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The Blue Raiders made the playoffs last year, but they want more as 2016 season is set to kick off

Middletown football 2Photo by Scot Smith -- The Middletown Blue Raiders are ready to make the playoffs again in 2016.

The Middletown Blue Raiders earned a spot in the District III playoffs last fall after posting a 7-3 regular-season record that included a thrilling 25-22 victory over unbeaten Camp Hill in their final home game and a pair of one-point losses to Milton Hershey and Steelton-Highspire.

And, even though their season ended in their post-season clash at East Pennsboro, the Raiders were probably a step ahead of where they thought they would be at that point of a rebuilding process that started when Brett Myers was hired as head coach in 2013.

It is 2016, and Myers wants to take another step forward with a division title on his wish list along with further advancement into district competition.

With 24 seniors and 17 juniors on this year’s squad, Myers and his staff have reason to be optimistic. There is a lot of varsity game experience that the upper classmen bring to the table.

“We have two 1,000-yard rushers to lead the offense and the athletes to make big plays. And a good defense, led by Hunter Landis and Corbin Stetler,” Myers said.

On offense, the team boasts a pair of returning 1,000-yard rushers in senior Jaelen Thompson and junior Brady Fox. The pair accounted for more than 2,260 yards and 31 touchdowns last fall.

image016Photo by Bill Darrah -- Brady Fox finds the hole for first down yardage vs. Lampeter-Strasburg on Friday. The junior was a 1,000-yard rusher last year.

Senior Chase Snavely, last year’s starter as a junior, returns to direct the offense from his quarterback spot. The offense will be a bit diverse with rushes out of different sets and a short-yardage passing attack that will be used to get the ball into the hands of the running backs and any one of a group of athletic receivers.

The offensive line returns four starters from last year in seniors Tommy Staker (5 feet 9 inches, 235 pounds) Trey Michal (6’2, 280), Griffin Radabaugh (5’10, 220) and Ethan Newton (6’2, 250), who has moved from guard to center. Junior Brendan Douglass (6’3, 270) is in the mix at tackle. Other senior linemen candidates include Dustin Holliman, Bob Graham, Josh Brown and Haden Landis.

Joining Thompson and Fox in the backfield group are seniors Corbin Stetler, Hunter Landis and Abel Botterbusch, and juniors Tre Leach and Blake Jacoby.

Leading tight ends are seniors Tristan Maxwell (6’3, 220) and Malik Noon (6’2, 210). The receiving corps includes a number of seniors as well in Dylan Andree, Laron Woody, Trey Lebo, Edwin Figueroa, Wyatt Smith and Brandon Miller. Also in the mix are the athletic Tyreer Mills a junior who is also a backup quarterback and tall, versatile juniors Chris Plummer (6’3) and Ryan Hughes (6’4), along with Aaron McDevitt.

The defense will be led by middle linebacker Hunter Landis (6’1, 210), Stetler and Leach at the safety and corner spots, Maxwell at defensive end and a mix of linemen at the tackle slots. Graham (5’10, 210), Haden Landis (6’1, 200) and Radabaugh lead the way on the defensive front.

Mills will start at one of the cornerback positions while Holliman, Jacoby and senior Justin Mayersky will see plenty of action at linebacker. Another senior, Jonan McCoy, a first-year player, is getting reps at cornerback along with Plummer and Thompson.

The Blue Raiders dominated a pair of scrimmages against Hershey and Lampeter-Strasburg. The games offered up mostly positive results for the coaches to use in evaluating the team’s strengths.

The Raiders will get tested right away as they face long-time, backyard rival Lower Dauphin on Friday night to kick off the season.

“It was a hot night for our second scrimmage and we went a bit long, but with our first game at Lower Dauphin coming up I wanted to make sure the kids could handle the heat,” Myers said.

The Raiders again will compete in the Capital Division of the Mid Penn Conference along with Boiling Springs, Camp Hill, East Pennsboro, Milton Hershey, Palmyra, Steelton-Highspire and Trinity.

