BY JEFF FALK
MIDDLETOWN – Middletown’s kickoff to start the second half squirted harmlessly out of bounds. Palmyra was faced with the decision of getting great field position or making the Blue Raiders do it again.
Needing the type of quick points that only big plays can produce, the Cougars elected to have them re-kick it. The kickoff was a similar, unintentional on-side boot, only this time the Blue Raiders recovered it.
Now that turn of events didn’t lose the game for Palmyra. But like no other play, it certainly characterized the Cougars’ difficulties on this day.
On a rare Saturday afternoon, at Middletown’s War Memorial Field, the Cougars experienced just about everything that could go against them, during a 49-13 setback to the Blue Raiders. Middletown led 21-0 after the first 12 minutes of play, and 42-6 in the locker room.
The loss was the second straight for Palmyra, which had started the season with six consecutive exhilarating wins, and all but dashed any hopes it had of winning the Mid-Penn Capital Division title. Palmyra is now 6-2 overall and 3-2 in the division, while Middletown improved to 6-2 and 4-1.
In the latest District Three rankings, the Cougars were situated sixth in a Class AAA field which takes 16 for its postseason. Not bad for a program twice removed from a 1-19 run.
“At halftime, we talked about how we wanted to finish the game,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope. “Our hope was to get the kickoff and drive it down the field. When we did get the ball back, we did OK. Our special teams did not play well. That play epitomized the way the day went. It wasn’t all bad. But certain things didn’t go our way.
“It’s hard to say (whether or not the Cougars are playing as well as they were earlier in the season),” continued Pope. “But without a doubt, the schedule continues to get more difficult. All these games are significant. In our division, we’ve got to go 8-2 to get into the playoffs. Now our backs are against the wall.”
The Cougars trailed 7-0 just 1:36 into the contest, on a 35-yard scoring collaboration between Blue Raider Malik Noon and quarterback Chase Snavely. Then Palmyra surrendered a pair of long touchdown runs in a 4:29 span late in the opening period – an 81-yarder by Jaelen Thompson and a 75-yarder by Tyreer Mills.
Struggling at the line of scrimmage, the Cougars experienced difficulties getting their defense off the field all afternoon.
“Middletown is a really good football team,” said Pope. “They played well. I feel we are a good football team. But we did not play well.
“From the very beginning, we had issues defensively,” Pope continued. “They (the Blue Raiders) had three offensive plays and three touchdowns. When we were able to get things going offensively, penalties killed us. It was not anywhere close to our best game.”
Palmyra did find some offensive continuity early in the second quarter, in the form of an eight-play, 55-yard drive. The Cougars culminated the possession with a nine-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Tyler Gallagher to end Mason Cooper, that made it 21-6, 11:06 before the intermission.
“Alon (Rhette) is a game-changer, without a doubt,” said Pope of his injured star runner. “But Carl Reigle is a good back in his own right. To some degree, I think it factors into it. But there were a lot of breakdowns. We did not play well today.”
The Gallagher-to-Cooper combination also produced the Cougars’ second touchdown – a five-yarder with 2:21 left in the third quarter. That score was set up by a 78-yard Reigle rumble down the left sidelines.
But by that time, Middletown had scored on all three of its second-quarter possessions, as well its initial one in the second half, to open a 49-6 bulge.
“In order to play successful defense, you’ve got to have 11 guys performing their responsibilities,” said Pope. “Therefore, we did not play good defense. They’re (the Blue Raiders) a very physical team. We knew that coming in. I think we can play better, but we have been playing physical.”
Many of the fourth-quarter snaps were taken by reserves from both sides.
On the strength of 362 rushing yards, Middletown out gained Palmyra 461 total yards to 266. Reigle was a bright spot for the Cougars with 11 carries and 115 yards on the ground.
“We’ve got to look at the video,” said Pope. “We didn’t play well. But the worst thing that can happen is to not learn from our mistakes.”
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M-Malik Noon 35 pass from Chase Snavely (Mason Guckavan kick), 10:24
M-Jaelen Thompson 81 run (Guckavan kick), 6:34
M-Tyreer Mills 75 run (Guckavan kick), 2:05
P-Mason Cooper 9 pass from Tyler Gallagher (kick blocked), 11:06
M-Brady Fox 38 run (Guckavan kick), 7:30
M-Mills 64 punt return (Guckavan kick), 2:29
M-Thompson 7 run (Guckavan kick), 0:27
M-Fox 1 run (Guckavan kick), 3:08
P-Cooper 5 pass from Gallagher (Ethan Harro kick), 2:21
RUSHING: Palmyra-Carl Reigle 11-115, Zack Yingst 7-37, Nick Hurst 1-5, Tyler Gallagher 4-(minus-1). Middletown-Jaelen Thompson 8-127, Brady Fox 13-124, Tyreer Mills 1-75, Abel Botterbusch 5-28, Blake Jacoby 2-9, Edwin Figueroa 4-9, Caleb Leggore 1-3, Chase Snavely 1-2, Devon Agramonte 1-1, Zac Dailey 1-(minus-1), Antonio Gamble 3-(-19).
PASSING: Palmyra-Gallagher 9-15-1-110, Nate Hawkins 0-1-0-0, Team 0-1-0-0. Middletown-Snavely 7-8-0-89.
RECEIVING: Palmyra-Ethan Harro 3-42, Peter Robertson 3-37, Mason Cooper 3-23. Middletown-Leggore 5-50, Malik Noon 1-35, Justin Shaver 1-4.
2015 Palmyra Results
|7:00 PM||W 27-6|
|7:00 PM||W 30-22|
|7:00 PM||W 31-0|
|7:00 PM||W 49-23|
|7:00 PM||W 17-6|
|7:00 PM||W 19-0|
|7:00 PM||L 24-28|
|2:00 PM||L 13-49|
|7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|
|7:00 PM||Palmyra High School|