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Blue Raiders fall short for second straight year, lose state 3A championship game to Quaker Valley

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

717-944-4628
Posted 12/10/17

Middletown head football coach Brett Myers placed the blame for Saturday's loss to Quaker Valley in the Pennsylvania 3A championship game squarely on his broad shoulders. 

“We …

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Blue Raiders fall short for second straight year, lose state 3A championship game to Quaker Valley

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Middletown head football coach Brett Myers placed the blame for Saturday's loss to Quaker Valley in the Pennsylvania 3A championship game squarely on his broad shoulders. 

“We didn’t play our best game today, and that is on me as the coach,” he said following the Blue Raiders' disappointing 41-24 loss at snowy Hersheypark Stadium. 

It was the second straight year the Blue Raiders ran through the season undefeated before falling in the state title game. Middletown lost to Beaver Falls last year, 30-13.

“We didn’t call the right plays at times," Myers said about the problems with Middletown’s passing game, continuing to take the blame whether fully justified or not. 

Quaker Valley’s highly regarded defense succeeded by loading up to stop the Raiders’ high-scoring running offense. The passing did not click enough to pick up the slack. Junior quarterback Scott Ash was limited to just 4 completions in 16 attempts and was pressured into throwing a pair of interceptions. 

While the Raiders registered 190 yards on the ground, a big chunk of that came late in the game when the outcome was decided.

Senior Brady Fox (76 yards rushing) and sophomore Jose Lopez (44 yards) were never really able to break the long runs that highlighted this season. Quaker Valley’s linebackers took care of that. There were, of course, some shining moments for the Blue Raiders, but not enough to overcome Quaker Valley’s stellar play. 

“We have a great group of kids, and going 28-2 these past two seasons was quite an accomplishment,” Myers said. 

During the course of this outstanding season, as team after team fell to the Raiders, it became obvious that it was going to take an exceptional opponent to keep the Middletown squad from completing its championship run. And, like last year in the Raiders’ loss to Beaver Falls, it was Quaker Valley that answered the challenge. 

Indications as to how the game was going to go showed early as the Blue Raiders came up empty on their initial offensive possession. After gaining a first down via a Quaker Valley penalty, the Raiders were stopped cold when Ash was dropped for a 9-yard loss on third and 8. But the Quakers, too, were stopped after picking up an early first down as Blake Jacoby, Cole Senior and Antonio Gamble made key plays. A three-and-out, however, on the Raiders’ ensuing possession led to the Quakers’ first score of the game. 

On the fifth play of Quaker Valley’s offensive series, Jordan Taylor broke free on a 34-yard touchdown run with 2:57 left in the first quarter. The PAT gave the western state champions a 7-0 lead. 

The Quakers’ first interception came two plays later when Ash scooped up a low snap and hurried his throw, right into the hands of Quaker Valley safety Joe Peduzzi near midfield. The Raiders, however, escaped unharmed thanks to key plays by Senior, Trayvon Joseph, Tyreer Mills and Tre’ Leach. The Middletown offense took over at its own 20 following a Quaker punt.

On first down, Fox took off with his best run of the day, a 31-yarder, that moved the Raiders to the Quaker Valley 49. The Raiders picked up another first down on a 5-yard run by Lopez on the final play of the first quarter. That momentum carried into the second stanza as the Middletown offense steadily moved down the field. A pair of runs by Fox gave the Raiders a first down at the 12, but the drive stalled at the 6. Donovan Brady’s 23-yard field goal attempt just missed to the left and the Raiders were still without any points. 

But that changed just two minutes later after the Middletown defense forced another Quaker Valley punt. Leach fielded the ball on the bounce, headed to the right side and picked up excellent blocking from his teammates. Aided by a crushing block by Gage Radabaugh inside the 10, he never stopped running until he reached the end zone 55 yards away in an exciting play that tied the game at 7 with 5:59 left in the first half.

The elation the team and their loyal fans felt lasted just a short time. Three plays into Quaker Valley’s ensuing possession, Ethan Moore outjumped Leach on a high throw from quarterback Ricky Guss, resulting in a 66-yard touchdown and the go-ahead points for the Quakers. 

Before the half was over, the Quakers scored twice more to take a surprising 28-7 lead into halftime . The first one came following a forced three-and-out against the Raiders and an agonizingly short punt that set the Quakers up at the Middletown 34. Four plays later, Guss connected with Moore on a 1-yard scoring pass. The second one came when linebacker Andrew Seymour intercepted another hurried throw by Ash, a pick that he took 42 yards to the end zone with 1:04 left. 

The Quakers, with all the confidence and momentum on their side, made it a 35-7 game on the first possession of the second half. Taylor capped a five-play, 67-yard drive with a 35-yard touchdown run at the 9:55 mark. 

The Blue Raiders tried to rally when a pair of passes from Ash to Ryan Hughes (25 yards) and Mills (20 yards) keyed a drive that ended in a 39-yard field goal by Brady with 5:01 left in the third. Not to be outdone, however, the Quakers, behind the running of Taylor and Guss, drove down the field, reaching the Middletown 1 yard line on the final play of the quarter. 

Guss took it in from there two plays into the fourth and pushed the Quaker Valley lead to 41-10 with 11:52 left in the game. That score remained unchanged until the Blue Raiders broke the ice seven minutes later. Starting at their own 46 with 6:39 left, the Raiders picked up a huge gain on a heads up play by Kyle Truesdale. On a pass from Ash, Chris Plummer and two Quaker Valley defenders went up for the ball that was tipped away. Truesdale was in the right spot to corral the carom and he made it to the Quaker Valley 8 before being drug down. The play covered 41 yards and set up Middletown’s second touchdown, a 1-yard dive on the left side by Leach. 

After a failed onsides kickoff attempt, the Quakers had the ball at their own 45 and appeared to be set to score yet again after reaching the Middletown 16. But a lost fumble that was recovered by the Raiders turned away the effort. With the Raiders’ second offensive unit now on the field, the Quakers sacked backup quarterback Jordan McCoy twice and had the Raiders facing a third and 17 from the 10 yard line. 

Truesdale bailed the offense out by running for 20 yards and a first down at the 30. On the next play Lamar Ventura picked up a low snap and took off running around the left side. Making a couple cuts along the way Ventura completed an exciting 70-yard touchdown run, darting into the end zone with 14 seconds left to make it a 41-24 game. 

Of course it proved to be too little, too late for the Middletown team as their season ran out with the loss. But, for the second year in a row, the Blue Raiders finished with a 14-1 record along with Mid-Penn Capital Division and District III championships as rewards for their hard work and dedication.