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Football: Knights look for three-peat; 36 straight wins

Middletown is on the verge of a dynasty; can they succeed with a win at states?

The Middletown High School football team is in the Class 2A State Championship for the fourth straight year, and is looking to complete a three-peat. This time, though, Patuxent may prove to be a worthy opponent for the Knights, who are riding a 35-game win streak.

The last two years, the Knights have faced Frederick Douglass P.G. in the state title game, beating them by scores of 43-6 and 30-12, respectively.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking,” said senior tailback Brad Rinehart, “but we’ve sort of considered [M&T Bank Stadium] to be our big home now since we’ve been there four years in a row.”

Coming into the season, the new additions to Class 2A, the Dunbar Poets, appeared to be the biggest roadblock to the Knights state title defense, but the Patuxent Panthers shot onto the scene this year, and they have compiled a 13-0 record to this point.

The Panthers are ranked sixth in the latest edition of the Washington Post ratings, and seem to be the best team the Knights have faced this year.

“They have a good team,” said junior kicker and linebacker Nick Welch. “They have a good quarterback, some good receivers, and a great running back. We will have to see when we get out there.”

The Panthers quarterback, junior Tyler Crounse, plays a similar game to Knights quarterback Tim Pirrone – when in doubt, tuck and run. Crounse comes into the game leading the team in carries with 244 and rushing yards with 1,970. Senior tailback Raqif Douglas enters the game with 1,236 yards on the ground, and 23 rushing touchdowns.

The Panthers seem to be a pretty confident team, and their fans have shown it on Twitter. They are using #paxnation, and #BeatMiddletown.

“We’ve been to states four years in a row now,” said Rinehart. “That makes the target on our back bigger and bigger. I know [Patuxent] will be gunning for us.”

The Knights are accustomed to the extra pressure. Rinehart himself is the epitome of that.

Middletown is giving up an average of only 7.4 points per game this season and will be facing a Panther team that puts up an average 35.3 points per game.

The Knights will need big contributions from linebackers Frankie Meighan and Welch, who come into the contest with 58 and 58.5 tackles respectively. The two will have to keep Douglas and Crounse from getting into the secondary on the ground.

Patuxent has a very balanced distribution of touchdowns, and they can hurt from multiple spots on the field. Douglas has 24 total touchdowns this season; Crounse has 14, Laron Gross has 9 and Mike Caputo has 7.

“[Patuxent] has a good quarterback, wide receiver and running back. They also have a pretty good line,” said Rinehart. “We just can’t wait to get on that field and show [Patuxent] the team they came to play is for real. We don’t mess around.”

The Knights offense, which hasn’t been as explosive as in years past, will need to post some points if the Knights are going to take care of business in this one.

Rinehart comes into the game with 1,204 rush yards on 167 carries, and 32 total touchdowns. Pirrone has 544 rushing yards on 100 carries and 10 total touchdowns.

Scoring will be a difficult task for the Knights when faced with the front seven of the Patuxent panthers. Linebacker’s Mike Henry, Gary Ricker and Aaron Criss all have more than 125 total tackles. It’s almost unheard of for a player to have more than 100 tackles, let alone the three players Patuxent has.

The Knights and Panthers match up evenly on special teams. Welch is 58-65 on point after attempts and 8-11 on field goals. Eric Chacanos is 53-57 on extra point attempts and 2-2 on field goals.

The biggest advantage the Knights may have is the punting of senior Ben Panther. On only 32 punts he has pinned the other team inside its own 20 14 times. Without Panther the Knights probably would not have escaped Urbana with a 14-7 victory.

Win or lose, this will be the last game for 24 Knights seniors. They feel the need to win more than anybody.

“It’s very important that we achieve a three-peat in our last game,” said Rinehart. “To end your senior year with a state championship. You can’t ask for anything better than that.”


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Football: Knights look for three-peat; 36 straight wins