The defending Class 2A state champion Middletown High School football team earned its third consecutive state final appearance with Friday's 45-0 home win over 2A East Region champion Elkton High of Cecil County.
“It's no secret that Middletown is a very good football team. They're considered one of the best teams in the state. They have the pedigree up [there], they're used to being in this spot, they have this gorgeous facility, they are well-oiled machinery,” Elkton coach Sean Lanz said.
Middletown (13-0) coach Kevin Lynott said defense has been the historical bedrock for the Knights' tremendous success. The Knights face Frederick Douglass, the team they beat in last year's title game, Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore in a bid to win their second straight Class 2A state title.
But sometimes it's easy for that to be overshadowed by a tremendously dynamic offense that averages 39 points per game this fall.
Everything shined for Middletown Friday.
Led by powerful running back Jess Powell (three touchdowns) and shifty back Zach Welch (153 yards, one touchdown) Middletown scored six touchdowns against a team that had allowed only 12.5 points per game in its previous 12 contests.
Middletown's 45 points was a score above its average of 39 points per game.
Perhaps more impressive was the Knights' complete shutout of a team that scored an average of 32.2 points per game heading into Friday's duel.
“You go into a state semifinal and you expect a battle. I think Elkton gave us a battle, they played hard. Hats off to them and their season,” Lynott said. “Having a defense that's been so stingy, it puts less pressure on the offense. For 39 years our program has prided itself on defense. And it's a total team effort. That's the secret. All of these guys play together, they just worry about their own jobs and it all meshes together.”
Middletown opened up the scoring late in the first quarter when Powell seemingly leapt over Elkton's entire defensive line on a 6-yard touchdown run.
The Knights cruised to a 31-0 halftime lead off touchdowns from Welch, two from Powell and quarterback Tim Pirrone as well as a 45-yard field goal from Welch at the halftime whistle.
Lynott said Welch's conversion was three off the program's all-time record of 48 yards.
Powell's third touchdown of the night, a 33-yard diagonal into the left corner of the end zone, made the score 38-0 early in the third quarter and set the running clock.
The Knights' final score came from junior Tim Schumacher, who came in with the Knights second string midway through the third.
After a 56-yard scamper, Schumacher made the score 45-0, with three minutes left in regulation.
“I didn't expect it to be that score, that's for sure,” Welch said. “But it definitely wasn't easy. We worked for every play. We know when we step on the field, we know we're going to work for each other and have each other's backs.”
Middletown 45, Elkton 0
Elkton (11-2) 0 0 0 0 — 0
Middletown (13-0) 6 25 7 7
M — Jess Powell 6 run (kick failed)
M — Tim Pirrone 20 run (Zach Welch kick)
M — Jess Powell 11 run (Zach Welch kick)
M — Zach Welch 11 run (Cody Martin two-point run)
M — Zach Welch 45 field goal
M— Jess Powell 33 run (Zach Welch kick)
M — Tim Schumacher 21 run (Nick Welch kick)
Elkton — Lawrence Ray 17-53; Kyle Thomas 7-20; Issac Robinson 2-19.
Middletown — Zach Welch 12-153; Tim Schumacher 4-82; Jess Powell 4-77; Tim Pirrone 4-27.
Elkton — Javin Taylor 5-8-8-0.
Middletown — Tim Pirrone 2-4-35-0.
Elkton — Niles Scott 1-15.
Middletown — Zach Welch 1-22; Mitch Sgrignoli 1-13.