Football: Oh, what a Knight!

It was a magical season from start to finish with an even more magical ending for the Knights; a 17-3 win.

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No one knew it on Aug. 14,but the Middletown High School Knights football team was about to embark on one a magical journey, that almost nobody in the town, county, or even the state for that matter could have guessed.

Yes, you did have the predictions about Middletown, people left and right saying that the Knights were skilled enough to make it back to states and that they had the will to make it.

But, with all the amazing moments that came out of this season, both on the field and off the field, it seemed like the season had come right out of a book written by Charles Perrault or the Grimm brothers.

Therefore, it was fitting that Middletown would clinch their third consecutive 2A state title using a full team effort, that saw almost everyone on the team make a difference, in a 17-3 defeat, in the state finals of the 2013 Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) 2A Football State Championship, over the Patuxent High School Panthers on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore.

Middletown went in to the game knowing that they would need a full team effort to defeat the Panthers, a team who was much better than the Frederick Douglass High School Eagles team that they had faced in the past two 2A state championship games.

Middletown started off the game capitalizing on what surely had to be nerves from a Panthers team that had only had one other appearance in the state finals, a 7-6 loss over the Urbana High School Hawks in the 2001 3A State Football championship.

Middletown would get the Panthers to go three-and-out and let the offense pick up from right where it had started in the past 13 games.

Middletown would complete a 37 yard drive with a 28 yard field goal by Knights junior Nick Welch.

Even more importantly the drive would help define the Knights would choose to attack a Patuxent defense that had only given up 17 points per game.

Middletown would gain only 16 yards on 6 attempts, highlighting a Panthers defensive plan that saw them putting seven or eight players in the box and creating a log jam for anyone wearing white.

Middletown knew they would have to go to the pass frequently, leaning on a style of offense that they had not done a lot, with Middletown senior quarterback Tim Pirrone only having attempted 101 passes over the season, or about 7.8 per game.

Pirrone was up for the challenge though in what would be the last game of his high school football career.

“I love throwing the ball, every shot I get I try to make the most of it,” said Pirrone, who had his best game of the season going 10-for-15, with 102 yards and one touchdown. “I am glad Coach (Kevin Lynott) trusted me to make plays.”

Pirrone would step up in his role immediately after another Patuxent drive that stalled out, this time on an interception by Panthers junior quarterback Tyler Crounse by Knights senior Tim Schumacher.

“It was really our defensive line that did a good job,” said Schumacher, who was one of three Knights who had interceptions on the day. “They pressured him and he threw the ball right to me.”

Pirrone would come back and lead a four play, 27 yard drive for Middletown, capping it off with a seven yard pass to Knights junior fullback Peter Heon.

“Coach (Lynott) could see that they only had one cornerback there and we had three receivers out going in their direction,” said Pirrone. “It’s a touchdown guaranteed, one guy can’t cover three.”

At that point it looked like Middletown could have a chance to take control of the game but the Panthers were not going to bow down to any team.

Middletown would have two chances to score, taking the ball inside the Panthers 40 on two straight drives, but would be stopped in their tracks by a Panthers defense that held the Knights to 114 yards in the first half with only 40 of those coming on the ground.

Patuxent’s offense would also sputter in the second quarter, with Crounse throwing another interception, this time with Knights senior Mitch Sgrignoli on the end of a pass that floated into the senior quarterback’s arms.

Two more fruitless drives would befall the Panthers, with Patuxent still trying to find a way to open up the running game that had gotten them to Baltimore.

At the half, Middletown would be up 10-0, but unlike most games was not clearly in the driver’s seat and would have to fight for the most coveted piece of hardware in the state.

The second half would start with both teams trading possessions with the Knights having two three-and-out drives and Patuxent getting one.

With Patuxent still looking for a sp[ark to ignite their team, Middletown received what could have been a killer for the Panthers in a Tyler Crounse pass that was bobbled and then intercepted by Knights senior defensive lineman Luke Headley.

It was not meant to be though, as on the Knights second play after the interception, a completed pass from Pirrone to Schumacher was completed, but stripped away after the catch by Panthers senior Daniel Caputo.

That gave Patuxent the momentum spark they needed, and they would respond by driving the ball down to the Middletown 6-yard line with runs by Panthers sophomore Greg Leonard of 25 yards and by senior Rafiq Douglas of 25 and 31 yards making up most of the yardage.

The Panthers would put up points but not in the way they were hoping to, as a Ricky Leonard sack, one of five on the day for the Florida State commit, pushed them back to the Middletown 15 yard line and forced them to kick a field goal.

Even so, the Panthers had momentum and just needed one more touchdown to tie the game up.

It was not mean to be though as two drives would stall out for the Panthers, one of those for 39 yards, giving the Knights the ball with 5:44 left in the game.

The Knights had run the clock down to 1:07 left in the game but needed just one more first down to put the game out of reach for Patuxent who had no timeouts left in the game.

It would be Pirrone who would do just that.

A pass from Pirrone to Knights fullback Frankie Meighan on 3rd and 7 from the Panthers 13 was caught and run out of bounds by Meighan giving the Knights the first down, the title, the dynasty, and the trophy with 1:01 left in the game.

A one yard run by Knights senior Bradley Rinehart would provide the exclamation point for Middletown, on a season that had an air of magic to it.

The Knights had accomplished what they had hoped to do and as they pulled into the parking lot at Middletown High School with a police and fire truck escort, the moment had a bit of, well you know, magic to it.