Middletown opens with 17-6 Harvest Bowl victory over Smyrna

Middletown’s Ben Martin rushes against the Eagles in the first quarter. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

MIDDLETOWN — This wasn’t the Harvest Bowl fans have been used to seeing over the last few seasons.

Middletown High and Smyrna High took a break from their usual high-octane, high scoring matchups and played a defensive struggle on Friday night.

Middletown shut out the Eagles in the second half to hold on for a 17-6 to kick off both teams seasons. It is the third-straight year Smyrna has lost to Middletown in the season opener.

Smyrna gained 164 yards on its first three drives before the Eagles only recorded two more first downs the rest of the game.

“I think our youth showed,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “Where we were hurting the most was on offense, they really fought hard though. Middletown is a very talented team and we just couldn’t hold it together long enough.”

Smyrna’s Makhi Jackson and Espie Hart celebrate a first-quarter touchdown against the Cavaliers.

The Eagles led 6-0 on a 25 yard touchdown catch by Makhi Jackson from quarterback Nick Richardson on the second possession.

Middletown took the lead with 9:07 remaining in the second quarter. LeTerrian Spruill blocked a punt and the Cavaliers scored on the very next play on a 10-yard throw by Brendan Davis to Najair Smith.

Ben Martin added to the lead and made it a 14-6 game with 9:47 remaining in the fourth quarter on a two-yard rush. The Cavaliers sealed it on Sean Freeburg’s 34-yard field goal in the final minute.

Both teams combined for just two first downs in the third quarter, both by Middletown. The Eagles had five possessions in the quarter, including two inside the Middletown red zone after turnovers, but had to punt three times and turned the ball over on downs twice.

Smyrna’s only first downs in the second half came on a pass interference penalty and a pass play when there was 40 seconds left in the contest.

Smyrna’s Marcus Cajuste finds an open hole in Middletown’s defense Friday night.

“I wish we could have some plays back but you can’t,” Judy said. “I told the guys whether you win or lose, you’re taking an important step on the journey tonight. We did take a step in the right direction. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it, but we’ll go fight really hard this week to be better for next week.”

Judy mentioned how improved the defensive effort was compared to last year’s matchup when Smyrna gave up two rushing touchdowns on the first two plays and ended up falling 41-20.

“We got the right pegs and you got to put them in the right holes,” Judy said. “These guys have been tremendous all camp. Even suffering a loss of one of our best returning linemen, these guys have stepped up like crazy. I’m really proud of the leadership on that side of the ball. It’s been unbelieveable.”

Reach staff writer Tim Mastro at tmastro@newszap.com

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