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McDevitt's air game way too much as Blue Raiders' regular-season win streak ends at home

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 9/10/18

The streak is over.

Middletown’s unblemished regular-season record that started in October 2015 ended Friday night at War Memorial Field as visiting Bishop McDevitt turned in a 40-14 win …

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McDevitt's air game way too much as Blue Raiders' regular-season win streak ends at home


The streak is over.

Middletown’s unblemished regular-season record that started in October 2015 ended Friday night at War Memorial Field as visiting Bishop McDevitt turned in a 40-14 win over the Blue Raiders.

On a hot, balmy night with a big crowd on hand, McDevitt’s impressive air game, along with a solid defensive effort, proved to be too much for the Raiders. With two Division I college commits outrunning the pass coverage of the Middletown defense and quarterback Chase Diehl airing it out, the Crusaders (3-0 on the season) were too fast and too talented for the Blue Raiders, who had hopes for springing an upset.

Although Middletown, now 2-1 on the season, had several chances to keep their goal within sight, a few mistakes led to their loss. The Raiders were flagged for nine penalties, a couple of which wiped out big gains on offense that could have led to scores. Head coach Brett Myers, obviously disappointed with the outcome, lamented those errors.

“You can’t make mistakes like that against a team that good,” he said.

Since that winning streak in regular-season competition started with a win over Camp Hill on Nov. 6, 2015, the Blue Raiders had lost just three times. One was a District III playoff game against East Pennsboro that ended the 2015 season. The other two came in the state championship games in 2016 and 2017.

The Blue Raiders’ last regular-season loss was 19-18 at Steelton-Highspire on Oct. 30, 2015. The last home loss was to Lower Dauphin on Sept. 4, 2015. The Falcons won the Iron Spike Bowl that year, 35-21.

The team will try to start a new winning streak on Friday when they play host to Camp Hill at 7 p.m., before going up the road to visit Steelton-Highspire on Sept. 21.

The loss to McDevitt on Friday was a bitter pill to swallow for Myers, his team and the Middletown fans who had all become accustomed to winning. But, in reality, coming out on the wrong end was not a complete surprise. McDevitt is just too good and the Crusaders played like a potential championship team.

It started early.

On the game’s first offensive series, the Crusaders shook off a Trayvon Joseph sack of Diehl on the series’ sixth play when Deihl connected with Syracuse recruit Nazir Burnett on a 38-yard scoring pass with 8:34 left in the opening quarter. It was a big game for Burnett — 223 yards on nine catches with four touchdowns.

But the Blue Raiders quickly answered with a five-play, 65-yard scoring drive of their own.

Keyed by a 26-yard screen pass from Scott Ash to Jose Lopez, the Raiders overcame a personal foul penalty and scored the equalizer on an Ash-to-Richie Sykes pass of 34 yards at 6:52. Anthony LaVia’s kick knotted the score at 7-7 and excited the Middletown crowd.

But Diehl completed passes of 13 and 39 yards to push the Crusaders into the lead again, the touchdown coming on a 9-yard catch by Burnett with 3:08 left in the period.

On Middletown’s following possession, Lopez was run down for a 19- yard loss on second down and a catch by Sykes came up short of first down yardage, forcing the Raiders to punt.

The kick by Avery Williams was a good one and had the visitors pinned back at their own 17, which should have been good for the Middletown defense. But Diehl connected with T’nyis Becker on a middle screen and he outran the defense for 83 yards and another McDevitt score and a 19-7 lead for the Crusaders. Becker, who is heading to Old Dominion, wound up with five catches for 160 yards and the score.

Following a three-and-out by the offense, the Middletown defense stopped the Crusaders when Diehl missed on four straight passes after McDevitt had reached the 21 on their next possession.

The Raiders followed with a good steady drive on the ground. Aided by a personal foul against the Crusaders, the Middletown offense reached the McDevitt 31. But the drive died when Lopez was stopped a yard short on fourth and two, denying the Raiders a chance to close the gap.

Once again, McDevitt scored quickly after reaching the Middletown 32 in just four plays. Diehl and Burnett again hooked up for the TD on a 32-yard pass with 3:07 left in the first half.

The Raiders tried to answer but another penalty erased a first down and an incompletion forced another punt. Up 26-7 at that point, McDevitt took over with just 56 seconds left in the first half. But, rather than sit on the lead and run out the clock, Diehl again took advantage of Middletown’s man-to-man pass coverage, this time hooking up with Julian Jordan on a lightning-quick 74-yard scoring play that pushed the home team into a 33-7 hole at halftime.

The Blue Raiders, however, showed some character to start the second half. Three plays into their offensive possession of the third quarter Ash fired a perfect pass to Chris Joseph down the middle and Joseph outran Omari Hopkins to the end zone on the 63-yard touchdown strike.

Unfortunately the Blue Raiders would not score again, although they had their chances. Lamar Ventura’s fumble recovery presented one opportunity, but a promising drive ended at the McDevitt 33 when the Raiders came up short on a fourth and 13.

On McDevitt’s following drive, the Middletown defense appeared to have stopped the Crusaders when Chris Joseph broke up a fourth down pass. But the Raiders were flagged for another crucial penalty that gave their guests a first and 10 at the 32.

The Crusaders took advantage of the break, scoring on yet another pass from Diehl to Burnett. Down 40-14, the Blue Raiders still never gave up. Myers was pleased with the effort.

“We have tough kids, and they kept fighting,” he said.

On second and 10 following the kickoff, Ash and Ventura connected for a 45-yard gain to the McDevitt 18 and it appeared as if the Raiders were set up for another score. But McDevitt’s defense changed those plans. and on fourth and 7 Sykes was dropped for an 8-yard loss and lost the ball on the play.

On the final play of the third quarte,r Gage Radabaugh, who had monster night on defense, stopped Becker for no gain on third and two, forcing a punt. But, again, another costly penalty that wiped out a 60-yard catch-and-run by Lopez kept the Raiders from advancing as the tough breaks continued to haunt the home team.

Chris Joseph’s fumble recovery stopped McDevitt’s next drive at the 15, but the Middletown offense, with subs on the field, could not get anything started.

McDevitt was able to run six minutes off the clock, leaving the Middletown side with just one final play, an 11-yard run by Tymir Jackson as the clock ran out.

The running back duo of Lopez and Richie Sykes was held to only 61 yards — 51 for Lopez and 10 for Sykes. Ash was 10-for-19 passing for 211 yards and two touchdowns.

For McDevitt, Diehl had 457 passing yards and six touchdowns.