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Keeney, Knights in final

Middletown blanks Wicomico in 2A semis

Middletown blanks Wicomico in 2A semis

November 25, 2002|by BOB PARASILITI

bobp@herald-mail.com

SALISBURY, Md. - Step by step.

It might be the easiest way to explain how the Middletown football team got where it is today.

It started with the emphatic running strides of tailback Josh Keeney. It was solidified with a back-to-the-basics attitude. And it finished with Middletown's fans flooding onto the field after the job was finished.

The Knights took it one step at a time, using its power running game and disciplined defense to get the job done after Keeney rushed for 171 yards and three touchdowns - with runs of 9, 4 and 3 yards - on 22 carries to pace Middletown to a 35-0 thrashing of Wicomico in the Maryland Class 2A semifinals Friday.

"After losing to (Francis Scott Key), we started over again fundamentally and worked a lot of little things out," Middletown coach Tim Ambrose said in the middle of Middletown's raucous locker room. "We have been getting better in the last five games. We worked a five-step process, using the last five games of the season to get ready for this, and they grabbed onto it."

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And now, the Knights are just one step below reaching the top floor in front of the Class 2A penthouse - the school's first-ever football title. Middletown will face the winner of today's Edmondson/Hereford game in the finals at Ravens Stadium on either Friday or Saturday.

Middletown (11-1) proved it could move the ball early against a much speedier Wicomico team while the defense stopped the Indians in their tracks to turn the game into a methodical dismantling of the East Region champs.

Consider:

  • Keeney managed just eight yards on five carries in the first quarter, before busting loose.

    Keeney had 117 yards and two scores in 10 carries in the second quarter, taking full advantage of a Wicomico playing surface which resembled the consistency of mashed potatoes in between the hashmarks.

    The state's leading rusher and scorer added 56 yards and a score before being removed from the game with 3:04 remaining in the third quarter.

    "This is like the fourth game that we have played in stuff like this," Keeney said. "I just try to run north and south and not go much to side-to-side. This is a team out here, it's no one player."

    Middletown's offensive line blew another team off scrimmage again as Wicomico was left on its heels for most of the night while reaching to contain a Knights' running game that amassed 326 yards and five touchdowns in 55 carries.

    "We've let (Keeney) go all year," Ambrose said. "The offensive line has blocked things well and given him room to run. He is the leading rusher and scorer in the state, but if it weren't for the line giving him room to run, he wouldn't be able to go."

  • Middletown's defense turned Wicomico defenseless when it had the ball. The Indians managed only 24 yards of offense in 29 plays and one first down - which came in the first quarter - to be as dominated as a playoff team could possibly be.

    The Knights held Wicomico's leading rusher Valdase Morris to a measly 12 yards on nine carries. In fact, 18 of the Indians' 29 plays were held to zero yards or less.

    "We knew this game would have something to do with speed," Ambrose said. "They never got going ... we've done well against speed all year. But we were worried about (Wicomico getting outside) all week. That has been our Achilles' heel. We worked on our corners not being so aggressive and we didn't give them a lot. They didn't get leverage on us on the corner all night."

  • By the middle of the third quarter, Middletown had started to use the bench and get the reserves some playoff experience. That group scooped up a fumble and intercepted a pass and tacked the final two scores of the game while rolling up 95 of the Knights' 357-yard total.

    Middletown controlled the ball for nearly the entire first quarter, but had its first drive sputter. Even though the Knights failed to score when inside the 20, they showed they had something that could handle the Indians.

    "We watched two of their game films and saw that they were a good defense and flew to the ball," Ambrose said. "I thought if we could move the ball, we would be OK. We aren't a team that will score quickly."



Keeney found his pace in the second quarter, with runs of 26 and the final 9 yards to cap Middletown's three-play drive for the first score with 10:50 to go in the half.

He followed suit by running 11 of the 14 plays of a 75-yard drive, leading to his 4-yard score, to give the Knights a 14-0 halftime lead. Keeney accounted for 69 yards on the drive.

Keeney's 3-yard swan song gave Middletown a 21-0 lead with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter and took the life out of Wicomico.

The Knights turned an interception into a 12-yard score by Adam Ellison and a fumble recovery into a 2-yard score by Tom Whitman with 2:45 remaining to cap the scoring.

After the final whistle, Middletown's fans swarmed the field in celebration.

In the midst of the frenzy, Ambrose yelled, "This was the final step. We're going to the show."

For Middletown, that's a step in the right direction.




Middletown 35, Wicomico 0


Middletown 0 14 7 14 - 35

Wicomico 0 0 0 0 - 0

M - Josh Keeney 9 run (Will Gawler kick)

M - Keeney 4 run (Gawler kick)

M - Keeney 3 run (Gawler kick)

M - Adam Ellison 12 run (Gawler kick)

M - Tom Whitman 2 run (Gawler kick)

M W

First downs 18 1

Rushes-yards 55-326 22-24

Att.-Comp.-Int. 4-2-0 7-0-1

Passing yards 31 0

Total yards 59-357 29-24

Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1

Punts-Avg. 3-30.7 6-36.8

Penalties-yards 8-60 1-5

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