Etter's Highlights

Larry EtterThe following articles highlighting Blue Raider athletics are penned by Larry Etter.




BLUE RAIDERS SPORTS REPORT - January 3-8, 2022
While one team excels with an unbeaten record the two other varsity teams struggle as the new year begins. The Middletown boys’ basketball team keeps on winning and owns a perfect 8-0 record, a streak that started back on December 14. For the record the junior varsity team is also unbeaten during that stretch.

The other teams continue to keep searching for success, which has become difficult to achieve. The girls’ basketball team is stuck on just two victories for the season and the wrestling squad is winless so far, despite the efforts of the athletes.

BOYS BASKETBALL
The Blue Raiders picked up a pair of victories last week on the road. On Monday the Middletown team again traveled to Lewistown to take on the Mifflin County Huskies. Following the Christmas break the Raiders earned top honors in the Mifflin County Holiday Tournament by beating Big Spring and James Buchanan. On Monday the Raiders made the return trip a big success with a 78-42 win over the host Huskies. On Tuesday the squad returned from a short trip to Susquehanna Township with a 66-47 win over the Indians in their pockets.

Middletown 78, Mifflin County 42
On Monday the host team gave their guests a pretty good fight in the early going in a determined effort. But the Blue Raiders took flight in the second period and wiped away any momentum the Huskies had gained in the first quarter. Midway through the opening period the Raiders held a slim, 9-6 lead and the Huskies kept it close in the bottom half of the segment. With a minute left Tyson Leach’s jumper gave the Raiders a 19-12 lead, but the Huskies scored 5 late points to pull to within a basket, 19-17, by the end of the first 8 minutes. Leach had scored 10 points in the quarter to lead the Raiders, but the Huskies hit a trio of treys to keep it close.
But any thoughts the home team had a pulling off an upset ended in the second stanza. With the Raiders really stepping up their defensive pressure the Huskies’ hopes were dashed. Meanwhile the Middletown offense was clicking and, by the time the halftime buzzer sounded, the Blue Raiders had outscored their hosts 23-9 and owned a 42-26 lead at the break. Tajae Broadie recorded 13 of his game-high 17 points in the frame to lead the charge.

That dominating trend continued into the second half and a 19-9 scoring advantage by the Raiders in the third quarter pushed the Huskies further behind. With Tate Leach and Bamm Appleby leading the defensive pressure, Arkel Batts and Tyson Leach both scored 6 points in the third quarter as the Blue Raiders ran out to a commanding 61-35 lead heading into the fourth period.

Braelan Huber popped in a pair of treys, Max Dupes added one, sub Landon Keyser chipped in 6 points and Mason Blazer also scored as the Raiders outscored their guests 17-7 in the final 8 minutes to win in a 78-42 rout.

Middletown 66, Susquehanna Township 47
Susquehanna Township’s gym is never an easy place to play in for visiting teams and the Blue Raiders traveled to Progress facing a big test. But the Middletown squad passed the test with flying colors with the 19-point victory over the Indians.

Getting balanced scoring all around and what has become his team’s patented defensive dominance, Middletown coach Chris Bradford guided his team to the pleasing victory. Outscoring the Indians 18-10 in the first period and 19-15 in the second the Blue Raiders earned a 37-25 lead at halftime, a commanding edge they held throughout the second half.

With Batts (game high 20 points), Tyson and Tate Leach, Appleby and Broadie all contributing on both ends of the court, and Ryan Souders back in action after missing several games with an ankle injury, the Middletown squad dominated the game from start to finish. The Indians, held to just 22 points in the second half, simply could not catch up.

And, even with Tate Leach and Broadie playing cautiously with foul issues, the defense never missed a beat no matter who was on the court. The 29-22 scoring advantage in the second half was more than enough to turn back any run the Indians tried to mount. Along with Batts’ 20, Tyson Leach scored 17 and Broadie added 13 in the win. Tate Leach, Appleby, A. J. Stains and Souders added points in the Blue Raiders’ 8th win of the season.

GIRLS BASKETBALL
The Middletown girls’ team had a couple chances to get back into the winning column last week but came up just a bit short both times. Close losses at home to both Susquehanna Township and West Perry kept the Lady Blue Raiders from securing the elusive wins. The team has just a pair of victories to show for their efforts this season.

Susquehanna Township 54, Middletown 47
Middletown coach LaSonda Dixon has two of the better players in the Capital Division on her team and both are scoring plenty of points. Senior Makayla Claggett and freshman Addie Huber are both averaging double digit points each game. The problem Dixon is facing that she is not getting much scoring from the rest of the team. And that was mostly the case last week.

In the loss to Susquehanna Township on Tuesday Huber scored 15 points and Claggett registered 14. The team also picked up 12 points (a rarity) from Sara Yeich. But the others on the team combined for just 6 points and the visiting Lady Indians, led by Schuyler Coles’ 19 markers, collected just enough to claim the win.

Huber got off to a slow start, with just 2 points in the first half, and Claggett scored 8 in the span to pace the Middletown scoring. Yeich also collected 8 in the first half to add to the cause. But Susquehanna outscored the Raiders 23-18 prior to the halftime break and went up by a 37-26 lead at the end of three periods.

A strong start, however, to the fourth quarter got the Raiders right back into contention and made the final 8 minutes interesting. Down by 10 points with 6:31 left in the game the Lady Raiders made a strong run. A trey by Huber, her second of the period, jump-started a 9-0 string that made it a one-point game. Yeich added a pair of baskets off assists by Claggett, and Carizma Fernandez scored off a Huber assist to complete the run. But the Indians scored 4 straight points to stay ahead and held off the Raiders the rest of the way to secure the win. Luvi Balliet hit a jumper with 14 ticks left for the final points of the game.

West Perry 44, Middletown 39
The lack of balanced scoring showed up again on Wednesday in a 5-point loss to visiting West Perry. Huber’s game-high 18 points and Claggett’s 16 were not enough to propel the Lady Raiders to a much-needed win. While the offense struggled to put points on the board, Fernandez, Yeich, Allie Cleland and Ariana Serrano played good defense to limit the Mustangs’ scoring as well. But West Perry did enough to pick up the win.

The Lady Raiders were down 11-5 at the end of the first quarter and trailed 17-13 at the half in the low-scoring contest. The teams matched each other point-for-point in the third quarter and the guests held onto their 4-point edge heading into the final frame. Cleland drew her fifth personal foul with 7:12 left, taking her defense to the bench with her. With 3:20 left in the game and trailing by ten, 36-26, the Lady Raiders tried to make a run. A trey by Huber and a jumper by Yeich closed the gap to five, 36-31. A steal and breakaway by Claggett nearly cut the lead further but Serrano could not convert Claggett’s pass into points.

But, still, the Lady Raiders had a chance to pull out the win. With 26 seconds left Claggett fired in a long triple off a Bella Buehrle pass to make it a one-point game, 40-39. But the Raiders would get no more and West Perry went 4 for 4 from the foul line in the final 20 seconds to lock up the win.

WRESTLING
Struggles continued for the Middletown wrestling team as the Blue Raider grapplers were dealt a pair of one-sided defeats last week. On Thursday visiting Susquenita beat the Middletown squad 60-15 and on Saturday in the Dutchmen Duals at Annville-Cleona the Raiders fell to Upper Dauphin by a 56-12 count. Upper Dauphin ended up beating everyone else as well in winning the tournament easily.

Susquenita 60, Middletown 15
Right from the start it was easy to see that Susquenita High School’s wrestling team was good. As it turned out the Blackhawks dominated the lineup. The highlight for the Middletown squad came at 285 when Joe Gassert beat his opponent 7-1. The other two wins for the Raiders came via forfeits at 138 and 215.

In the 215 lb. match with Susquenita’s Braden Law, Gassert went ahead 2-0 with a takedown in the first period and went up 5-0 with an escape and takedown in the second. He gave up just one point on an escape in the third but picked up two more of his own to win the match 7-1. Rhakye Wise (138) and Sebastian Dash (215) were awarded forfeits. In all the Blackhawks recorded 8 pins in the win.

Upper Dauphin 56, Middletown 12
At Annville-Cleona on Saturday the Blue Raiders fell to Upper Dauphin in the first round of the Dutchmen Duals. Dominic Corradi won by forfeit at 138 and Vincent Corradi pinned Cale Welker at 152 for the only other win of the match. Seven Middletown wrestlers lost by pins, while Josh Tlumach, Wise, Isaac Lupp and Dash lost by decision. Upper Dauphin beat Camp Hill, East Pennsboro, Columbia and Lower Dauphin to win the event at 5-0.


BLUE RAIDERS SPORTS REPORT - December 29-30, 2021

While there was a break from classes during the Christmas holidays, the Middletown sports teams remained active in scholastic competition. The boys basketball team competed in a holiday tournament at Mifflin County High School, the girls team took to the hardcourt at Hershey and the wrestling team tested their progress at the Governor Mifflin Holiday Tournament in Shillington, PA.

WRESTLING
The Blue Raider grapplers competed at Governor Mifflin Intermediate School as part of a 22-team tournament on December 29 and 30. The team finished 18th out of the 22 teams and had a good number of wrestlers turn in very good efforts in the competition. In the Championship Round 1 Rhakye Wise pinned his opponent from Brandywine Heights in 2:20 at 138 pounds. In the same round Travis Kramer lost to Malvern Prep’s Catania at 145.

