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GALLERY: Blue Raiders football parade

Fans honored the 2016 Middletown Blue Raiders football team on Friday with a parade downtown. Participating in the parade were Blue Wave Marching Band, cheerleaders, football players and coaches. The Middletown and Lower Swatara police and fire departments provided the escorts. The Blue Raiders lost the 3A state championship game on Saturday, Dec. 10, to Beaver Falls. But the team advanced farther than any had previously. They ended up 14-1 on the season, and most of their games were not close contests.


Photos by Jodi Ocker and Don Graham

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Last Updated on Thursday, 22 December 2016 10:09

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A SPECIAL TOUCHDOWN: Boy with cerebral palsy scores, inspires coaches of opposing team to continue with youth sports

TouchDownDustin Whitaker pushes his brother Ethan for a touchdown during the Middletown Peewee game vs. Steelton on Oct. 15. Ethan is a huge supporter of his brother’s football team.


The 2016 Middletown Youth Football Club Awards banquet was held Dec. 4 at the Sheraton Harrisburg Hershey Hotel on Lindle Road, honoring Peewee, Pony, Smurf and Midget football players for their achievements on the field. 

But it was 9-year-old Ethan Whitaker, whose 10-year-old brother Dustin plays on the offensive line for the Peewee team, who easily garnered the most attention that day, with a plaque presented to him by an opposing team.

What happened with Ethan during his brother’s last game of the season even inspired two opposing coaches to continue their roles in youth football.

web2 Lynn Briner Larry Totten Charles Willis Brent Walko Dustin Whitaker and Ethan WhitakerLynn Briner, Larry Totten, Charles Willis and Brent Walko stand behind Ethan and Dustin Whitaker after the Middletown football banquet on Dec. 4.

Because of a brain injury as an infant, Ethan will never be able to play football. It has left him with a form of cerebral palsy. He has a wheelchair or uses a walker,” according to Ethan’s grandmother, Lynn Briner.

Ethan attends Reid Elementary School. His condition hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the biggest fans of the team, cheering from the sidelines. 

“If Coach Walko is shouting at the kids on the field, Ethan is shouting right along with him,” Briner said.

“Ethan has always been a great inspiration to our team, always keeping us in line, and is one of our biggest cheerleaders, on the sidelines, during practice and games,” Peewee coach Brent Walko said. 

At their last game of the season Oct. 15 against rival Steelton, as a salute to Ethan and his never-ending love of football and his team, Walko had a spur-of-the-moment idea: to let Ethan score a touchdown in the last minute of the game. 

“He always wanted to play catch and everything,” Walko said, “and I thought it would be one of the best ways to get him into the game, and what better one than our Parents Day.” 

Ethan’s grandmother was surprised. 

“Brent came to me and said, ‘I want to do something for Ethan,’” Briner says. “So Brent went to the Steelton coach and he didn’t know how it would go because there is a rivalry, you know, between Middletown and Steelton.” 

Walko said he approached the Steelton coaches about 45 minutes before game time. 

web  Whitaker and brother Dustin WhitakerEthan Whitaker and his brother Dustin examine the “touchdown” football at the banquet Dec. 4. Photo by Gabe Mink

“And they (Steelton) said, ‘Absolutely.’ They had no hesitation. The kids didn’t actually know about it until it was time to do it. He explained everything to them and the kids were wonderful to him, pretended to tackle him. It was phenomenal how it all just came together, in a short amount of time.”

Both Steelton head coach Charles Willis and assistant coach Larry “Buck” Totten agreed that it was a great idea. 

“He (Brent) came to us at the end of the game, and asked us if we could stay out on the field, because he wanted to bring a little boy out,” Willis said. “And there would be a kickoff so he could score a touchdown. So Coach Totten got the kids in a huddle, and when they came out of the huddle, the kids hollered, ‘We can do this!’ 

A special walker help Ethan down the field. 

“Kids were crawling and walking along to make it look kind of real, just for Ethan. The look on his face made it all worth it,” Totten said.

“After the game, the coaches came up to Ethan,” Walko said, “shook his hand, got a picture with him, and gave him the football that he ran back for a touchdown. Between Steelton and Middletown, all the kids signed the football, and now Ethan has it in a trophy case. He talks about it all the time.” 

Briner says that Ethan likes to say: “I got touchdown!”

It was this gesture of kindness that had a deeper meaning for Willis, who has been coaching for nearly 40 years, and Totten, who has been coaching since 1983. In fact, they were going to step down after this season, but they changed their plans because of Ethan.

“Every year we say we are going to quit, and before the game, we had made up our minds,” Willis said. 

“This was the last game. We were collecting all the suits after the game because we are done.” Totten said. “But then when they presented this proposition to us, with Ethan, it just fueled whatever drive we have to be involved with the kids.” 

Willis said: “It’s because of Ethan that we will pull this out for the rest of our lives.” 

To commemorate the day that Ethan became a part of their lives, the Steelton team presented him with a plaque at the Middletown banquet, with a photo of the 2016 Steelton Peewee team that reads: “Ethan Whitaker, Most Inspirational Player of the 2016 Season, from the Steelton Raiders Peewee team and coaches.

