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Wildcats 'energized' for first playoff game

November 10, 2011|By TIM KOELBLE | koelble@herald-mail.om

WILLIAMSPORT — Let’s use this for analogies in the case of ‘firsts.’

When Williamsport and Middletown played for the first time in 1976, Williamsport won 6-0.

Roll the clock way, way ahead to 2011 and Williamsport certainly would like to create another ‘first’ over Middletown — a first playoff win in its first-ever postseason game.

Tonight, Williamsport (5-5) travels to powerful Middletown (9-1) in the Maryland Class 2A West semifinals at 7 with the winner moving on to face the Walkersville-South Carroll winner in the region final.

This will be the 26th meeting of the schools, the first since 2002. After their first win in 1976, Williamsport has lost 24 straight games to Middletown, 16 by shutout, including nine in a row from 1990-98.

Heavily favored, Middletown comes into the game off a 32-25 win over Walkersville that earned the No. 1-seed in the West.

“I do not look at this game as a mismatch,” said Middletown coach Kevin Lynott. “That’s why you play the game. On any given Friday night an underdog can beat the favorite. Williamsport has earned their way into the playoffs and that means they’re a good team. They’ve demonstrated they can get it done.”

Don’t tell the Williamsport team and their followers this game will be a pushover.

“You have to go into the game with the mindset that you can beat this team,” said Wildcat senior Tyler Wise. “You have to go out and give it everything you’ve got.”

Middletown is led on the ground by junior Zach Welch, who has rushed for 1,189 yards on 120 carries, nearly 10 yards per carry. He’s scored 19 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Michael Pritts has rushed for 409 yards and six touchdowns and hit 69 of 119 passing for 763 yards and 15 scores with five interceptions.

The Knights best offensive weapon might be receiver Ben Lewis, a Syracuse University recruit who has 40 receptions and scored 10 touchdowns.

“(Welch) just keeps on running,” said Williamsport coach Randy Longnecker, noting he’s a combination of North’s Phillip Butler and South’s Isiaha Smith. “(Lewis) is big (6-foot-2), he’s got good speed, he’s fast.”

Williamsport will have to be a perfect 10 on the rating scale Friday.

“We have to execute perfectly,” said Longnecker. “They don’t make mistakes. You know what’s coming, you just have to stop it and not everyone has done that against them.”

Senior Alex Fridley leads the Williamsport ground attack with 637 yards on 98 carries and Theron Palmer has added 367 yards on a 5.2 per gain average.

Wise leds the team in receiving with 21 catches for 318 yards and five touchdowns and from his secondary position led Washington County schools with nine interceptions.

Senior linebacker Nate Downs had a 12-tackle performance against Clear Spring to reach 100 for the season. Josh Miller is close behind with 94 and Fridley has 75, including 22 tackles for losses.

“(Williamsport) is energized, pumped up and they’ll come in here motivated,” said Lynott.

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