In Round 2 Sebastian Dash pinned his opponent from Elizabethtown at 215 and Joe Gassert also recorded a fall at 285. Others who wrestled in Round 2 were Joshua Tlumach (113), Sam Miller (120), Enzo Corradi (126), Geno Corradi (132), Isaac Lupp (160), Mason Swartz (172) and Dominic Singh (189).

Miller (10-4 decision), Lupp (pin) and Swartz (pin) won in the Round 3 Consolations. Dash claimed a 7th place finish at 215 with a 4-1 decision over Ryan Sauppee of Oley Valley, and Gassert earned a 5th place finish despite a loss at 285.

BOYS BASKETBALL
Following the previous week’s pair of huge wins over Trinity and Bishop McDevitt the Middletown boys competed in the Mifflin County Holiday Tournament in Lewistown. And, with two more victories to their credit the Blue Raiders came away with the tourney title for their 5th and 6th wins of the new season, keeping their unbeaten streak intact. A win against Big Spring on Tuesday pitted the Raiders against James Buchanan in the championship game on Wednesday.

Middletown 72, Big Spring 43
In the opening game of the tournament The Blue Raiders had little trouble with the Big Spring Bulldogs in the 72-43 decision. The Raiders outscored the Bulldogs 20-10 in the first period and 18-13 in the second to rush out to a 38-23 halftime lead. Guard Arkel Batts scored 16 of his game-high 21 points in the first half to lead the balanced Middletown scoring. A 32-20 scoring edge in the second half, along with dominating defense, assured the Blue Raiders of the victory.
 
Before it was all over, 10 Middletown players put points on the board. Tate Leach and Tajae Broadie each registered 14 points, and Braelan Huber added 11 in the rout.

Middletown 59, James Buchanan 42
James Buchanan, a winner over host Mifflin County in the second game on Tuesday, proved to be much better competition for the Blue Raiders in Wednesday’s title game. Despite a slow start the Rockets kept battling and stayed in it throughout to give the Raiders a good test. But a dominate fourth quarter by the Middletown squad finally subdued the Rockets and allowed the Blue Raiders to pull away for the win.

Following a missed shot off of the opening tipoff by the Rockets, the Raiders ran off 9 straight points to grab the early lead. In the run, keyed by a couple turnovers and misses by the Rockets, Bamm Appleby, Batts and Tate Leach teamed for the scoring streak. J.B.’s Cade Layton broke the string with a pair of baskets to make it a 9-4 game, but Leach made two foul shots and Broadie scored off a Tyson Leach assist to push the Raiders ahead 13-4. Tate Leach’s runner with one second left gave the Raiders an 18-9 lead to start the second period.

The Middletown team expanded its lead to 22-9 when Broadie and Appleby went back-to-back early in the second. Late in the period James Buchanan’s Trent Kuhns came off the bench and promptly made a pair of treys to cut into the Raiders’ 29-14 lead. A late goal by Broadie gave the Middletown side a 31-20 lead at the halftime break.

What appeared to be a comfortable lead (35-22) following a steal and bucket by Broadie with 5:01left in the third quarter, changed a bit when J.B.s Jayce Piper hit a 3-pointer at 4:25. Following a runner by Appleby, the Rockets went back-to-back to cut the lead to just 8 points, 37-29, with 2:52 left. The Leach brothers made a pair of shots later, but Kuhns fired in a half-count buzzer beater to close the gap to 41-32 at the end of three periods. And that set the stage for a tense finish.

The Rockets stayed in contention, down by just 10 points, in the first minute and a half of the fourth frame, but the Middletown defense tightened up after that. James Buchanan’s last gasp came on a bucket by Layton with 5:26 left in the game. From that point on, the Blue Raiders ran off 12 straight points to put the game out of reach at 59-36. Six late points by the Rockets simply were not enough to pull out a comeback. Broadie led all scorers with 19 points, Tate Leach added 14 and Appleby collected 12 in the win.


BLUE RAIDERS SPORTS REPORT - December 20-22, 2021
It was a short week for scholastic sports heading into the winter break, but there was lots of excitement rushing through the halls of Middletown Area High School to start the week.

As it turned out the Middletown Blue Raider boys’ basketball team gave themselves and their devoted fans the best gifts of all with a pair of huge victories on the hardcourts. The wins lifted the team to an unblemished 4-0 record, earning a solid grasp on first place in the Mid Penn Capital Division. After a short, much-needed break the team will play in the Mifflin County Holiday Tournament on December 28 and 29. The four-team tourney includes James Buchanan and Big Spring, along with the Raiders and the host Mifflin County Huskies.

The Middletown girls, entering the week with a 2-2 record, ran into two of the top teams in the Capital Division and fell to 2-4 following losses to Trinity and Bishop McDevitt.

BOYS BASKETBALL
Exciting times for sure for the Blue Raider boys as they recorded a pair of wins over Trinity and Bishop McDevitt last week! Trinity and McDevitt were pre-season picks as the number one and number two teams in the Capital Division with Middletown following in third place. But that predicted scenario changed dramatically following the Blue Raiders’ victories over both teams.

Middletown 63, Trinity 42
Playing Trinity is always a very tough assignment for anyone. Playing the Shamrocks on their home court is even tougher. But the Blue Raiders showed they were not intimidated by their opponents or the hosts’ atmosphere last Monday night on the West Shore.

Getting out to a great start while claiming a 19-9 lead at the end of the game’s first period and holding a 29-17 lead at the halftime break set the stage for the exciting win for the Raiders. Tate Leach, Ryan Souders and Tajae Broadie each scored 5 points in the first quarter and the trio teamed for 8 points in the second to lead the early charge. The Shamrocks did have better success in the third period, outscoring their guests 16-13 to cut the deficit to 9 points heading into the final frame. But the Middletown defense locked up the Shamrocks’ scoring in the fourth, limiting Trinity to just 9 points to secure the win. At the same time the opportunistic Raider offense blew by the stunned Shamrocks for 21 points to turn the close game into a rout. Six Middletown players, led by Tyson Leach with 7, contributed to the onslaught.

Four players finished with double digit points led by Tyson Leach with 15, Broadie with 13 and Tate Leach and Arkel Batts with 10 each. Souders, who had his evening cut short with an ankle injury, added 7 and Bamm Appleby chipped in 6.

Middletown 57, Bishop McDevitt 49
The atmosphere inside the packed Middletown gym was electric on Wednesday in the highly-anticipated meeting between the host Blue Raiders and the visiting Crusaders of Bishop McDevitt. And the two teams did not disappoint as they put on a real basketball show, the outcome not really decided until well into the fourth quarter.

As they did at Trinity on Monday the Blue Raiders got off to a good start, jumping out to a 7-0 lead before the Crusaders got on the board. Keyed by three steals by the defense, Tate Leach and Broadie sparked the early run. With 3:31 left in the opening period Broadie put back a rebound and added a free throw to give the Raiders a 10-4 lead. Tyson Leach and Braelan Huber ran off 6 straight points to expand the lead to 16-4, but the momentum shifted after Brodie went to the bench with 3 personal fouls.

In his absence, and with the men in stripes whistling a number of fouls against the Raiders, the Crusaders ran off 9 straight points to close the gap. The first quarter ended with the Raiders hanging on to a 19-15 lead. McDevitt turned up the defensive pressure in the second stanza and took advantage of a number of missed Middletown shots to slip ahead. After tying the game at 24-24 on a pair of Ryan Russo foul shots McDevitt outscored their hosts 9-6 down the stretch to take a 33-30 edge into the halftime break.

Following a slow start by both teams in the third quarter Tyson Leach banked in a trey at 6:52 to knot the score at 33-33. But the Raiders went 1 for 9 in the first half of the period and the Crusaders forged ahead 39-33 during that span. But Broadie got back into his game and the Blue Raiders ran and shot their way to regain the lead, finishing up the segment with an 11-0 run to earn themselves a 44-39 edge with 8 minutes to play.

That dominating streak continued well into the fourth quarter as Appleby, Tate Leach and Batts scored the first 7 points of the final frame to expand the lead to 51-39. Back-to-back goals by Tyshawn Russell and Jacobi Tate broke the string. The Crusaders played good defense, but the Blue Raiders played better in the final three minutes. The game was physical throughout and, despite the whistles disrupting some of the game’s flow, the home team, supported by the cheers from the home crowd, finished strong. McDevitt pulled to within five, 54-49, with 50 seconds left, but Broadie made 2 of 4 free throws, Tyson Leach made one of two and Tate Leach locked it up with a steal with 15 ticks left.

The boys junior varsity team also won both of its games against Trinity and Bishop McDevitt in the sweep.

GIRLS BASKETBALL
On Monday evening the Lady Raiders hosted the Shamrocks of Trinity and had a tough time scoring points in the game’s first three periods. The Raiders trailed 16-6 at the end of the first quarter, 40-14 at halftime and 50-16 at the three-quarter mark. The home team finally found some scoring in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Trinity reserves 18-7 in a stronger finish. But the points came too late as the Shamrocks rolled to the 57-34 win.

Held to just 3 points in the first half, senior Makayla Claggett pumped in 11 markers in the fourth quarter and finished with 16 points in the loss. Freshman Addie Huber collected 11 of her 16 points in the first half as the only scoring threat the Raiders could muster prior to the fourth quarter. The only other points came from Sara Yeich in the final frame. Trinity shot well on offense (9 players scored in the game) and defended well against the Lady Raiders in the easy victory.