“That day changed my life.” Willis said during his presentation speech. “Every time we move around in our lives, we don’t know who we touch, and as coaches you touch so many kids that you see them come back and they touch you. But this time, it reversed on us. He (Ethan) reached out and touched us in his own way. We don’t just coach football, we coach life. And every part of life touches you somewhere down the road.”

web2 Ethan Whitaker with plaqueEthan Whitaker holds his plaque at the football banquet Dec. 4. Photo by Gabe Mink

Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 December 2016 10:27

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Four Blue Raiders picked for all-state football team

allstate collageClockwise from top left, Blue Raiders players Hunter Landis, Jaelen Thompson, Ethan Newton and Tyreer Mills have been named all-state.


Three Middletown Blue Raiders seniors and one junior were named to the 2016 Pennsylvania Football Writers Class 3A All-State Team.

Junior Tyreer Mills made the team as an Athlete, joining senior running back Jaelen Thompson (Middletown’s all-time leading rusher), offensive lineman Ethan Newton and linebacker Hunter Landis.

The Blue Raiders made it the to 3A state championship game at 14-0 before losing to Beaver Falls 30-13 on Dec. 10. Tigers defensive lineman Donovan Jeter made the first team, and Ryan Matsook was Coach of the Year. 

Here is the entire all-state team.




Brycen Mussina, Montoursville, 6-4, 185, senior

Alex Smith, Keystone Oaks, 6-4, 195, senior

Darius Wise, Beaver Area, 5-11, 170, senior

Running Back

Alex Hoenstine, Central Martinsburg, 6-2, 181, senior

Chuck Carr, Hickory, 5-10, 195, senior

Jaelen Thompson, Middletown, 5-10, 190, senior

Tyler Balega, Derry, 5-11, 178 senior

Ian Border, Huntingdon, 6-0, 210, junior

Wide Receiver

Tommy Shea, Montoursville, 5-10, 175, senior

Ziyon Strickland, Sharon, 5-11, 175, junior

Duane Brown, Apollo-Ridge, 6-0, 182, senior

Tight End

Mitchell Rothrock, Montoursville, 6-1, 190, senior

Offensive Linemen

Crae McCracken, Loyalsock Township, 6-4, 275, senior

Trevor Miller, Central Martinsburg, 6-1, 245, senior

Ethan Newton, Middletown, 6-2, 250, senior

Tyler Bishop, Hickory, 6-2, 280, senior

Kyle Polishan, Scranton Prep, 6-3, 245, senior


Marcus Williams, Loyalsock Township, 5-9, 185, senior

Will Gruber, Hickory, 5-10, 165, junior


Ethan Lazorka, Montoursville, 5-9, 150, senior


Defensive Linemen

Donovan Jeter, Beaver Falls, 6-5, 250, senior

Austin Heisler, Pen Argyl, 6-0, 205, senior

Peyton Snopek, Lancaster Catholic, 6-2, 230, junior

Max Borgia, Scranton Prep, 5-9, 225, senior

Justin Casey, Nanticoke Area, 6-6, 207, senior

Josh Parson, Juniata, 6-3, 260, senior


Hunter Webb, Loyalsock Township, 6-2, 200, junior

Major Jordan, North Schuylkill, 6-1, 215, senior

Hunter Landis, Middletown, 6-1, 210, senior

Trey Delbaugh, Lewisburg, 5-11, 185, senior

Jared Smith, Central Martinsburg, 6-0, 198, junior

Jesse Luketa, Mercyhurst Prep, 6-3, 218, junior

Defensive Back

De’Shaun Wilson, Wyomissing, 5-10, 160, junior

Jeff Wehler, St. Mary’s, 6-1, 195, senior

Bryan Downey, Lancaster Catholic, 6-0, 185, senior


Tyreer Mills, Middletown, 5-9, 165, junior

Jalen Simpson, Notre Dame-Green Pond, 5-11, 170, senior

Player of the Year

Alex Hoenstine, Central Martinsburg

Coach of the Year

Ryan Matsook, Beaver Falls

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 16:53

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Blue Raider wrestlers win dual match

Reinnagel ST webFreshman Quincy Reinnagel works towards a first-match pin for the Blue Raiders vs. Susquehanna Township on Dec. 15. Photo by Debbie Spear

The Middletown varsity wrestling team won its first dual match against Susquehanna Township on Dec. 15 by a score of 39-36.

Action started at 220 pounds with freshman Quincy Reinnagel (Middletown) winning by pin (6-0 Blue Raider lead).

285: Jadon Johnson (Susquehanna Township) won by forfeit (6-6).

106: Kody Evans (Susquehanna Township) won 8-6 over Luke Fegley (Middletown)  (6-9).

113: Zach Malay (Middletown) won by forfeit (12-9).

120: Tyger Evans (Susquehanna Township) won 7-4 over Ryan Berstler (Middletown) (12-12).

126: Logan Stoltzfus (Middletown) won by forfeit (18-12).

132: Mason Stoltzfus (Middletown) won by pin over Steven Graves (Susquehanna Township) (24-12).

