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IMG_0885BY JEFF FALK

MIDDLETOWN – No one relishes a good challenge like the Palmyra football team.

The Cougars met their latest one the same way they meet all of their challenges – with exuberance, intensity and optimism. Head on.

The only difference was the result.

On Friday night at Middletown’s War Memorial Field, Palmyra absorbed its initial loss of the season – despite playing well – 14-10 to the home standing Blue Raiders. In a game that felt like more than just a mid-season get-together, Middletown opened a 14-10 halftime margin, and neither team scored during the second half of play.

IMG_0956The Cougars’ deepest penetration in the second half came late in the third quarter, when they drove to Middletown 19, 51 yards on ten plays. But the drive stalled there.

Palmyra also took over at its own 41-yard line late in the game, after turning away a Middletown fourth-down run out of punt formation. But it would prove to be the Cougars’ final shot, as the possession was ultimately short-circuited by a penalty and then a fumble.

But the battle of unbeatens certainly lived up to its pre-game hype. Palmyra fell to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Capital Division of the Mid-Penn Conference, while Middletown improved to 6-0 on the year and 3-0 in the circuit.

IMG_1013The Cougars were situated second in the latest District Three Class AAAAA power rankings. The Blue Raiders stood second in the Class AAA ratings.

“We didn’t win,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope when asked for a negative. “I thought we left it all out on the field. They (his players) represented our program. They represented Palmyra. The effort you give does matter.

“I talked to them about that after the game,” continued Pope. “You don’t have to win every battle to win the war. You can’t dwell in the past. It’s ‘Next play, next play.’ You’ve got to look forward. You can’t look back. We’re 5-1 and still in a good position.”

IMG_0973With the Blue Raiders protecting a 7-3 edge in the middle of the second quarter, the sides exchanged big scoring plays on back-to-back snaps, a mere 19 seconds apart.

First, Middletown’s dynamic Jalen Thompson ripped off a 57-yard scamper to ‘The House’, to extend the Blue Raiders lead. Then, Alon Rhette responded for the Cougars, going 69 yards down the right sideline for the touchdown that pulled his side back to within four points of the lead.

“They’re a great football team,” said Pope of the Blue Raiders. “We’re in the same league. I was happy with the way we played. We came out on the wrong side

“They (the Blue Raiders) started bringing people in the box (on defense), and it became a war inside,” Pope continued. “It just became a struggle. We did some things that were good. But in the end, somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.”

IMG_0903Thanks in part to Rhette’s 57-yard return of the opening kickoff, Palmyra turned its first possession of the game into points. Following one first down, the Cougars grabbed a 3-0 lead when Griffin Weilder’s 23-yard field goal attempt was true.

But it was a lost opportunity that would come back to haunt Palmyra later.

“A million things happened like that,” said Pope. “That’s what the meaning of a tight game is. You can’t point out one specific moment. It’s our first loss, and we’ve got to keep going.

“I think it’s (keeping your composure) important,” added Pope. “You can’t do things that are going to hurt yourself. I thought we did a better job of not hurting ourselves than they did.”

Middletown answered the Cougars’ first possession with a scoring drive of its own. This one covered 66 yards and 13 plays, and the Blue Raiders converted a pair of fourth downs along the way – including quarterback Chase Snavely’s one-yard sneak that capped the drive.

The Blue Raiders led 7-3 with 4:34 of the first quarter still to be played.

“I felt good with our defense coming in,” said Pope. “I wasn’t quite sure where we were going to be in the trenches. But we didn’t get pushed around. When you think about all the Xs and Os, that’s the approach: you want to win the football game in the fourth quarter.

IMG_0947“To this point, this was definitely our biggest challenge,” Pope added. “I haven’t gotten a chance to look at Milton Hershey and East Pennsboro. We’ve just got to work on ourselves. We have to take what we can take from this experience. We’ve got to get back to the grind. But it matters the effort you give and how you represent yourself and your community.”

Middletown out gained Palmyra 394 total yards to 199. The Blue Raiders collected 267 of those yards in the first half, then held the Cougars to just 75 yards of offense in the second half.

Rhette carried 23 times for 128 yards. Thompson rolled up 146 yards on 26 rushing attempts.

IMG_0884Middletown was whistled for 110 penalty yards.

