It was a game between the top two high school football teams in the state, yet it meant nothing.
Or did it?
Senior Troy Reeder rushed for 220 yards and a pair of touchdowns and second-ranked Salesianum upset top-ranked Middletown 24-13 Friday night before a packed Baynard Stadium. The setback ended the Cavaliers’ 23-game winning streak.
Both teams are already going to the Division I playoffs; both are 9-1. And both wanted this game.
“Our line had an attitude all week in practice,” said the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Reeder, who ran between the tackles all night on 26 very high-contact carries. “We were able to execute our game plan. This team didn’t step back and taken anything from anyone.”
Meanwhile, the Sallies defense did a sterling job containing Middletown quarterback Darius Wade and Chris Godwin, though they did make several big plays.
The biggest was the second half kickoff, which Godwin took 86 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 7.
“I don’t know if you can stop them,” said Sals coach Bill DiNardo, whose team suffered two lopsided losses to the Cavs last season. “They’re the two best players I’ve ever seen.”
The Sals’ steady offense kept grinding away though, going 65 yards to set up a Sean Smith 26-yard field goal for a 10-7 lead. The next series was much shorter.
After Wade missed his receiver on fourth-and-9 at the Cavs 49, Reeder went 3 yards then 46 for a touchdown with outstanding downfield blocking by receivers Tyler Marroni and Brian O’Neill for a 17-7 lead.
Middletown closed to 17-13 as Wade hit Garrett Maniatis on a 2-yard slant pattern in the end zone. But in the fourth quarter, Wade tossed an errant pitch to Godwin, and O’Neill recovered for the Sals at the Middletown 17. Five plays later, Daulton Gregory iced the game on a 1-yard run.
“If we use this loss the right way,” Cavs coach Mark Del Percio said, “it can be a good thing to go into the playoffs with.”
Saleesianum covered 68 yards on its first drive before stalling at the Cavs’ 12. The big play was Chad Harbaugh’s catch and run for 63 yards to the Middletown 13. Quarterback Matthew Sgro led him beautifully up the right sideline as Harbaugh snagged the over-the-shoulder pass. Isiah Mitchell hauled down Reeder on fourth-and-4 as the promising drive stalled.
The Sals defense, strong all half, allowed the offense to restart at the Sallies 39. Staying on the crowd, they rode the strong shoulders and legs of Reeder for the only score of the half. He ran for 14 yards to start the six-play, 61-yard drive then finished with a 25-yard touchdown run.
Running off right tackle behind blocks by Ben Mersman, Nicholas Szep and end Mike Ziccarelli, the senior back power through the line and found daylight to the end zone with 2:09 remaining in the first quarter. Sean Smith added the extra-point kick for a 7-0 lead.
Godwin delivered Middletown’s biggest moment before halftime with a 48-yard run around left end. He showed his speed to get to the outside, then ran over at least three defenders in taking the Cavaliers down to the Sals 33. Four incompletions, including a big break-up by Colby Reeder on third down, stopped the threat.