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Blue Raiders shut down Wyomissing, will play for district title on Friday

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 11/12/18

Neither rain, nor mud, nor gloom of night could keep the Blue Raiders from completing their mission.

As it turned out, neither could Wyomissing.

In weather not suited for common man, Jose Lopez …

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Blue Raiders shut down Wyomissing, will play for district title on Friday

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Neither rain, nor mud, nor gloom of night could keep the Blue Raiders from completing their mission.

As it turned out, neither could Wyomissing.

In weather not suited for common man, Jose Lopez scored five touchdowns and the Blue Raiders were in pure beast mode in a 41-6 rout of the Spartans on Friday night, setting themselves up for a shot at a third straight District III 3A championship.

Middletown (10-1) will take on No. 5 seed Bermudian Springs (9-3), who upset undefeated No. 1 seed Lancaster Catholic, at 7 p.m. Friday at Cedar Crest High School in Lebanon County. In 2016 and 2017, Middletown beat Wyomissing for the championship.

Tickets for Friday are $6 for adults and $4 for students. Pre-sale tickets will be available from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday in the high school lobby.

On Friday night, at soggy, rain-drenched War Memorial Field, the Blue Raiders’ defense shut down Wyomissing’s running game while the offense played as if the field were dry. The Raiders rolled up nearly 500 yards of offense (302 on the ground and 192 in the air) in the runaway victory. Lopez, who had eclipsed the 1,000-yard barrier three weeks prior, led the way with 206 yards on 20 carries and four rushing touchdowns. He also scored on a 51-yard screen pass from quarterback Scott Ash.

Backfield mate Richie Sykes added 80 yards on just seven runs. He, too, went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

“They are truly humble, hard-working kids,” head coach Brett Myers said of his two running backs.

Ash’s 7-of-14 pass completions also pushed him over 1,000 passing yards for the year. And, keyed by the dominance of Middletown’s front five of Joey Gusler, Cole Senior, Morgan Billman, Ethan Miller and Colin Heffner, the Raiders had a surprisingly easy time against the shocked Spartans.

On the flip side, the defense, led by Senior, Gage Radabaugh, Gusler, Miller, Billman and others, held Wyomissing to less than 20 yards of total offense, shutting down the strength of the Spartans’ power game that made the expected clash a no-contest.

Defensive coordinator J. J. Ortiz said the team worked hard all week and played hard in the game.

“Our coaches put in a lot of hard work and time, and we practiced this week in the rain, so we were ready for the weather,” Myers said.

Getting the ball first on Friday, the Raiders scored just five plays into the game on a 48-yard run by Lopez, who darted through a gap on the right side and used his speed to outrun the Spartans’ defensive backs to the end zone at the 9:37 mark. Anthony LaVia, who made 5 of 6 extra point kicks in the game, made it a 7-0 lead.

Following a 3-and-out by the Spartans, the home team nearly scored again after Ash hooked up with Tim Wagner on a 74-yard pass play that ended at the Wyomissing 4 yard line.

While that opportunity to score came up empty, the Raiders went ahead 14-0 on their next possession.

Following a short punt by Wyomissing, the Middletown offense was back on the field at the visitors’ 36. Keyed by an Ash-to-Chris Joseph pass connection of 27 yards, Lopez ran in from 5 yards out with 2:14 left in the opening quarter. Three plays later, Joseph intercepted a Ben Terefenko pass with less than a minute remaining. But that opportunity also went unrewarded as Wyomissing’s defense turned away the threat.

The 14-0 score remained unchanged through most of the second quarter as the rain abated. The Spartans recovered a Middletown fumble with 2:18 left in the first half, giving the appearance that the score would stand at the break. But that changed after the Raiders forced another three-and-out with time winding down.

Taking over at their own 48 with just 22 seconds left, the Raiders called a timeout with just 3 ticks left following a short run by Lopez. When play resumed, Ash flipped a screen pass to Lopez on the right side and the connection resulted in a 51-yard touchdown as the clock hit :00. The Raiders owned a 21-0 advantage at the intermission because of it.

The opening kickoff to start the second half was negated by a Middletown penalty, forcing a re-kick. And, rather than hurt the Raiders, the miscue worked in their favor when Avery Williams’ new kick was muffed by the Spartans and Evan Grogan recovered for the Middletown side at the Wyomissing 46.

Lopez carried four times for 27 yards, Sykes caught a pass from Ash for 21 yards, and Lopez powered into the end zone from the two to give the Blue Raiders a 28-0 lead with 8:08 left in the third quarter. That score seemed to take the heart out of the Spartans.

Before the third was over, the Raiders would score twice more. The first came on a 71-yard run by Sykes; the second came on an 80-yard dash by Lopez with 2:04 left that set the mercy clock in motion.

The Spartans finally scored with 3:37 left in the game following a 7-play, 45-yard drive against the Middletown reserves. The Spartans took advantage of a Raider fumble to spark the scoring march.

A win Friday against Bermudian Springs would put the Blue Raiders in the PIAA Class 3A state playoff quarterfinals at a regional site on Nov. 23 or Nov. 24. The last two seasons, the Blue Raiders have reached the state title game with 14-0 records, only to lose at Hersheypark Stadium.