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Blue Raiders girls soccer team finishes up season in tourney

The Middletown Blue Raiders girls soccer season came to an end on Saturday when they fell to Lancaster Mennonite, 2-0, in Round 2 of the District 3 Class 2A districts.

Middletown was able to generate some early pressure in the opening 15 minutes of play, including a few good scoring chances. The first came on a ball in the box that was flicked past the keeper and went off the right post. However, LMH was able to clear the ball away before Middletown could get the rebound. Two other scoring opportunities sailed high and wide of the goal.

It was Lancaster Mennonite that got on the board first. Having won a corner kick, they sent the ball to the back post where Marissa Hoober won the ball and headed it into the net.
The remainder of the first half saw few chances for either team.

The second half saw Lancaster Mennonite establish possession and control the play. They increased their lead to 2-0 on a set piece midway through the second half.

The remainder of the game was back and forth as Middletown tried to push up to get a goal. Both teams created good scoring opportunities, but neither was able to put the ball in the net.

Middletown wrapped up its season with a 9-9-1 record. The team was able to overcome an 0-4 start to the season, and even sat at 4-8-1 at the end of September, but was able to win their last five regular season games to clinch a playoff spot in districts.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 12:54

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Raiders runner Marrero just misses qualifying for state cross country

Jaleena ManeroPhoto by Jodi Ocker -- Jaleena Marrero (694) narrowly missed qualifying for states.

Several representatives of the Middletown Blue Raider cross country team traveled to Big Spring High School on Saturday to participate in the District 3 AA championships.

In the girls’ race, the sole contestant for Middletown was Jaleena Marrero.  Her personal best time of 21:08 placed her 25th. She was the first finisher among those who did not qualify for the state championship meet, completing the race a mere 3 seconds from the qualifying mark.

In the boys’ race, Justin Shaffer was the first Blue Raider to cross the finish line. He was the 48th finisher in the field, in a personal best time of 17:54. His time was 21 seconds away from qualification for the state championships.  

Caleb Ocker, the only senior on the team, finished in 19:08, concluding his high school career with a personal best time.

Other participants for the blue and gold were Zach Malay (19:59) and Dan Brenner (20:27).

“This has been a transitional season for us,” coach Pete Fox said. “We have realized marked improvement over last season, and we can begin to see ourselves developing into a competitive program. It has been a great privilege to work with this group of kind, humble and diligent young people.”

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 12:49

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Top-seed Tulpehocken spells end of line for boys soccer

Conner GoldenPhoto by Debbie Spear -- Conner Golden battles for the ball vs. Tulpehocken.

By Mitch Spear
For the Press And Journal

The Middletown Blue Raiders boys soccer team earned its first district playoff victory since 2010 on Oct. 24 vs. Trinity, but fell in the District III quarterfinals against top seed Tulpehocken on Saturday.

Middletown finished 12-7 in the regular season and 8-6 in the Mid-Penn Capital Division, good for third place.

Tulpehocken 6, Middletown 0

The Tulpehocken Trojans were superior to the Raiders in all facets, controlling the game with a speedy midfield, relentless team defense, precision passing and the large athletic goal-keeping of Trent Johnson.

The Trojans needed less than 3 minutes to score when Dan Whitmer passed to Vance Gradwell, who needed only one touch to cut to the inside to set up his right foot for the low strike past goalkeeper Thomas Lee.

The Trojans second tally came off a beautiful corner kick taken by Jaeden Mathias that found an unmarked Brian Garay. Garay was crashing from outside the goal box and one-timed a side volley into the back of the Raiders’ goal.

Gradwell got his second of the game, this time from the service of Garay, to put the Trojans up three. The Trojans nearly got the fourth, when the best save of the night occurred. The save required two efforts, the first as Lee came off his line to challenge the Trojans forward breaking through the Raiders defensive line. Lee’s initial save was heading far post when AJ Fischer followed the carom and headed the ball out just inches from the goal line.

The Trojans did get a fourth goal before half, as the combination of Gradwell to Garay continued to prove effect against the Raiders’ defense.

The second half effort was better from the Raiders, although they still found it difficult to generate scoring chances. Garay and Gradwell reversed roles on the fifth goal and this time Garay hooked up with Gradwell with a pass that found Garay one on one with Lee, putting the Trojans up by 5.

The Raiders’ closest chance to break onto the scoreboard came from a corner kick. Blake Gill was able to go up high over the Trojans defense and direct his header far post from the service of Jacob Spear. However, the tall, athletic keeper needed just two steps to cover the far post for the nice save.