On Wednesday the Middletown girls fell to host Bishop McDevitt 32-47 in a Capital Division contest.

BOWLERS WIN TOURNEY TITLE
Middletown’s bowling team beat #1 seed Cumberland Valley on December 18 to win the title in the Snow Roller tournament held at Leisure Lanes in Lancaster. 52 teams competed in the day-long Interscholastic Invitational Team Tournament and the Middletown team came out on top. The team is made up of Roman Cipolla, Brenden Wegert, Sarah Beaudet, Cameron Wegert, Landon Freeman and Cameron Smee. Congratulations to the team and coaches Bower and Cipolla on their championship.

WRESTLING
The Middletown wrestling team competed in the Penn Manor Tournament on December 17 and 18 at Millersville University. And, although the Blue Raiders finished in last place against very good competition, several wrestlers turned in good individual efforts. In the Championship Round 1 matches Joshua Tlumach (113) decisioned Sidney O’Donnell of Dallas 8-2 and Sebastian Dash (215) pinned Jaden Summers of Solanco in winning form. Others in the Round 1 matches were Julian Brenner at 106, Rashid Ibrahim at 126, Geno Corradi at 132, Travis Kramer at 145, Jackson Grimland at 160, Dominic Singh at 189 and Joe Gassert at 285.
Brenner won by pin in the Consolation Round 1, Tlumach won by 8-5 decision, Corradi won by pin and Gassert won by a fall in Consolation Round 2. In Consolation Round 3 Sam Miller was the lone winner, pinning his opponent at 120. Rhakye Wise also competed for the Blue Raiders.


BLUE RAIDERS SPORTS REPORT - December 13-18, 2021

Winter scholastic sports were in full swing last week and the Blue Raiders were busy getting the competition under way. Boys basketball played its first two games of the season, girls basketball played its third and fourth games of the new schedule and boys wrestling got started as well. It turned out to be a good week for all the teams.

WRESTLING
First-year head coach Seth Decker was pleased with the number of kids who came out for wrestling this year with nearly 20 athletes hitting the mats when practice started. The previous year the Middletown program struggled to fill weight classes and were forced to forfeit many matches along the way. This year promises to be better.

The Blue Raiders started off by competing in the Mule Classic at Solanco High School on December 10 and 11 and had some limited success there despite finishing 23rd out of 24 teams. Six wrestlers made it to the championship round in the tourney. First place winners were Geno Corradi, pin at 132, Rhakye Wise, 8-7 decision at 138 and Isaac Lupp, pin at 160. Runners up were Joshua Tlumac at 113, Travis Kramer at 145 and Sebastian Dash at 215.

On Tuesday, December 14 the Blue Raiders traveled to Milton Hershey and took on a very good Spartans team and were dealt a 57-15 loss. Wise won with a pin at 138, Dash decisioned his opponent 9-3 at 215 and Tlumach won by forfeit at 113.

On Thursday the Blue Raiders collectively turned in a very competitive effort but came up short in a 37-30 loss at Harrisburg, a program that has been on the rise the past couple seasons. Tlumach, a freshman, started off the match with a pin at 113, Sam Miller lost a tough battle at 120, but sophomore Rashid Ibrahim recorded a fall at 126 and freshman Enzo Corradi also pinned his opponent to give the Raiders an 18-3 lead. The lead was upped to 24-3 when Geno Corradi (9th grader) picked up a fall in the last 28 seconds of his match.

The Raiders, however, lost the next four matches as Harrisburg took the lead 27-24. The Cougars forged ahead, winning at 285 to secure the win. Julian Brenner won by forfeit for the Raiders’ final points as the hosts held on for the 37-30 win.

BOYS BASKETBALL
The Middletown Blue Raiders, defending Capital Division and District III champions, tipped off the new season with a pair of big victories as their 2021-22 campaign got under way. Because they did not participate in a season-opening tournament this year the season had a bit of a late start. Following a pair of scrimmages with Hanover and Elizabethtown the Raiders hosted both Camp Hill and East Pennsboro, both Capital Division foes, last week, winning both games in convincing fashion.

Middletown 64, Camp Hill 22

Right from the opening tipoff it was plain to see that the Blue Raiders were the superior players on the court. The home team jumped out to an overwhelming 21-2 lead by the end of the first quarter and cruised to the easy victory. Senior Tajae Broadie scored 8 of his game-high 18 points in the first period and 10 of his teammates recorded points in the rout. Broadie scored 6 points early and Tyson Leach added his first of four 3-pointers to give the Middletown side a quick 9-0 lead. Before the opening rush had ended, Tate Leach and Braelan Huber joined the scoring parade for a 16-0 advantage before the Lions broke the streak. Bamm Appleby’s basket and another trey by Tyson Leach finished off the scoring in the first period.

The Lions never really recovered after that and found themselves in a 45-11 hole by the halftime break. Arkell Batts collected 8 points in the second stanza and Tyson Leach added two more triples to lead the way. After Broadie opened up the second half with a steal and breakaway dunk, Ryan Souders put back a rebound and added a foul shot that set the mercy clock in motion with the Raiders leading 49-12.

From there it was just simply a matter of the Middletown team finishing what it had started. As the Raider defense held the Lions to just 11 second-half points, reserves Landon Keyser, Huber, Max Dupes and A. J. Stains closed out the contest by combining for 12 points to ice the win.

Middletown 65, East Pennsboro 24

Camp Hill showed that it is in a rebuilding phase and so, too, did East Pennsboro on Friday night. The result was another blowout victory for the Middletown Blue Raiders at home.

Although the visiting Panthers showed a bit of determination early their efforts were not enough as the Raiders jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first two and a half minutes of the game. Tyson Leach started it off with a trey off a Batts assist less than 30 seconds in and Broadie added a putback off a Panther turnover before East Penn scored with 6:36 left in the first quarter. A 7-0 run put the Raiders up 12-2 and the defense held their guests to just 5 points during the balance of the opening period. At the same time the home team went on a scoring binge. With three minutes left Tate Leach hit a triple that was followed by a pair of free throws by Broadie and a layup by Appleby with 1:07 left. Tyson Leach then drilled back-to-back treys for a 27-6 lead.

In the second quarter, the Blue Raiders erupted for a crushing 12-0 run that pretty much put the game away before halftime. Souders, Tyson Leach, Broadie, Stains, Matt Wagner and Huber completed the streak that pushed the Middletown advantage to 39-7. The Raiders took a 41-15 lead into the break and the defense pitched a shutout in the third period that ended with the home team completely in control at 57-15.

The fourth quarter was a bit of a mystery, time-wise, as the scoreboard locked up, but there was no question of how the game was going to end up. The Raiders picked up points from Cam Chisolm, Appleby, Keyser and Jay Smith to close out the 65-24 victory.

GIRLS BASKETBALL
Unlike their boys counterparts, the Middletown girls had played a pair of games prior to last week’s action. The Lady Raiders had split a pair of games in that opening week, dropping a 42-63 decision at Palmyra before rebounding with a 59-56 win at Milton Hershey.

Last week the Raiders started off with a tough, 66-71 overtime loss at Camp Hill but bounced back with big wins over York Tech and East Pennsboro to improve their record to 3-2.

Camp Hill 71, Middletown 66

Annually, Camp Hill ranks high in the Mid Penn standings and this year will probably continue that trend. But this Middletown girls’ team is much improved from last season and pushing Camp Hill to overtime was quite an accomplishment.

The Lions held a 16-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and a 29-26 advantage at halftime to stay in front. But the two teams battled to an 18-18 stalemate in the third period to keep the game close. The game featured a classic showdown between Middletown senior Makayla Claggett and Camp Hill’s Ellie Goodwin, two premier players in the league. As it turned out Goodwin ended the game with 29 points, including 6 in the overtime period, slightly overshadowing Claggett’s 26 markers.

Claggett’s points, along with 21 from freshman Addie Huber, led the Lady Raiders in the hotly-contested clash that was all tied up at 61-61 at the end of regulation. But a 10-5 scoring advantage by the hosts in the extra session proved to be the difference at the Lions held on for the win.

Middletown 64, York Tech 29

Middletown coach LaSonda Dixon probably was not quite sure what her team would be facing when they hosted York County Technical School on Wednesday. And, after Mike Thomas’s junior varsity squad easily defeated its counterparts 51-11 in the preliminary game, it appeared as if the varsity team was a shoe-in for an easy victory. But the non-league contest started off looking anything but easy for the Lady Raiders.

The Raiders had jumped out to a 6-0 lead on 6 points from Claggett before the visiting Spartans found their footing. Once they got rolling on offense the Spartans used a trio of 3-pointers while taking advantage of several missed shots by the Raiders to make things interesting. After Claggett’s steal and drive put the Raiders up 15-8 their guests ran off 6 straight points to make it a one-point game. And a late basket again made it a single-point difference as the first quarter ended.

Expanding on that momentum the Spartans started off the second stanza with 5 straight points to take a 21-17 lead that caused some concern by Dixon and the Middletown fans. But, with 4:08 left in the period the Middletown team got rolling once again. Using pressing defense and opportunistic offense the Raiders closed out the first half with a 10-0 run to regain control. Goals by Claggett, Huber and Allie Cleland pushed the home team to a 27-21 lead heading into the halftime break.

