Cavaliers seeking first Division I title since 2012

Senior Jaheim Wing was a key component in Middletown’s latest playoff win over Smyrna, registering three touchdowns — two receiving and one rushing. Delaware State News file photo

NEW CASTLE — Middletown High clinched the program’s eighth Division I football state final appearance in the last 10 seasons by winning last Saturday’s semifinal game 48-28 over Smyrna High.

The victory puts the second-seeded Cavaliers (10-1) up against top-seeded Hodgson Vo-Tech High (11-0) in the D-I championship at 1 p.m. Saturday at University of Delaware’s Delaware Stadium.

“We’re very excited just for the opportunity to be together one more time and to go out and compete,” coach Zach Blum said at Monday’s DIAA state championship press conferences in New Castle. “We talked about this time of year, you put all your chips in the middle of the table and you see just where you stand — as long you’re willing to put your chips in and gamble on yourself, things will turn out.”

Middletown’s lone loss was a 35-14 Week 3 defeat to Hodgson.

The Cavaliers won titles with a 27-23 win over Newark High in 2011 and a 27-0 shutout of Salesianum School in 2012.

Four of the last six title games ended with a Middletown loss, including consecutive defeats to Smyrna in 2016 and ’17.

The Cavs also fell to St. Mark’s High in 2010, Salesianum in 2013 and William Penn High in 2014.

“Those things always stay with you, but I think our guys do a good job of managing that and understanding that each opportunity is its own,” Blum said of the past losses. “They’re incredibly self-motivated, so I think that whatever tools they need to get themselves up for this game they’ll be more than willing to use.”

Since those two losses to the Eagles, Middletown has has won three consecutive matchups against them, dating back to Week 1 of last season.

Senior Jaheim Wing was a key component in the latest playoff win over the Eagles, registering three touchdowns — two receiving and one rushing.

Senior lineman LaTerrian Spruill, right, shown in last week’s game against Smyrna, was a member of a couple of past Middletown teams that lost in the finals. He’s aware that, once again, the Cavs are going in as underdogs to top-seeded Hodgson. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

With the game tied 20-20 early in the fourth quarter, Middletown put up four touchdowns over a two-minute span. Wing’s three-yard rushing touchdown at the 7:55 mark kickstarted the scoring surge.

“It was definitely a fantastic atmosphere as far as the crowd goes,” Blum said of the semifinal win. “It was super electric from the beginning to the end and those four minutes in the fourth quarter were certainly very exciting.”

This is Blum’s second title appearance at the helm of the program. He led the team to a 10-0 regular season and the finals appearance two years ago.

Senior lineman LaTerrian Spruill was a member of a couple of those past teams that lost in the finals. He’s aware that, once again, the Cavs are going in as underdogs to the top-seeded Silver Eagles.

“We know the underdog feeling coming in,” Spruill said. “We can’t be the little brother, we have to be the big brother and do what we have to do, turn up on both sides of the ball and get the dub.”

Against one of the top quarterbacks in the state, junior C.J. Henry, and an accomplished head coach, Frank Moffett, Blum knows his players will need to be at their best on Saturday if they want to hand Hodgson their first loss of the year.

Hodgson’s defense has surrendered just 9.7 points per game and registered two shutouts.

Middletown’s offense, led by highly-touted sophomore quarterback Braden Davis, has put up 29.3 points per game. The defense has registered five shutouts, with Hodgson’s 35 points in Week 3 the highest point total allowed.

“They really are a tough team,” Blum said. “They’re well-coached and they’ve had a fantastic season — a lot to be proud of, for sure. Anytime you match up with a team like that, you need to make sure you take advantage of every opportunity you’re given and create some of your own … we just need to execute those things and it comes down to detail this time of year.”

“Their front seven is really good on defense, we just have to stop them on the offensive line, and we have to control the line of scrimmage,” said Spruill. “On offense, they really have some ballplayers on their team and we just have to try to shut them down.”

Reach staff writer Ben Heck at bheck@newszap.com

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