The Trojans added one more when Jaden Mathias whipped in a nice cross to Gradwell. Gradwell continued to plague the Raiders’ defense as he scored his third goal of the night.

Middletown 4, Trinity 1

Riding the confidence of a four-game winning streak and enjoying the recent successes in their offensive production, the Raiders intended to strike first and have Trinity chase the game. However, this was not the case, as an early defensive clear off the head of the Raiders defensive line fell to the foot of Trinity’s Jordan Altmeyer. Altmeyer’s lob volley on the ball was the perfect arc over the head of Thomas Lee standing a few yards out from goal.

The ball was perfectly placed and touched just under the crossbar to drop straight down over the goal line as Lee back peddled to the goal frame. The resulting goal put Trinity up 1-0, but seemed to provide the Raiders the additional motivation to begin their dominate possession and pressure attack against the Shamrocks.  

The remainder of the first half was an offensive flurry of chances for the Raiders as they completely controlled the middle third of the field compliments of strong play from the central midfielders.

With less than 2 minutes remaining, the Raiders came close to equalizing, not once, but three times as a sequence of consecutive shots hit post followed by two crossbars. The first shot came from the foot of Thomas Einolf that was directed off the keeper hands and struck far post. The resulting ricochet fell to David Alcock, a few yards out from goal, and was struck hard off the crossbar and straight down back into the field off play.

This provided the third attempt by Ian Guckavan that was deflected off a Shamrock defender’s head and struck the crossbar. From the sound of the second half whistle, the Raiders continued to high press and dominate the midfield winning the majority of the 50-50 balls. This pressure began to pay off as the Raiders tallied for four straight second half goals while giving up zero.

The first came from a nice string of passes that started with Conner Golden finding Blake Gill. Gill continued to switch the field of play to Nate Nelson, who found space to work in a shot and pull the Raiders even at one.

Nelson found net again after making a nice run far post to shake his defender. Once clear of the defense Nelson was about to collect the service from Jacob Spear. The initial shot was saved but caromed directly back to Nelson who made no mistake with the extra opportunity.

The Raiders went up 3-1 as a result of the great individual effort from Gill, who stayed strong with his dribble to work around three Shamrock defenders. Gill struck a perfectly placed ball that bumped the inside of the far post for the Raiders’ goal.

The last score of the contest came late when Spear whipped a cross into Ian making a nice run between defenders. Ian did well to direct the low driven cross first time beyond the keeper side-netting.

The Raiders ended with 18 shots on goal and Lee finished with 5 saves for the Raiders.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 12:34

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McDevitt too much for Lower Dauphin in 42-21 loss

LDfootballPhoto by John Diffenderfer -- Brendan Shaffer runs for some tough yards on Friday vs. Bishop McDevitt.

Press And Journal Staff

Lower Dauphin running back/linebacker Brendan Shaffer had another huge game for the Falcons, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a fast-starting Bishop McDevitt squad in the 42-21 loss on the road Friday.

Shaffer didn’t quite have the game he did against Cumberland Valley the previous Friday, when he ran for 263 yards and two touchdowns. But he did total 146 yards and two scores vs. the Crusaders. He added two solo tackles and nine assisted tackles on defense for 11 total, second on the team to defensive lineman Justin McIntyre.

The loss put Lower Dauphin at 4-5 on the season, and they will play the 1-8 Hershey Trojans on Friday in their season finale.

While Coach Greg Kratzer said the Falcons “did some good stuff” on offense, two fumbles and too many mistakes were too much to overcome.

One fumble came in the second quarter and led to a quick McDevitt score. The second was in the fourth quarter when the game was still in doubt at 35-21 and a low snap led to a turnover near midfield.

McDevitt scored twice in the first quarter before it was even half over, on a 3-yard run by Matt Geiger and 33-yard pass from Tayvon Bowers to Nazir Burnett.

But Shaffer got Lower Dauphin on the board before the quarter ended, on a 9-yard run in which he carried several Crusaders into the end zone.

Two quick scores in the second quarter all but put the game away for the Crusaders.

Bowers scored on a 5-yard run, and less than 30 seconds later following a Falcon fumble, Juquil Adams hauled in a 26-yard pass from Bowers to make it 28-7 at halftime.

