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Raiders have no trouble with Northern York; Lopez, Jackson dominate on the ground

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 9/3/19

The Northern York Polar Bears were picked early to be the top team in the Mid-Penn Conference Colonial Division and started off the season with a win over East Pennsboro in the opening week. …

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Raiders have no trouble with Northern York; Lopez, Jackson dominate on the ground

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The Northern York Polar Bears were picked early to be the top team in the Mid-Penn Conference Colonial Division and started off the season with a win over East Pennsboro in the opening week.

Because of that good start, the Bears traveled to Middletown on Friday night expecting to play well against the Blue Raiders in a crossover game. But, when it was all settled, the Bears were bruised and beaten and were forced to limp back home to Dillsburg after suffering a 34-7 defeat at the hands of their hosts.

Northern was forced to play without arguably its best player, Kyle Swartz, for the second week, but it’s doubtful his presence would have made much difference. The Raiders were just too good, too strong and too talented offensively and defensively.

They will have to play their best this week as they travel to Bishop McDevitt to take on the Crusaders (1-1). McDevitt dealt Middletown its only regular-season loss since 2015 last year.

Against Northern, the Bears’ lone score came on a fourth-quarter interception return, and Middletown coach Brett Myers cited the work of his defense that kept the visitors out of the end zone all night.

“Someone once said that if you have one goal-line stand in a season it’s a good thing. We had two in the same game,” he said.

Those two stands, one in the first quarter that stopped the Bears at the five-yard line and the other in the third that shut the door at the eight, were a testament to the heart and strength of this team, he said.

“It’s no real surprise how hard our kids play on defense,” Myers said.

And, that was not the only strengths the Blue Raiders showed on a hot, humid evening at War Memorial Field. The offense wracked up 381 yards on the ground and another 164 in the air in a totally dominating performance for the 2-0 Middletown team.

Of course, Jose Lopez did his thing, rolling up 247 yards and four touchdowns on just 16 carries. Middletown fans have come to expect that from the record-setting senior running back.

The other part of the run game came from junior Tymir Jackson, who ground out 118 tough yards on 20 rushes while Lopez took breaks in the heat.

In the air, the Middletown passing game, although not spectacular, did its thing, too. Starting sophomore quarterback Tony Powell connected on 6 of 14 pass attempts for an even 100 yards. Junior Julio Rodriguez made the most of his one throw, connecting with Tim Wagner on a 64-yard scoring pass at the end of the first quarter.

Sophomore Tajae Broadie caught four of Powell’s throws for 88 yards.

In all fairness to Northern, the Bears gave the Blue Raiders a good fight in the early going. With just 32 seconds left in the opening period, the Middletown side was hanging on to a 6-0 lead from a 13-yard run by Lopez.

Prior to that touchdown, the Bears threatened to score early when the Raiders were backed up to their own 7 on a personal foul penalty. The Northern offense took over at the Middletown 30 and reached the six in five plays. But a pair of key stops by T.J. Daniels and Lopez stopped C.J. Wagner in his tracks and the Raiders took over.

On first down from the two, following a Middletown penalty, Lopez broke off a 23-yard run and set a long scoring drive in motion. With Lopez and Jackson sharing the load behind solid upfront blocking, the Blue Raiders marched to the Northern 13 in 12 plays.

The offense was aided by a pass interference penalty, but also had to overcome a pair of false starts in the drive. Chris Joseph’s catch and a run by Broadie set up Lopez’ 13-yard scoring run up the middle for the game’s first points with 1:36 left in the first quarter. A bobbled snap messed up the extra point try.

With time winding down, the Middletown defense forced a punt and the Raiders took over at their own 31 with 32 ticks left.

Two plays later, Rodriguez saw Wagner break open near midfield and made the throw. Wagner showed his speed by outrunning the Northern safeties to the end zone for a dazzling 64-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Nolan Sessa’s kick gave the home team a 13-0 lead.

That score remained unchanged until late in the second quarter when Lopez broke free from a jam at the line of scrimmage and blazed his way to a 67-yard touchdown sprint with just 16 seconds left in the first half. The 19-0 lead looked safe, but Northern took advantage of a short kickoff and a pass interference call against the Raiders and changed that look.

Following a 17-yard pass from Jordan Heisey to Aiden Wenger, the Bears set up for a 43-yard field goal try by Wenger. As time expired, Wenger’s kick was clearly long enough, but the ball bounced off the right upright to deny the three-pointer.

The opening drive of the second half ended in yet another score for the Blue Raiders. A pass from Powell to Broadie went for 45 yards, and Lopez capped it with a 33-yard dash after again breaking free from the pack. Joseph’s run for two points gave the Raiders a comfortable 27-0 cushion with 9:57 left in the third quarter.

Undaunted, the Northern offense put together a solid drive that was aided by a pass interference call that wiped out a 47-yard interception return for an apparent score by Joseph. Instead the drive stayed alive. But once again, with Quincy Reinnegal, Arthur Dash, Evan Grogan and Dylon Zettlemoyer making plays, the defense held and stopped the Bears at the 8 yard line.

Two plays into the final frame, the Bears finally broke into the scoring column when Tyler Weary stepped in front of a Powell pass and took the pick 59 yards for the touchdown with 10:36 left in the game. Apparently that did not sit well with the Middletown team, and lightning struck just one play into the Blue Raiders’ ensuing possession.

On first down from the 36, Lopez got the call again, but this time he did not have to use his strength to make things happen. On a sweep left, he picked up a great block from pulling guard Amir Potter, who has shown surprising quickness at 330 pounds. Lopez made the cut behind the block and jetted 64 yards for the score. With Sessa’s kick, the Raiders led 34-7.

Following a Northern punt, the Raiders took over at their own 35 and ran off the final 6:06 from the clock, reaching the Northern one before Powell took a knee to end it.

Much credit goes to the offensive line (Potter, Brock Welsh, Nick Newton, Troy Walko and Reinnegal) that has been coming together nicely for line coach Mike Dupes.

Jeremy Wells, Collin Heffner, Dash and Zettlemoyer led the defense.