The Middletown Cavaliers football team is headed to the DIAA D-1 title game for the third straight year following their exciting 35-28 victory Friday night at Bill Billings Stadium.
The Cavaliers offense turned in another great performance, moving the ball well, especially on third down situations, and scoring to counter the Riders' potent attack. But Middletown's defensive players were the heroes especially late in the fourth quarter when Caesar Rodney was threatening to tie the game and possibly send the contest into overtime.
Trailing by only seven points with 3:36 left in the fourth quarter, The Riders stopped Middletown. But that's when the Cavs' sturdy defense kicked into high gear, stopping the Riders on a fourth and ten yards to go situation, to guarantee the slim victory.
"We beat a very good football team tonight. It was a war, it was a battle and we didn't expect anything less than that. That's an outstanding football team and they were here for a reason, but I couldn't be happier the way my guys responded," said Middletown coach Mark DelPercio.
"When we needed to make a play, that's what we did, and that's what we take pride in," he added.
The Cavaliers struck quickly in the first quarter. After forcing the Riders to punt on their first possession, Middletown took over at their own 37. On the first play from scrimmage, senior Chris Godwin raced 73 yards around the right side for a touchdown. Josh Leach's extra point kick made the score 7-0 at 9:20. Surprising to many in the packed house, Caesar Rodney came right back and scored at the 8:52 mark. Two minutes later, The Cavs regained the lead at 14-7. But again the Riders counterattacked and tied the game at 14-14 with 9:56 left in the second period. Not to be outdone, Middletown's Jamar Baynard scrambled4 3 yards for a touchdown and a 21-14 lead at the half. Baynard, who wasn't feeling well, left the game temporarily, but came back to amass 209 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns.
"I just had to pound it out and not let anything get to me," said Baynard. "I wasn't surprised. We've been working hard since January, and when we get into a fight, we've just got to step it up."
Midway through the third quarter, Middletown's Darius Wade ran eight yards for a 28-14 lead, then, Baynard scored what proved to be the winning touchdown with 46 seconds left in the period for a two-touchdown cushion.
The battle raged in the fourth quarter and CR cut the lead to 35-28 with 4:53 remaining, when junior quarterback Alex Kemp hit Seth Brosius with a 21-yard TD pass. Then as the clock would down to double zeroes, the Middletown defense finished the job by shutting down the Riders when it was most important to the game, and the season.
Page 2 of 2 - "Defense wins championships, and that's what we've talked about. At some point in time you've got to put it in the hands of your defense. I would have liked to have gotten a first down and put the ball in the end zone (late in the game) but we didn't do that. If you're going to play championship football you'd better be able to come up big defensively in moments like that," said DelPercio.
Middletown will now take on the winner of the Salesianum-St. Mark's game in the DIAA D-1 Championship game next Saturday night at Delaware State University's Alumni Field. For Caesar Rodney, it was a night to remember, that fell just short of accomplishing the upset of the season.
"We talked with our team and we said to each other that we were going to commit to 48 minutes of football, we're going to play every play as hard as we can play and I think our guys did that and I'm proud of them. They said they were going to do something and they did," said Caesar Rodney coach Mike Schonewolf.