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Stopping to smell the roses: Raiders top feisty bubblers on senior night, clinch first non-losing record in years

Posted 10/29/13


Without question, football is a physical sport. But there are both mental and emotional factors involved, and sometimes those attributes play as big a role in games won or lost.  Such was the case as the Blue Raiders toughed out a …

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Stopping to smell the roses: Raiders top feisty bubblers on senior night, clinch first non-losing record in years


MDTfootball1Photo by Jodi Ocker Middletown’s Josh Matinchek is overcome during Senior Night, likely his last football game at home, as he’s surrounded by parents Dawn Barb and Ron Matinchek Jr. Twelve senior football players walked off the grass turf of Memorial Field for the last time following the win, and many of them showed the emotions that come with the realization that they would not play again on their home field. This group of 12th-graders has come a long way and, with the win, guaranteed themselves a non-losing season after suffering through back-to-back years that produced just a total of three wins.  

“The seniors really wanted to win this game,” said Middletown Coach Brett Myers. “They worked really hard all year for it.”

Along with the leadership of his seniors and the underclassmen who played key roles in the successful season, Myers also gave accolades to his coaching staff.

“Those guys have all been where these kids are now, and were able to pass on their experience to the team,’’ said Myers. “They deserve a lot of credit for what we’ve done.”

With win No. 5 now in their hands, the Raiders have the opportunity to finish Myers’ first year with a 6-4 record (3-3 in the Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division). The team is scheduled to close out the season with a road trip to Trinity this Friday, Nov. 1. Even with a win, the odds are against Middletown making the list of teams who will qualify for postseason play. But the 2013 season will still be remembered as a successful one.   

With just three wins on their side coming into the Capital Division matchup with the Raiders, Boiling Springs (2-7, 2-4) had had a rough season, but had played tough all year. And with a huge line that boasted players listed at 262 pounds, 250, 289, 343 and 272 leading their running game the Bubblers had the tools to disrupt the Raiders’ plans for a victory. But with the emotion and mental toughness in play, the Middletown squad did not let that factor spoil their plans. Getting just enough points on a pair of touchdowns by running back Josh Matinchek and a solid effort on the defensive side of the ball, the Raiders got what they wanted. 

The Bubblers had the ball first to open the game but were limited to one first down by the combined efforts of Matinchek, Justin Shaver, Jeremy Shaver, Steven Cain and Seth Babil on defense.

The Raiders went three-and-out on their first possession, but converted a Boiling Springs turnover into the game’s first points after Matinchek recovered a fumble by Bubbler quarterback Dalton Showaker at the Bubbler 19-yard line.

After running back Chris Holloman picked up 2 yards on first down, Matinchek made one of the season’s best runs, good for 17 yards and a touchdown. On the play, Matinchek went left on a sweep, patiently waited for his blockers to take care of business and then cut through a gap on his way to the end zone. Josh Alcock’s PAT gave the Raiders a 7-0 advantage with 6:18 left in the first quarter. 

mdtfootball2Photo by Phil Hrobak Middletown’s student section was dressed in pink to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month.The Bubblers struck back quickly, however, when halfback Dylan Romig got past the blitzing Middletown defense and raced 65 yards for a Boiling Springs touchdown just two plays after kickoff.  Following the touchdown, Cain broke through the Bubbler line and blocked the extra point try. With 5:25 left in the opening period, the Raiders clung to a 7-6 lead.

Led by the running of Holloman (5 carries for 21 yards) and a pass from quarterback Nathan Ocker to Holloman for 13 yards, the Raiders followed with a promising drive. But Ocker was sacked by Connor Murphy on a third-down play that forced a Middletown punt. The first quarter ended with the Raiders holding onto their 7-6 lead. 

Two plays into the second stanza, Middletown defenders Mitch Ward and Osman Kamara dropped Romig for a 1-yard loss, forcing another Bubbler punt. Taking over at Boiling Springs’ 41-yard line, the Middletown offense – now with Kamara in at quarterback – stayed on the ground.

With linemen Caleb Leggore, Nick Drawbaugh, Brent Newton, Ward and Tommy Staker leading the way, runs by freshman Jaelen Thompson, Holloman and Kamara moved the ball for positive yardage on every play. Matinchek capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 7:50 left in the second quarter. Alcock’s kick made it a 14-6 score – and little did anyone know at the time that it would turn out to be the game’s final tally.  

Through the balance of the first half, the two teams would combine for zero points and just 20 total yards.

The Raiders lost a fumble at their own 47-yard line with 1:40 left in the first half but, thanks to good defensive work, the Bubblers could not cash it in. Middletown defender Justin Shaver broke up one pass, Leggore batted down another and Levi Varner intercepted another throw by Showaker to stop the Bubblers from reaching the end zone.  

On the first play of the second half, Holloman broke free for 43 yards to the Bubblers’ 32, but the Raiders would get no further against the Boiling Springs defense.

The Bubblers, likewise, had a promising drive stopped in its tracks after the visitors marched to the Middletown 19. Defensive plays by Leggore, Ward, Drawbaugh and Cain closed the door on the drive.

Late in the third quarter, with senior center Cody Lutz finally seeing action after missing most of the season with concussion symptoms, the Raiders were on the move. But after reaching the Boiling Springs 28-yard line early in the final quarter, the Raider drive was crippled by a penalty, and Middletown was forced to punt.

Another Middletown drive reached the Bubblers’ 13-yard line but came up empty when Alcock’s 30-yard field goal attempt came up just short with 4:16 left on the clock.

Yet another offensive possession made it to the Boiling Springs 21 before running out of downs. Those missed opportunities could have been a problem, especially with the score still sitting at 14-6.

But the Middletown defense played lights out throughout the game’s final 12 minutes and preserved the Raider victory.

Middletown defender Will Botterbusch’s tackle of Romig halted one Boiling Springs drive and Colton Smith’s stop on a fourth-and-2 ended another.

Justin Shaver’s interception on the final play of the game put the icing on the cake for the victorious Raiders.


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