With the increase in school classifications to six classes based on enrollments this year, Middletown is listed as a 3A program. And because of the changes only four teams in 3A, 2A and 1A will qualify for District III postseason play in 2016.  

2016 Football schedule
9/2    Lower Dauphin    A    7 p.m.
9/9    Northern    H    7 p.m.
9/16       West Perry Senior     A    7 p.m.
9/23    East Pennsboro Area     H    7 p.m.
9/30    Trinity     A    7 p.m.
10/7    Palmyra Area     H    7 p.m.
10/14    Camp Hill     A    7 p.m.
10/22    Boiling Springs      H    2 p.m.
10/28    Milton Hershey     A    7 p.m.
11/4    Steel-High    H    7 p.m.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 31 August 2016 15:26

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COUNTING DOWN TO KICKOFF: Middletown scrimmaged Saturday at Hershey as season opener looms Sept. 2 vs. Lower Dauphin

Corbin Stetler and Griffen RadabaughPhoto by Jodi Ocker -- Corbin Stetler, Griffen Radabaugh and others make a tackle.

Tre Leach and Jaelen Thompson tonedPhoto by Jodi Ocker -- Tre Leach and Jaelen Thompson defend a pass.

IMG 4122 Photo by Scot Smith -- Senior Griffen Radabaugh makes a tackle. Middletown scored four times to once for Hershey to win the scrimmage.

Brady FoxPhoto by Jodi Ocker -- Brady Fox takes a handoff in action on Saturday.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 August 2016 17:51

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Steelers cut Middletown grad Johnson

BrandonJohnson 2 Sept2011PJPress And Journal File Photo -- Middletown’s Brandon Johnson goes in for a tackle in a game in September 2011. He was cut by the Steelers this week.

The Pittsburgh Steelers cut former Middletown Blue Raiders standout Brandon Johnson this week.

After his high school career, the running back saw limited playing time during his career at Penn State.

He was signed June 24. The Steelers are in training camp in Latrobe.

PennLive/The Patriot-News reported that Johnson struggled in the Steelers’ backs vs. ‘backers drill on the first day of practice in pads Sunday.

Johnson’s high school career was negatively affected by serious injuries in both his sophomore and junior seasons. Just prior to the start of his sophomore season in 2008, Johnson suffered a broken leg. And in the early part of team camp in 2009 he was dealt another blow when he tore his ACL.

He joined the Nittany Lions as a walk-on in midseason 2013. As a contributor to the scout team, he learned the system and then appeared in the final game of the season with the kickoff coverage unit in Penn State’s 31-24 win over Wisconsin. As a junior in 2014, he appeared in six games, mainly on kickoff teams, in wins over the University of Massachusetts, Indiana and Temple and in games against Ohio State, Maryland and Michigan State. He never broke into the starting offensive lineup during his senior year in 2015, playing in 12 games on special teams.

At Penn State’s Pro Day, he impressed scouts by turning in a 4.43 second 40-yard dash and a 39-inch vertical leap.

Johnson is the son of Reginald Johnson and Michelle Thomas.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 August 2016 09:37

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Volunteering is a first for MAHS squad

edited group picTwenty-one members of the Middletown Area High School boys soccer team volunteered their time on July 27 to do community service at the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank on Corey Road in Harrisburg. Above, front row, are Joey Spear, Garrett Miller, Zeryab Ibrahim, Cole Golden, Billy Cleland and Tyrelle Gallatin. Second row, Jaden Miller, Conner Golden, Jacob Idowu, Tommy Lee, Daniel Rodriguez, Jacob Spear and coach Larry Kapenstein. Back row: Dane Ebersole, A.J. Fischer, Thomas Einolf, Donovan Brady, Nate Nelson, Hunter Martnishn, Garibaldi Mensah and Ben Knisely. Not pictured is Kyle Landis.

The Middletown Area High School boys soccer team put aside corner kicks and headers for a more important goal on July 27.

