Middletown erupts for 48-28 D-I semifinal win over Smyrna

Middletown’s LaTerrian Sprull chases Smyrna’s quarterback Aidan Sanchez and forced a fumble in the first quarter during Friday night’s Division I state tournament semifinal game at Middletown. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

MIDDLETOWN — With about eight minutes left, it was anybody’s game to win.

The score was tied and Smyrna and Middletown High had combined for just one second-half touchdown.

Then somehow, the two squads erupted for 36 points in a span of less than two minutes.

The second-seeded Cavaliers reeled off 28 of those points to suddenly turn a tense battle into a comfortable 48-28 victory over the No.3 Eagles in the DIAA Division I state semifinals on Friday night.

Middletown advances to next Saturday’s Division I state championship game, which will be played at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium. The Cavaliers (10-1) will play the winner of today’s other semifinal, where No. 4 Sussex Central (9-2) travels to top-seeded Hodgson (10-0) for a noon contest.

Middletown’s Isaiah Griffin rushes against Smyrna’s Gavin Sembly.

Henlopen Conference teams have won an unprecedented four straight Division I state titles.

Middletown’s second win over Smyrna (9-3) this season sends the Cavs to their third state finals in the past four years. The Eagles had an eight-game state tourney winning streak snapped.

Senior Jaheim Wing scored three touchdowns, including one on a three-yard run that gave the Cavs the lead for good at 26-20 with 7:55 left.

But the two teams were just getting warmed up. Senior Najiar Smith sprinted 60 yards for a TD with 6:41 left to make it 34-20 for the Cavs.

Smyrna’s Devin Smith, however, returned the ensuing kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown. When Wayne Knight threw a two-point conversion pass to Espie Hart, the Eagles were suddenly back within 34-28 with 6:29 on the clock.

After Middletown recovered an onsides kick, it took just one play for quarterback Jaden Davis to throw a screen pass to Isaiah Griffin, who turned it into a 49-yard scoring play.

Finally, the Cavs sealed the win on Smyrna’s next play from scrimmage. Michael Pearson scooped up a fumble and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown that stretched Middletown’s advantage to 48-28 with six minutes left.

Eagles quarterback Aidan Sanchez rushes against the Cavaliers in the first quarter.

Jaden Davis, the highly-recruited sophomore QB, completed 12-of-19 passes for 281 yards.

Trailing 20-7, Smyrna pulled closer on an 11-play, 78-yard march just before halftime. Senior Marcus Cajuste scored on a one-yard run before Wayne Knight added the two-point conversion on a nice spin move to make it 20-14 with 1:30 left before intermission.

The Eagles then started the second half with an 11-play, 59-yard march that took 5:22 off the clock. Wayne Knight capped off the drive with a 14-yard scoring pass up the middle.

Middletown stopped a run on the two-point conversion to keep the game tied at 20-20 with 6:38 left in third quarter.

The Cavs scored first in the contest Najair Smith made a nice cut back to score on a four-yard run about 11 minutes into the contest. The touchdown was set up a Jones’ 69-ayrd pass to De’Quez Walker.

Smyrna answered Middletown’s TD with a quick scoring drive of its own. Wayne Knight went seven yards the middle of the wildcat formation with just 14.1 seconds left in the first quarter.

A 47-yard pass from Aidan Sanchez to Devin DeMoe got the Eagles to the Cavs’ seven.

Middletown’s Timothy Butter gets tackled by Smyrna’s Gavin Sembly on the opening kickoff.

The Cavs, though, stopped the two-point conversion try to hang on to Davis 7-6 advantage.

Middletown then added to that lead on its next possession. This time Davis found wide open Wing over the middle for a 37-yard scoring pass.

Four minutes later, Davis and Wing hooked up for another TD. This time, Middletown caught Smyrna in a blitz. Davis barely got off the screen pass but Wing gathered it in and raced 51 yards for a touchdown that put the Cavs up 20-7.

Davis completed 8-of-12 passes for 206 yards in the first half alone.

For Smyrna, Wayne Knight ran for 77 yards on seven first-half carries. Sanchez threw for 85 yards after completing 6-of-9 passes.

Smyrna had won nine games in a row since starting the season at 0-2. One of those losses, of course, was a 17-6 setback to Middletown in the season-opening Harvest Bowl.

While Smyrna had lost its three regular-season meetings with the Cavs since 2017, the Eagles had also beat the Caavs in both the 2016 and ‘17 state finals.

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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