Cavs headed to D-I state championship with 21-13 win over William Penn

Middletown quarterback Drew Fry keeps the ball and goes up the middle trying for a first down but was stopped one yard short by a William Penn defender. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

MIDDLETOWN — Unbeaten Middletown quickly showed why it earned the No. 1 playoff seed Friday night, scoring less than three minutes into an eventual 21-13 win over visiting William Penn.

E.J. Washington’s 65-yard punt return for a touchdown got the Cavaliers going in the Division I football semifinals, and the hosts led by three touchdowns at intermission after quarterback Drew Fry’s scoring strikes to Kenneth Edelin (30 yards) and Nicholas Johnston (three yards).

The large crowd packed into Cavalier Stadium celebrated as it had for most of 2017, when the hosts rolled to mostly blowout wins with the exception of a 35-28 season opening verdict over two-time defending champion Smyrna and the 19-13 decision over rival Salesianum.

It wasn’t going to be that easy, though, and Middletown needed two interceptions by Michael Wilson and another by Washington in the final 10 minutes to assure its survival.

William Penn (7-5) pulled to within a score after Terin Cochrin caught his second touchdown pass from Noah Ogbin on the final play of the third quarter. The touchdown connections went for 30 and 25 yards and changed the tone of a contest in which the outcome seemed nearly sealed based on the early dominance.

With a ferocious pass rush shutting down Middletown (11-0) for most of the second half, William Penn managed to make the final 12 minutes suspenseful, unlike a 29-0 loss to the Blue Hen Flight A champions early in the regular season.

Middletown’s Ernest Washington takes a first quarter punt and races along the sidelines for a touchdown (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Midway through the third quarter, Alexis Green knocked down a pass at the goal line to stop another potential William Penn scoring drive. Jonathan Smith completed the stand by sacking Ogbin, one of his several tackles for loss during the battle.

Middletown’s Nicholas Johnston takes a pass and gets a block for a short gain in the 2nd quarter Friday night. (Special To The Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

Fry set up Middletown’s first scoring march of the game with a 17-yard pass to Nicholas Johnston on a third down, which was followed by a nine-yard burst to Kendrick Whitehead that preceded Edelin’s touchdown. Kayla Birlein kicked her second of three straight extra points for a 14-0 lead.

The lead grew to 21 points after a 62-yard drive midway through the second quarter, which included an eight-yard run by Najair Smith and 18-yard reception by Johnston. Whitehead rammed ahead for three yards on a fourth and one and the Cavs appeared to be rolling.

William Penn’s Najzhier Banks then scored on an apparent 60-yard touchdown run, but the burst was nullified by an illegal shift that kept the visitors scoreless.

Middletown made enough clutch plays to advance to next Saturday’s 1 p.m. state championship game against either Smyrna or Hodgson at the University of Delaware. It is the program’s ninth title game appearance since 2004, with the Cavaliers winning it all in 2007, 2011 and 2012.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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