Gapko Kick)
W—Spears 76 punt return (Gapko Kick)
M—Chris Danas 1 run (Matthew Aresco Kick)
M—Kristian Glemaud 54 pass from Danas (Aresco Kick)
W—Cromartie 5 run (Gapko Kick)
M—Shaun Gaskins 1 run (Aresco kick)
W—Lee 34 run (Gapko kick)
Records: W—7-3, 5-0; M—6-4, 4-1.