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Highsmith a member of Middletown's royal family

Middletown — Dario Highsmith Jr. arrived at Middletown High School two years ago unaware that he was part of football royalty.

Highsmith's father, Dario Sr., and uncles Doug and Demont all led the Blue Dragons to state championships. Uncle Donald also played for Middletown's 1990 CIAC Class M runnerup team.

"It's (a name) that a lot of people know throughout Middletown," Dario Highsmith Jr. said. "My family has really made a big name. I really don't know much about it because they don't brag about it.

"No, really (I didn't know). They don't like to brag about what happened. They're really humble. I really didn't know how good they were until people started to tell me when I reached high school."

The latest Highsmith has added to the family lore and is making his own history for Middletown. Dario Highsmith Jr. has helped the Blue Dragons remain unbeaten as they head into this week's game at New London on Friday night.

The game will be streamed at www.theday.com.

Highsmith, a junior quarterback, has rushed for over 1,500 yards with 22 touchdowns this season for Middletown (8-0), ranked third in The Day's Top 10 state coaches' poll. He's also thrown for five touchdowns.

"He's like another coach on the field," Blue Dragons coach Sal Morello said. "If (his teammates) are not in the right spot, he'll let them know in a constructive way, but he'll let them know.

"It's always nice to have another coach out there."

Highsmith's father didn't quarterback Middletown. He was a running back (Uncle Doug was the quarterback). The two hooked up for a 5-yard touchdown in the 1987 Class MM state final. Dario also ran for a touchdown as the Blue Dragons trounced Bristol Central, 27-0.

Demont Highsmith ran for five touchdowns and paced the Blue Dragons past Berlin, 36-18, in the 1992 Class M final.

"(The Highsmith brothers) really had a lot to do with putting Middletown High football on the map," said Morello, himself a former Blue Dragon player.

Dario Highsmith Jr. began quarterbacking in eighth grade and felt the pressure to live up to his family's name when he got to high school.

"A lot of people said, 'Are you going to be like your father?,'" Highsmith said. "'Are you going to be like your uncle?' There's always those type of comments. … There's a lot of pressure that comes with the name."

Highsmith was forced into duty his freshman year when running back Jha'kur West was injured.

Morello decided to move quarterback Devon Carrillo to running back, and made Highsmith the quarterback.

"(I was) a little hesitant to put a 14-year-old in there, but I knew that this kid had the pedigree," Morello said. "You just know it. Some kids just have it, and he had it."

Highsmith completed 7 of 9 passes for 88 yards and a touchdown in his first start, a 29-12 win over Bristol Central.

"It was of the hardest things that I've done because everybody is a lot bigger than you," Highsmith said. "Everybody is a lot older than you, faster. You really have to play a little smarter."

Highsmith has come a long way since then and has been the offensive linchpin this season. He's been Middletown's best runner, and he's worked at becoming a better passer.

"The kid can run," Morello said. "He's not this lighting fast kid, but very elusive. It's hard to get a clean hit on him. But the thing I noticed from him right away is his football IQ. He understands the game. … Not only did his arm get stronger, he's just more confident where he's going with the ball, his reads and stuff like that.

"I say he's really a football guy."

He's a Highsmith, too.

n.griffen@theday.com

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