The Falcons would play McDevitt even on the scoreboard in the second half. On a draw play, Shaffer broke off a 74-yard run for a touchdown with just less than 11 minutes left in the third quarter. He made about five McDevitt defenders miss on the play.

“We did not block the draw play especially well,” Kratzer said. “He made a heck of an individual effort to get into the end zone.”

But Geiger answered with a 20-yard run to put the score at 35-14.

Lower Dauphin came back again, scoring on a 1-yard Ryan Kutz touchdown run.
But another Geiger touchdown run, this one from 1 yard out, early in the fourth quarter put the game away.

Quarterback Aidan Klassen was 11 for 19 for 128 yards. Lower Dauphin attempted only six passes the previous week vs. Cumberland Valley.

“We knew against McDevitt you’re going to get a ton of man coverage,” and they’re going to stack the box to make you run, Kratzer said.

Klassen played more at quarterback than Ryan Kutz, with whom he’s been platooning, because “a lot of the stuff we were going to do passing wise was more in his skill set.”

In the final contest vs. Hershey, Kratzer said he wants a clean game with efficient offensive play. Hershey is going to try to spread it out and get its players in space offensively.

“Our mantra and what we’ve been saying all year is, we just have to keep getting better,” he said.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2016 12:05

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RECORD-SETTING WIN: Thompson reaches career rushing mark; Blue Raiders crush Milton Hershey

Top Raider


Jalen Thompson (left) topped the Middletown Blue Raiders career rushing record of Rodney Ramsey (right). Here are the Top 5 after Thompson.

Rodney Ramsey
2006-2008, 3,409 yards
Mike Corradi
1991-1993, 3,301 yards
Scott Eberly
1987-1989, 3,135 yards
Earl Brown
1971-1973, 2,697 yards  
Tony Colston
1961-1963, 2,894 yards

Senior running back Jaelen Thompson set a new career rushing record and the Blue Raiders routed host Milton Hershey 49-20 on Friday night for their ninth straight victory.

The win landed the Raiders in sole possession of the top spot in the Mid-Penn Capital Division and solidified their ranking as the No. 1 team in District III 3A rankings.

Behind Thompson and backfield running mate Brady Fox, the Middletown offense rolled up 334 yards and six touchdowns against the previously once-beaten Spartans. A seventh touchdown came on an interception return by Tyreer Mills in the second quarter.

Tyreer Mills sizedPhotos by Jodi Ocker -- Tyreer Mills and Brady Fox work on coralling a kickoff on Friday in Middletown’s 49-20 win vs. Milton Hershey.

Thompson has 3,425 career rushing yards, passing the 3,409 yards by Rodney Ramsey, whose last season was in 2008.

“I could not have done it without the line and I feel that we set the record as a team,” Thompson said.

But because of the performance by the offense and the equally impressive efforts of the defense and special teams, the victory could not be attributed to just one area. Brett Myers called it a total team effort.

“These guys always work hard and they love to compete against each other in practices, and that’s what makes them successful,” Myers said following the win that kept the Raiders’ winning streak intact.

Just one team, Steelton-Highspire, stands in the way of a perfect regular season for the Middletown team. The Rollers will visit War Memorial Field on Friday night when the Blue Raiders will be celebrating Senior Night.

Because of the depth and big numbers on the team’s roster, Myers and his coaching staff have the luxury of using several players exclusively on either offense or defense. That, according to the coach, has been a big plus as well.

“We have times at practices when we have 1s going against 1s,” he noted.

With its large number of players on its roster, Milton Hershey also has that advantage. But the Spartans numbers did not add up to the success that the Blue Raiders enjoyed Friday night in front of a big crowd at Henry Hershey Field. The Raiders struck quickly and often and handed the Spartans just their second loss of the season, spoiling Milton Hershey’s own senior recognition evening.  

It did not take long for the Raiders to put some points on the scoreboard. Milton Hershey won the coin toss and elected to defer, which turned out to work against the home team.

After starting at their own 21 following the opening kickoff, the Blue Raiders made short work of their first possession when Thompson broke off a 68-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the drive. Thompson ran through a big gap on the right side and sprinted past the shocked Spartan defenders for the fast score. Donovan Brady made his first of 7 extra point kicks to make it a 7-0 game just 1:37 in.

The Spartans started off on the right foot following the kickoff by picking up 30 yards on a first-down pass from Keonte Lucas. But a personal foul on the next play set the stage for failure for the home team.

