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Blue Raiders a perfect 10; 2nd straight undefeated regular season; Bermudian Springs is playoff foe

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 11/8/17

Donovan Brady kicked a 49-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half Saturday afternoon vs. Steelton-Highspire. Before and after that momentous kick, the Middletown offense scored plenty …

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Blue Raiders a perfect 10; 2nd straight undefeated regular season; Bermudian Springs is playoff foe


Donovan Brady kicked a 49-yard field goal in the final seconds of the first half Saturday afternoon vs. Steelton-Highspire. Before and after that momentous kick, the Middletown offense scored plenty of touchdowns. 

In addition, the Raider defense nearly pitched a shutout over the high-scoring Rollers (8-2). All of that dominance added up to a 45-7 victory for the Blue Raiders, who laid claim to their second straight Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division championship as well as a second straight undefeated regular season.

The Blue Raiders’ season will continue with a home game Friday as the No. 1 seed in the PIAA District III Class 3A playoffs, against No. 4 seed Bermudian Springs (7-3). Kickoff at War Memorial Field is at 7 p.m. Win that, and they advance to Hersheypark Stadium to play the winner of No. 2 seed Wyomissing and No. 3 seed Littlestown at 7 p.m. Thursday Nov. 16 in the Class 3A championship.

On Saturday, with a large crowd on hand, the Blue Raiders not only turned away Steel-High’s hopes of claiming the Capital Division title but wrecked other celebrations that were happening for the Rollers on top of fabled Cottage Hill in Steelton. The festivities for Senior Day, the dedication of the newly refurbished press box that was christened in the memory of the late Jack Carnes and the recognition of the 10th anniversary of Steel-High’s 2007 state championship team were overshadowed by the outstanding performance by the Blue Raiders. 

If many of the fans on hand were shocked by the lopsided victory, one person in particular was not: Raiders head coach Brett Myers. 

“No, I was not surprised,” Myers said, while also alluding to his team’s perfect 10-0 record for the regular season. “This is a great bunch of kids who worked really hard this year.”

By jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Raiders got off to a great start, assuring Myers’ confidence in his team.  

Partway through the second period, the Rollers scored to cut the lead in half, giving the indication that the game could be a close one. But the Blue Raiders came right back with a scoring drive that took away the little bit of momentum the home team had generated. 

About the Steel-High score, Myers said: “Those things don’t bother our kids. They just want to get back on the field ready for the next play.” 

And get back they did, powering their way to a 31-7 halftime lead and adding two more scores in the third to subdue the Rollers, who suffered just their second loss of the year. They also will advance to the playoffs. They are the No. 1 seed In District III Class 1A and will play No. 2 seed Fairfield (4-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bud Ecker Field in Boiling Springs. 

Powered by the running game that featured senior Brady Fox and sophomore Jose Lopez, the offensive game plan to run right at the Steelton-Highspire defense worked to near-perfection. Fox ran for 208 yards on 18 carries while Lopez added 85 yards on 13 rushes to lead the offense that was keyed by the Raiders, who dominated the line of scrimmage. 

Brendan Douglass, Ethan Miller, Cole Senior, Morgan Billman and center Joey Gusler gave Fox and Lopez the freedom to run the ball as the pair combined for five touchdowns. 

And the defense was just as dominant when the Rollers had the ball. The home team, with feature back Dupri Andrews held to minus-3 yards, had no answer for the Blue Raider defenders. 

“We have a great group of coaches who make that happen,” Myers said. 

Throw in the excellent kicking game and the Raiders have the complete package. 

Kyle Truesdale, Devin Martin, Adonis Taveras and Cole Senior led the defense that stopped Steelton-Highspire’s opening drive of the game. But a really effective punt by Nick Neidlinger temporarily pinned the Raiders deep in their own territory at the 12 yard line, which could have been a problem for the Middletown side. 

That disadvantage disappeared in a hurry when Fox raced 74 yards on second down to set up the first score. Following a 6-yard pass to Ryan Hughes, quarterback Scott Ash snuck in from the 1 for the touchdown at the 7:28 mark. Brady booted the extra point and the Raiders led 7-0. 

After picking up one first down, the Rollers again were stopped when a dropped pass on third and 8 forced another punt. 

The Middletown offense started at the 27 and put together a steady drive that ended in another touchdown. Runs by Fox and Lopez, along with a 23-yard pass connection from Ash to Tre’ Leach, kept the ball moving. Lopez capped it with a 3-yard run with just 7 seconds left in the first quarter. 

Leading 14-0 heading into the second stanza, the Raiders’ Tyreer Mills recovered a Roller fumble at the end of a 17-yard pass play from Malachi Young to Lathaniel Spencer. The Raiders could not cash in and were forced to punt. 

Following a penalty-aided drive that produced a 1-yard touchdown by Andrews for the home team that made it 14-7, the Rollers and their fans were feeling pretty good. The euphoria did not last long, however. Starting at its own 15 following the kickoff, the Middletown offense went right back to work. Runs by Fox and Mills, along with a major Steel-High penalty, and a 17-yard sprint by Lopez, moved the Raiders across the midfield stripe. 

On third and 5, Lamar Ventura made one of the key plays of the first half. Appearing as he would lose yardage on Ash’s swing pass to the left, Ventura instead broke several tackles and picked up 9 yards and a first down instead. 

Fox’s 25-yard dash to the Steel-High 5 set up his own touchdown one play later. With 4:14 left in the first half, the Blue Raiders upped their lead to 21-7. That drive took the wind out of the Rollers’ sails and they never recovered. 

Three straight offensive plays by the Rollers following the kickoff resulted in 19 yards in losses and forced another punt. And the Blue Raiders quickly added another score. Mills returned a short kick 32 yards to the Steel-High 2 and, despite a minor penalty the Raiders, found the end zone again when Fox punched in from the 2 with 1:36 left in the first half. Just that quickly the lead was 28-7. 

On third-and-10 on the Rollers’ ensuing possession, Trayvon Joseph pressured Young into an incompletion and a fourth down gamble by the Rollers misfired when Leach had perfect pass coverage that forced an incompletion. 

Taking over at the Steel-High 41 with time winding down, the Raiders picked up 9 yards to the 32 on three plays. Calling their final timeout with less than two seconds left, the Blue Raiders lined up to attempt a 49-yard field goal. Kicking into a breeze from the west, Brady got a clean snap from Chris Plummer, a good hold from Ash and booted the kick right down the middle to give the visitors a 31-7 halftime lead.  

Mills’ 40-yard kickoff return to start the second half set the stage for yet another scoring drive. A 20-yard reception by Lopez and runs by Lopez and Fox moved the ball to the Steel-High 19. A personal foul penalty against the Rollers at the end of a 13-yard run by Fox set up Fox’s five-yard blast up the middle. With Brady’s PAT the Middletown lead had swelled to 38-7 with 9:46 left in the third quarter. 

Later in the period, that lead ballooned to 45-7 when Lopez took a counter criss-cross pitch from Fox 34 yards to the end zone for a score that pretty much assured the Raiders of the championship. 

Midway through the fourth quarter, a fumble recovery by Middletown’s Quincy Reinnagel stopped the Rollers at their own 30. Middletown’s second offense ran 3:32 off the clock and the Rollers picked up one first down and some yardage late against’ reserve defenders. But time ran out and the Middletown side celebrated their championship performance.