Through six games this season, Palmyra has allowed a total of 40 points.

“The players watch and they know what you guys write,” said Pope. “They knew about them (the Blue Raiders). They’re ranked tenth in the state. They’re no slouch.

“We’ve got a lot of tough opponents coming up,” Pope continued. “Maybe we learned a little about ourselves tonight. Middletown has a high-powered offense. They are a legit football team.”

 

 

 

 

 

 IMG_0895To purchase images in this article email jkfalk2005@yahoo.com, or to view more go to www.http://lebanonsportsbuzz.com/gallery-11/.

 

 

 

 

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 2016 Palmyra Football Results

DATE OPPONENT TIME RESULT
08/26 *
@Camp Hill
7:00 PM W 31-0
09/02
@West Perry
7:00 PM W 35-7
09/09
@Elco
7:00 PM W 28-0
09/16
Donegal
7:00 PM W 17-0
09/30 *
Boiling Springs
7:00 PM W 41-19
DATE OPPONENT TIME LOCATION
10/07 *
@Middletown
7:00 PM Middletown High School
10/14 *
Steel-High
7:00 PM Palmyra High School
10/21 *
@East Pennsboro
7:00 PM East Pennsboro High School
10/28 *
Trinity
7:00 PM Palmyra High School
11/04 *
Milton Hershey
7:00 PM Palmyra High School

 

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IMG_0912Mid-Penn Conference

 Capital Division

TEAM LEAGUE OVERALL
Middletown 3-0 6-0
Milton Hershey 3-0 5-1
Palmyra 2-1 5-1
Camp Hill 1-2 4-2
East Pennsboro 1-2 4-2
Trinity 1-2 2-4
Steel-High 1-2 2-4
Boiling Springs 0-3 0-6

 

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PIAA District Three

 Class AAAAA Power Rankings

AAAAA School  W  L  T  Rating  TWP  OWP
1 Harrisburg 4- 1- 0  0.776377  0.831858  0.708566
2 Palmyra 5- 0- 0  0.759595  1.000000  0.465768
3 Manheim Central 4- 1- 0  0.715643  0.838095  0.565979
4 Governor Mifflin 4- 1- 0  0.712414  0.862385  0.529116
5 Cedar Crest 4- 1- 0  0.708071  0.841121  0.545455
6 Elizabethtown 4- 1- 0  0.689032  0.841121  0.503145
7 South Western 3- 2- 0  0.671155  0.696970  0.639604
8 Cocalico 3- 2- 0  0.663842  0.663366  0.664423
9 Garden Spot 3- 2- 0  0.658807  0.670103  0.645000
10 Northeastern 3- 2- 0  0.636715  0.690722  0.570707
11 Red Land 4- 2- 0  0.629459  0.733333  0.502503
12 Exeter Township 3- 2- 0  0.625576  0.689320  0.547665
13 Cedar Cliff 4- 1- 0  0.618207  0.834783  0.353503
14 Spring Grove 3- 2- 0  0.608120  0.683168  0.516393
15 Conestoga Valley 3- 2- 0  0.592198  0.676190  0.489540
16 Lower Dauphin 2- 3- 0  0.554563  0.464646  0.664461
17 Twin Valley 3- 2- 0  0.553995  0.628866  0.462486
18 Daniel Boone 2- 3- 0  0.549586  0.473118  0.643047
19 Waynesboro 2- 3- 0  0.471148  0.432990  0.517787
20 Lebanon 1- 4- 0  0.417938  0.264368  0.605634
21 Solanco 1- 4- 0  0.416458  0.235955  0.637073
22 Muhlenberg 1- 4- 0  0.400322  0.216495  0.625000
23 Fleetwood 1- 4- 0  0.338358  0.200000  0.507463
24 New Oxford 0- 5- 0  0.316700  0.000000  0.703777
25 William Penn 0- 5- 0  0.311971  0.000000  0.693269
26 Ephrata 0- 5- 0  0.301491  0.000000  0.669980
27 Dover 1- 4- 0  0.301107  0.164835  0.467662
28 Hershey 0- 5- 0  0.290769  0.000000  0.646154
29 Mechanicsburg 0- 5- 0  0.275806  0.000000  0.612903

 

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