It took two years, but the football-shaped pendulum has swung back towards Middletown in their fiercely competitive rivalry with Wethersfield. The Blue Dragons erased the memory of two straight losses to the Eagles with a 34-3 victory last Friday night under a Harvest Moon at Middletown High School.
Middletown quarterback Tyshaun James was simply amazing, again---totaling four touchdowns, with three scores coming on the ground. The 6’4 senior has put the rest of the state on notice, amassing 609 yards and seven total touchdowns over the first two weeks of the season.
“It feels great to get the win. Not because we lost the last couple of years, but just because we got the win. That’s all that matters,” said James, “Our line and receivers helped out a lot today. They make my job a lot easier.”
It took a while for James and company to get into a rhythm, but the floodgates opened once they did.
James broke a scoreless tie with 2:22 left in the first quarter when he scored from 12-yards out. The duel threat signal caller darted left and tip-toed past the pylon, providing the Blue Dragons a lead they would not relinquish.
Middletown’s offense was held in check for the next dozen minutes before deploying their hurry-up offense after taking over at their own 36-yard line with under two minutes to play in the half.
James lured in the Wethersfield defenders with two short passes to Nico Cavaliere, pushing the team beyond midfield. Following a time out, James connected with Justin McMillian on a skinny post and the speedy senior broke a tackle before sprinting the rest of the way to complete a 47-yard pitch and catch.
“I saw the linebacker that was covering him walk up to blitz, so I knew once Justin got across the safety would be like 15 yards back and wouldn’t be able to get there in time,” James recalled, “Justin was quick enough and I hit him with it.”
The last-minute strike provided the Blue Dragons a 13-3 cushion at the break and killed some of the momentum that Wethersfield had gained in the second quarter.
The shorthanded Eagles, playing without star running back and linebacker Jamal Bagley, had cut the deficit in half when kicker Austin Stefano connected on a 28-yard field goal with 8:35 left in the second quarter. Stefano’s field goal was preceded by a pair of well-delivered deep passes from quarterback Tim Blaisdell, who connected on a 32-yarder to Stefano and a 35-yarder to Stevenson Paul.
The Eagles again threated to add more points on their following drive, but back-to-back sacks forced them out of scoring position.
“We were in field goal range, but we had a sack that took us out of field goal range. Then they had that quick score on us,” said Wethersfield head coach John Campanello, “I still thought we could come back because we were down at halftime last week, but to their credit they did a nice job and had a couple of big plays in the second half. Middletown is a good team and we knew they would be a challenge.”
The biggest difference in the contest was the battle in the trenches, which Middletown completely dominated. Wethersfield had only six yards rushing in the first half and the Blue Dragons sacked Blaisdell eight times in the game. Derrick Vereen tallied four of the sacks and James Johnson (2), Stone Belzo, and Camryn Wynn registered the other quarterback takedowns.
Middletown’s offensive line, led by captain guard Payton White, also did their part, protecting and paving the way for James, who finished with 160 yards on the ground.
James continued his ground attack in the second half, scoring his second rushing touchdown on a 67-yard dash to the end zone with 4:57 left in the third and another early in the final quarter when he scored from 15 yards out on a play that resembled the unstoppable Randall Cunningham QB-sweep from Super Tecmo Bowl.
“As a senior quarterback and a captain everyone is going to look at me,” he said when asked about his comfort level on the field, “My coaches have been helping me out a lot on things like staying in the pocket and being calm.”
Senior Abdul Perry finished off the game’s scoring when he blocked a punt and scooped up the ball as he crossed the goal line. Perry’s fantastic special teams’ effort ended any doubt of a third straight loss to Wethersfield.
The convincing win ended a two-year drought against Wethersfield. The Eagles won 24-19 a season ago and 14-0 the previous season, but prior to 2014 Middletown had owed Wethersfield, defeating them for three straight seasons from 2011-2013 by a combined score of 103-17.
Middletown (2-0) now travels to South Windsor to take on the upstart Bobcats on Friday, Sept 23. The Blue Dragons easily won last season’s contest 41-0, but South Windsor looks like a different team this season, winning their first two games. Rye Street Park in South Windsor is the venue for the battle of the unbeaten, kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
Wethersfield (1-1) returns to Cottone Field for a three-game home stand, beginning with Bristol Eastern this Friday at 7 p.m. The Eagles have won the last four in the series against the Lancers, including a 14-6 triumph last season.
The team’s veteran coaching staff is hoping that the young team can grow over the next three games and clean up some of the early-season errors.
“We are young and we’re making young people mistakes. Some of the inexperience and mistakes are hurting us, but hopefully we can decrease those mistake and get on the right track,” added Campanello, “I’m hoping we can move on from this game, learn from it and start talking about Bristol Eastern. Hopefully we can get into next week and start to build from there.”
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Sports Around Town
The Terriers volleyball team got off to a slow start, losing their first two contests, but rebounded to defeat Manchester last Wednesday. Senior Sam Brady dished up 16 assists and added seven kills in a straight-sets victory over Manchester. The team has a home date with Maloney this Friday, Sept 23 at 5:15 p.m.
Girls’ soccer won their home opener, shutting out Maloney 1-0 last Tuesday. Grace Moore tallied the game’s only goal and goalie Samantha Steinman thwarted every shot she faced. The Terriers also shutout Plainville 2-0 last Friday and welcome New Britain to Rocky Hill High School for an important game this Friday, Sept 23 at 3:45 p.m.
Football has a humongous home game this Friday, Sept 23rd against Bloomfield. Rocky Hill (2-0) has outscored their first two opponents by 68 points and Bloomfield (2-0) has outscored their first two opponents by 71 points. The game kicks off at 7 p.m.
Panthers’ volleyball has come out of the gates strong, winning three of their first four, including their first two over North Branford and Coginchaug Regional to start the season. Senior Okara Kramer tallied nine kills in each of the first two contests. Victoria Cholodecki had 11 kills and eight aces in a victory over Old Lyme. The team hosts Valley Regional on Thursday, Sept 22 at 5:30 p.m.
Football defeated SMSA/University/Classical 33-0, improving to 2-0. The Panthers have outscored their first two opponents 88-0 and now have a week to rest before traveling to Deep River where they will take on Valley Regional/Old Lyme on Friday, Sept 30. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.
The girls’ soccer team at Newington chalked up their first victory of the season last Tuesday, blanking Bristol Central 2-0 on the road. Senior Madison Lewicki and freshman Regan Pelton scored the two goals for the Indians.
Boys’ soccer started the season with two ties, breaking even with Middletown (0-0) and Bristol Central (2-2). Joey Terranova scored the equalizer in double overtime against Bristol Central. Next up is a home date against Platt, Friday Sept 23rd at 3:45 p.m.
The Eagles lost to the Blue Dragons in last Friday’s varsity football game, but the “Eaglets” defeated the “Baby Blue Hatchlings” 20-0 in the JV game last Saturday morning. Luke Kelleher scored a pair on touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) and Dominic DiMarco nabbed two interceptions in the victory. It was the team’s second shutout in as many games, also blanking Farmington 14-0 to open the season. Next up is Bristol Eastern, who comes to town Saturday, Sept 24 for a 10 p.m. kickoff.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin