locally owned since 1854

Back to states! Middletown football dispatches Bermudian Springs for third straight district title

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 11/19/18

Under the direction of head coach Brett Myers, the Middletown football team has accomplished what no other squad has done in school history — win a third straight District III-3A championship. …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Back to states! Middletown football dispatches Bermudian Springs for third straight district title

Posted

Under the direction of head coach Brett Myers, the Middletown football team has accomplished what no other squad has done in school history — win a third straight District III-3A championship.

On a chilly Saturday night at Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon County, the Blue Raiders made Bermudian Springs yet another victim on the gridiron, posting a 42-20 victory over the Eagles to lay claim to the district title.

The Raiders will face Conwell-Egan, a team they defeated 49-7 in the Eastern finals last year, in the quarterfinals of state play at 7 p.m. Friday at Milton Hershey High School.

Running back Jose Lopez scored three times in the game while piling up 206 yards on the ground in Saturday’s win.

“Lopez is in a pretty good groove with our linemen right now,” Myers said.

Bermudian Springs was a bit of a surprise contestant in the title game after pulling off an upset over Lancaster Catholic the week before. As it turned out, the Eagles proved to be a worthy opponent as they tried their best to unseat the Raiders as district kings.

However, Middletown had too many superior athletes on both sides of the ball for the Eagles to deal with. The offense piled up nearly 430 yards while the defense controlled most of the game, giving up just a couple big plays and recording three interceptions.

“The kids did a good job handling the adversity of the week with the weather and played well,” Myers said. “Bermudian Springs has a diverse offense, and it was good to see our kids come on and play that well.”

When the final whistle blew, the players ran to the sidelines, many of them holding up three fingers as they faced their loyal fans. The cheering continued as senior team captains Scott Ash, Joey Gusler, Gage Radabaugh and Cole Senior accepted the trophy from PIAA representative Rod Frisco.

Myers answered a question about comparing this team to those of the past two seasons by saying, “Each team has their own identity, and this team is still working on theirs.”

The main attribute of the 2018 squad is probably its resiliency. Through much of the season, the Blue Raiders have overcome minor setbacks from injuries and a rash of penalties. Saturday night was no exception. But they persevered and came out as winners.

The Blue Raiders got off to a quick start with an Ash-to-Chris Joseph pass that went for 32 yards on the opening drive. But the Eagles’ defense stopped the march and, following Avery Williams’ punt, Bermudian Springs took over with 9:21 left in the first period. An impressive drive, keyed by a 25-yard run by Domenic Florea and a pair of passes from Chase Dull, moved the ball to the Middletown 26. A missed field goal attempt kept the score at 0-0.

On the ensuing possession, another catch by Joseph, this one covering 23 yards, was followed by a 17-yard run by Richie Sykes as the Raiders crossed midfield. On second and 14, Jose Lopez got his big night started for the game’s first score. Darting through a small gap between right guard and tackle, Lopez raced 40 yards for the touchdown with 2:07 left in the quarter. Williams, filling in for the injured Anthony LaVia, booted the extra point (he would be perfect on the night.) 

The Eagles’ following possession went nowhere as the Middletown defense tightened up. A sack by Senior on third down cost the Eagles 8 yards, forcing a punt. Two plays into the second quarter, Lopez again broke off a long scoring run, this one good for 45 yards that included a great move at the 5 to avoid safety Kolt Byers’ attempt to push him out of bounds.

With Chris Joseph and Antonio Bryant covering receivers downfield and Trayvon Joseph, Gusler, Senior, Ethan Miller and Morgan Billman providing pressure up front, the defense stopped the Eagles through the remainder of the first half.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders scored on a big play through the air when Ash connected with fullback Lamar Ventura on a swing pass. Ventura broke two tackles and picked up a key downfield block on his way to a dazzling 72-yard touchdown that put the Raiders up 21-0 at the 9:10 mark.

But the Eagles answered with their first score. Taking advantage of a big runback of the kickoff and a face mask penalty against the Raiders, Bermudian capped a short drive with a 1-yard keeper by Dull with 7:44 left in the first half.

Later in the quarter, following an exchange of punts, the Eagles had the ball at their own 22 with 2:03 left. On first down, Joseph intercepted a Dull pass at the 43 and raced down the right sideline to the end zone for a defensive touchdown that gave the Blue Raiders a 28-6 lead that they carried into the break.

On the first play of the second half, the Raiders recovered an Eagles fumble at the Bermudian 24, but could not cash in the turnover, running out of downs at the 18. Two plays later, Dull shocked the Middletown defense, connecting with Florea down the middle, who went the distance for Bermudian’s second touchdown.

But, as is their character, the Raiders responded.

A short kickoff that Radabaugh returned to the 44, along with a face mask penalty against the Eagles, set the Middletown offense up at the Bermudian Springs 40. With Gusler, Senior, Billman, Miller and Collin Heffner leading the way, Lopez carried the ball seven straight times, including his touchdown run up the left side with 6:38 left. That score and the point after pushed the Middletown lead to 35-13, the score carrying over into the fourth quarter.

Six plays into the final period, Chris Joseph recorded his second interception of the night and his return set up the Middletown offense at the Bermudian Springs 11. It took just one play, another scoring run by Lopez, to expand the Blue Raiders’ lead to 42-13 with 9:21 left in the game. That score, along with a pass theft by Bryant on Bermudian’s second play, locked up the district title.

