Football: Knights hope to prove critics wrong after giving up record breaking performance

By Dylan O'Toole, Round Table Sports Editor

One word that would come to the mind of Middletown (4-3) fans after the game Friday would be dominance, but the Knights weren’t dominating, they were being dominated.

In the Knights 34-7 loss to Urbana a player did something that has never been done before: rush for over 400 yards in a Frederick County football game.

Urbana tailback Ray Gray led the Hawks (6-1) in their quest for revenge against the Knights, not only did the Hawks beat the Knights, they embarrassed them.

Gray’s record setting performance came only a week after breaking the record for the first time. Every one of Gray’s 412 yards was painful for the Knights, but for many Middletown players, being on the wrong side of history is an idea that they just can’t shake.

“The fact that we allowed the most rushing yards in Frederick County history is one of the most disappointing things for our team,” said Forbes. “We know that we have to go out and prove that [giving up the record] was the biggest fluke ever.”

Gray started his night for the ages with a 75-yard touchdown run, giving the Hawks a 7-0 lead just five minutes into the game.

The Knights were able to respond with a 5:38 touchdown drive, capped off by a 19-yard touchdown run by senior Nick Welch, who led the Knights with 140 rush yards on 22 carries.

Urbana was able to respond immediately though. Gray ripped off another long run that everyone assumed would be a touchdown, but junior DB K.J. Bromwell made a nice tackle to bring down Gray just inside the Knights 10.

With Gray’s slick moves and speed it seemed like a definite that the Hawks would be able to cross the goal line and retake the lead, but Urbana unexpectedly turned to their passing game.

Three-year starting quarterback Donovan Pannell rolled out to his left and hit Knights junior Marquis Lauer right in the chest. The Knights took over at their own 11 with under five minutes remaining in the first half.

Although the Knights didn’t score on their ensuing drive, they did eat up almost the remainder of the first half, preventing the Hawks from getting another shot at scoring.

At the end of the first half the Knights couldn’t have asked for anything more, they were tied at 7 with the heavily favored Hawks.

But it takes four quarters to win a football game, said Welch.

Middletown started the second half with possession, but couldn’t take advantage. Urbana then embarked on a long drive, capped off by a 7-yard touchdown run by Pannell on fourth down.

With 5:50 left in the third the Hawks took a 14-7 lead. This is where the Knights started to fall apart.

On Middletown’s next drive they seemed to be having problems communicating, leading to a stretch of five straight plays resulting in Knights penalties. This set the tone for what would be an ugly remainder of the game for the Knights.

After picking up huge chunks of yardage on almost every carry on the Hawks next drive, Gray glided across the goal line for a 19-yard touchdown. This put the Hawks up 21-7 at the end of the third quarter.

21-7 is not an insurmountable deficit, but the Knights continued to commit unforced errors. Every time it seemed Middletown was about to get a first down they had to move back ten or 15 yards due to a personal foul or holding penalty.

On the Hawks next drive they put the game away. Gray ran for a 37-yard touchdown to extend the Urbana lead to 28-7.

The game was not in doubt anymore, but with eight minutes left Gray was only 30 yards short of the rushing record he set the previous week.

On Gray’s final play of the game, with 5:37 left, he bounced to the outside and exploded up the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown- shattering the previous record in an instant.

Gray was taken out of the game with 416 yards rushing; if he had stayed in he would have had a realistic chance of breaking the state record: 445 yards.

“We want to show everyone that we are not the type of defense that is going to let someone break a record like that,” said Welch.

This was not very characteristic for the Knights, who are usually amongst the top rushing defenses in the county.

Middletown’s leading tackler had only four tackles. Urbana’s Win McKeever had 14.5 tackles to lead Urbana.

These stats show that Middletown was physically dominated by Urbana, especially at the line of scrimmage.

“We have to play Middletown football,” said Forbes. “We have to be more physical.”

This loss seriously lessens the Knights chances of making the playoffs. Middletown will likely win Friday on senior night against TJ, but the final two games on the Knights schedule do not bode well for them. The Knights stand three points behind a playoff spot.

In week nine Middletown will face Linganore on the road, a game it’s impossible to see the Knights winning.

“We just have to keep fighting and win out,” said Welch.

In the season finale the Knights are on the road against Oakdale, the Bears currently sit atop the 2A West. This is a winnable game for Middletown, and a win would almost guarantee a playoff spot.

“It’s going to be tough [to make the playoffs],” said Forbes. “We know that we can do it.”

Middletown knows that a loss Friday could completely derail its season.

“We believe in ourselves and we believe that we are getting better,” said Forbes. “We know if we put 110 percent in at every practice- we are going to make the playoffs.”