FOOTBALL: Rhette's absence felt in Palmyra's 49-13 loss to Middletown
MIDDLETOWN >> Find yourself trailing some 90 seconds or so into a high school football game and there's no reason to panic since there's scads of time left.
But when the other guys need just six plays from scrimmage to score three times — in less than 10 minutes — there's really only one way to respond.
And that's with an uh-oh.
Struggling on both sides of the football against an opponent that was unbelievably crisp and efficient, Palmyra dropped a 49-13 decision to Mid-Penn Capital Division playmate Middletown on Homecoming Saturday at Memorial Field.
"They played well," Palmyra skipper Chris Pope said. "I feel that we are a good football team, but we did not play well as the score represents."
Although Tyler Gallagher tossed a pair of short touchdown passes to tight end Mason Cooper — one in each half — Pope's Cougars already were trailing 21-0 when a tipped eight-yarder arrived early in the second quarter.
And when Gallagher's five-yard scoring pass to Cooper finally materialized with 2:21 remaining in the third quarter and the mercy rule already in play, the Cougars (6-2, 3-2) were still down 49-13. A second straight loss was inevitable.
Palmyra also picked up 109 rushing yards from Carl Reigle on just nine totes. Reigle's 78-yard jaunt set up Gallagher's second touchdown toss to Cooper, the only plays from scrimmage the Cougars ran off in the third quarter.
Reigle was bumped up at the end of his long run and needed help to get off the field. With the score out of hand, he did not return.
Reigle's injury was just one of many things that went wrong for Pope's bunch. Another was not having star back Alon Rhette (leg) available. Shoddy tackling was yet another element that troubled the Cougars all game long.
"In order to play successful defense, you have to have 11 guys each doing their responsibility," Pope said. "We had a lot of guys — it wasn't just one — there were a number of people that did not execute their responsibility. Therefore, we did not play good defense and get people in position to make a tackle."
Plug in a super-efficient Middletown side (6-2, 4-1) that for three quarters could do little wrong en route to its second straight victory and sixth in seven games, and one can see why Pope's Cougars quickly found themselves out of this one.
Brett Myers' Blue Raiders needed just four plays to cover 65 yards on their opening possession, grabbing a 7-0 lead with just 1:36 gone when Chase Snavely tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to tight end Malik Noon.
Middletown enjoyed one-play drives on its next two possessions, the lead rapidly growing to 21-0 late in the opening quarter following Jaelen Thompson's 81-yard scoot and Tyreer Mills' 75-yard burst with a Wildcat keeper.
"I wouldn't say that we expected that, but we expect that kind of effort," said Myers, whose Blue Raiders totaled 447 offensive yards. "We have some good running backs and our line is really, really starting to come along."
"There were a lot of different breakdowns," admitted Pope, who is hoping to have Rhette available for next weekend's showdown with Milton Hershey. "Not quite sure if one person would have made the difference or not.
"We did not play well today and that's what it really is."
Middletown 49, Palmyra 13
M-Malik Noon 35 pass from Chase Snavely (Mason Guckavan kick), 10:24
M-Jaelen Thompson 81 run (Guckavan kick), 6:34
M-Tyreer Mills 75 run (Guckavan kick), 2:05
P-Mason Cooper 8 pass from Tyler Gallagher (kick blocked), 11:06
M-Brady Fox 38 run (Guckavan kick), 7:30
M-Mills 64 punt return (Guckavan kick), 2:29
M-Thompson 7 run (Guckavan kick), 0:27
M-Fox 1 run (Guckavan kick), 3:08
P-Cooper 5 pass from Gallagher (Ethan Harro kick), 2:21
PMFirst downs1118Rushes-yards21-15040-358Passing9-17-17-8-0Passing yards10289Total yards252447Punts3-35.70-0Fumbles-lost2-13-1Penalties-yards2-154-30
RUSHING: Palmyra-Carl Reigle 9-109, Zack Yingst 7-37, Nick Hurst 1-5, Tyler Gallagher 4-(minus-1). Middletown-Jaelen Thompson 8-127, Brady Fox 13-124, Tyreer Mills 1-75, Abel Botterbusch 5-28, Blake Jacoby 2-9, Edwin Figueroa 4-9, Caleb Leggore 1-3, Chase Snavely 1-2, Devon Agramonte 1-1, Zac Dailey 1-(minus-1), Antonio Gamble 3-(-19).
PASSING: Palmyra-Gallagher 9-15-1-102, Nate Hawkins 0-1-0-0, Team 0-1-0-0. Middletown-Snavely 7-8-0-89.
RECEIVING: Palmyra-Ethan Harro 3-42, Peter Robertson 3-37, Mason Cooper 3-23. Middletown-Leggore 5-50, Malik Noon 1-35, Justin Shaver 1-4.