Middletown South’s recent dominance over crosstown rival Middletown North was in jeopardy early in the game, but South rallied and then held off a late North comeback as the Eagles topped the Lions, 21-13, on Thanksgiving Day, which stretched the winning streak to 12 years.
However, Middletown North silenced the visiting crowd in the first quarter. The Lions (2-8, 2-4) forced Middletown South (7-3, 4-2) to punt on its first two possessions and then the Lions got on the board on their second possession.
With a short field to work with (first-and-10 at the Middletown South 40-yard line), the Lions needed only three plays before a trick play from the 8-yard line put them ahead 6-0 with 2:02 left in the first quarter. The extra point attempt was blocked.
“The play was a direct snap to Jared Moiser and then it was a reverse to Jake Betkowski and then Jake threw me the ball in the end zone,” said Middletown North quarterback Cody Thompson, who was a receiver on that play and was picked as the game’s offensive MVP. “We were just trying to outplay them by throwing the ball deep because they didn’t have a high safety. But they did a good job jamming our receivers so they couldn’t get open.”
Middletown South responded in the second quarter with a long touchdown throw by quarterback Kyle Brey. With 6:55 left in the second quarter, the Eagles had first-and-10 from the Middletown North 48-yard line and Brey went to the air to Elijah Smith for the tying score. Connor Ryan’s extra point then gave the Eagles the lead for good.
The Eagles would later add a third quarter 30-yard touchdown throw from Brey to Andrew Wisialko for a 14-6 lead with 7:09 left in the third quarter and a fourth-quarter 9-yard touchdown run from Smith with 7:37 left in the game for a 21-6 lead.
Then Middletown North made the game interesting on the ensuing drive after getting the ball back at the 41-yard line with 7:30 left in the game. Two Middletown South personal fouls (facemask, pass interference) extended the drive and eventually Middletown North’s Thompson found Rob Spinelli for a 27-yard touchdown with 3:34 left.
“When you have a character kid like Cody Thompson at quarterback you know that he’s never going to let you get out of the game,” Middletown North coach Joe Trezza said. “The way he played today was just phenomenal.”
Middletown North’s Nick Banta then completed the extra point and the Lions cut Middletown South’s lead to 21-13.
“I think I played pretty good the first three quarters until that last play when I let up the Middletown North touchdown. Defensively, I think I came out and played hard,” said Middletown South’s Smith, who was picked as the defensive player of the game. “At halftime, we said we had to come out and play hard and empty the tank in the second half.”
While Middletown North’s season ended on Thanksgiving Day, Middletown South is the No. 7 seed in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group III bracket and will play at No. 3 seed Colts Neck on Saturday, at 1 p.m. Dec. 1.
“We were able to block the extra point in the first quarter, which was huge,” Middletown South coach Steve Antonucci said. “The bottom line for us was to try to get out of this game healthy and move on.”