MIDDLETOWN – The Middletown football team kept it in mind that one yard stood between them and a state championship appearance in last season’s semifinal loss to Salesianum.
They got that one yard back and then some, defeating the fourth-seeded Sals 25-7 Friday night, advancing to their sixth state championship game in seven seasons and eighth in the last 13.
“All offseason and this season, we knew we lost by a yard,” senior receiver Anthony DelPercio said. “That was our motivation – get that one yard, get that one rep in the weight room, that one extra spin that’ll get you that one yard. We got that one yard back.”
“So much of this game about your mental toughness and I’ve been proud of these guys with that all season long,” Cavaliers head coach Mark DelPercio said. “We had to go through some things, but we’ve overcome week in and week out because of that mental toughness.”
The Cavaliers struck first on a five-play, 42-yard drive that lasted 1:31 of game action, capped sophomore quarterback Drew Fry’s 11-yard dash to the end zone, giving Middletown a 7-0 lead after the first quarter.
Salesianum (8-4) responded after a fourth-down pass by Middletown fell short in Cavaliers territory and six plays later, senior running back Joshua Patrick barreled through the middle for a 10-yard scoring run to even things up at 7-all with 5:50 to go in the first half.
The Cavaliers (11-0) took the lead with five seconds to go before halftime as Fry connected with Nicky Johnston on an 8-yard touchdown pass. Fry started the second half with another touchdown pass, this one to Anthony DelPercio to open up a 12-point lead three minutes into the third quarter.
“We’ve been out there since January in 30 degree, hail, snow whatever,” Anthony DelPercio said. “That’s just building chemistry. If the quarterback and receivers have great chemistry, they can do great things.”
Salesianum got an interception from Brandon Looney late in the 3rd quarter to give them great field position at the Middletown 15, but Shane Wilkins picked off a Zach Gwynn pass on fourth down to end the threat. Junior running back Kedrick Whitehead added a 4-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter to open up a 25-7 lead.
Top-seeded Middletown now awaits the winner of Saturday’s Smyrna-William Penn game for the state championship.
“These guys just love the game and football and know how to play it,” Mark DelPercio said. “It’s exciting.”
“I was raised up in this program, raised with a blue heart,” Anthony DelPercio said. “I just want to finish the job and make our alumni proud.”