138: Nate Brady (Middletown) won 10-5 over Farhan Musrial (Susquehanna Township) (27-12).

145: Devin Martin (Middletown) won by pin over Hunter Webb (Susquehanna Township) (33-12).

152: Abel Botterbusch (Middletown) won by forfeit (39-12).

160: Edmund Ruth (Susquehanna Township) won by pin over Marcus Williams (Middletown) (39-18).

170: Austin Watkins (Susquehanna Township) won by pin over Wyatt Smith (Middletown) (39-24).

182: Tarajae Thomas (Susquehanna Township) won by pin over Zach Souders (Middletown) (39-30).

195: Devin Evans (Susquehanna Township) won by pin over Ethan Miller (39-36).

Event canceled: The Snacktown Duals in Hanover last weekend were canceled.

Cumberland Valley Kickoff Classic: At the Cumberland Valley Kickoff Classic the previous weekend, the Blue Raiders did not have many starters because of the football team still playing games. Young wrestlers competed in eight of the 14 weight classes. None placed.

Ryan Berstler won two matches. Luke Fegley and Mason Stoltzfus each won one match.

Upcoming matches: East Pennsboro at home on Tuesday, Dec. 20; Bishop McDevitt (away) on Thursday, Dec. 22.

Brady STNathan Brady works his opponent Farhan Musrial for a 10-5 win. Photo by Debbie Spear

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 16:07

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Lack of game time doesn’t hurt Blue Raiders boys in basketball win

Giving the appearance of a team in midseason form, the Middletown boys varsity basketball team made the most of its first game of the season with an impressive 82-72 victory over visiting Steelton-Highspire on Monday night.  

With its schedule delayed because of the extended Blue Raiders football season, the team postponed four early games that included a tipoff tournament at Lower Dauphin. Having practiced together for just one week, the Blue Raiders were forced to jump right into league action against the Rollers, who came in with several games already played.  

But a great start that led to a 15-2 advantage in the first quarter and a strong second-half finish that erased a couple Roller leads lifted the Raiders to the exciting win in the new high school gym.  

Senior guard Luke Mrakovich jump started the Middletown offense early by posting 11 of his game high 28 points in the game’s first three minutes. Those points, along with a pair of foul shots by Ryan Hughes, keyed the opening 15-2 run by the home team. The Rollers found their scoring rhythm after that and outpointed the Raiders 11-6 during the balance of the first period to close the gap to six points, 21-15.  

After the Blue Raiders had worked their way to a 27-19 lead by the 5:35 mark of the second stanza, the Rollers reeled off eight straight points to tie the game at 27 with 3:50 left in the half.  Mrakovich’s jumper broke the tie, but Tim Kater drilled his third triple following a Middletown turnover and then added a foul shot with 1:23 left that pushed the visitors into the lead at 31-29. Two more treys by Kater in the final minute gave the Rollers a 37-33 edge, but Chris Plummer converted an assist from Hughes at the buzzer to make it a two-point game at the half.  

Tyreer Mills converted another Hughes assist into the tying points 48 seconds into the second half and Mrakovich answered a pair of goals by Steel-High’s Jayshun Ramsey and Jarvai Flowers with two of his own to keep the score knotted at 41. 

Junior Tre Leach, who played a fantastic defensive game, converted a Roller turnover into the go-ahead points at 4:36. Marakovich’s triple off a Mills pass, followed by a pair of free throws by Hughes off a Roller turnover, quickly pushed the Middletown advantage to 48-41 at the 3:50 mark. Inspired by their own up-tempo play, the Blue Raiders held onto the lead for the remainder of the contest. 

Mrakovich and Mills answered Steel-High baskets over the next two and a half minutes to keep the Raiders ahead on the scoreboard. When Flowers threw down a triple at 1:24 that cut the lead to just two points, 54-52, Plummer fired in a trey at 1:06 to give the Raiders a five-point cushion. Mills followed a bucket by Kater with a swish from beyond the arc and reserve Kobe Sprecher scored off a Leach assist with 3 ticks left to expand the Middletown lead to 62-54 heading into the final frame.  

Leach went baseline 15 seconds into the final quarter for a big basket and Plummer converted a Raider steal and Hughes assist into another goal 23 seconds later for a 66-54 Middletown lead. Steel-High’s Amis Jenkins broke the string at 6:50, but Sprecher went back-to-back with a putback and baseline score off a Leach pass to make it a 70-56 game with 5:55 left. The Rollers would get no closer than 10 points the rest of the way as the Blue Raiders maintained control on both ends of the court.  

After the Rollers had scored four straight points to pull within 10, 74-64, Mills converted a steal into a basket and foul shot with under three minutes to play. A miss by the Rollers led to a Mrakovich-to-Hughes connection and a 79-64 Raider lead with 2:12 to go. 

A pair of late triples by Flowers were not enough points for the Rollers to overcome the Middletown lead.  Kater, who had scored 20 points in the first half, was held to just four points in the second half, kept in check by the defensive work of Plummer and sub Kyle Truesdale.   

The Blue Raiders will host East Pennsboro at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Bishop McDevitt at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and stay at home to host Susquehannock at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 December 2016 15:51

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