The second half totally belonged to the Lady Raiders. With the offense clicking and the defense causing fits for the Spartans, the Middletown side outscored York Tech 27-8 after halftime to win in a runaway 64-29. Huber, a freshman, scored a game-high 19 points while Claggett registered 15 and Cleland added 11 to lead the way. Peyton Attivo, Sara Yeich, Kyleigh Messner and Ariana Serrano added the rest. The defense contested shot after shot and forced 14 York Tech turnovers in the second half deny the Spartans from making a comeback.

The Lady Raiders followed up the win with a 65-43 victory at East Pennsboro on Friday night.


BLUE RAIDERS GO DOWN FIGHTING

The emotions, the tears, the sadness and, yes, the pain, were all clearly visible on the faces of the players and coaches Saturday afternoon as the Middletown football team had to accept that fact that its 2021 football season had come to an end.

Playing their collective hearts out in the District 3-AAA semifinal the Blue Raiders gave it their all but could not pull off the upset against number 1 seed Wyomissing, falling to their hosts 14-0 instead. The Spartans, who had scored an average of 47.6 points per game through 11 previous contests, got a real taste of hard-nosed defense which had become the trademark of the Middletown team all year. That factor really gave the Raiders a chance to win.

But the Wyomissing defense, even more impressive than the offense, proved to be just as good, the shutout proof of that. And that really turned out to be the difference in the game.

Played in a steady rain throughout the first half the first quarter ended in a 0-0 stalemate. The Blue Raiders opened up with a promising drive that eventually ran out of gas at the Wyomissing 46. But the Spartans, too, went nowhere on their possession and set the tone for the defensive standoff on both sides.

Early in the second quarter the Middletown defense stopped the Spartans near midfield but a Ryker Jones punt was downed at the 3-yard line pinning the Raiders deep. The struggling Middletown offense netted just 5 yards in three plays and Tyson Leach was forced to punt from his own endzone. The Spartans took over at the Middletown 30 and were in position to break into the scoring column. But Tajae Broadie strip sacked Wyomissing quarterback Ben Zechman and recovered the fumble at the 29.

That turnover gave the Middletown side a momentary lift, but Wyomissing recovered a Raider fumble three plays later, setting up the game’s initial score. Spartan stud Tom Grabowski went 17 yards on second down for the six-pointer with 4:59 left in the first half. The PAT gave the home team a 7-0 lead. Later in the period the Spartans threatened again as they drove to the Middletown 17. But Law Brunson stopped Charles McIntyre two yard short of a first down to turn away the threat.

The Spartans appeared to have their second score on a 76-yard kickoff return to start the second half, but the touchdown was negated by a penalty. Starting on their 20-yard line the Spartans did, however, pad their lead with a grueling 16-play march to the endzone that burned nearly 8 minutes off the clock. The drive overshadowed excellent defensive work by the Blue Raiders, led by Jayson Stoner, Tito Spears, Canden Brown, Broadie and others. Grabowski capped it with a 2-yard run with 3:52 left in the third.

From that point on the Wyomissing defense simply gave up next to nothing to the Blue Raiders who tried to fight back. A pass interception by Amory Thompson two plays into the fourth quarter hurt the Raiders’ chances. Another long drive by the hosts started with 7:10 left in the game and successfully used up all of the remaining time on the clock and secured the Spartans trip to the district final.

Middletown coach Scott Acri, in his first year at the helm, could not say enough about the efforts of his team this year. “You guys never gave up, you could have quit or just laid down when things were tough, but you didn’t,” he said. As a final tribute to his 7 seniors, he had them line up opposite their underclassmen teammates for a final handshake. There were hugs, too. The seniors who played their final game are Tate Leach, Audric Bryant, Tajae Broadie, Caden Paul, Brandyn Davis, Jayson Stoner and Chase Vandegrift.

“It’s hard not to be emotional about this group of players,” coach Acri said following the defeat. “From 1 to 35 each of these players deserve a lot of credit. They came into the season having to deal with a new coaching staff and low numbers and they responded,” he said. The Blue Raiders closed out their year with a 6-5 record.


BLUE RAIDER GRIDDERS CELEBRATE PLAYOFF VICTORY

Last Friday’s road trip to rural Perry County turned out to be a successful one for the Middletown Are High School’s varsity football team. The Blue Raiders took on the host West Perry Mustangs in the first round of the District 3-AAA playoffs and came away with an exciting, and well-earned 35-21 victory on a chilly evening in Elliottsburg.

After hanging on to a tense 21-11 lead at the halftime break, and a slim 21-14 edge halfway into the third quarter, the Blue Raiders padded their led to 28-14 with 4:16 to go in the period, and hoped the two-score lead would be enough to subdue the Mustangs. But the West Perry team showed its resilience with a quick score of its own to leave the outcome in doubt.

The Raiders, however, showed their resilience as well by striking quickly to go back in front by 14 points, and then used their defensive strengths to keep the Mustangs off the scoreboard the rest of the way. In the process, the Middletown team punched its ticket to the second round of the playoffs, earning the right to face unbeaten Wyomissing this coming weekend.

The Blue Raiders entered the game ranked 5th in the district with a 5-4 overall record. The Mustangs, 5-5, stood in 4th place, which earned them the privilege of playing the first-round clash on their home turf. And, West Perry proved to be a worthy opponent, using a couple big plays to stay in contention through the game’s first 30+ minutes of playing time.

The difference really came down to Middletown’s powerful running game and the solid defense that absorbed a determined effort from West Perry runner Trent Herrera and the pass and catch combination of Marcus Quaker and Ian Goodling. In the game’s crucial last 15 minutes the Middletown defense, with Leach, Audric Bryant and Jamar McKinney providing coverage, completely shut down the offensive show by the West Perry stars, limiting their hosts to just 39 total yards in the span.

The Blue Raiders received the opening kickoff and immediately put together a scoring drive to start the game. Tajae Broadie and Tate Leach put the drive in motion and Leach capped it with a 16-yard keeper for the score. His 29-yard run and a 9-yard dash by Broadie set up the score. On the touchdown run Leach picked and darted his way through the West Perry defense for the tally with 7:46 left in the opening quarter. Tyson Leach made his first of 5 PATs to give the Raiders the 7-0 lead.

West Perry followed with a promising march of their own but the drive died when Tate Leach recovered a Herrera fumble at the 10. The first quarter ended with the Blue Raiders facing a 3rd-and-17 at their own 13. Bryant’s 26-yard run on the first play of the second stanza got the Raiders out of trouble. Six plays later Bryant broke a couple of tackles and then used his speed to streak to a 38-yard touchdown run at 8:49 of the second period. And, while that 14-0 lead looked a bit comfortable for the Raiders, it did not last very long.

Two plays into West Perry’s possession, Quaker and Goodling hooked up for a dazzling 71-yard touchdown connection to get right back in it. On the play Middletown linebacker Caden Paul had chased Quaker all around the backfield before the alert quarterback saw Goodling break open. A two-point run for the conversion was good and made it a 14-8 game with 8:13 left in the first half.

The Raiders lost the ball on a fumble on the ensuing possession and West Perry nearly used the turnover into another score. But, after reaching the 13 with the help of a pass interference penalty, the drive died when Broadie sacked Quaker on fourth-and-2. With 3:31 left in the first half, the Blue Raiders took over at their own 14. Twelve plays later, after overcoming a pair of penalties, the Middletown side owned a 21-8 lead. The score came on a two-yard dive by Broadie with just 17 seconds left.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty following the PAT forced Tyson Leach to kick off from the 25 and West Perry’s Connor Wheeler nearly broke the return for a touchdown. Instead the hosts settled for a 32-yard field goal by Goodling that made it a 21-11 game at halftime.

The Mustangs started off the second half with another Goodling field goal, this one from 20 yards, after a promising drive was halted at the 3-yard line, thanks to key defensive plays at the end by Tate Leach, Jason Stoner and Canden Brown. On the following kickoff the Mustangs were flagged for a personal foul and the Blue Raiders’ offense was set up at the W.P. 38. Sprung free on first down, Broadie went the distance and, just that quickly the Raiders went up 28-14.

But, once again, the Mustangs responded and the Quaker-Goodling connection was good for a 72-yard gain to the Middletown four. Herrera went in from there and the guests again trailed by seven, 28-21, with 3:34 left in the third quarter. Middletown head coach Scott Acri reflected on that series of events by saying, “Our kids faced adversity all year and could have folded. But they responded and kept fighting.” A great kickoff return of 37 yards by Bryant gave the offense all the incentive it needed to prove that. With Stoner, Chase Vandegrift, Sebastian Dash, Marquis Beasley and Donnie Neidig leading the way, the ground game went right at the West Perry defense. Runs by Broadie, Bryant and Leach (what Acri called his three-headed monster) covered the distance in just four plays, Broadie going the last 13 for the score with 1:19 left in the third. The 35-21 count at that point turned out to be all that the Blue Raiders needed to finally subdue their hosts.

Jose Sanchez recovered a fumble by Quaker three plays into the Mustangs’ series to stop one drive. But the Mustangs returned the favor on the first play of the fourth quarter when Bryant lost the handle at the end of a 17-yard run at the West Perry four-yard line. But the Mustangs went nowhere as Stoner, Kam Chisolm and Brandyn Davis led the defense. Taking over at their own 44 following a West Perry punt, the Middletown offense ran off over 7 minutes of clock time before the drive ran out of downs at the Mustangs’ 21.

