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Loaded for Bear: Underdog Raiders throttle Northern York, 12-7

Posted 9/10/13


A host of Middletown players shine in the season’s first victory


After Middletown’s impressive 12-7 win over Northern York on Friday, Sept. 6 at War Memorial Field, Coach Brett Myers was quick to credit his team for the …

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Loaded for Bear: Underdog Raiders throttle Northern York, 12-7


defense9 11 13 webPhoto by Jodi Ocker Middletown’s Nick Drawbaugh (71) corrals a Northern York runner.Even though he was thrilled with his first victory at Middletown, Myers was quick to pass the accolades to his team. “The players did not second-guess anything we were doing as coaches and played a great game,” he said.

Entering the nondivisional contest against the heavily-favored Polar Bears, the Blue Raiders played with intensity and determination, and turned in an outstanding effort in posting the exciting triumph.

Assistant Coach Bronson Ganse summed up his feelings in one word following the win: “Wow,” he said, adding another “wow.”

Ganse said Northern came into the game expecting to record their second win of the season and did not expect the Raiders to play as tough as they did.  

The heroes in the victory were many.

In fact, the whole team turned in a heroic effort, showing what teamwork can accomplish.  The offense turned in a commendable performance against a solid Northern defense led by outstanding linebacker Rich Settle. There was the combined running efforts of seniors Josh Matinchek (17 carries, 84 yards) and Chris Holloman (15 carries, 66 yards); the on-field leadership of quarterback Osman Kamara who took over for injured starter Nathan Ocker; the work of Nick Drawbaugh, Brent Newton, Caleb Leggore, Colton Smith and Mitch Ward up front; and the kicking of Josh Alcock.

On defense, many of those same players, along with Steven Cain, Kurt Dey, Justin Shaver, Levi Varner and Mel Fager, joined forces to preserve the win, especially in the fourth quarter when Northern threatened to steal a victory in the late minutes.

All in all, it was a classic example of a team victory, one that Myers will surely remember for a long time.  

Following a season-opening shutout loss to Lower Dauphin and the absence of Ocker in that game, there were certainly questions about how the Raiders (1-1) would react to that adversity. Middletown shrugged off that early setback and played very well right from the start.

After holding the Polar Bears (1-1) to a three-and-out on the opening drive of the game, the Raiders reached the Northern 35 yard line before running out of downs. After a second Northern three-and-out, keyed by a pair of stops for losses by Cain, the Bears were forced to punt and the Raiders took over on the Northern 36 yard line.

kick9 11 13 webPress And Journal Photo by Noelle Barrett Steelton-Highspire defender Logan Davis (4) tackles Elco receiver Derek Miller.Runs by Holloman and Matinchek moved the ball to the 6-yard line. On fourth-and-goal Alcock stepped in a booted a 23-yard field goal to give the home team a 3-0 lead with 1:20 left in the first period.  

Early in the second stanza, the Raiders were on the move again, but lost a fumble at the Northern 24.

With just under 5:00 left in the first half, Middletown’s Justin Shaver intercepted Northern quarterback Justin Markle’s pass and the Raider offense was back in business at the Bears’ 13. Four plays later, Alcock kicked his second field goal – this one from 24 yards out – and the Raiders led, 6-0 with 2:35 remaining in the second quarter.

Another three-and-out forced a Northern punt and the Raiders took over at their own 44 yard line with 1:46 left.  

On second-and-1 from the Northern 47, Matinchek stepped through a hole between center and right guard, sidestepped a Northern linebacker at the 43 and outran the Bears’ defense to the north end zone for the season’s first touchdown with 1:06 left in the half.  The extra point try missed, but the Raiders took a 12-0 lead into halftime.

Little did anyone know that the Middletown side would score no more points in the game.  But because of an outstanding defensive effort throughout the second half, those points would turn out to be enough to guarantee a victory.

The Raiders received the opening kickoff to start the second half and hoped to move down the field to put more points on the board. But Settle, who was a defensive beast all night, and his teammates stopped the Raiders at their own 40.

Keyed by a 37-yard run on fourth-and-1 by Sam Geiser, the Polar Bears followed with a six-play drive that was capped by a 24-yard Markle-to-Settle scoring pass with 6:32 left in the third.  The extra point kick made it a 12-7 game and set the stage for a tense finish.  

Late in the third quarter, the Bears took over at their own 18 and, sparked by a personal foul against Middletown and a 43-yard Markle-to-Settle pass, Northen reached the Raiders’ 10 yard line as the period ended. With the Bears facing a third-and-9, Markle went back to pass. From his cornerback position, Dey intercepted Markle’s throw inside the 5 yard line and raced the distance to the end zone with the pick. But the touchdown was wiped out by a blocking penalty and the Raiders were denied the 6 points.

Unable to get out of the deep hole following the penalty, the Raiders were forced to punt.  Fager, who had been outstanding with his kicks all game, saw his fifth punt of the night go awry and the Bears took over at the Raiders’ 22 with 9:19 on the clock.

With the tension building, the Raiders got a break when the Bears were called for holding on second down. Pressure by Middletown’s Will Botterbusch forced an incompletion on one pass play, and Middletown’s Seth Babil dropped Northern’s Robert Shelly for a 2-yard loss on a completed pass one play later.

On fourth-and-14, Matinchek intercepted Markle’s next throw to stop the threat.

The Raiders, however, were still pinned deep in their own territory. Middletown picked up a first down on a short run by Holloman and a face mask penalty, but the Raiders hurt themselves with a pair of penalties of their own and were again forced to kick from deep.  This time, Fager boomed a long one that was downed near midfield.

The home crowd chanted, “defense, defense,” and the Raiders responded.

Following a tackle by Middletown’s Ward and an incomplete pass on second down, Drawbaugh and Botterbusch put the exclamation point on the Raiders’ defensive statement by teaming to sack Markle for a 7-yard loss on third-and-10. Another incompletion turned the ball over to the Raiders with 2:21 left.

After Middletown used up most of the remaining time, the Bears had one last chance to pull out a win but had just 38 seconds to work with and no timeouts left.

From his safety spot, the Raiders’ Varner intercepted a desperate throw by Markle to seal the victory and set off a celebration on the Middletown side of the field.

Larry Etter can be reached at larryetter66@gmail.com.{jcomments on}


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