MIDDLETOWN — On a cold night in Middletown, Noah Kracyla got the home crowd warmed up pretty quick.
The Cavaliers’ senior took the opening kickoff at his own 5-yard line, found a gap and some blocking, and 95 yards later No. 4 Middletown had a 7-0 lead over fifth-seeded Salesianum in a DIAA Class 3A quarterfinal matchup Nov. 19 at Cavalier Stadium. The defending champs would advance with a 34-7 win over the Sals.
With the win, Middletown avenged its lone regular-season defeat to an in-state opponent. The Sals took a 31-21 decision on Oct. 14.
This night, however, the visitors could not get much going on offense, and six turnovers proved very costly. The Sals stayed in the game into the third quarter thanks to a strong defense.
Two offensive possessions for each team ended with punts in the first, and after Middletown’s Mathew Priestly intercepted a pass late in the first, the Cavaliers turned the ball over on downs early in the second. Neither team could generate much until late in the half, when the Cavs’ Michael Pearson came up with the team’s third interception of the game and returned the ball to the Salesianum 14.
This time, the Cavaliers needed just one play to find the end zone. Quarterback Austin Troyer his Joshua Roberson on the right side, and he ran the last 10 yards for the score.
Salesianum had possession to begin the second half, driving to the Middletown 45 on five plays before Priestly picked up a fumble and returned it to the Sals’ 3. Troyer and Kracyla hooked up on the only play of the drive, and the lead increased to 20-0.
The Cavaliers added two more scores in the third. Roberson ran 32 yards over the left side for one touchdown, and Amare Glover went in from a yard out for their final points. Glover’s TD was set up by a long punt return by Dru Beckford, who just missed getting it for himself.
Nasir Logan spoiled the shutout when he scored the Sals’ lone touchdown on a 15-yard run in the final quarter.
Salesianum finished with a 7-4 record. Middletown, who played several national powers this season, improved to 7-4 and will travel to top-seeded Smyrna on Friday at 7 p.m. in one semifinal.
All photos by Jason Winchell.