West Perry tried to respond and did make some headway but the Blue Raiders locked up the win with 1:27 left when Tate Leach intercepted Quaker, who tried to turn a flea-flicker into a big gain.


OCTOBER 29, 2021 - BLUE RAIDER GRIDDERS BOG DOWN BULLDOGS

Playing conditions could not have been worse. But the outcome could not have been better. And the 7 seniors who were honored prior to the start celebrated a big victory with their teammates.

Slogging their way through a game-long downpour that turned the beautiful War Memorial Field turf into a quagmire by the fourth quarter, the Middletown football team beat a very good Big Spring team 7-0 on Friday night for their fifth win of the season. In the process the Blue Raiders secured a spot in the upcoming District 3-AAA playoffs, an appropriate reward for seniors Tajae Broadie, Audric Bryant, Brandyn Davis, Tate Leach, Caden Paul, Jason Stoner and Chase Vandegrift.

Big Spring, coming off a major upset over Steelton-Highspire the previous week, was armed with a solid running game and a good passing offense as the Bulldogs looked to keep winning within the Capital Division and District 3. But, stymied a bit by the bad weather and a lot more by the staunch Middletown defense, the visitors came up empty on every possession.

For the 250 or so hardy fans who braved the elements this game was not for the high point-scoring or offensive-minded spectators. Instead, it was a game of wills that produced just 7 points, those coming from a 34-yard run through the slop in the third quarter by Tajae Broadie and the extra point by Tyson Leach. The rest was all defense from both sides.

The Blue Raiders got off to a promising start following the opening kickoff, reaching deep into Big Spring territory before a lost fumble stopped the drive. “We had a good start running the ball early before we put it on the ground,” Middletown coach Scott Acri said. After that the Middletown defense stopped Bulldogs drives throughout the first half. Big Spring defenders performed just as well and the half ended in a 0-0 tie. Twice in that span the visitors threatened, but one march ran out of downs at the Middletown 20 and the other ended when Tate Leach intercepted an Ethan Eisenberg pass at the 15.

Keyed by a sack by Tajae Broadie and a stop by Brandyn Davis the Bulldogs were forced to punt on the opening possession of the second half. The Blue Raiders took over at the B.S. 43 following a short punt. Four plays later from the 34, on fourth-and-1, Broadie broke a pair of tackles on the left side and then used his speed to outrun the Bulldogs’ safety to the south endzone for the touchdown with 8:45 left in the third. The PAT by Tyson Leach was good and the home team led 7-0. As it turned out the 7 points proved to be enough for the win.

Late in the fourth quarter the Bulldogs gambled and lost on fourth-and-2 at their own 37 and the Blue Raiders took over with 1:44 left in the game. Tate Leach ran four straight times to the 11, but came up short on fourth-and-2, giving the Bulldogs one last hope of putting points on the board.

The good news was that they had just 28 seconds to work with and 89 yards to go. A first down pass was complete but went nowhere as Audric Bryant stopped the receiver for no gain. Eisenberg spiked the ball on second down to save some time and a third down throw fell incomplete. “With just seconds left and a long way to go for Boiling Springs, we felt confident of a win,” said assistant coach Scott Acri, Sr. Broadie, from his defensive end position, locked it up with a sack of Eisenberg on fourth down and the celebration began.


OCTOBER 15, 2021 - BLUE RAIDERS CRUSH SHAMROCKS 41-6

At 5’8 and 140 pounds senior Tate Leach is not an imposing figure. His classmate Tajae Broadie at 6’4 and 240 pounds is. But, despite the size difference the pair had equally monster games on Friday night at War Memorial Field. And, along with the impressive efforts of their teammates, the duo led the way to a big, 41-6 victory over visiting Trinity for the Blue Raiders’ fourth win of the season. Leach, who was called on to take over the starting quarterback position early in the year, ran for 93 yards and passed for 60 more to lead the offense. And, on the other side of the ball at safety, Leach scored a pair of fourth quarter touchdowns on interceptions, showing his versatility as an all-around player. Broadie, meanwhile, came up big on offense as well, scoring a pair of touchdowns on runs of 49 and 60 yards in the rout. He also stood out on defense as the Raiders held the Shamrocks to just one score.

Of course, the two did not do it all on their own. They had great support from their teammates as the Blue Raiders collectively turned in an impressive two-way performance in the dominating victory. The heroes on both sides of the ball were many as the Middletown team bounced back following the disappointing loss from the previous week. Coaches talk about team effort and this was the epitome of that concept.

With the offensive line showing improvement each week, the Blue Raiders rolled up 309 yards on the ground to go along with Leach’s passing yards. Much credit goes to Jason Stoner, Chase Vandegrift, Donnie Neidig, Marquis Beasley and Sebastian Dash, the offensive line. And, the defense, which has been good all year, limited the Shamrocks to less than 170 total yards in the game. Leach, Audric Bryant, Canden Brown, Jamar McKinney, Julio Sanchez, Stoner, Tito Spears, Kam Chisolm, Caden Paul, Brandyn Davis, Beasley and Asa Kochvar collectively made that happen. The combination worked extremely well, resulting in the solid win.

Surprisingly enough, the game’s first quarter ended in a 0-0 draw, giving the indications that this Capital Division matchup could turn out to be a tough battle throughout. The Blue Raiders’ first possession reached the Trinity 31 before running out of steam. After the defense forced a 3-and-out by the Shamrocks the Raiders took over at their own 43 with 3:34 left in the first quarter. Seven plays later the Raiders were sitting at the Trinity 12 as the quarter ended. Spears had 8 carries in the first period, including a 6-yard run on the final play of the segment.

Three plays into the second stanza Leach reached the one on a 10-yard keeper. Broadie capped it with a dive through the right side and Tyson Leach added the PAT to give the home team a 7-0 lead. Trinity followed with a promising march that reached the Middletown 23, but Chisolm’s sack of Caleb Wray on third down and an incomplete pass on fourth ended the threat. On the ensuing possession the Blue Raiders marched 70 yards on just six plays to pad their lead. Pass receptions of 4 and 5 yards by Bryant and 9 by McKinney, along with a pair of runs by Leach of 18 and 7 yards moved the ball to the 27. On second and 3 Leach rolled right and fired a strike to Kochvar who broke open in the endzone. The connection gave the home team a 13-0 lead with 1:33 left in the first half. Chisolm’s second sack ended Trinity’s hopes of a late score prior to the halftime break.

Trinity got a big break early in the third quarter when a punt hit a Middletown player and the Shamrocks recovered the ball at the Middletown 21. But the visitors were again denied when Sanchez recovered a Trinity fumble at the 15. A pass interception three plays later, however, set up Trinity’s lone score of the game, a one-yard pass from Wray at the 6:31 mark. Broadie blocked the extra point kick, but the Shamrocks were right in the mix trailing 13-6.

The Blue Raiders, however, responded with a steady drive that started at their own 11. Runs by Bryant and Leach behind solid up-front blocking moved the ball to the Trinity 49. Broadie took it from there, breaking away from a jam up at the line of scrimmage and then outrunning the Trinity defense to the endzone for the touchdown. The kick by Tyson Leach was good and the Raiders led 20-6 with 1:52 left in the third.

Midway through the fourth quarter the Middletown defense came up with yet another stop when the Shamrocks tried to convert a 4th-and11. Broadie’s hit on Wray forced an incompletion and the Blue Raiders took over at their 40. On first down Broadie went the distance and the home team increased it advantage to 27-6 with 7:21 left. Three plays later Leach snared his first interception, racing down the left side for a pick 6 from 47 yards out and, just that quickly, the Blue Raiders had stretched their lead to 34-6. Two plays later Leach did it again, this time from 59 yards out with 5:32 left. With Tyson Leach’s conversion the 35-point gap induced the mercy rule and gave the Shamrocks little time left to work with.

“We will enjoy this win for 24-48 hours and then get ready for Big Spring,” coach Scott Acri said. And the Blue Raiders will have to be ready for the Bulldogs, who shocked the division with their 41-14 upset win over previously unbeaten Steelton-Highspire.


OCTOBER 15, 2021 - RAIDERS NEARLY BURST BOILING SPRINGS BUBBLE

Someone once said “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” The Blue Raiders showed that on Friday night in Boiling Springs when they took the host Bubblers right down to the wire in a hard-fought 26-23 loss.

Boiling Springs, sitting at number 2 in District 3-AAA rankings, came into the Capital Division scrap with a 6-1 record and were favored by a couple touchdowns against the 3-3 Middletown squad. But the Blue Raiders, playing the underdog role with a ton of heart and desire, gave the hosts all they could handle and came to within a couple plays and situations of pulling off the upset.

The Bubblers took advantage of some favorable breaks and a few Middletown mistakes to hang on for the win and maintain their status in the league and the district. And, just how close was this game? One look at the line score of the contest easily shows that. The Bubblers scored the winning points with just 28 seconds left on the clock and then had to avert a late thrust by the Blue Raiders to hold on for the win.

With a big bi-partisan crowd on hand the Blue Raiders took the opening kickoff and steadily marched down the field that eventually was halted at the Bubblers’ 13- yard line. Tyson Leach calmly booted a 31-yard field goal to give the Raiders an early 3-0 lead. Thanks to an 8-yard sack of Boiling Springs quarterback Colin Lunde by Caden Paul, the hosts went 3-and-out and had to punt.

The Raiders followed with another solid drive that carried over from the first to the second quarter as the visitors threatened to score again. But the drive was again stopped at the 13 when the Raiders came up just short of a first down on fourth and two. The Bubblers struck quickly following the stop, scoring on an 80-yard run by Joe Menke for a 7-3 lead. Keyed by a 43-yard kickoff return by Brandyn Davis the Raiders started their next possession in the hosts’ territory.

Six combined runs by Tate Leach and Davis moved the ball to the three and Davis capped it with 2:49 left in the first half. Tyson Leach’s PAT gave the Raiders a 10-7 lead. Audric Bryant’s pass interception on the Bubblers’ first play would have given the Middletown offense good field position, but a conduct penalty pushed the ball back to the 16. The Bubblers held the Middletown team to a 3-and-out and Boiling Springs took over at the 47. Two plays in the hosts made it to the 2-yard via a 41-yard pass completion from Lunde to Carson Garvey. Menke scored two plays later to put the hosts back in front. The extra point try was blocked by Tajae Broadie but the Bubblers went into halftime with a 13-10 lead.

That lead stretched to 19-10 with 7:56 left in the third quarter after the Bubblers marched 76 yards in 10 plays for the score. Lunde and Garvey connected from 29 yards out for the touchdown. But the Blue Raiders responded following a 25-yard kickoff return by Bryant, who broke free for 36 yards to the Bubblers’ 14 on first down. Two plays later Leach rolled right and fired a strike to Broadie for a 16-yard touchdown pass with 6:37 left in the third. The extra point pulled the Raiders to within two, 17-19.

Despite giving up the big scoring plays, the Middletown defense continued it solid play and the Bubblers were kept off the scoreboard until the final seconds of the game. In the meantime, the Middletown offense continued to make its progress on the ground. Jason Stoner, Chase Vandegrift, Marquis Beasley, Sebastian Dash and Donnie Neidig paved the way as Bryant, Leach, Broadie and Davis gained the yards and moved the chains for the determined Blue Raiders.

The result of their efforts was a grueling, 16-play drive that covered 55 yards and ended in a one-yard power drive by Broadie with 6:34 left in the game. A two-point pass attempt failed but the Middletown team took the lead at 23-19. The defense held and the Raiders had the ball with 4:57 left. But any hopes of a time-consuming scoring drive ended when Garvey intercepted a third down pass, setting up his team at the Middletown 27.

The Raider defense gave ground grudgingly and, with time running down, had the Bubblers facing a 4th and 11 at the 14. Make the stop and the game is over and the Blue Raiders win. But Lunde, under pressure, escaped trouble and found Menke breaking open in the endzone. The connection came with just 28 seconds left and the hosts were ahead 26-23. The Blue Raiders, however, were not done yet.

Following a penalty on the kickoff, the Bubblers had to re-kick and Bryant’s return reached the Middletown 44 with just 18 seconds showing on the clock. Leach’s pass to Bryant went for 17 yards to the B.S. 39. On second and 10 Leach again found Bryant near the 20 as the final seconds ticked away. Just before going down, Bryant lateraled the ball to Broadie who tried his best to break free. But it was not to be and he was stopped at the 10 despite his efforts.

On an historical note the game marked the 100th anniversary of Middletown Blue Raiders football. The first official scholastic game for the Middletown program was held on October 15, 1921. Prior to that recorded date football was played as more or less a club sport.



OCTOBER 9, 2021 - BLUE RAIDERS POST HOMECOMING SHUTOUT


Homecoming touchdownThe Blue Raiders’ defense has been playing well all year and the unit continued that trend on Saturday afternoon in Middletown Area High School’s annual Homecoming Game. But a big shoutout also goes to the offense this week as the two squads on both sides of the ball combined for a 38-0 shutout over visiting Camp Hill at War Memorial Stadium.

While the defense limited the Lions to 100 yards in the game, the offense rolled up 196 yards on the ground and another 109 through the air in a dominating performance in front of a large, appreciative gathering of alums and current students to cap the weekend of festivities that have become a tradition since 1963.

The Blue Raiders, coming off a tough loss from the previous week, really needed a lift and gave one to themselves with the pleasing victory. And, first-year head coach Scott Acri was really happy with the outcome. “Having the same offensive line on the field for the second week in a row really helped,” he said. That group, consisting of center Jason Stoner, guards Sebastian Dash and Law Brunson, and tackles Chase Vandegrift and Marquis Beasley really played well up front.

Their combined efforts on the run assignments and pass blocking protection proved to be a key to the Capital Division win. Senior back Brandyn Davis benefitted from the performance by collecting 94 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries. Quarterback Tate Leach also benefitted by running for 41 yards and passing for 109 on 8 of 12 pass attempts.

The game got off to an exciting start when Davis returned the opening kickoff 45 yards to the Camp Hill 35 and Audric Bryant ran 13 yards on the first play from scrimmage. But the Lions defense held and Tyson Leach’s 32-yard field goal attempt just missed the mark. Late in the first quarter the Blue Raiders drove to the Camp Hill 21 as time expired. Facing a fourth and 11 to star the second quarter the Raiders again lined up for a field goal try. This time Leach’s kick was straight and true, making the 3-pointer from 37 yards out for the game’s first score.

Homecoming footballStrong defense from Caden Paul and Asa Kochvar, with a 13-yard sack of Lion quarterback Payton Shore and a combined pass breakup by Tate Leach and Jamar McKinney forced a Camp Hill punt, the return by Bryant setting up the Raiders at the guests 33. Four plays later Davis darted through a gap on the right side from six yards out for a Raider touchdown. The 10-0 lead grew to 17-0 when Tate Leach scored on a keeper up the middle with just 12 seconds left in the first half. The play capped and eventful 89-yard drive as the Raiders overcame a pair of holding calls and used great clock management to make it happen. The big play of the drive was a Leach-to-Tajae Broadie pass connection that went for 47 yards. On the touchdown run Leach broke free up the middle and made two quick cuts to reach the south endzone with just seconds left.

Camp Hill opened up the second half with a promising drive before the Middletown defense put the clamps on their guests. Key plays by Stoner, Kam Chisolm, Paul, Tito Spears and McKinney stopped the Lions at the 34. After an exchange of punts the Middletown offense was back on the field at the Camp Hill 22 following a big return by Bryant. Three plays later Leach hit Bryant on a sideline pattern and the pair connected for a 19-yard touchdown and a 24-0 lead for the home team.

Three minutes into the fourth quarter the Middletown offense struck again, completing a 45-yard drive that was capped by Davis’ 5-yard run that pushed the Raiders up to a commanding 31-0 lead. The Lions went three-and-out on their following possession and the Middletown reserves put the final exclamation point of the victory with 4:29 left. Spears and Jose Sanchez ran through the Camp Hill defense in the drive that was capped with a 6-yard scoring run by Sanchez.


OCTOBER 2, 2021 - ROLLERS DENY RAIDERS UPSET BID

Steel highAnother chapter in the old Middletown/Steelton-Highspre rivalry story unfolded on Saturday afternoon on Cottage Hill.

The fact that Steel-High won was of no real surprise to anyone in the 2021 version. The athletic Rollers, last year’s state champions, won 26-0 in Steelton-Highspire’s Homecoming Game. The real surprise, however, was that the two teams fought to an almost unbelievable 0-0 stalemate after two full quarters of play on the Rollers’ home turf.

But, after the much-needed halftime break for both squads, Steel-High finally solved the staunch Middletown defense in the second half, while the Rollers’ own defenders kept the Blue Raiders from mounting any form of a scoring threat. After averaging nearly 65 points per game in their first four contests, the Rollers and their fans were, indeed, shocked by putting up zero in the first half in their battle with the Raiders.

In reality the Middletown fans, too, were in shock and the hopes rippled through the visitors stands on the warm, sunny day up on the hill. But, as it did in the previous week’s loss at Juniata, the Middletown offense simply could not get any consistency when it had the ball. As good as the Middletown defense was, the Rollers defenders were just as good.

Unfortunately for the Blue Raiders, the Rollers came out in the second half and were able to finally crack their opponents’ defenses by scoring three times in the third quarter and once more, late in the fourth to lock up the Capital Division victory. The first score came on an 8-yard run by Dalvin Pryor with 9:22 left in the third. Another long drive by the Rollers was stopped when Kam Chisolm recovered a Steel-High fumble at the one-yard line. The second score came on an Alex Erby pass to Durrell Ceasar that covered 41 yards. The third one, an Erby-to-Jaeion Perry, also went for 41 yards, despite tight coverage by Jamar McKinney, and gave the hosts a 19-0 lead.

Held to less than 20 net yards in the first half the Blue Raiders tried to find a break in the Rollers’ armor in the second and did gain some yards. But, with Tate Leach filling in from the start at quarterback in place of the team’s regular starter, ground yards and air yards were hard to come by and the Raiders had just one somewhat scoring threat reach into Steel-High territory. On that drive Leach, with his team trailing 19-0, connected with Brandyn Davis for 13 yards and then the pair combined for a 37-yard gain to the Steel-High 25 with 9 minutes left in the game.

But, one play later, Steel-High’s two-way standout Tyrone Moore intercepted Leach to end the threat. The Rollers would later score again with 2:02 left to lock up the win.

Leach, Chisolm, Davis, Jason Stoner, Arkel Batts, McKinney, Tajae Broadie, Marquise Beasley, Asa Kochvar, Audric Bryant and Caden Paul all turned in outstanding efforts for the defense despite the loss. On offense, Leach completed 5 of 16 passes and Tito Spears collected 31 yards on 9 carries.

