Middletown takes air out of Long Reach, 28-0 Lightning's passing attack grounded in quarterfinal

Class 2A football

November 16, 1997|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

All season long, Long Reach's solid passing attack of senior quarterback Gregg Matusewitch and senior receivers Willy Bhatia and Chris Smith have been making the big plays, leading the Columbia high school to an 8-2 year and a Class 2A South region championship.

Yesterday, that magic came to an abrupt end as Frederick County's Middletown suffocated the Lightning passing attack and easily defeated Long Reach, 28-0, in a Class 2A quarterfinal.

The 10-1 Knights blanketed Bhatia, who entered the game with 406 receiving yards and eight touchdowns, and Smith (228 yards and 10 touchdowns) with two defenders each. Both receivers caught only one pass, and Middletown's blitzing defense forced Matusewitch into throwing five interceptions -- three of them in the first half.

"We didn't expect it," Lightning head coach Pete Hughes said of Middletown's defensive scheme. "It should've allowed our running game to open up, but we were not able to execute. It's disappointing."

Added Matusewitch, a senior who boasted a 15-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio before the game: "They prepared for everything. They scouted us well."

Yesterday's game was billed as a matchup between two powerful defenses. The Knights allowed an average of five points per game, while Long Reach allowed only 8.8 points per game.

During the first quarter, both teams struggled to find any rhythm, playing three downs and then punting the ball.

Middletown struck with five minutes left in the second quarter, capping a 10-play, 64-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by junior running back Lee Guy.

On the Knights' next possession, Middletown marched 76 yards, with junior quarterback Josh Lucas slinging a 17-yard strike to junior receiver Ken Robey for a 14-0 lead with 33 seconds left in the half.

After sophomore defensive back Jared Ambrose intercepted a Matusewitch pass, the Knights relied on the powerful legs of Guy and junior running back Matt Kunka, who plowed 2 yards into the end zone for a 21-0 lead with 5: 34 left in the third quarter.

Kunka ended the scoring with a 35-yard scamper through the heart of the Lightning defense with 8: 53 left in the game.

Middletown's Lucas finished the game 8-for-18 with 134 yards passing, one touchdown and one interception.

"They've played hard all season long," Hughes said of his squad. "If we had taken advantage of some of the opportunities in the game, we might have been in there. I'm very proud of them."

Pub Date: 11/16/97

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