Thanksgiving is a time when traditions are celebrated. For the Middletown High School football program, the tradition includes preparing for a Class 2A state semifinal game.
“After you do it for awhile, it becomes a habit,” Knights coach Kevin Lynott said. “We have been very blessed, for the fourth straight year, to be in the situation where we are still playing and I think our football families and the kids expect to be playing during Thanksgiving. We look at it as a fun, positive All-American Thanksgiving — you’ve got turkey and football.”
Middletown plays host to Elkton, the 2A East Region champion at 7 p.m. on Friday. The Golden Elks (11-1) defeated Kent Island, 21-7, to reach the state semifinals for the first time since 2007. Elkton is led by the rushing tandem of L.J. Ray (1,618 yards, 16 touchdowns) and Kyle Thomas (572 yards, three touchdowns). Quarterback Javin Taylor has proven that he is a dual-threat with 11 passing scores and nine rushing.
“Elkton is a good football team and they certainly have gone through this season really dominating opponents,” Lynott said. “Offensively, they have a lot of size and they are very physical.”
On defense, linemen Mike Rossi and Pat Dada anchor a strong front, while linebackers Thomas and Zach Richardson patrol the secondary. Pass defense may be the weak point for the Elks, but Lynott believes that their shortcomings are due to individual breakdowns and are not an overall reflection of the unit’s ability.
On offense, Middletown will focus on creating opportunities in the ground game with Zach Welch and Jess Powell. Justin Falcinelli and the rest of the offensive line will need to work to create holes, just as they have done all season.
“Our philosophy is we want to be able to go in there and do what we do well,” Lynott said. “Certainly, running the ball is something that we strive to do, but we also have to look at what the defense will give you.”
On defense, the Knights will rely on the fundamentally sound, attacking style that has been a key factor in their 20 consecutive victories, dating back to last season.
“We are expecting a very physical, smash-mouth, game,” Lynott said. “To have this game in our backyard during the Thanksgiving break, it’s just huge because of the way our culture is with football and Thanksgiving. Our community is supportive of that. I expect a good crowd because I think everyone in the community realizes that Elkton is a very good football team. It’s going to be anybody’s game. We understand what’s coming at us.”