Middletown quarterback (#4) Colin Skene is joined in the backfield by (#6) Maxim Ellis and (#9) Zy'kie Askew. Askew ran for a pair of scores as the Blue Dragons beat Wethersfield 18-13 last Friday.
Senior running back Zy’kie Askew ran for two touchdowns and the Blue Dragons defense added a pair of scores as Middletown beat Wethersfield 18-13 on a rain-soaked Cottone Field on Oct. 20.
Second-year head coach Josh Rosek liked how his team competed on a wet night in Wethersfield last Friday.
“One of the key things we try and focus on is being a gritty football team. That has been one of our main mottos since I took over,” said Rosek, “I tell the kids that sometimes it’s not going to be pretty. We’d like to execute a little bit better, but when it comes down to it you have to find a way to win the football game.”
The host Eagles struck first, using a 12-play drive on the game’s opening possession that culminated with an 18-yard touchdown run by quarterback Mikel Lleshi. The lengthy drive drained nearly half the time off the clock in the first quarter.
Facing an early deficit, Middletown began to turn the tide on special teams and defense.
Blue Dragons punter Anthony Nanfito placed consecutive punts inside the ten-yard line, both eventually turning into defensive scores as Middletown’s defense registered a safety following both boots.
The first two-pointer was caused by a hit by Tyree Scharborough, who jarred the ball loose from Lleshi before Wethersfield
recovered the fumble in their own end zone, resulting in a safety. Then with 11:34 to play in the first half, Maxim Ellis sacked Lleshi in the end zone, cutting the deficit to 7-4.
Rosek said his defense “settled down” and responded following Wethersfield's initial scoring march.
“We got back to the basics and I thought [the players] did the things that we talked about at practice,” added Rosek, who credited assistant coach Andy Mulh for the team excelling on special teams. “We take a lot of pride in special teams and they did a great job tonight. They have been awesome all year”
Askew scored on touchdown runs from 19 and 3 yards out in the second quarter, giving the road team an 18-7 lead at halftime.
Following a scoreless third quarter, Lleshi threw a 10-yard touchdown to Jova’n Hill with 6:17 to play in regulation.
Wethersfield’s defense then forced a three-and-out on the next possession, but — as the rain intensified — the home team’s last chance was foiled when they turned it over on downs near midfield with less than two minutes to play.
It was an extra special victory for Middletown, who avenged a heartbreaking loss to Wethersfield from last season when the Eagles blocked an extra-point to preserve a 7-6 victory in Middletown.
The loss dropped the Eagles to 0-6, yet head coach Matt McKinnon said the team has not lost their belief in one another.
“This group of guys have been going hard every single game and our record might not show it, but I’m proud of how hard they have been playing,” added McKinnon.
The Eagles have battled a tough schedule –– featuring three playoff teams from a season ago –– and an injury to junior captain Cam Righi, the team’s starting quarterback and strong safety who has missed the last three games.
“We have a month left to set a tone for the program going into the next season,” stated McKinnon. “They have so much heart, but we have to put it together for a whole game. I’m confident in them.”
For Middletown, it’s been a tale of two seasons this fall. After starting with three consecutive losses, the win at Wethersfield marked their third straight.
The streak started with a 12-7 win over Manchester on Oct. 6 before posting a convincing 34-7 over Conard as the Blue Dragons tallied a season-high in points behind Askew, who ran for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Senior quarterback Colin Skene also threw for a pair of touchdowns – both to Josh Ferguson – and ran for another.
“We had a tough stretch in the beginning, but the kids have come back and never wavered what we are trying to do here,” added Rosek, who led the team to a 6-4 record during his first season last fall. “We’re excited. We got three in a row and all we care about now is if we can get four in a row.”
Middletown aims to keep streak alive again at Newington High School when they play the Nor’easters (1-5) this Friday, Oct. 27. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
McKinnon’s squad looks to get on track the same night at Bristol Central, visiting the Rams (1-5) at 6 p.m.
“We need everybody doing their job every single game,” added McKinnon. “We just have to keep working, we just have to get it done.”
Wethersfield players look to the sidelines in the second half during a driving rain at Cottone Field on Oct. 20. The Eagles aim for their first win this Friday when they travel to Bristol Central.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin