7 p.m. Friday, BASD Stadium, Bethlehem – PIAA Class 3A semifinal
ABOUT THE BLUE RAIDERS: The three-time defending District 3 champions had to put in a full day’s work last week to fend off Conwell-Egan in a 21-14 finish at Milton Hershey’s Spartan Stadium. Once again, the Blue Raiders showed their full arsenal, advancing behind 2,000-yard rusher Jose Lopez, who netted all three TD runs and 261 stripes on 27 carries, and relying on its steamy defense to make stops at key intervals. The Eagles were 0-for-5 on fourth down attempts, with the Raiders moving on despite being outgained in total yardage. Like Friday’s opponent, Middletown’s only loss was to a Class 4A power in Bishop McDevitt early in the season. The Raiders have pocketed 10 straight by not hesitating to trust the hot hand. While Lopez has played that part to near perfection, top threats Richie Sykes, QB Scott Ash and FB Lamar Ventura have taken turns leading the charge. The foundation up front just keeps getting better.
ABOUT THE CAVALIERS: If any eastern Pa. squad has a bone to pick with Middletown, it’s Terry Gallagher’s Cavaliers. Prep is a whopping 38-4 under Gallagher, now in his fourth season, with two of those setbacks affixed to Friday’s foe. The four-time defending District 2 champs are, as you might expect, running hot after torching Montoursville 45-7 in last week’s quarterfinal round. And the same could be said for QB Leo O’Boyle, a rangy Lafayette hoops recruit who has thrown for 2,090 yards and 31 touchdowns. Those numbers are elevated with the production of RB Ryan Cosgrove and change-up Tucker Johnson. The tandem has combined for nearly 2,200 rushing yards and 24 TD runs. Yes, it’s a formidable offense that can play long or kill time behind a sound blocking wall. Valley View, a team ranked inside the Class 4A Top 5 most of the season, was the lone program to turn back the Cavs, 27-15, back in September.
AT STAKE: The winner will advance to the Class 3A final to play either District 10 champion Sharon or WPIAL champion Aliquippa on Saturday, Dec. 8 at Hersheypark Stadium. Kickoff is noon.
PIAA HISTORY: The Middletown bus could steer itself to BASD Stadium by now. This will be the third consecutive postseason where Middletown has trekked to Bethlehem to meet Scranton Prep. The Blue Raiders are hoping the outcome is the same. Middletown won last year’s quarterfinal tilt 35-0 and claimed a 40-13 win over the Cavaliers in the 2016 quarters.
STAT THAT MATTERS: 13. Touchdown receptions by Scranton Prep senior Michael Greco. Despite his 6-foot-2 frame, Greco is the kind of receiver that can disappear in a secondary or beat you over the top. He’s got 46 receptions on the season, averaging nearly 17 yards per catch.
CONCLUSION: Middletown’s faithful should hardly expect a repeat of the last two meetings with Scranton Prep. O’Boyle’s range and confidence will go a long way in keeping the Cavaliers engaged throughout. Among Middletown’s biggest strengths, however, is the ability to press opposing QBs into early or impromptu decisions. If that continues, the Blue Raiders have the offensive chops to keep Prep chasing.