Offense, defense keep rolling in Big Raider win vs. Milton Hershey
Sixteen football players were honored on Senior Night as they took the field in a regular season game for the last time on Friday night. And that group, along with their underclassmen teammates, …
Offense, defense keep rolling in Big Raider win vs. Milton Hershey
Sixteen football players were honored on Senior Night as they took the field in a regular season game for the last time on Friday night. And that group, along with their underclassmen teammates, responded to the honors by posting a 45-7 victory over visiting Milton Hershey at War Memorial Field.
With Brady Fox returning to the lineup after missing three straight games and Tre’ Leach also back in action after sitting out the previous week, the Blue Raiders recorded their ninth straight win of the season. The victory set up a regular-season ending clash with Steelton-Highspire this week in a much-anticipated showdown that will decide who will wear the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division crown for 2017. The game will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday on the Rollers’ home turf at Steelton’s Cottage Hill.
The Blue Raiders have given up 79 points in nine games (8.8 points a game), while scoring 377 (41.9 points a game).
They remain atop the PIAA District 3 AAA power rankings at 0.772506, followed by Wyomissing at 0.707770, Littlestown at 0.639118, Bermudian Springs at 0.541881, Lancaster Catholic at 0.515999, Annville Cleona at 0.514049, Trinity at 0.442553 and Susquenita at 0.433224. The top four advance to the playoffs.
Steelton-Highspire (8-1) is No. 1 in the PIAA District 3 A power ratings at 0.724922 and will advance to the playoffs. The Rollers were the last team to beat Middletown in the regular season, a 19-18 game on Oct. 30, 2015.
On Friday vs. the Spartans (4-5 overall, 3-3 in the Capital Division), the Blue Raiders once again got off to a quick start. They scored less than two minutes into the game and picked up two more touchdowns in the first quarter to jump out to a 21-0 lead. That lead swelled to 28-0 in the second period and 31-0 in the third. Two more scores in the fourth quarter put the game out of reach for the Spartans, who finally put points on the board against Middletown reserves with 4:08 remaining.
Putting up that many points in the game showed that the Middletown offense was clicking from the start. With Fox (15 carries, 149 yards) and Jose Lopez (14 carries, 107 yards) running behind the Raiders’ steady line, the home team had little trouble scoring points. But, at the same time, the Middletown defense was just as impressive. Through three full quarters of play, the first team defense had held the Spartans to just more than 100 yards of offense.
“Give credit to the defensive coaches for that,” head coach Brett Myers said. “They put together a good game plan that worked well for us,” he added.
Myers also credited the seniors for leading the way.
“They knew it was a special night and worked hard all week,” he said.
He agreed, too, that getting Fox and Leach back was a big plus for the team. And, while there is a chance the Blue Raiders could earn a home field appearance in the upcoming playoffs, the seniors cherished the honorable evening.
The other seniors are Tyreer Mills, Devin Martin, Blake Jacoby, Donovan Brady, Ryan Hughes, Kyle Truesdale, Chris Plummer, Antonio Gamble, Doug Carpenter, Aaron McDevitt, Zach Souders, Brendan Douglass, Salvatore Caretti and Jayon Brown-Page.
Martin fielded the short opening kickoff and set up the Middletown offense at its own 47. Four plays later, the Blue Raiders were on the scoreboard. Scott Ash threw to Mills for 8 yards on first down, Fox ran for 8 more on the second play, Jose Lopez broke free for 25 yards a play later and then pulled in Ash’s pass for a 12-yard touchdown with less than two minutes off the clock. Donovan Brady added his first of 6 extra point kicks to give the home team a 7-0 lead.
After Brady’s kickoff went into the end zone, the Spartans had the ball at their own 20. On first down, defensive tackle Joey Gusler recovered a fumble by Milton Hershey’s Carrington Smith that gave the Raiders a short field.
Fox, Mills and Lopez moved the ball to the 7 in four plays. From there Ash again connected with Lopez for the touchdown and, with 9:49 still left in the opening period, the Raiders led by a 14-0 count.
Defensive plays by Cole Senior, Adonis Taveras and Gamble forced a punt on Milton Hershey’s following offensive series. On first down at the Middletown 41, Lopez ran for 19 yards. On the very next play Ash hit Plummer on a deep route that went for 32 yards to the Milton Hershey 8. Ash was sacked chasing down a high snap that cost the Raiders 10 yards, but Fox carried twice, reaching the end zone on a run to the left from 7 yards out for the home team’s third touchdown of the quarter.
Following an exchange of punts, Milton Hershey’s fourth offensive possession started at its own 41 with 1:18 left in the first period. The Spartans converted on a fourth-and-1 and the promising drive carried the visitors to the Middletown 18 before the Raiders’ defense slammed the door shut four minutes into the second stanza. Plays by Truesdale, Senior, Jacoby and Martin brought up a fourth-and-6 at the 18. Jacoby’s sack of quarterback Naeem Cross pushed the ball back to the 26, where the Raiders took over.
Following a short run by Lopez, Fox darted through a gap on the right side and exploded past the Milton Hershey defense on an electrifying 71-yard touchdown run. With 7:47 left in the first half, the Blue Raiders were in command, 28-0.
Later in the quarter, the Spartans had another drive snuffed out after working their way into Middletown territory. Gambling again on fourth-and-6, the Spartans were denied when Gage Radabaugh stopped Jaylen Brown three yards short of first down.
The Raiders picked up 3 more points on Brady’s 35-yard field goal with 7:32 left in the third quarter. The score was set up by Gusler’s second fumble recovery three plays into the period. While penalties were absent in the first half, a pair of holding calls kept the Raiders out of the end zone.
The 31-0 score held into the final quarter. A Middletown drive that started near midfield with 1:23 left in the third resulted in another Raider touchdown three minutes into the fourth.
Lopez carried the ball on nine of 11 plays in the drive to set up the score. Fox ran twice in the march that was capped by Ash’s two-yard keeper with 8:51 left in the game.
With the 38-0 lead on the board and the mercy clock running, the Spartans were desperate to get something going. But their plans were dashed when Truesdale stepped in front of a Cross pass on third down at the Middletown 42. Truesdale raced down the right sideline 58 yards for the Raiders’ sixth touchdown to put the lock on the victory with 6:44 left.
The Spartans managed to put together a quick scoring drive against Middletown reserves, recording their lone touchdown on a 33-yard pass from Jaylen Brown to Jaidyn Parris with just more than four minutes left.
The Raiders ran out the final minutes with the second offense on the field.