Sunday QB: Middletown and Harrisburg set to play for state titles; McDevitt falls to Cathedral Prep

02 December 2018


Jose Lopez Middletown

Jose Lopez and the Middletown BLue Raiders will have an opportunity to hoist a state title next Saturday at Hersheypark Stadium. (File photo/Adam Kulikowski)

By Andy Shay: 

For the second time in three years Harrisburg and Middletown will represent the Mid-Penn Conference in the PIAA Football Championships.

The Blue Raiders are making their third consecutive appearance in the Class 3A championship game and will play Aliquippa. The Quips are a Class 1A school by enrollment standards but chooses to play up in classification. Middletown making it three years in a row is historic as far as I’m concerned.

Whether you win these championship games or not, making it to the final three years in a row is more impressive than winning a single title.

For the third straight year, Scranton Prep was victimized by Middletown. The final score was semi-close, 35-21, but the actual game was all Blue Raiders.

Buoyed by a defense that takes a while to figure out how to crack, Middletown raced to a 21-0 lead at halftime and made it 28-0 on the opening drive of the second half to put the Cavaliers away.

Jose Lopez now has four straight 200-yard rushing performances in the postseason with 14 total touchdowns. Richie Sykes added 112 total yards on nine touches with a rushing and receiving touchdown.

Blue Raiders quarterback Scott Ash averaged 21.6 yards per completion. He was 6-of-14 passing with a touchdown, and those first-half targets carved up the Scranton Prep defense focused on stopping the run.

Speaking of the run, the Cavaliers managed only 18 yards on 29 carries. The Blue Raiders’ run defense continues to choke opponents. I am convinced the only way to beat Middletown is score 28 or more points, and you have to throw it for more than 300 yards. Aliquippa is that kind of team, though.

Harrisburg avenging its only loss of the season by edging Coatesville in the Class 6A semifinal was a monumental victory for what the Cougars had to overcome.

This was the exact same Coatesville team that hung 38 points and rang up more than 500 yards on the Cougars in a 31-point victory at Severance Field. It was very, very easy for the Red Raiders that day, and it could have been worse.

That’s a lot of ground to make up in any season, especially if the other team has not dropped off. After losing all three phases of the game in the season opener, Harrisburg won two of the three phases Saturday afternoon at Hesheypark Stadium in a stunning 27-24 victory.

Harrisburg dropped a 21-point second-quarter bomb on the Red Raiders and never looked back – although there were a few anxious moments in the second half.

Overall, what stuck out was Coatesville was not ready for how football fast Harrisburg played the opening 24 minutes. The Red Raiders never adjusted to the fact that the Cougars were at least the equal and maybe the better team.

Harrisburg didn’t turn the ball over once. That was a huge factor as the rain came down pretty steady in the second half. Both teams had issues with penalties, but when’s the last time Harrisburg had 11 penalties for 100-plus yards and was the lesser penalized of the two squads?

Coatesville was a mess up front offensively in terms of pre-snap penalties. The Red Raiders had 10 false starts and a delay of game among their 17 total penalties.

Offensively, quarterback Kane Everson’s ability to extend plays and create in space was a serious problem for Coatesville. And junior running back Jahmir Plant is a force in between the tackles right now. He was relentless in tight spots and finished with 140 yards on 25 carries with a couple touchdowns.

Harrisburg’s defensive front of Brian Yates, Dionte Nichols, Saquon Carter-Barton and Jeff Chisholm-Wilkerson dominated from start to finish. The quartet teamed up to register five of the Cougars’ six sacks and both tackles for a loss. Coatesville averaged 1.7 yards per carry for the game and 27 of their 43 running plays went for 3 yards or less. 

On Saturday, the better team – Harrisburg – won the game.

Here is my takeaway from Bishop McDevitt getting roasted by Cathedral Prep in the Class 4A semifinals at Mansion Park in Altoona – winning a District 3 title was all that mattered to this McDevitt team.

If that’s the goal you have your eye on as important, then what happened Friday night makes sense. Because otherwise, falling behind 42-0 in 18 minutes is stunning.

Head coach Jeff Weachter said after the game it was a “comedy of errors.” While that might sound harsh, it’s a true statement. There is no other explanation for making it this far in the playoffs and being incapable of offering any resistance.

Cathedral Prep put 42 points on the board before the midway point of the second quarter to end the competitive phase of the game. It was almost over less than a minute into the second quarter when Regan Schleicher, who had 167 yards on only seven carries, zipped 89 yards for his second score.

For the record for anyone who stokes the fire on this public vs. private separate state championship nonsense, for all your huffing and puffing, the facts when it comes to football are simply not on your side.

Sorry, if you’d like some cheese with your whine head over to Wegman’s. They have an awesome selection.

This year, nine of the 12 teams headed to Hershey for the championship games are public schools. Last season it was eight of the 12. In two seasons, 71 percent of the participants in the PIAA Football Championship games are public schools.

I’ll go with empirical evidence over smoke and mirrors any day.