Late lead fades as No. 11 Elkton falls in final seconds to Middletown in 2A state football semifinals; Watters scores twice 


Middletown quarterback Reese Poffenbarger crosses the end zone for the winning touchdown in Friday’s Class 2A state football semifinal. The Knights from Frederick County ended No. 11 Elkton’s title bid with a thrilling 31-27 victory in Cecil County.

by Nelson Coffin

There were almost too many outstanding plays to describe in a Class 2A state semifinal tussle between visiting Middletown from Frederick County and Elkton on Friday night in Elkton.

From start to finish, players from both squads mostly performed at a high level in front of a large and enthusiastic crown in chilly Cecil County.

Unfortunately for the No. 11 Golden Elks, the Knights, led by irrepressible senior quarterback Reese Poffenbarger, made a few more big plays than the hosts did while escaping with a 31-27 triumph and earning a date with Potomac in the state final next weekend in College Park.

The loss handed Elkton (12-1) its first loss of the season while Middletown (11-2) has now won 10 straight games.

It all came down to the final drive with Poffenbarger masterfully orchestrating a 70-yard drive in the final 66 seconds with his team trailing, 27-24.

He scored the game-winning touchdown with 19 seconds left on a daring 15-yard run while eluding several tacklers before plunging into the end zone.

“He’s what we call a ‘dude,’” Elkton coach Matt Feeney said. “It was just a tough game for us, and we fought our tails off.”

Elkton was seemingly destined to be the team celebrating after senior defensive back Jakeem Jackson picked off a Poffenbarger pass at the Knight’s 20-yard line with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, setting up senior Jacob Bosler’s clutch 32-yard field goal to give the hosts that three-point bulge.

Poffenbarger, though, was magical in mounting the comeback.

He had a hand in two other scores as well when he caught a pass for touchdown from junior wideout Matthew Mancini on a trick play and he lofted a 70-yard strike to sophomore wideout Jalen Huskey while being chased from the pocket in the third quarter.

The Knights’ other TD came on a 22-yard bolt by junior running back Kadin Fisher.

Bosler got the Golden Elks on the board first on a 37-yard field goal in the first quarter before senior running back Tashawn Watters scored on runs of 35 and 6 yards while building a 16-7 lead late in the first half. Middletown rallied to take a 17-16 halftime advantage on Poffenbarger’s TD catch and a 23-yard field goal by Paul McHugh.

Senior quarterback Nolan Null’s perfect 29-yard strike to John Rhodan, who streaked past a defender on a crossing pattern, put Elkton back on top, 24-17, after a two-point conversion toss from Null to senior wideout Michael Vass in the third quarter.

Poffenbarger’s long bomb to Huskey knotted the score to set up the final showdown — and heartbreak for the Golden Elks.

“Our guys didn’t have any quit,” Middletown coach Colin Delauter said. “They have that 110-percent, no-quit attitude. It’s nothing I did as a coach — the kids did that. We beat a heck of a good football team. We made some mistakes early, but we overcame them.”

“As a coach, I couldn’t ask for anything better from my team,” Feeney said. “We had an outstanding year, but it just ended a week early.”

Agony: An Elkton football is overcome with emotions after Friday’s Class 2A state semifinal contest. After the Elks claimed the lead with a little more than a minute left in regulation, Middletown scored a touchdown with 19 seconds left to ruin the Elks’ bid at a perfect season and first state title since 2000.

Middletown will face Potomac in Thursday’s 2A state title game at Navy Marine Corp Stadium. Potomac from Prince George’s County advanced with 16-6 win over 15th-ranked New Town.

CLASS 2A STATE FOOTBALL SEMIFINAL
MIDDLETOWN 31, NO. 11 ELKTON 27

Middletown 7 10 7 7 — 31
Elkton 3 13 8 3 — 27

FIRST QUARTER
Elkton – Jacob Bosler 37 field goal
Middletown – Kadin Fisher 22 run (Paul McHugh kick)

SECOND QUARTER
Elkton – Tashawn Watters 35 run (kick failed)
Elkton – Watters 6 run (Bosler kick)
Middletown – Reese Poffenbarger 8 pass from Matthew Mancini (McHugh kick)
Middletown – McHugh 23 field goal

THIRD QUARTER 
Elkton – John Rhodan 29 pass from Nolan Null (Michael Vass pass from Null)
Middletown – Jalen Huskey 70 pass from Poffenbarger (Paul McHugh kick)

FOURTH QUARTER
Elkton – Bosler 32 field goal
Middletown – Poffenbarger 15 run (McHugh kick)