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OFF AND RUNNING: Middletown pulls away from Lower Dauphin, keeps Iron Spike

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 8/28/19

For the fourth straight year, the Middletown Area High School football team started off the season with a big victory in the Iron Spike Bowl.

The defending Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division and …

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OFF AND RUNNING: Middletown pulls away from Lower Dauphin, keeps Iron Spike


For the fourth straight year, the Middletown Area High School football team started off the season with a big victory in the Iron Spike Bowl.

The defending Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division and District III-AAA champion Blue Raiders put down neighboring rival Lower Dauphin with a 34-12 win Friday night in front of a big opening night crowd at War Memorial Field.

Senior running back Jose Lopez, already the all-time career rushing leader in Blue Raider history, finished the night with 142 yards on the ground on 14 carries.

Sophomore Tony Powell started at quarterback. He completed 7 of 9 passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception.

Although the win was not what fans would call pretty, it was still a good start.

Raider head coach Brett Myers was satisfied with the outcome.

“The kids worked hard and made some big plays in the win,” he said.

With a whole new offensive line to work with, along with a new starting quarterback, the group came through despite having just two weeks of practice and just one scrimmage under their belts.

The Falcons are undergoing a rebuilding process with the return of Rob Klock in charge, and it was obvious that there is much work to be done. But they came to play on Friday night and it showed at times.

Myers saw that, too.

“Give them a lot of credit for how hard they played,” he said.

With eight minutes left in the first half, the Raiders were holding onto a 14-6 lead, giving the appearances that the game was going to be close throughout. But that all changed in a matter of a few minutes late in the second quarter as the home team pulled away to a 27-6 halftime lead.

Following the game’s first offensive series and a punt by the Falcons, the Blue Raiders took over at their own 17 yard line. A first down carry by Jose Lopez went for 28 yards to the 45. Another short run by Lopez, a 4-yard pass from Powell to Jarrod Pugh and a 13-yard run by Tim Wagner moved the ball to the Lower Dauphin 35.

From there, a well-executed screen pass to sophomore Tajae Broadie went the distance for the game’s first score. Broadie made a couple cuts after the catch and gave the Raiders a 6-0 lead with 7:15 left in the first quarter. Freshman Nolan Sessa added the first of his four extra points to make it 7-0. 

The Falcons came right back with a 50-yard scoring drive that was keyed by a 37-yard pass from Braden Landis to Damian Petitto. Landis capped it with a keeper from six yards out with 5:00 left, but the run for two points failed.

Fifteen seconds later, the Raiders were up 14-6. Broadie, who had a monster game, took Vinnie Lacata’s kickoff at the 26, ran right behind his blocks, stiff-armed a would-be tackler at the 35 and ran through and past Falcons all the way to the south end zone for the quick score.

Undaunted, the Falcons put together another good drive that started at their own 32 and reached the Middletown 41 by the end of the first period. But the march died on a failed fourth-and-four pass incompletion two plays into the second quarter.

A bit later, Tate Leach’s 11-yard punt return set the Raiders up at the Lower Dauphin 48. But, one play after Powell and Wagner connected for 15 yards, a tipped ball was intercepted by the Falcons’ Ethan Miller to stop the threat.

The Falcons turned the ball right back to their hosts one play later when T.J. Daniels recovered a Falcon fumble at the Middletown 36. On the ensuing drive, an apparent touchdown run of 51 yards by Lopez was erased by a holding penalty, temporarily keeping the Blue Raiders from padding the score.

A run covering 13 yards by Tymir Jackson kept the drive moving and Wagner capped it with a jet sweep around left end from 21 yards out to give the Raiders a 21-6 lead. The successful drive showed the improvements of linemen Quincy Reinnagel, Nick Newton, Brock Welsh, Troy Walko and Amir Potter as the game progressed.

For the game, Jackson ran 11 times for 48 yards and Wagner ran twice for 34 yards and scored once. He also had 2 catches for 27 yards. 

On Lower Dauphin’s following series, defensive coordinator J.J. Ortiz dialed up the pressure and Collin Heffner sacked Landis for a 15-yard loss on first down. One play later, Broadie and Evan Grogan sacked Landis 5 yards back to push the visitors into a deep hole.

A punt and three plays later, the Blue Raiders were back in the end zone when Lopez broke free on a 47-yard dash with 1:12 left in the half. The extra point try failed due to a low snap, but the home team carried a 27-6 lead into halftime.

Following a Middletown punt five plays into the second half, the Falcons took over at their own 16 with 9:09 left in the third quarter. Led by the running of Isaac Buck and Miller, the Falcons drove the distance in 14 plays, topping off the march with a 16-yard run by Miller with 3:01 left. The extra point try was blocked, but the Falcons clearly got an emotional lift from the successful drive.

The high did not last very long.

Lopez went for 18 on first down. Three plays later, Powell and Broadie again hooked up on a screen pass, good for 34 yards and another touchdown. The scoring drive was also aided by a personal foul penalty against the Falcons.

With 1:33 left in the third, Sessa’s PAT gave the home team a 34-12 lead, which turned out to be the final score of the game.

Good defensive plays by Broadie and Dylon Zettlemoyer for Middletown and an exchange of turnovers just seconds apart in the fourth quarter stymied both offenses. A long drive by the Raiders chewed up 6 minutes, ending in a punt by Chris Joseph.

Lower Dauphin had one last chance for another score, starting with 2:25 left in the game. Sub Jaquan Murphy ran five times for 31 yards, but the drive ended near midfield with just seconds left.

Broadie totaled three catches for 67 yards and two touchdowns along with the 74-yard kickoff for his third touchdown. 

The Blue Raiders finished the night with 219 yards rushing and 103 passing for 322 total yards of offense. The Falcons collected 193 total yards in the loss.