By Paul Augeri. Photos by Mirror correspondent Edison Byrd.
Michael Aresco says what he’s accomplished in his four years as Middletown High’s varsity kicker is no big deal. His coach, his teammates and his family know better.
His success is undeniable — two Connecticut high school records, a share of a third, and four school records. That’s awfully good for an athlete who decided at the last minute as a freshman to fill coach Sal Morello’s need for a kicker. So long, soccer career.
Aresco is aware of others’ appreciation of his ability, and while his contributions to the undefeated Blue Dragons are widely known, he’d meet that with a shrug.
“I’ve always been a shy kid, so that’s been one of my biggest challenges to get past, getting past those nerves of going out there and doing my job,” Aresco said during a recent interview. “That was probably the toughest part for me, getting comfortable when I first started to kick for the team.”
Aresco and the Blue Dragons are 9-0 and beginning the last phase of preparation for next Wednesday’s annual showdown against Windsor (9-0). This was no off-week for them after beating Platt last Friday. For four-year players like Aresco, they’ve never beat Windsor. Morello is 1-6 against the Warriors since he became Middletown’s coach.
“Down time? There is no down time,” Morello says. “We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of film to watch.”
The week did allow for some reflection on Aresco’s success. His 43-yard kick in the second half against Platt set the state record for most field goals in a career – and it would have been good from as least another five yards or more.
Celebration? Not a hint of self-acknowledgment. No look-at-what-I-did moment, not even a fist pump. Aresco picked up the tee and that was it — for him. His teammates moved in of course, for hugs, pats on the helmet and some handshakes.
Next thing you knew, Aresco was focused on preparing for the kickoff.
“Coach tells me all the time he can see that I’ve grown up in the past four years,” Aresco says. “I’m totally different from freshman year to senior year. It’s kind of cool to hear that.”
Morello considers Aresco “a weapon” that not many teams have – a player whose field-goal range easily lies in the 40s, can reach 50 or more, and regularly turns out unreturnable kickoffs.
Skimming through the Connecticut high school football record book shines a light on Aresco’s exploits.
- Most Field Goals, Career
Michael Aresco, 22, 2014-17
Austin Stefano, Wethersfield, 21, 2014-16
Also: Michael Morello, Middletown, 11, 1987-90
- Most Field Goals, Single Game
Roberto Inesta, St. Mary-Greenwich, 4, 1970
Michael Aresco, 4, 2016
- Longest Field Goal
Rico Brogna, Watertown, 54, 1987
Tyler Timion, Fermi, 54, 1987
Matt Paola, Pomperaug, 54, 2011
Rico Brogna, Watertown, 52, 1987
Charles Gallagher, Hartford Public, 52, 2006
Michael Aresco, 52, 2016
- Most Points Kicking, Single Game
Michael Aresco, 16 (4-for-4 FGs, 4-for-4 PATS), 2016
Brogna gave Middletown football fans a glimpse at his talent in 1986. A prolific three-sport athlete who went on to play Major League Baseball for nine seasons, Brogna, a quarterback who had a fantastic left arm and left leg, kicked a 48-yard field goal at Miller-Fillback Field. Middletown won that game.
Through opportunity and accuracy, Aresco has doubled Brogna’s career field-goal output, 22-11. Aresco has missed only four attempts in four years. He’s heard the name “Brogna” in conversation. Maybe one day Brogna will know the name “Aresco.”
Michael’s favorite moments? He has two — the 52-yarder last season at Farmington, part of a four field-goal game that also produced the single-game record for most points by a kicker; and his very first field goal attempt, a 31-yarder to cap the first drive of the first game of his first season.
Other thoughts as he and the Blue Dragons get ready for Windsor and, later, the 2017 playoffs:
On taking the field for that very first field goal attempt: “I feel like I wasn’t even thinking. I just went out there. I remember not even acknowledging that I was going out there, because I was so nervous inside.”
On dealing with nerves as a freshman kicker: “Just from playing on that team, I think we were ranked third in the state at the time, I feel like that was the most nerve-wracking part, (not) messing up on that team. But eventually as the season went along, getting my confidence up, I kind of lost the nerves a little bit.”
On his working relationship with his holders: “The first three years I had Trevor Getek, then Stone Belzo this year. The holder position, with Trevor and Stone, they have been phenomenal. How fast they put the ball down, the laces just right.”
On the synchronicity of blocking, snap, hold and kick: “It has to be perfect every time. If the snap’s off, the timing is all messed up.”
On practicing over time: “After my junior season I’ve really practiced every single day in the spring and summer to get ready for those college camps, to get ready for my senior season. That’s really when I started to practice religiously.”
On when he realized he could be a college kicker: “Probably after my junior year, that’s when I really felt I could actually go to college and kick.”
On his biggest on-field challenge: “Probably working from the hashes. You’re not always in the center of the field. I’ve had to work at kicking from the hashes and angling where I’m supposed to put the tee, and getting used to that.”
On what he’s thinking about before an attempt: “I try not to think of anything, just take a deep breath and have a clear mind. And then just kick it. Baseball, soccer, the sports does no matter. Don’t think of anything. Just do it.”
On contributing beyond kicking and punting: “There’s definitely been some times when I’ve had to make some athletic plays. The snap has gone over me sometimes, had to run back and then get the punt off. I’ve made a tackle only a couple of times, really. I remember junior year, I didn’t even have to make the tackle, something in me just decided to run that way and do it.”
On his booming kickoffs into the end zone: “(Teams) realize they have to go 80 yards if they’re going to score on us.”
On his accomplishments: “I think football in general, looking back on it when you get older, all the moments you have will stick with you and your teammates.”
On what it would mean to the team to beat Windsor: “I haven’t beaten Windsor all four years. Beating them would be huge. But we wouldn’t stop there.”