Late lead fades as No. 11 Elkton falls in final seconds to Middletown in 2A state football semifinals; Watters scores twice
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.”
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
Elkton – Jacob Bosler 37 field goal
Middletown – Kadin Fisher 22 run (Paul McHugh kick)
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
Elkton – John Rhodan 29 pass from Nolan Null (Michael Vass pass from Null)
Middletown – Jalen Huskey 70 pass from Poffenbarger (Paul McHugh kick)
Elkton – Bosler 32 field goal
Middletown – Poffenbarger 15 run (McHugh kick)