Eagles top Lions, advance to state football title game

first_imgBy WAYNE WITKOWSKI Correspondent Make a mistake against Middletown High School South’s unbeaten football team and you’ll pay for it. Middletown High School North paid dearly Nov. 20 in the NJSIAA North Jersey, Section II, Group IV semifinal.Four Middletown North turnovers eventually resulted in touchdowns by No. 1- ranked Middletown South — three of them by Cole Rogers, who totaled foul on the night — as the Eagles won the first playoff game between the two teams, 41-14, before a packed home crowd of 4,500.“We have a goal on the defense of forcing turnovers — I think 40 for the season — and we’ve met that goal,” defensive back Dylan Rogers said. “I was only thinking about being back to the state championship and not thinking much about playing these guys.”Middletown South will make its first trip to the state championships at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford against the defending champion, Phillipsburg High School, which won, 28-13, over Colonia High School in the other semifinal.Last December, Middletown South lost to Jackson Memorial High School, 21-18, in the Central Jersey, Group IV final after driving to Jackson Memorial’s 10-yard line and throwing an incomplete pass on fourth down in the closing seconds.Phillipsburg (9-1) has not lost since its second game of the season.Middletown South and Middletown North meet again in their traditional Thanksgiving morning game, and it is important for both teams: The Shore Conference A North Division championship is at stake. Middletown South (10-0 overall) is 5-0 in the division. Middletown North, which fell to 7-3 overall, is 4-1 in the division. A Middletown North victory would put the teams into a two-way tie for the title.“We know they’re going to do some things we haven’t seen, some gimmick plays. They usually do in that game,” said Rogers, who rushed for 201 of Middletown South’s 274 rushing yards in the semifinals.“I could’ve gone left or right running the ball the holes were so big. The line controlled the game.”Even quarterback Matt Mosquera was able to stay comfortable in the pocket, completing 10 of 11 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns without needing to scramble much behind the blocking of tackles Tom Lopez and Bob Burke, guards Mike Wilson and Adam Markmann and center Joe Rutkowski. They’ve been instrumental in the Eagles’ 418-66 scoring edge.“From an offensive standpoint, we did what we wanted to do,” said Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci, whose team is looking to win its first state title since 2006.At the end of the first half, Mosquera completed a pivotal 5-yard touchdown pass to Tom Coffey, who caught the ball in the back of the end zone and did a great balancing act to keep his feet inbounds. It gave Middletown South a 20-0 lead at halftime.“I was watching my back foot to make sure it was inbounds,” Coffey said, as he set up his own touchdown with a 36-yard reception to midfield earlier in the drive.Things got worse for Middletown North, which had deferred receiving the opening kickoff when it won the opening coin toss so it could get the ball at the start of the second half. The team fumbled the ball away on the kick return to Middletown South’s Rob Hulse. Spencer Pereless, who caught five passes for 86 yards and a touchdown, pulled in a 19-yard pass, and Cole Rogers scored on the next play from 2 yards out to make it a seemingly secure 27-0 lead.“I thought it could be a tighter battle than this,” Middletown North coach Steve Bush said. “We moved the ball, but we did not finish drives.” Quarterback Don Glenn completed 23 of 31 passes for 264 yards for Middletown North but was intercepted three times, twice setting up Middletown South scoring drives.The Lions, who came up empty on a 13-play drive to Middletown South’s 14- yard line before giving up the ball on downs in the second quarter, could have lost their heart when it got to 27-0. But they kept their determination and scored two touchdowns in short order to pull to 27-14. Middletown North halfback Chad Freshnock, who got 78 yards on 22 carries, leaped over the line of scrimmage from 2 yards out into the end zone to cap a 15-play, 80-yard drive. Nick Kish recovered an onside kick, and Glenn hooked up with Matt Harrison on a deep touchdown pass on the next play covering 45 yards with 4:25 left in the third quarter.The Eagles answered five plays later, as Rogers broke off a 37-yard touchdown run. He scored his final touchdown on a 5-yard run with 9:34 left in the game, capping a 63- yard drive that began with a Maxx Imsho interception. Rogers had a pair of 17-yard runs in the drive.last_img

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