Does any team play big games better than Middletown?
Over the last four seasons, the Knights have played in a handful of games that have registered more than most on the Richter Scale, including three state championship games in Class 2A, and have won just about all of them. They know how to deal with the pressure that comes along with these games. They know how to manage all of the outside noise and hype. And, most importantly, they know how to make the big, momentum-changing plays that ultimately tips these games in their favor.
So, while the margin of victory in last Friday’s 42-7 home win over Linganore may have been a bit surprising, the outcome was certainly not. Bet against Middletown in games like this at your own peril. The Knights (9-0) haven’t won 31 in a row by accident.
Even with an ideal start, Linganore (8-1) didn’t provide much resistance. The Lancers got a 48-yard touchdown run by Phillip Butler on their first drive. Then, they intercepted a Tim Pirrone pass on their second defensive play of the game, giving them the ball back deep in Middletown territory. But, then, the Knights’ fantastic defensive end, Ricky Leonard, batted down a third-down pass, leading to a fourth-and-long miss, and the snowball came down hill and ran over top of the Lancers.
They couldn’t block Leonard, a Florida State recruit. They couldn’t tackle running back Brad Rinehart. And the game quickly and dramatically swung in Middletown’s favor.
What does it mean in terms of the playoff picture? Not much really. Both teams still have all of their goals right in front of them, with the lone exception of an undefeated season for Linganore. The Knights are still clearly the team to beat in 2A and Linganore is still one of the major contenders to win 3A. Middletown hosts Oakdale (6-3), which is vying for a playoff spot of its own, this Friday, while the Lancers host arch rival Urbana (8-1) in a game that will likely determine the top seed in the 3A West region. The loser could fall to No. 2 or No. 3 in the region behind Damascus.
The loss did drop Linganore from No. 1 in the region to No. 2 behind Urbana. That’s important due to home-field advantage in a potential regional championship game between the teams. The Hawks rolled over Thomas Johnson, 42-7, for their second straight win by that score since a 14-7 home loss to Middletown on Oct. 18. The Patriots, meanwhile, fell to 4-5 and saw their playoff hopes officially vanish.
So, did Tuscarora (5-4) after a 49-14 home loss to Oakdale. Despite their record, which is still pretty good, the Titans just have too many teams to jump over in the 3A West to reach the postseason, even if they were to close out the season with a victory at Walkersville.
The Bears, meanwhile, jumped into playoff positioning in the 2A West after their third straight victory combined with Poolesville’s one-point loss to Boonsboro. Oakdale is currently fourth in the region, on the verge of its first playoff berth in school history. The Bears sit behind Middletown, South Carroll and Catoctin (6-3), a team it beat in the season opener. Oakdale’s biggest problem in terms of securing the playoff spot is its game with Middletown. A loss could knock it out of the running. The Bears’ best bet is to hope for the best against Middletown and hope Poolesville loses its regular-season finale at Rockville. That would likely keep Oakdale in the playoffs as the No. 4 seed, which would likely mean another meeting with top-seeded Middletown the following week.
Catoctin, meanwhile, will likely be the No. 3 team in the same region and face No. 2 South Carroll (8-1) in the first round. The Cavaliers only loss so far was on the road against Linganore in the season-opener. The Cougars face Brunswick (3-6) this week and are looking for their sixth win in a row. It would wrap up their first playoff berth since their state championship season (1A) in 2009.
So, Frederick County is looking at four pretty-sure bets for the playoffs (Middletown, Urbana, Linganore, Catoctin) and possibly a fifth if Oakdale can get in the 2A West draw.
Speaking of the playoffs, St. John’s Catholic Prep (9-1), which has won eight in a row, will meet Pallotti (6-5) at 3 p.m. Saturday for the MIAA C Conference championship. The Vikings were pushed by Pallotti in a 26-20 home win on Oct. 26.
Maryland School for the Deaf (8-3), meanwhile, will face KIPP College Prep (6-5) for the Capital Area Football Conference’s Governor’s Cup at 7 p.m. Friday at MSD. The Orioles already beat KIPP, 24-14, on their home field Sept. 27.
Finally, Walkersville (2-7) snapped its six-game losing streak last Friday with a 35-26 home win over Frederick, which dropped to 1-8 with its seventh straight loss.