The Spartans got a couple breaks, however, when a punt rolled dead at the 5 yard line and a Chase Snavely pass was intercepted five plays later. After reaching the Middletown 12 in five plays, a promising drive was turned away when Tristan Maxwell and Kyle Truesdale sacked Lucas for a 12-yard loss on third and six. Lucas got the 12 back on a fourth down run, but came up short of a first down.

A huge run by Tyreer Mills on first down was wiped out by a Raider penalty that temporarily set the Middletown offense back. But runs by Thompson, Snavely and Fox got the Raiders out of trouble. On third and 9 from the 39, Snavely hooked up with Mills for a 31-yard pass play and a face mask penalty against the Spartans moved the ball to the 15 as the first quarter clock wound down.

On the first play of the second quarter, Fox went right on a sweep and picked up a good block by Jose Lopez that keyed Fox’s 9-yard touchdown run. The Raiders now led by a 14-0 score.

The defensive heroes were many for the Middletown side and Bobby Graham, Blake Jacoby, Hunter Landis, Haden Landis and Truesdale led the way on Milton Hershey’s ensuing series, a drive that started at the 20 and ended at the 42. On fourth and 13 Lucas’ punt was partially blocked by Ethan Newton and the Middletown offense was back on the field at the Raiders’ 45.

Newton, Griffen Radabaugh, Tommy Staker, Trey Michal, Brendan Douglass and tight end Malik Noon, a group that dominated the line of scrimmage throughout, cleared the way for Middletown’s third touchdown. Thompson capped the five-play drive with a 38-yard scoring run right through the heart of the Spartans’ defense with 5:59 left in the first half.

Trying to recover from the 21-0 deficit, Lucas and his mates tried to make something happen through the air. But, that, too, turned against the host ream when Mills picked off Lucas’ third down throw at the 33 and raced uncontested to the end zone for yet another tally. With their team now up by a 28-0 count, the Middletown fans were ecstatic.

Down but not out, the Spartans came back and finally got on the scoreboard on a 59-yard touchdown run by Jibri Bones with 3:32 left in the first half. Unfazed by the Milton Hershey touchdown, the Blue Raiders responded with yet another touchdown a minute later.

On second and 10, Snavely connected with Lopez for a 25 yard gain to the Milton Hershey 39. This time Fox went left and settled in behind the blocks of several of his teammates before cutting back to the right and racing into the end zone at the 2:20 mark.

The Spartans’ best offensive weapon is Lucas, and he proved that by starting off Milton Hershey’s possession with a big 45-yard run to the Middletown 32. Other carries by Bones moved the host team to the Raiders’ 4 yard line with the seconds ticking away. On third down, however, Lucas was stopped a yard shy of the goal line on the final play of the first half and the Middletown side held its 35-7 lead.

Noon’s tackle of Mark Johnson on a nearly botched kickoff return gave the Spartans less than desirable field position at their own 12 to start the second half. And the Middletown defense made sure their hosts would not get out of the hole. Tre Leach’s coverage on second and 8 forced an incomplete pass and a third down throw was nearly intercepted by Truesdale, who actually caught the ball out of bounds.

A short punt gave the Raiders possession at the Milton Hershey 45 and led to Middletown’s sixth touchdown of the game. Runs by Thompson, Snavely and Fox moved the ball to the Milton Hershey 11. On the sixth run of the series Thompson went 10 yards to the 1, eclipsing the school rushing record.

Following the record-setting run, Snavely scored on a keeper at the 7:43 mark and boosted the Middletown advantage to 42-7.

With the mercy clock now running, the Spartans responded with a 12-play drive that covered 82 yards and resulted in a touchdown with 2:05 left in the third quarter. The Spartans attempted an onsides kick, but Leach corralled the ball at the hosts’ 48, setting up one final scoring drive for the Raiders.

Fox went 10 yards on first down, Thompson added a 14-yard dash on the next play and Fox added 8 more on the final play of the period. A Milton Hershey penalty gave the Raiders a first and goal at the 8.

On the initial play of the fourth quarter, Fox alertly picked up a fumbled exchange and raced around left end for the six pointer that put the game out of reach at 49-14. The Spartans scored on a 63-yard pass from Lucas to Keliel Riggs with 10:05 left but came up empty on a final drive after the Raiders had run six minutes off the clock.

NEXT UP--The Blue Raiders host Steelton-Highspire at War Memorial Field 7 p.m. Friday

Last Updated on Tuesday, 01 November 2016 15:31

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