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Strong second quarter lifts Raiders past Bubblers; Middletown stays undefeated

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 10/2/19

The Blue Raiders’ slow start against winless Boiling Springs on Friday night caught many Middletown fans by surprise. But there was a good reason for it.

“Against a team like Boiling …

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Strong second quarter lifts Raiders past Bubblers; Middletown stays undefeated

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The Blue Raiders’ slow start against winless Boiling Springs on Friday night caught many Middletown fans by surprise. But there was a good reason for it.

“Against a team like Boiling Springs, we got to try some different things so that we can look at films to see what we did,” Middletown head coach Brett Myers said following his team’s 35-0 Mid-Penn Conference Capital Division victory over the host Bubblers. “We also were able to have some of our players just playing one position.”

Once they got those trials out of the way, the Raiders took off and ended up with the expected lopsided win, ruining the host school’s Homecoming Night. 

After leading 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, Middletown (6-0) ran out to a 27-0 halftime lead and set the “mercy clock” in motion with 9:03 left in the third quarter and a 35-point lead in its hands.

The running game produced another big effort for Jose Lopez, who recorded 153 yards and three touchdowns on just 11 carries.

Quarterbacks Tony Powell and Julio Rodriguez combined for 7 pass completions on 10 attempts for 73 yards and a touchdown. Included in the defensive dominance was another interception by Chris Joseph, this one good for 54 yards and another touchdown.

“The kids played hard and executed very well, and we got a lot of kids the chance to play tonight,” Myers said.

The Blue Raiders have a big game coming up this week when 5-1 Milton Hershey comes to visit War Memorial Field, and Myers said he and his players look forward to the challenge.

“They just want to go out and play each week,” he said.

The Raiders are No. 2 in the PIAA District 3 AAA power rankings, percentage points behind Wyomissing (6-0).

On Friday, during the game’s opening drive, the Raiders gained one first down but had to punt as the Bubblers held firm. On defense, senior linebacker Arthur Dash stopped Joey Menke for no gain on first down, and Lopez made two good plays on second and third to force a Bubbler punt.

It was not until two series later that the experimenting Middletown offense broke the scoreless standoff. On third and four from the 29, Lopez dashed through an opening on the left side, put on a good move a couple yards downfield and turned on the jets on his way to a 71-yard touchdown. Nolan Sessa’s PAT gave the Raiders the 7-0 lead.

In the second quarter, the floodgates opened. While the defense held the Bubblers to well under 50 yards in the first half, the offense got rolling and scored three touchdowns in the second quarter. Lopez scored on a two-yard run, the touchdown set up on a 20-yard pass from Powell to Jarrod Pugh five plays into the period.

A fumble recovery by linebacker Jeremy Wells on Boiling Springs’ second play following the touchdown set up the Raiders’ third trip to the end zone. A 21-yard run by Julian Nester on first down from the 45, followed by a 6-yard run by Lopez moved the ball to the Bubbler 18. Lopez took a pitch right from Powell, cut back to the middle and raced to the end zone with 8:36 left in the half.

With Arthur Dash, Tymir Jackson, Collin Heffner, Tajae Broadie, Quincy Reinnagel, Wells and Dylon Zettlermoyer leading the way, the defense gave up nothing to their hosts. With 7:18 left in the second stanza and following a Bubbler punt, the Middletown offense was back on the field at its own 35. Broadie made the most of his lone carry of the night, racing 50 yards to the Boiling Springs 15 on first down. Three plays later, Rodriguez connected with Pugh right down the middle for a 9-yard scoring pass and, with Sessa’s kick, the Raiders were well in command with a 27-0 lead.

A bit later, the Bubblers had their best chance of the first half to put points on the board after recovering a fumbled punt return by the Raiders. Starting at the Middletown 38 with 3:39 left, the Bubblers picked up one first down to the 24 on a keeper by quarterback Colin Lunde before the Raiders slammed the door shut on the hopeful drive.

Wells dropped Lunde for a 5-yard loss, Joseph and Nester broke up a pair of pass attempts and Evan Grogan stopped Lunde for no gain on fourth down to end the threat with 33 seconds left in the first half. 

On first down, Lopez ripped off a 24-yard gain to the Boiling Springs 47 and then added another 24-yard run after picking up a low lateral and dashing across the field before being stopped at the 28.

The half ended on an incomplete pass, but the Blue Raiders were sitting on a comfortable 27-0 lead at the break.

The Bubblers tried to get something going offensively to start the second half, but Joseph’s pick-six ended those hopes in a hurry. With the 33-0 lead on the board, the Blue Raiders went for two on the conversion, which turned out to be a successful call. Powell’s pass to Broadie was good, setting off the running clock the rest of the way.

Defensive plays by Broadie, Heffner, Tim Wagner and Nester kept the Bubblers from reaching midfield and with many backup players on the field, the Raiders reached the home team’s 19 in five plays.

The big shot was a 53-yard run by T.J. Daniels. But the Bubbler defense held firm, denying the Raiders any further scoring.

The Bubblers picked up yards vs. Middletown’s second-team defense, but a fumble recovery by Ayden Miller with 6:19 left in the game stopped the hosts at their own 35.

The Raiders’ possession went nowhere and the Bubblers had one more chance to score. But Boiling Springs ran out of time after crossing midfield on the final play of the game.