On a down note Bryant was injured midway through the third quarter and had to be carted off the field and transported to a local hospital. He reportedly was showing good movements in his arms and legs later.


SEPTEMBER 24, 2021 - BLUE RAIDERS STUNNED BY INDIANS

The final score read 8-7, and it was not a baseball or soccer final count. It was a football game and the result was a classic example of a frustrating finish for the Middletown Area High School football team.

Following the previous week’s 42-7 rout of Newport at home the Blue Raiders ran into a whole different team in Mifflintown last Friday night. The host Indians came out as winners in the defensive clash that left the Middletown team and its fans shocked in disbelief. An 8-7 loss? Really?

While the Middletown defense played exceptionally well, more than good enough to produce a win, the Blue Raiders’ offense was almost completely stymied by a group of determined Indian defenders that held the Middletown ground game to next to nothing. The Blue Raiders did put up decent numbers in the air, but a trio of second-half pass interceptions proved to be the difference in the outcome.

A couple of lost fumbles and a pair of errant snaps on punts also hurt in a big way. Those two miscues on punts led to all the points the Indians would need to complete the upset. The first resulted in a 2-point safety and the second one gave the Juniata offense a short field that produced the game-winning points. And the low numbers, along with Juniata’s stifling run defense, added up to the winning margin.

In the beginning, however, it appeared as if the Blue Raiders were off to a good, successful start. After defensive tackle Marquis Beasley recovered a Juniata fumble on the Indians’ first possession, the Raiders struck quickly. And, although the Middletown offense lost a net of 3 yards on their first three plays, the Raiders converted on third and 13 when Tajae Broadie outjumped Juniata’s Zach Harr in the right front corner of the endzone, hauling in Bamm Appleby’s pass for the touchdown with 8:40 left in the first quarter. Tyson Leach’s PAT gave the Blue Raiders a crowd-pleasing 7-0 lead. Little did they know at the time that those 7 points would be all the Raiders would score.

The Indians followed with a good drive but were turned away when Tate Leach broke up a fourth down pass after the home team had reached the Middletown 25. Four plays later, however, disaster struck for the Raiders when punter Tyson Leach had to run down a high snap in the endzone that resulted in the 2-point safety for the Indians.

That 7-2 Middletown lead held up through the first half and all the way into the closing seconds of the third quarter. Both defenses stood tall throughout that long span, with neither team giving much ground. With their running game completely shut down by the Juniata defense the Raiders tried to get things done through the air. But after finding some success in the passing game, a lost fumble and a couple costly penalties kept the Raiders from scoring. Late in the third quarter the second high snap on a punting situation led to the winning points for the hosts.

Taking over at the Middletown 14 following the mistake, the Indians still were nearly kept out of the endzone. After reaching the 4 in two plays and a Middletown penalty, the Indians were flagged twice and were back at the 14. Two passes fell incomplete, but on third down Aaron Kanagy hit Yaneil Ortiz for the go-ahead points with 43 seconds left in the third. A two-point attempt failed but the hosts led 8-7 with a full quarter to play, plenty of time for the Blue Raiders to work with.

And it appeared as if the Raiders were on their way to reversing their fortunes. A pair of Appleby to Arkel Batts pass completions and a catch by Jamar McKinney gave the Raiders a first down at the Juniata 17. Appleby’s keeper gained 6 yards to the 11, but on the next play Juniata intercepted his throw in the endzone to kill the threat. And that turnover seemed to have an adverse mental effect on the Middletown side.

On their second possession of the fourth quarter the Raiders lost a fumble and, on their third, another pass was intercepted by the Indians. But the defense, led by Jason Stoner, Caden Paul Brandyn Davis, Asa Kochvar, Beasley and Tate Leach held and gave their team another chance. Taking over at their own 12 following a Juniata punt the Blue Raiders had just over three minutes to work with.

The drive started out well with a catch by Audric Bryant and another one by McKinney three plays later that reached the 42. But the drive died when Appleby was sacked for an 11-yard loss on third and 10 and a fourth down toss was just out of reach by Tate Leach, who possibly could have scored if the connection had been made. Instead, the ball was turned over on downs and the Indians ran out the final 56 seconds to lock up the victory.



SEPTEMBER 17, 2021 - BLUE RAIDERS CORRAL BUFFALOES 42-7


Junior running back Audric Bryant returned the opening kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown to start the game and the visiting Newport Buffaloes put up little resistance after that as the Blue Raiders routed their visitors 42-7 on Friday night.

The game turned out to be a huge success for the team and the large partisan crowd on hand, the fans nearly filling the home stands after being denied in-person attendance last fall due to the pandemic restrictions. On the warm, comfortable night at War Memorial Stadium those fans were treated to a convincing victory by the Blue Raiders and new head coach Scott Acri.

Tate LeachIn all fairness to Newport, the Buffaloes came into the game with just one win and suffered a pair of big losses that exposed their struggles in the new season. They also had to play without their best athlete who had been injured in their previous game. But his presence would have made little difference as the Raiders dominated the contest throughout, especially at the line of scrimmage.

Besides Bryant, the team was led by many others on both sides of the ball as the Middletown squad improved its overall record to 2-1. Five other players added yards on the ground and five caught passes from Bamm Appleby, who finished 6 of 9 for 116 yards. After jumping out to a 42-0 lead at halftime most of the first-team players saw little action in the second half as the “mercy clock” ran right from the start of the third quarter.

The Middletown defense pitched a shutout through three full quarters, holding Newport scoreless until just 40 seconds remained in the Mid Penn crossover game. That score came against the Middletown reserves.

On the exciting opening seconds of the game Bryant fielded Gage Wirth’s kickoff at the 11-yard line and took off. Starting on the left side Bryant made a few cuts across the field behind his blockers and hit the right sideline in full stride. The play took all of 17 seconds and the home team had a 6-0 lead. Tyson Leach’s PAT just missed, but he was perfect the rest of the way. On Newport’s first possession senior defensive end Tajae Broadie had back-to-back sacks of Buffalo quarterback Mason Messick forcing a punt.

The Blue Raiders took over at the Newport 45. Following a 6-yard run by Brandyn Davis on first down, the Middletown offense was set back with three consecutive penalties that pushed the Raiders back to their own 40. On 2nd and 24 Appleby connected with Tate Leach for 10 yards and, following a 9-yard run by Davis, the junior quarterback hooked up with Bryant for 31 yards to the 10. Two plays later Bryant dashed into the endzone from two yards out and the Raiders grabbed a 13-0 lead. Big defensive plays by Tate Leach and Marquis Beasley forced a Newport punt that led to another Middletown score.

Although the possession started off with a run for no gain and a pair of incomplete passes the Blue Raiders converted a fourth and 10 into their third touchdown. Appleby threw a strike that Jamar McKinney caught in stride at the 19 and took it to the house for a 46-yard TD connection and a 20-0 lead. On the final play of the first quarter Tate Leach intercepted a pass that was tipped by linebacker Jason Stoner that eventually led to the Raiders’ fourth score.

On the second play of the second quarter following a Middletown penalty Tito Spears ran for 22 yards to the Newport 33. Arkel Batts caught a 12-yard pass to the 21, but the Raiders were again flagged for a penalty a play later. But that did not stop the Middletown drive. A reception by Davis and a 13-yard run by Bryant set up Bryant’s 7-yard scoring run with 9;19 left in the first half. Later in the period Bryant returned a punt for an apparent touchdown but the score was wiped out by yet another infraction. Appleby’s hurried throw as intercepted by Wirth one play later to turn back the threat.

Tito SpearsBut the Middletown defense pinned the Buffaloes back on their own 1-yard line on a sack by Davis and the Raiders were back on offense at the Newport 18. And it took just one play, and 18-yard run by Spears, to pad the Middletown lead. On the run Spears made a great juke move at the five past the Newport safety to reach the south endzone. Down 35-0 at that point the visitors tried desperately to get something going on offense. But the Middletown defense would have none of that.

Disaster hit the Buffaloes four plays later when punter Reuben Moreno tried to field a low snap on fourth down. His knee touched at the 22 and the Raiders struck again with Bryant going the distance on first down to make it a 42-0 score in the final seconds of the first half. The Blue Raiders, who went almost exclusively with their back up players in the second half, would not score again.

The Buffaloes took advantage of that in the third quarter and put together a good drive with the clock running. But the 14-play drive ran out of steam at the Middletown 21 as the Raider reserves held. The visitors, however, were able to convert their efforts with another long drive in the final frame. Aided by a personal foul penalty against the Middletown defense on fourth and 15 on the seventh play of the drive the Buffaloes broke up the shutout on a one-yard keeper by Messick with just 40 seconds left. A fumble recovery by Newport on the ensuing kickoff gave the Buffaloes one more chance but a Spears interception on first down closed off the win for the home team.





SEPTEMBER 10, 2021 - MIDDLETOWN GRIDDERS ROLL OVER LINE MOUNTAIN

Following a season opening loss, the Middletown varsity football team rebounded nicely with a 28-6 victory over host Line Mountain last Friday evening. The lengthy road trip to Herndon in Northumberland County turned out to be a successful venture for the Blue Raiders, who secured their first win for new coach Scott Acri.
And, although the team had some rough moments at times in the contest, Acri was more than pleased with the victory. “Any time you get a win it’s good,” he said. And, while there were still a couple players not suited up, Acri was optimistic about their return in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, those that did play turned in a solid effort against the host Eagles.

