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Raiders wrap up 9-1 season with Palmyra win; Middletown will play host to playoff game

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 10/30/19

The Middletown varsity football team closed out its regular season with a 41-27 victory over host Palmyra on Friday night.

At the same time, a win by Milton Hershey over Steelton-Highspire earned …

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Raiders wrap up 9-1 season with Palmyra win; Middletown will play host to playoff game

Posted

The Middletown varsity football team closed out its regular season with a 41-27 victory over host Palmyra on Friday night.

At the same time, a win by Milton Hershey over Steelton-Highspire earned the Spartans the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division title, denying the Blue Raiders a piece of the championship, breaking their three-year reign as champions.

However, the 9-1 Raiders finished in second place and earned a bye in the upcoming District III 3A playoffs. The Raiders will face the winner of the Bermudian Springs/Lancaster Catholic quarterfinal game to be played this weekend. The Raiders will play at War Memorial Field on Friday, Nov. 8.

At Palmyra’s Buck Swank Stadium on Friday evening, the Blue Raiders jumped out to a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter and were never seriously threatened by the Cougars on Palmyra’s Senior Night.

The final score is a bit deceiving: The game was, for all purposes, over at halftime. With the 41-6 lead and the mercy clock running to start the second half, Middletown coach Brett Myers called off the dogs against the overmatched home team.

“Their coach decided to cancel the JV game for Saturday, so we sent our junior varsity players into the game early to get them some playing time. But Palmyra kept their starters in and they scored a couple times late,” Myers said.

Mistakes were made by the younger players that led to the Palmyra scores in the fourth quarter.

It was obvious that Palmyra’s defensive game plan was to limit the damage from Middletown’s powerful running game. And that plan worked pretty well. But the Cougars were not prepared for Middletown’s air game that really came up huge in the victory. Sophomore quarterback Tony Powell and five receivers overwhelmed Palmyra’s defensive unit and lit up the scoreboard for five touchdowns. Powell connected on 12 of 14 pass attempts for 400 yards that included scoring plays of 71, 63, 89, 18 and 73 yards.

Jose Lopez ran for 63 yards on just 12 carries and scored the other touchdown on a short run late in the first half.

The first-team defense held the Cougars to just 49 total yards in the first half while recording a fumble recovery and an interception. The lone highlight for the Cougars prior to halftime was a 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Frank Errichetti after the Raiders scored for the fifth time.

It took less than two minutes for the Middletown side to put its first points on the board. On first down from the 29, Powell hit a wide-open Lopez in the left flat on a short throw. Lopez, with some good downfield blocks from his teammates, did the rest, using his speed to go the distance for a 71-yard scoring play at the 10:19 mark. Nolan Sessa added his first of five extra point kicks to give the Raiders the 7-0 lead.

Damion Williams and Evan Grogan, who led the Middletown defense throughout the game, forced a three-and-out by the Cougars, and the Blue Raiders took over at their own 18 following a good punt by Seth Robertson. Five plays later, the Raiders scored again, this time on a catch-and-run by sophomore Tajae Broadie that went for 63 yards. With 5:43 left in the first period, the Raiders led 14-0.

Another three-and-out and punt for the Cougars gave the ball back to the Middletown offense at its own 27. On first down, a high center snap cost the Blue Raiders 16 yards back to the 11, but that miscue was washed away one play later. This time it was T.J. Daniels who benefited from another Powell pass. After catching Powell’s soft toss about 10 yards downfield, Daniels showed his speed and, picking up a crushing block from Jarrod Pugh on the way, the junior completed the 89-yard scoring play for a 21-0 Middletown lead.

Powell credited his linemen and receivers following the win, saying they made his job easy.

Midway through the second quarter, a fumble recovery by linebacker Troy Walko set up the Blue Raiders’ fourth touchdown. On second and 9 from the Palmyra 18, Broadie caught a short toss from Powell on the left side. Breaking a tackle at the 12 and putting on a spin move inside the 5, Broadie scored with 6:11 left in the first half to make it a 28-0 game.

Much to the dismay of Palmyra and their fans, the Raiders were not done scoring just yet.

With 5:08 left in the half, the Raiders took over at their own 33. After losing 7 yards and nearly the ball on first down, the Middletown offense struck once again on a big play. On third and 16, Powell hooked up with Chris Joseph in the right flat. Cutting across the middle and breaking a tackle along the way, Joseph burned the Palmyra defense on the 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run that pushed the Middletown lead to 35-0 with 3:36 left in the first half.

Following the score, Errichetti finally gave the home crowd something to cheer about. Taking Sessa’s kickoff at the 25, Errichetti made a couple moves along the way as he raced 75 yards for the touchdown for the host team.

The Cougars got another quick lift when Matt Hines recovered a Raider fumble on the kickoff. But the Cougars could not cash in on the turnover as Pugh, Grogan and Dylon Zettlemoyer (16-yard sack) joined forces to squash the opportunity.

With just more than two minutes left in the second stanza, the Middletown offense was back on the field at its own 41. A 16-yard run by Lopez and a pair of passes from Powell to Broadie and Tim Wagner moved the ball to the 17. Lopez capped the drive three plays later on a 1-yard run. The PAT was missed, but the Raiders led 41-6 with 46 seconds left in the half.

Joseph intercepted a Robertson pass three plays later and the Raiders picked up 30 yards on two plays as the first half clock ran down to zero.

With the mercy clock running, Palmyra had the ball to start the second half. Linebacker Arthur Dash intercepted a pass three plays into the third quarter to stop the first series.

The Middletown offense hurt itself with a couple holding penalties on the ensuing drive and ended up by punting the ball. The kick by Joseph was a good one and the ball was downed at the 2 yard line by Walko.

At that point, Myers and defensive coordinator J.J. Ortiz sent in the second team defense. Palmyra picked up a couple first downs but the drive ended in a lost fumble recovered by the Raiders.

The Middletown offense, however, also lost a fumble one play later as the Cougars took over at their 31. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Cougars picked up a key first down. Six plays later, Brandon Luft scored on a 15-yard run to make it a 41-13 game.

The Raiders made another mistake by fumbling away the ensuing kickoff at the 12. Two plays later, Palmyra scored again to cut the lead to 41-20. Adding to the sudden turn of events, the Cougars recovered an onsides kick, keeping the ball out of the hands of the Middletown offense. Myers sent his defensive starters back into the game at that point.

Palmyra, aided by a trio of Middletown penalties, scored again with 2:01 left in the game on a 3-yard run by Robertson. Another onsides kick attempt, however, failed as Walko gathered in the ball at the 42 and the Raiders ran out the final 1:57 to lock down the victory.