Kicking Up A Storm

Unassumingly, Michael Aresco made his way into the record books and leaves a remarkable impression on the MHS football program.

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.”

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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.”

It Was Mike Aresco’s Night

Middletown High senior kicks way into state record book for career field goals

A really good kicker can elevate a high school football team from good to great, and that’s what Mike Aresco does for the Middletown Blue Dragons.

Aresco, a senior, hit a 43-yarder with ease late in the third quarter of Friday night’s 51-20 win over Platt. It was his 22nd career field goal, which set the Connecticut high school record. All along, fans of the program knew this night would come and underscores their belief that he’s the best kicker Middletown’s ever had and that his right leg is just getting warmed up for the next level.

Only Windsor stands between Middletown and a 10-0 regular season. The Blue Dragons and Warriors square off the night before Thanksgiving, Nov. 22, in Windsor.

Quick thoughts:

Can Middletown finally beat Windsor? Yes.

Windsor is undefeated as well. The Warriors have to beat Norwich Free Academy next weekend to create a 9-0 vs. 9-0 matchup.

Some believe at this point in time that the annual game determines whether Middletown has a good or a great season. The Blue Dragons haven’t beaten Windsor in Sal Morello’s time as coach.

But this could be the year you consider a fantastic kicking game and a very good defense supports the deep offense provided by Stone Belzo, Xzavier Reyes, DeAaron Lawrence, Tyreece Lumpkin and others.

Can Middletown win a state championship in Class L? Maybe.

It’s been a tough go in the playoffs for Middletown over the years. The Blue Dragons haven’t won a playoff game since 2013. The division in 2017 includes Windsor and undefeated teams Masuk and Fitch. One-loss teams New Canaan, Hand and Maloney are lurking.

This much is guaranteed: It will be fun watching how it all turns out.

 

Middletown Spreads The Wealth, And Farmington Pays

Offense, defense click all the way as unbeaten Blue Dragons roll to 41-0 win

By Paul Augeri, Editor-In-Chief

FARMINGTON — Middletown’s versatile offense moved the football however it chose to Saturday night. The running game was fierce. The passing game was dead-on. Ah, and the defense tucked away another shutout, too.

It was a most unpleasant 48 minutes for Farmington all the way around as Middletown’s ground game produced 207 yards and four touchdowns, quarterback Stone Belzo missed his receivers just twice, and the Blue Dragons’ defense scored as well in a 41-0 win over the Indians.

Middletown never let up its effort on either side of the ball. The outcome gave the Blue Dragons a 4-0 record as the season shifts to October and left coach Sal Morello to admit this: “We know we can play with anybody. It’s just a matter of going out and executing.”

“We have a ways to go, but I like the progression,” he said.

Xzavier Reyes and Tyreece Lumpkin rushed for two touchdowns apiece and Belzo had another terrific outing, finishing 7 of 9 passing for 112 yards, 36 of them with a touchdown toss to DeAaron Lawrence.

Middletown’s offensive line blasted holes in Farmington’s front throughout the game, and then Reyes punished them further with his bruising, drop-the-shoulder style of power running. He had 13 carries for 79 yards and stuck mostly to the middle of the field, where he ate up yards because they were there for the taking.

“Reyes ran hard. He’s doing his thing. Our ground game has been really good,” Morello said.

“I thought we were excellent up front. I watched film of Farmington coming in and they’re a scrappy bunch. They gave some good teams problems defensively, but we were able to handle any pressure they put on us, any blitzes. Our kids did a nice job executing the game plan. It was simple.”

Already holding a 7-0 lead Garrett Dandridge 48-yard interception return in the game’s opening minutes, the Dragons scored on their next three possessions to put the game away. Belzo found Lawrence on a post route for a 14-0 lead. On the next drive, Reyes and Nico Cavaliere split four touches to cover 55 yards, with Reyes going up the middle from five yards out to make it 21-0.

Middletown’s fourth score came out of a bam-bam-bam drive that lasted 10 plays and was marked by distribution of the ball. In no particular order, Reyes carried it four times; Belzo hit on all three pass attempts; he also ran it twice; and Dandridge had a carry. Reyes scored on a 1-yard rush.

“The thing I’m most happy about, and it has been a point of emphasis, is our passing game,” Morello said. “It’s not about throwing the ball 25 times for balance. We just want to be efficient. I think we’re just mixing it up and taking what the defensive is giving us.”

The thing about the Dragons’ 10-play drive is they pieced it together without utilizing Lumpkin, a dangerous option in his own right. The junior can turn a corner with his speed, and he’s shifty and sturdy enough to gain extra yards that don’t seem to be there at first.

Lumpkin scored on a 1-yard run on Middletown’s first possession of the second half. When Farmington fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, the Dragons started on the Indians’ 21-yard line and Lumpkin did the rest — runs of 5, 10 and 6 yards to cap the Dragons’ production.

“Tyreece is a forgotten guy,” Morello said. “He’s built low to the ground, he’s got great speed and he’s very elusive. It’s hard to get a clean hit on him. He never goes down on the first hit. He keeps his legs under him.”

Bristol Central (2-2) visits Skubel-Rosek Stadium next Friday. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.

“The CCC is well-balanced. Just look at the scores,” Morello said. “There are no freebies the rest of the way.”