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Happy Homecoming for Raiders: Middletown’s offense, defense excel in win over East Pennsboro

By Larry Etter

Press & Journal Staff

Posted 10/23/19

Heading into the annual Homecoming football game Saturday, the Middletown team was facing a good opponent and some big questions about themselves.

Missing several key defensive starters because …

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Happy Homecoming for Raiders: Middletown’s offense, defense excel in win over East Pennsboro


Heading into the annual Homecoming football game Saturday, the Middletown team was facing a good opponent and some big questions about themselves.

Missing several key defensive starters because of injuries and other factors, the Blue Raiders were facing adversity as they hosted the Panthers from East Pennsboro.

The guests had won just two games during a difficult season, but the annual matchups between Middletown and East Pennsboro have been historically hard-fought contests. Raider head coach Brett Myers expected nothing less.

As it turned out, however, the Blue Raiders claimed a crowd-pleasing 42-7 victory on an afternoon nearly perfect for football.

“The score was not what we thought it would be,” he said. “East Pennsboro runs a good program and their kids are tough.”

But the Middletown kids proved to be tougher, even though those key defensive players would have to sit out the Homecoming and Senior Day contest. Among the missing were seniors Arthur Dash (suspension after being ejected from the Trinity game the previous week) and Collin Heffner (foot injury). The others were juniors Jeremy Wells, Tim Wagner and Julian Nester. But, as Myers said, “Guys stepped up on defense.”

Offensively, the Blue Raiders did what they do best. They ran the ball with much success.

“Our guys up front were moving people and our running backs are pretty good,” he said.

Senior Jose Lopez (25 carries, 141 yards) and junior Tymir Jackson (15 carries, 122 yards) led the way. Both have eclipsed 1,000 yards for the season.

Sophomore quarterback Tony Powell had a conservative outing, completing 5 of 10 passes for 54 yards.

And the Middletown defense with the new faces in the lineup? That unit did very well and held East Pennsboro to just 60 yards (13 on the ground and 47 in the air).

With the win, Middletown moved to 8-1 with a trip to Palmyra (4-5) on Friday. They remained at No. 2 in the PIAA District III 3A football power rankings, behind undefeated Wyomissing and just ahead of 8-1 Lancaster Catholic.

On Saturday, with a large Homecoming crowd on hand, the Blue Raiders wasted little time putting points on the board at sunny War Memorial Field. On the game’s opening possession, the Raiders marched 57 yards in 8 plays for their first tally. Keyed by a 25-yard catch-and-run by senior Chris Joseph, the score came on a 1-yard run by Lopez with 8:06 left in the first quarter. Quincy Reinnegal and Troy Walko both pulled to the right, clearing the way for the TD. Nolan Sessa, perfect on all six PATs in the game, gave the home team a 7-0 lead.

But the lead lasted all of about 20 seconds as East Pennsboro’s Jacob Shermeyer fielded Dagen Hughes’ kickoff at the 7 and weaved his way past the Raiders for a 93-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 7.

Joseph nearly matched that feat on his kickoff return, which he ran back 69 yards to the East Penn 12. Jackson carried three straight times with Nick Newton, Brock Welsh and Amir Potter leading the way and finished off the short drive on a dash through the left side at the 6:38 mark. As it turned out, the 14 points were all the Blue Raiders would have needed for a win. But the Middletown offense, not satisfied, went on to score four more times in the rout. At the same time the Middletown defense shut out the Panthers the rest of the way.

Defensive plays by Dylon Zettlemoyer and Evan Grogan forced a three-and-out for the Panthers and set the stage for Middletown’s third touchdown. Even though they started at their own 14 following an East Penn punt, the Blue Raiders put together a good drive mixing the run and pass as they reached their own 42.

Jackson got the call on the running play. Starting left, he crossed back to the right and picked up a great downfield block from Joseph near the 5 to clear the way for his 58-yard touchdown run. The exciting sprint gave the Raiders a 21-7 lead that held up through the remainder of the first half.

The Middletown offense reached East Pennsboro territory twice in the second quarter but came up empty on both possessions. With 2:59 left in the half, the Panthers had the ball at their own 28 and picked up one first down. But Walko, getting his first start at linebacker, intercepted a Jared Gorman pass to halt the drive.

Aided by a Panther penalty, the Raiders had the ball at the East Penn 23. But Shermeyer picked off a Powell pass to deny Middletown’s attempt to pad its lead. Joseph then intercepted Gorman three plays later with 14 seconds left before the intermission.

Six plays into the second half and one play after Ayden Miller broke up a pass, Joseph recorded his second interception to set up a Middletown score. With a good return and the aid of a Panther penalty, Middletown was on the field at the visitors’ 14. Again, Jackson did the honors, capping the short drive with a 2-yard run that gave the home team a 28-7 lead with 8:48 left in the third.

Defensive stops by Damion Williams and Zettlemoyer, along with quarterback pressures from Tajae Broadie, forced a Panther punt and set the stage for yet another Middletown score.

Starting near midfield and getting runs of 19 yards by Broadie and 20 by Lopez, the drive reached the 5 in seven plays. Lopez’s power run through the middle of the East Penn defense pushed the advantage to 35-7 with 2:21 left.

Walko and his defensive teammates stopped the Panthers at the Middletown 36 after the visitors’ Daiquaan Elliot’s 40-yard kickoff return gave the Panthers a temporary lift. An incomplete pass on fourth and six turned the ball over to the home team, however, at the 36 with 27 seconds left in the third.

Lopez carried three times for 17 yards, Jackson ran three times for 30 and Broadie caught a short pass as the Raiders drove to the East Pennsboro 15. Lopez, showing strength, moves and speed, took it in from there with 8:44 left. Sessa’s kick put the Raiders up 42-7, which set the mercy clock in motion.

Against Middletown’s second-team defense, the Panthers moved the ball into Raiders territory. But key plays by Tate Leach and Jaydon Wotring stopped the drive in its tracks at the 22, denying the guests’ attempts to put more points on the board.

The Raider reserves ran out the final 2:35 to lock up the win.