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Defense shines in win over McDevitt, the only team to beat Middletown in the regular season since 2015

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 9/11/19

Anyone who boldly predicted that Middletown and Bishop McDevitt would score just 8 total points in Friday’s football game likely would have been labeled as crazy.

But that’s exactly …

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Defense shines in win over McDevitt, the only team to beat Middletown in the regular season since 2015

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Anyone who boldly predicted that Middletown and Bishop McDevitt would score just 8 total points in Friday’s football game likely would have been labeled as crazy.

But that’s exactly what happened at jam-packed Rocco Ortenzio Stadium in a tense, defensive battle that the jubilant Blue Raiders won, 6-2.

Most fans were expecting to see some points scored by both teams. After all, the Raiders had put up 34 against Lower Dauphin in their first game and another 34 in a win over Northern York in their second week. And McDevitt is McDevitt, a perennial football power that always puts numbers on the scoreboard.

This game, however, was a totally different story. Most, if not all, of the fans on both sides of the field were amazed when the host Crusaders took a 2-0 lead into the locker rooms at halftime.

It was that type of game, and little changed in the second half, except for the 6 points the Blue Raiders scored in the third quarter.

Middletown coach Brett Myers was relieved and happy, despite the low-scoring clash.

“Our defense shut them out. The offense gave up the two points (on a safety),” he said. “Our defense worked really hard and coach (J.J.) Ortiz really called a great defensive game.”

On the second-half drive that led to the game’s only touchdown, he commended the offensive line that paved the way. Senior running back Jose Lopez, who ran for nearly 160 yards on 32 carries including the touchdown, also credited the guys up front.

“I can’t say enough about the job the line did in the second half,” he said.

McDevitt’s defense was impressive, too, and caused fits for Lopez and company in the first half, holding the Middletown offense to less than 50 yards. The Blue Raiders, however, regrouped at halftime and came out in the third quarter determined to make a statement. They did, driving 76 yards in 13 grueling plays for what turned out to be the winning points.

Following the victory over Northern York the previous week, Myers said he was excited about going to play the Crusaders. Last fall, the Crusaders handed the Middletown team its only regular-season loss since 2015, and Myers and his staff were ready for the challenge they would be facing. They had the team ready as well.

“The kids worked hard in practice all week,” Myers said.

The triumph on Friday will undoubtedly lift the Raiders up a few notches in District III and state rankings. Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division play starts this week as the Raiders travel to Camp Hill to take on the Lions.

The opening drive of the game for the host team ended at the Middletown 34 when Crusader quarterback Lek Powell was pressured by Tajae Broadie into making a hurried, errant pass on fourth down.

The Raiders reached the McDevitt 44 before they, too, ran out of downs. And that exchange of possessions set the stage for the defensive battle that followed.

Fumble recoveries by Tymir Jackson and Arthur Dash stopped other McDevitt drives in the first half. McDevitt’s Dedrick Tinker intercepted a Tony Powell pass midway through the second quarter, but a dropped pass by Mario Easterly in the end zone and tight defense kept the hosts off the scoreboard. A stop by Evan Grogan on second and five and an incompletion forced a McDevitt punt.

The kick, however, was downed at the 1 yard line, and one play later Jackson was tackled in the end zone for a safety. Broadie’s kickoff went out of bounds at the Middletown 45, where the Crusaders took over. The Raiders dodged another bullet when an apparent McDevitt touchdown was wiped out by a penalty. Linebacker Dylon Zettlemoyer’s hit broke up one pass and two other throws fell incomplete as the Middletown defense again survived the threat.

The teams exchanged fumble recoveries in the late going, Lopez recovering one for the Middletown side. Things got a little testy on both sides and both were flagged for personal fouls before the first half ended with McDevitt up 2-0.

Myers and his coaches determined that the passing game that produced just two completions on 7 attempts in the first half was not going to work against McDevitt’s athletic defense. Because of that, the Blue Raiders came out running to start the second half.

And the plan worked. With every play except one going for positive yards, the determined Middletown offense turned its strategy into a long, grueling, touchdown-producing march to the end zone.

Riding their workhorse Lopez, the team started at its own 24 following the kickoff. Behind center Nick Newton, guards Amir Potter and Troy Walko, and tackles Brock Welsh and Quincy Reinnegal, the Raiders moved forward.

There had been some chants of “overrated” directed at Lopez in the first half, but none were heard in the game-winning drive.

A 14-yard run by Powell and some relief time from Jackson moved the Raiders to the McDevitt 7. Lopez then showed what he does best. Breaking away from a crowd at the line of scrimmage on the left side, he pivoted back to the right and outran the McDevitt defenders to the end zone with 5:30 left in the third. The extra point try failed but the Raiders led 6-2.

Midway through the fourth quarter, the Crusaders lost another touchdown when Julian Jordan’s 23-yard catch and run was erased by a holding penalty on fourth and 12. Following a punt to the end zone, the Middletown offense took over at their own 20, determined to use ball control to eat up as much time as they could to protect its lead. Lopez ran for 16, 3, 4 and 37 yards to lead the charge to the McDevitt 20. The drive eventually ran out of downs at the McDevitt 10 with 1:38 on the clock.

That was more than enough time for the Crusaders to work with, and McDevitt nearly pulled it off. A short passing game, coupled with a Middletown penalty, raised the tension level in the stadium to new heights. But Ortiz’s defense never folded under the pressure. Two incomplete passes and a short run had the Crusaders facing a fourth and 4 at the Middletown 37. Pressure came from inside and forced a hurried throw by the McDevitt quarterback.

Cornerback Chris Joseph was in the right spot, intercepting the ball at the 32. 

Joseph took off down the right sideline and was eventually stopped just short of the goal line, the play putting the cap on the Middletown victory with 28 seconds left.

Foregoing what could have been an easy touchdown at that point, Myers had Tony Powell take a knee instead and the celebrations on the field and in the Middletown stands erupted.