Lions clinch playoff berth


Middletown North headed to Freehold Township knowing what was on the line: A win would punch the Lions’ ticket to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Thanks to a balanced offensive attack and a swarming defense, the Lions didn’t waste the opportunity as they rolled to a 33-0 Class A North victory over the Patriots on Friday.

“This was huge for us. Making the playoffs was our main goal from the beginning of the season,” Lions senior Jake Betkowski said. “We start a new season now.”

The beginning of the game didn’t exactly go smoothly for the Lions, but they quickly rebounded and took control of the game. The Patriots forced a punt on the Lions’ initial possession and Freehold Township’s Jake Derenzo returned the kick 31 yards to the Middletown North 23.

On the Patriots’ first play from scrimmage, though, Middletown North forced a fumble that the Lions’ Anthony Fabiano recovered at the 21.

From there, Betkowski helped get the offense going. He hauled in two passes from freshman quarterback Donald Glenn covering 30 yards and also took a handoff 23 yards on the drive. On second down from the Patriots’ 17, Glenn connected with Betkowski again in the corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead.

Middletown North (3-5, 3-2) made it 14-0 in the first quarter on its next possession when Glenn threw a short pass in the flat to Chad Freshnock, who turned the corner and outran the Patriots’ defense for a 47-yard touchdown.

Early in the second quarter, the Lions added to their lead by going 72 yards in just five plays. All the yards came on runs by Betkowski and Freshnock, with Freshnock going the final 11 yards for the score to make it 20-0. The first half ended with the Lions leading 20-0 and having gained 131 yards on 14 rushes and 158 yards on 15 pass plays.

“We always like to be balanced offensively between running and passing and we’ve been developing our freshman quarterback (Glenn),” Middletown North coach Steve Bush said.

Freehold Township (1-7, 1-5) got the ball to begin the second half, but Betkowski intercepted a pass and returned it 31 yards to the Patriots’ 30. Seven plays later, Freshnock scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard plunge and a 27-0 advantage.

“The whole week in practice we were flying around and hitting,” Betkowski said. “We were pumped and we made sure we took advantage of our shot at the playoffs.”

“Our team has been getting better and more comfortable with our system every week,” Bush said. “Now we’re looking forward to the playoffs and taking a shot there.”

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