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Blue Raiders have no problem with Wyomissing, move on to state playoffs; Fox sets rushing mark

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 11/17/17


“That was good, huh?” understated Middletown head coach Brett Myers following his team’s 49-0 rout of Wyomissing in the District III 3A championship game on Thursday night …

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Blue Raiders have no problem with Wyomissing, move on to state playoffs; Fox sets rushing mark



“That was good, huh?” understated Middletown head coach Brett Myers following his team’s 49-0 rout of Wyomissing in the District III 3A championship game on Thursday night at cold, windy Hersheypark Stadium.

With the victory, the Blue Raiders defended their district championship, adding another trophy to the school’s display cases.

The triumph also marked a record-breaking performance by senior running back Brady Fox, who eclipsed the program’s all-time rushing mark that was set just last year by Jaelen Thompson.

Finishing the night with 204 yards and four touchdowns, Fox set the new standard at 4,008, topping Thompson’s 3,855. While many of his yards were made easy by the work of the Blue Raiders offensive linemen, Fox also added hard-nosed running while breaking tackles in tight situations.

After Fox, here are Middletown’s all-time rushers.

• Jaelen Thompson, 2013-2016, 3,855 yards

• 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

Along with his outstanding night, backfield mate Jose Lopez romped for 120 yards and a touchdown, while the Middletown defense pitched the shutout over the Spartans, who came into the game with just one loss. Lopez, a sophomore, broke a milestone as well, topping 2,000 yards for his career. That means Fox’s record might not stand for long.

The defense continued an impressive streak. Other than a 45-34 win against Trinity on Sept. 29, the team has not given up more than 10 points in a game this season. Palmyra scored exactly 10 on Oct. 6. In the other 10 games, the Blue Raiders have three shutouts and seven games in which they held their opponents to exactly 7 points.

For the second straight year, the Blue Raiders move on to the PIAA Class 3A state playoffs. In the quarterfinals, they will play the winner of Scranton Prep (12-0) and Loyalsock (8-4). Those teams play tonight at Williamsport High School. The exact date and location have not been determined.

In the other half of the bracket, Lansdale Catholic (5-6) plays Conwell Egan (5-6) tonight. The winner of that will play the winner of Palisades (12-0) and Lehighton (12-0). They play Saturday. If Middletown wins their next game, they will play whomever survives from those four teams.

Middletown beat Scranton Prep in the state quarterfinals last year.

Because the Blue Raiders had won last year’s district title in a 48-20 decision over Wyomissing, the Spartans made the trip to Hershey looking for some revenge in the rematch. But it didn’t happen.

The Raiders grabbed a 7-0 lead in the first quarter and added two more scores in the second to carry a 21-0 advantage into the halftime break. And, while Wyomissing made some advances in the game, the Middletown defense came up with key plays that kept the Spartans out of the end zone in the contest. And it all added up to the title-winning effort for the blue and gold.

“These kids worked really hard to get here,” said Myers, again showing no surprise about the game’s outcome. “They have the community support behind them and they are a great group of kids.”

Coming off their 13-9 win the previous week against Littlestown in the first round of district play, the Spartans got the ball first to start the game, but were forced to punt. The Blue Raiders took over at their own 38 and got the early jump by needing just six plays to score the game’s first points.

A 31-yard pass from Scott Ash to Tyreer Mills on the second play and a 12-yard run by Mills two plays later set up the Raiders at the Wyomissing 12. On second and 10, Ryan Hughes broke free down the middle and grabbed Ash’s accurate throw for the six points with 6:58 left in the opening period.

Kicker Donovan Brady, who finished the game by making 7-of-7 extra point kicks, gave the Raiders the 7-0 lead.

Behind the running of fullback Tim Kowalski the Spartans pieced together a steady drive that reached the Middletown 39 in six plays, giving the appearance the a tying score was imminent. But the Raider defense, and a motion penalty, stopped the drive in its tracks, forcing another punt.

The Raiders, however, went nowhere with the ball and a short punt into the wind that went out of bounds gave the Spartans great field position at the Middletown 37. But the opportunity was wasted following terrific defensive plays by Mills, Gage Radabaugh and Blake Jacoby that ended the threat at the 32 where the Middletown offense took over 12 seconds into the second period. 

After having carried the ball just once in the first quarter, Fox ran three straight times for 18 yards to start the Raiders offensive possession. Lopez picked up 14 yards on a pair of runs before Ash and Mills connected for 8 yards and first down at the Wyomissing 28. On second and 9, Fox broke free and raced 27 yards for the Raiders second score with 8:28 left in the first half.

Tre’ Leach and Cole Senior keyed the Middletown defense’s next series after a bobbled kickoff return put the Spartans into a deep hole. Forced to punt from the end zone, Owen Pendergast’s kick went just 18 yards and set up the Raiders at the 20. And, even though a holding penalty pushed the ball back to the 28, the Blue Raiders struck quickly with Fox again taking it the distance. With the run Fox surpassed the rushing record as the coaches, players and fans, all aware of the new record, erupted in cheers.

The 21-0 lead held up through the remaining 5:10 of the half, the Spartans again stopped when Joey Gusler recovered a Wyomissing fumble near midfield.

A 44-yard kickoff return by Mills started off the second half in a big way for the Blue Raiders. And, although Ash was sacked for an 8-yard loss by the Spartans’ Alyas Branford-Williams following an initial first down, the Middletown offense shook off the temporary setback and scored again to pad its lead. On second-and-18 from the 50, Fox took off on a 33-yard sprint to the 17 and set the stage for his third touchdown that came on his next carry, a dash around right end at the 10:03 mark.

Pushed into a 28-0 hole at that point, the Spartans desperately needed to make something happen. They nearly did just that. With Kowalski again finding running room up the middle and Ben Terefenko connecting on a 24-yard pass to Payton Gonzalez, the Spartans pushed deep into Raider territory. But on a first-and-goal from the 4 yard line Kyle Truesdale ruined Wyomissing’s promising drive with his end zone interception that crushed the Spartans hopes of a comeback.

That defensive play, along with yet another Middletown touchdown, pretty much locked up the District III title for the Blue Raiders. Three plays into Middletown’s offensive set it was Lopez’ turn to shine. On first down at the 33, Lopez went left, shook off three tackles a couple yards past the line of scrimmage and turned on the jets as he raced 67 yards for the touchdown with 4:28 left in the third. With the extra point kick the lead had swelled to 35-0 and set the mercy clock in motion.

Trayvon Joseph’s sack of Terefenko killed Wyomissing’s short-lived drive and the Middletown offense was back on the field at its own 19. Fox ran for 46 and 6 yards and Lopez carried twice for 5 before leaving with an ankle injury. His second run gave the Raiders a first and 10 at the Wyomissing 24 to start the fourth quarter. On the next play Fox darted through a gap up the middle, made a pair of juke moves to get free and dashed to the end zone and put the game out of reach at 42-0.

Middletown’s second defense stopped the Spartans in their tracks at their own 36 after a failed fourth and two attempt. Chris Joseph got into the scoring act with the second offense and scored on a 9-yard run up the middle with 6:36 left in the game.

Wyomissing drove to the Middletown 26 but would get no closer as the clock ran down to zero, setting off the championship celebration on the Middletown side.