By 4th Down Staff:
STEEL-HIGH (1-0) at MIDDLETOWN (1-0)
7 p.m. Friday, War Memorial Field, Middletown
THE ROLLERS: It’s no secret Andrew Erby’s program likes to move fast and in large intervals, but defensive assignments and awareness will be most important against the rival Blue Raiders. Middletown has averaged 46 points in its last four meetings with Steel-High, all resulting in sizable victories. Still, it’s fun to talk about the guys making all those highlight reel moves. Freshman QB Alex Erby made his varsity debut last week, chucking for 200-plus yards and four touchdowns in a 43-6 win over Upper Dauphin. Top targets Mehki Flowers and Damein Hammonds were expected matchup problems, and RB Odell Greene carried 18 times for 190 yards during the onslaught. That’s a pile of firepower that is difficult to clock for any defense. Greene’s early work, coupled with that developing o-line, could tell the tale here. Once that second line of defense creeps closer to the line of scrimmage, it’s a license for Steel-High to look deep.
THE BLUE RAIDERS: The hours leading in might be enough time for QB Tony Powell to get back on the field. Powell was injured vs. Central Dauphin during a scrimmage and did not play vs. Juniata in the opener. However, coach Brett Myers got a stock performance from Julio Rodriguez under center. Rodriguez completed 11-of-13 passes for 185 yards and four touchdowns in a lopsided 54-19 win. The Raiders cranked out nearly 550 yards of offense, including 195 stripes, on just eight carries, by Tymir Jackson. Audric Bryant paced the defense with 10 stops and Middletown enjoyed a breezy night. Like the Rollers, Jackson might hold the key for the hosts. If Rodriguez is needed again, handing the QB manageable down and distances will help sustain possessions and keep the up-tempo Rollers on the sideline.
THE SERIES: Each team has won five times in the last 10 meetings, although the Rollers’ last victory in the series came in 2015, a 19-18 decision.
DOWN & DISTANCE: Greene began his prep career at Middletown. In 2018, the sophomore helped Middletown cash in a third straight District 3 Class 3A title and finish as the PIAA runner-up to Aliquippa.
THE PICK: Middletown 35, Steel-High 33