NEWINGTON - Over the past few weeks the message for the Newington football team hasnâ€™t changed - the Indians have to learn to close out games in the second half.
In five of its six games, Newington held the lead at the half and has only managed to come away with two wins while losing the last four.
â€śThatâ€™s the area of improvement we need to focus on,â€ť Indians head coach Jason Pace said.
But it doesnâ€™t get easier this week with ninth-ranked Middletown (6-0) coming to face Newington at home tonight. Newington delivered an upset last season 27-24.
The Blue Dragons have a high powered offensive attack led by dual-threat quarterback Stone Belzo, who has accounted for 14 total touchdowns - seven rushing and seven passing - to just one interception.
Under the first-year signal caller, Middletown has scored at least 40 points in its last three games, averaging 51 against Farmington, Bristol Central and E.O. Smith.
â€śHe can run the ball and pass the ball really well,â€ť Indians lineman Damon Stewart said. â€śMaking sure we keep him in the pocket or try to stop him whenever we can will be a big thing.â€ť
The Blue Dragons also have a talented running back in Xzavier Reyes, who averages 7.7 yards per carry and has rushed for nine touchdowns this season. Reyes and Belzo have led the way for a ground game that averages 236.2 rushing yards per game.
But as Stewart pointed out, Middletown also has the ability to throw the ball with DeAaaron Lawrence being the go-to receiver on the outside. Through six games, Lawrence has 322 yards and six scores.
The Blue Dragonsâ€™ defense, however, has proven to be just as effective. The unit has allowed just over 10 points per game.
â€śI think the defense is really the strength of their football team,â€ť Pace said. â€śThey havenâ€™t let up many points and with their schemes they mix in different coverages and pressures so itâ€™s difficult to predict what theyâ€™re going to do.â€ť
Middletown has a strong defensive line led by James Johnson and Derrick Vereen, who leads the team with 5Â˝ sacks.
The Blue Dragons defense gets a big boost as opposing offenses typically start at their 20-yard line due to the kicking ability of Michael Aresco.
Against E.O. Smith last week, Aresco tied a state record with four field goals made, including a 52-yarder with eight out of nine kickoffs resulted in touchbacks.
Newington will certainly be looking for another upset, it will just be a matter of if the team can keep itself in the game.
Dan Orencole can be reached atÂ 860-973-1811 orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @OrencoleDan