The Eagles did score again with 3:01 left on a nice pass from Dull to J.J. Talley, but it was too little, too late.

Keeping the ball on the ground, the Raiders ran out the remaining time and celebrated the championship. The Blue Raiders now move onto the state playoffs and hope to keep the season going. They’ve lost in the state title game the last two years.

“We’re working hard every week,” Gusler said, reflecting the team’s drive to succeed.

Myers agreed.

“They deserve everything they got tonight,” he said.

Running back Jose Lopez scored three times in the game while piling up 206 yards on the ground in Saturday’s win.

“Lopez is in a pretty good groove with our linemen right now,” Myers said.

Bermudian Springs was a bit of a surprise contestant in the title game after pulling off an upset over Lancaster Catholic the week before. As it turned out, the Eagles proved to be a worthy opponent as they tried their best to unseat the Raiders as district kings.

However, Middletown had too many superior athletes on both sides of the ball for the Eagles to deal with. The offense piled up nearly 430 yards while the defense controlled most of the game, giving up just a couple big plays and recording three interceptions.

“The kids did a good job handling the adversity of the week with the weather and played well,” Myers said. “Bermudian Springs has a diverse offense, and it was good to see our kids come on and play that well.”

When the final whistle blew, the players ran to the sidelines, many of them holding up three fingers as they faced their loyal fans. The cheering continued as senior team captains Scott Ash, Joey Gusler, Gage Radabaugh and Cole Senior accepted the trophy from PIAA representative Rod Frisco.

Myers answered a question about comparing this team to those of the past two seasons by saying, “Each team has their own identity, and this team is still working on theirs.”

The main attribute of the 2018 squad in probably its resiliency. Through much of the season, the Blue Raiders have overcome minor setbacks from injuries and a rash of penalties. Saturday night was no exception. But they persevered and came out as winners.

The Blue Raiders got off to a quick start with an Ash-to-Chris Joseph pass that went for 32 yards on the opening drive. But the Eagles’ defense stopped the march and, following an Avery Williams’ punt, Bermudian Springs took over with 9:21 left in the first period. An impressive drive, keyed by a 25-yard run by Domenic Florea and a pair of passes from Chase Dull, moved the ball to the Middletown 26. A missed field goal attempt, however, kept the score at 0-0.

On the ensuing possession, another catch by Joseph, this one covering 23 yards, was followed by a 17-yard run by Richie Sykes as the Raiders crossed midfield. On second and 14, Jose Lopez got his big night started for the game’s first score. Darting through a small gap between right guard and tackle, Lopez raced 40 yards for the touchdown with 2:07 left in the quarter. Williams, filling in for the injured Anthony LaVia, booted the extra point (he would be perfect on the night.) 

The Eagles’ following possession went nowhere as the Middletown defense tightened up. A sack by Senior on third down cost the Eagles 8 yards, forcing a punt. Two plays into the second quarter, Lopez again broke off a long scoring run, this one good for 45 yards that included a great move at the 5 to avoid safety Kolt Byers’ attempt to push him out of bounds.

With Chris Joseph and Antonio Bryant covering receivers downfield and Trayvon Joseph, Gusler, Senior, Ethan Miller and Morgan Billman providing pressure up front, the defense stopped the Eagles through the remainder of the first half.

On the other side of the ball, the Raiders scored on a big play through the air when Ash connected with fullback Lamar Ventura on a swing pass. Ventura broke two tackles and picked up a key downfield block on his way to a dazzling 72-yard touchdown that put the Raiders up 21-0 at the 9:10 mark.

But the Eagles answered with their first score of the night. Taking advantage of a big runback of the kickoff and a face mask penalty against the Raiders, Bermudian capped a short drive with a 1-yard keeper by Dull with 7:44 left in the first half.

Later in the quarter, following an exchange of punts, the Eagles had the ball at their own 22 with 2:03 left. On first down, Joseph intercepted a Dull pass at the 43 and raced down the right sideline to the end zone for a defensive touchdown that gave the Blue Raiders a 28-6 lead that they carried into the break.

On the first play of the second half, the Raiders recovered an Eagles fumble at the Bermudian 24, but could not cash in the turnover, running out of downs at the 18. Two plays later, Dull shocked the Middletown defense, connecting with Florea down the middle that went the distance for Bermudian’s second touchdown.

But, as is their character, the Raiders responded.

A short kickoff that Radabaugh returned to the 44, along with a face mask penalty against the Eagles, set the Middletown offense up at the Bermudian Springs 40. With Gusler, Senior, Billman, Miller and Collin Heffner leading the way, Lopez carried the ball seven straight times, including his touchdown run up the left side with 6:38 left. That score and the point after pushed the Middletown lead to 35-13, the score carrying over into the fourth quarter.

Six plays into the final period, Chris Joseph recorded his second interception of the night and his return set up the Middletown offense at the Bermudian Springs 11. It took just one play, another scoring run by Lopez, to expand the Blue Raiders’ lead to 42-13 with 9:21 left in the game. That score, along with a pass theft by Bryant on Bermudian’s second play, locked up the district title.

The Eagles did score again with 3:01 left on a nice pass from Dull to J.J. Talley, but it was too little, too late.

Keeping the ball on the ground, the Raiders ran out the remaining time and celebrated the championship.

The Blue Raiders now move onto the state playoffs and hope to keep the season going right until the end.

“We’re working hard every week,” Gusler said, reflecting the team’s drive to succeed.

Myers agreed.

“They deserve everything they got tonight,” he said.