The Middletown defense was solid throughout and limited the Eagles to a net total of 110 yards in the game. On the other side of the ball the Blue Raiders racked up over 370 total yards with a good mix of run and pass. Bamm Appleby completed 5 of 12 passes for 141 yards in the win. The running game produced over 230 yards on the ground in the balanced attack.

Keyed by the work up front from Jason Stoner, Chase Vandegrift, Marquis Beasley, Sebastian Dash and Chase Eberly, junior Audric Bryant, who had to sit out the opening game due to a health issue, led the way with 111 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown. Senior Brandyn Davis ran 7 times for 82 yards (all in the first half) and Tajae Broadie scored twice on short runs in limited carries. Bryant and Tate Leach were on the receiving end of Appleby’s throws.

On their second offensive possession of the game the Blue Raiders marched 92 yards in just 7 plays for the game’s first score. Key plays of the drive were a 10-yard run by Davis and an Appleby-Bryant connection of 49 yards. Broadie capped it with a 2-yard dive between right guard and tackle with 6:24 left in the first quarter. Tyson Leach, who ended up perfect on extra points in the game, added the PAT. Leach was also consistent with deep kickoffs and long punts. The defense did its job from that point on and pitched a shutout until the Eagles finally found the endzone with just 4:01 left in the game.

In the second quarter the Raiders made it a 14-0 game with a quick-strike drive that took just three plays. On second and 4, Davis broke off a 49-yard run to the Line Mountain 23. Bryant took it from there and went the distance with 8:38 left in the first half.

Although the Raiders threatened twice more in the second stanza and twice more in the third, that 14-0 score held firm until the later minutes of the third quarter. After the defense forced an Eagle punt from deep in Line Mountain’s end of the field that Bryant returned to the 36, it took just one play for the Blue Raiders to pad their lead. On the play Tate Leach grabbed Appleby’s swing pass to the left and outran the Eagles’ defense to the endzone with 4:20 left. The Eagles followed with their best offensive drive of the game. But, after reaching the Middletown 8-yard line Beau Keim fumbled and Tate Leach was there to claim the turnover. The Raiders, however, went three and out and a good punt return set up the host team in Raider territory to start the fourth period.

The Eagles scored on the sixth play of the final quarter on a pass play to make it a 21-6 game with just under 10 minutes on the clock. The Raiders went nowhere on the ensuing possession as the Line Mountain defense held. But the Eagles gambled and lost four plays later when they tried to convert on fourth and 11. On the play Caden Paul and Tito Spears sacked Eagle quarterback Nick Snyder for a 13-yard loss that gave the ball back to the Middletown side at the L.M. 23.

Four plays, and a holding call later, Broadie ran over two Eagles on his way to a 6-yard touchdown that literally locked up the win for the Raiders. The defense held the Eagles on two more possessions and the victors ran out the last two minutes to end it.



SEPTEMBER 3, 2021 - FOOTBALL TEAM SUFFERS SEASON-OPENING LOSS

Host Bishop McDevitt scored on the game’s opening possession for the early lead and, following a pair of pass interceptions by the Crusaders’ defense, the Blue Raiders fell into a hole they were never able to climb out of last Friday night. Before the first quarter ended the Middletown team was down 21-0 and things simply did not get any better in what turned out to be a humbling 55-7 loss.

The Blue Raiders, who had their first game postponed the prior week, came into the contest at a distinct disadvantage against the perennially powerful Bishop McDevitt team. The Crusaders had the advantage right from the start, having played the previous week (a 21-0 loss to LaSalle), and playing on their home turf. They also had the advantage in numbers, experience and depth against a somewhat depleted Middletown squad.

And it all added up to an impressive win for the host team that is deep and talented on both sides of the ball. It may have helped a bit if the Blue Raiders had been able to play in the scheduled opener against Lower Dauphin in the season’s first weekend, but that is pure speculation at this point. The Raiders will hope to be back at full strength this week for their road trip to Line Mountain Friday.

The Crusaders got off to the quick start with an 8-play scoring drive following the kickoff. Overcoming three penalties the drive was capped by a 31-yard pass from Stone Saunders to Jahil Terry. On Middletown’s first play from scrimmage Bamm Appleby’s pass was intercepted, leading to an 8-play scoring drive of 48 yards, capped by a TD reception by Mario Easterly. The struggles continued for the Raiders as Appleby was intercepted again on first down. Marquese Williams, who ran around and through the Middletown defense throughout the game’s first half, capped the drive with a 12-yard run. And, just that quickly, the Middletown side was down 21-0.

The Blue Raiders finally broke their drought early in the second quarter when Tajae Broadie scored from the three at 9:55. The drive, aided by a personal foul against the Crusaders (one of several) and Appleby’s 41-yard run, gave the Middletown side a much-needed lift. But it did not last long.

Following a designed short kickoff by Tyson Leach a 48-yard run on second down set up McDevitt’s fourth touchdown. Again, overcoming a pair of penalties, the home team cashed in with Williams’ 19-yard scoring run to make it a 28-7 game with 8:13 left in the first half. That advantage turned into 35-7 when the Crusaders again found the endzone with just 29 seconds left in the first half. Broadie’s 29-yard run on the final play of the half proved to be one of the few highlights for the Blue Raiders. Unfortunately, Broadie sat out the second half with a minor injury.

Early in the third quarter the Crusaders got the mercy clock running following a dazzling 53-yard touchdown down run by Williams, that ended his big night for the winners. But the Crusaders were not finished just yet as they punched in two more scores in the fourth quarter despite the efforts of the Middletown defense to stop the bleeding. To add to their woes, several players suffered cramps, including two-way standouts Tate Leach, Jason Stoner and Chace Vandegrift. On their final possession of the game Jose Sanchez ran the ball 7 straight times as reserves from both sides finished up. Broadie led the team with 37 rushing yards, but the Blue Raiders ended up with less than 100 yards of offense in the game.



SEPTEMBER 1, 2021 - 2021 BLUE RAIDERS FOOTBALL PREVIEW

Changes took place within the Middletown Area High School football program during the off-season and, with the hiring of Scott Acri to run the show, a new era starts this season. Acri, a 30-year old with several years of experience, last coached at Susquenita High School and was more than eager to apply for the head coaching position at Middletown, citing tradition, success, history and strong community as the factors that attracted him here.

Acri and his staff have been working to keep that tradition alive and well as the new season is here. Rob Brodish and Mike Osayi, a pair of Middletown grads stayed on as assistant coaches to help out. Acri brought Spencer Gay, Joe Crocenzi and Aaron Blanding with him to fill the coaching ranks.

The overall number of players is down this year, but Acri is encouraged by the work of several returning players and the showing the team had with a pre-season scrimmage at Northern York at the end of the first week of practice.

“The outlook for 2021 is to compete every day. We have a slogan for this year “Answer The Bell,” he said, referring to a boxing match in that when the bell rings the team must respond and be ready to go toe to toe with opponents. “We talk daily about work ethic, commitment, energy and love. We will strive to play at a high level each day and develop great young men. We have a tremendous returning core (of players) and a lot of newcomers that have joined the scene,” he said.

Offense
“We will be running a multiple spread offense. We will look to be a balanced team that will utilize our run concepts to open up our passing game. You can expect multiple sprint outs, screens, quick game and RPO schemes. We will also look to change tempos often, as well as personnel, shifts and motions.”

Defense
“Our defense will be a primary event with a cover 2 shell. We will look to mirror our blitz packages with different coverages and movements. We will also utilize and odd front (3-4) in certain passing situations. We plan to put our best athletes on the field and allow them to play fast and physical.

Players
As noted, the numbers are down hovering at or slightly above 30. And that means that everyone has to contribute. Senior leadership will be important along with returning underclassmen who played in the shortened 2020 season. Leading the senior class will be: WR/DB/QB Tate Leach, TE/DE Tajae Broadie 6’4, 240), WR/DB Caden Paul, RB/LB Brandyn Davis, OL/LB Jason Stoner (5’11, 215), OL/DL Chase Vandegrift (6”, 260).

Representing the junior class are: RB/DB Audric Bryant, RB/DB Arkel Batts, FB/LB Canden Brown, WR/DB DeShawn Patterson, QB Bamm Appleby (the projected starter), WR/DB Amari Betha, FB/LB Jackson Grimland, WR/DB Manny Rodriguez, RB/LB Tito Spears. WR/DB Benaiah Harrel, OL/DL Antuan Metz (5’8, 260), OL/DL Sebastian Dash (5’8, 230), OL/DL Marquis Beasley (5’10, 240), K/P Nolan Sessa and TE/DE Asa Kochvar (6’4, 200).

The sophomore group includes WR/DB Jamar McKinney, WR/DB Jose Sanchez, WR/LB Isaiah Crosson, WR/LB Tally Keating, WR/DB Aaron Nordai, WR/DB Rece Butler, K/P Tyson Leach, TE/DE Kam Chisolm, OL/DL Chase Eberly (5’10, 210), OL/DL Dominic Singh (5”10, 210), OL/DL Law Brunson (5’11, 260), OL/DL Donnie Neidig (5’9, 240), and Malcolm Taalbuddeen (5’11, 230).

Acri noted that the expectations for Middletown football are high. “You can bet that we will be ready to compete week in and week out!” he said.


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