In what was billed as the toughest test of the season thus far for both Windsor and Middletown, Windsor's dominance of the line of scrimmage on both ides of the ball turned the game into a one-sided affair. Windsor escaped the CCC Division II West showdown, beating Middletown 41-13, and keeping their unblemished record intact.
The victory for undefeated Windsor – fueled by three touchdowns by Aaron Berardino and two by Kymm Gordon – broke the three-way tie with Farmington and Middletown atop the division, each entering Week No. 6 at 2-0. Farmington’s 41-0 win Friday over Bristol Eastern sets up another battle for first place on Oct. 28 when the Warriors (6-0) play at Farmington (6-0). Both will enter with 3-0 records in the division.
Middletown (4-2, 2-1) was intent on keeping the three-way race intact until deep into the second quarter. That’s when Berardino’s second touchdown of the game, a 75-yard reception from Quinn Fleeting, turned a seven-point deficit for the Blue Dragons into a 21-7 cushion for Windsor.
Berardino, a senior receiver and return specialist, wrapped-up his scoring spree when his 85-yard reception gave the Warriors a 28-7 lead midway through the third quarter. Senior running back Gordon scored on rushes of 9 and 41 yards, and senior Tre Coyle ended Windsor’s scoring with a 55-yard interception return midway through the fourth quarter.
It was big plays that did in Middletown. Blue Dragons’ coach Sal Morello feared Windsor’s big-strike capability entering the game, and that’s what Berardino delivered – three times. Each play was more exciting than the other.
“He’s a special player,” Morello said. “It was [7-6 Middletown], we had the momentum. We didn’t want to kick the ball to him but that happens. It was a mistake. When you make mistakes, a kid like that can make you pay.”
“Aaron’s the best receiver in the state,” said Warriors’ coach Rob Fleeting. “He makes my job easy.”
Berardino answered Middletown’s go-ahead touchdown late in the first quarter for a 7-6 lead with an 85-yard return for a touchdown on the Blue Dragons’ kickoff, his third kick return (two kickoffs, one punt) of th season. Ryheime Moore’s run for a two-point conversion made it 14-7 for the Warriors.
On Windsor’s first possession of the second half, Berardino scored on an 85-yard reception, catching the ball near midfield, then racing past and around defenders that at first appeared in position to make the tackle.
The combination of Berardino’s natural ability, acceleration, then speed in the open field – along with his elusive moves – left Middletown’s defense with no answers.
Windsor’s defense, which is allowing 6.7 points per game, continued its trend of setting up the Warriors’ offense with good field position and more possessions than the opposition. And Windsor’s offense, under the leadership of Fleeting, a junior, has taken advantage of those opportunities.
But it was Middletown’s offense that kept bogging down against the Warriors’ defense and their superior size. Blue Dragons’ running back Jha’kur West, highly effective as Middletown was averaging 44.0 points per game entering Friday, could not escape for any damaging runs.
“We were definitely on the edge at the beginning,” Fleeting said. “We needed to settle down in the first quarter. Both teams made mistakes, but we capitalized more than they did. Our defense did a good job of letting our offense play with comfort. We’ve done that week in and week out. We’ve got some kids who can really play on defense.”
The most impressive player on this night was Berardino. His first score, on the kickoff return, featured him jogging at first as he read how the Middletown kickoff team was pursuing him. Once he made up his mind, he cut to the left, made a quick move, then was gone. On the 75-yard reception that gave Windsor a two-score lead, he broke clear near midfield, then eluded defenders with fancy moves and more speed. His 85-yard reception used speed and deception as well.
“That’s a fast team,” Morello said. “Oh my gosh. They can make you look bad on big plays. They’re big up front and athletic. They get you. They have special players. We didn’t lose for lack of effort. Sometimes you have to tip your hat to a team that is better. They are at this point.”
Among the nine undefeated teams in Class L, Windsor maintains the highest rating and holds the No. 1 seed for the race for the CIAC playoff berths. Farmington is No. 7. Following the Farmington game on Oct. 28, Windsor will have three more games left in the regular season.