Twenty-one players who are trying out for the team visited the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank on Corey Road in Harrisburg to help out with food processing.

Coach Larry Kapenstein said it was the first time the team has done something like thison such a large scale. They spent three hours there, mostly bagging squash and zucchini.

Kapenstein said he had heard good things from someone who did community service there and he felt it would be a great fit for the team.

“I do a lot of volunteer work myself. It’s a good feeling. It’s good for young people to learn about things like that,” he said.

He said it was great bonding for the team as well as a way to help those who are less fortunate.

“What was nice was that it wasn’t just underclassman who came out. Seniors were there, too,” he said. “They acted as role models for the younger guys.”

Zeryab Ibrahim will be a junior when the school year starts. He played for the junior varsity last year. He has done other volunteer work, including for the Capital Area Therapeutic Riding Association and on a start-up farm.

He said he liked the idea of feeding people who don’t have the means to feed themselves.

“Physically being there, you can tell it’s a lot of food, and it’s going to help people,” he said.
He said he and the rest of the team had fun, but they still understood the meaning behind the service.

“We kind of made it a competition, seeing who could get the most done the quickest,” he said. “It was a lot of fun and a good way to give back to the community.”

He said they handled about 5,000 pounds of squash.

Chris Gray, volunteer food drive manager for the food bank, said quite a few schools have teams who do volunteer work.

“It was a huge, huge help for us, having such a large amount of kids for us here to bang out such a large amount of work in a short amount of time,” he said of the Middletown visitors.
“A lot of the youth don’t have any idea that there is such a need in their own backyard pertaining to hunger,” he said.

Gray said he remembers specifically about the Middletown students that, even though “for a lot of youth, their attention span is two minutes, they were very engaged.”

“It was a breath of fresh air to have such a good group,” he said.

Kapenstein said he was proud of how hard the team worked.

“They didn’t even look at their cellphone for all three hours,” he said. “They actually paid attention to what they were doing.”

He wants to continue such volunteerism at least once a year if not twice.

This team has great enthusiasm, he said. During summer workouts three times a week, they have averaged 24 participants. About 50 players are trying out overall.

“In other years, you struggled to get seven, eight, nine kids out” for summer workouts, he said.

The official preseason starts Aug. 15 with tryouts. At the end of that week, the varsity and junior varsity teams will be set. The season starts Sept. 2 with a home game vs. Harrisburg. Prior to that, they will have scrimmages on Aug. 23 and Aug. 30.

Boys Varsity
                V    JV
08/23* Susquehannock    H    4:00 pm    4:00 pm
          Tri-Scrimmage Susquehannock & Shippensburg
08/30*  Penn Manor    A    4:00 pm    4:00 pm
09/02       Harrisburg                     H     10:00 am   11:30 am
09/06       Trinity     A    6:30 pm    5:00 pm
09/08       East Pennsboro      H    7:00 pm    5:30 pm
09/10       Bishop McDevitt           A     10:00 am   11:30 am
09/13       West Perry    H    7:00 pm    5:30 pm
09/15       Camp Hill     A    6:30 pm    5:30 pm
09/19       Big Spring    H    7:00 pm    5:30 pm
09/20       Milton Hershey     A    4:00 pm    5:30 pm
09/22       Susquehanna Twp.     H    6:30 pm    5:30 pm
09/24       Trinity                            H    10:00 am   11:30 am
09/27       East Pennsboro     A    6:30 pm    5:00 pm
09/29       Bishop McDevitt    H    7:00 pm    5:30 pm
10/01       James Buchanan           A     11:30 am   10:00 am
10/04   West Perry Senior     A    7:00 pm    5:30 pm
10/06       Camp Hill     H    7:00 pm    5:00 pm
10/11       Milton Hershey     H    7:00 pm    5:30 pm
10/13       Susquehanna Twp.     A    4:00 pm    5:00 pm
10/15       Red Land                       A     10:00 am      --
 * Scrimmage

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 August 2016 16:29

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