Joppatowne earns berth in final, 14-13

Title game will be first since 1976

Tillman stuffs Middletown's 2-point try

Class 2A football

High Schools

November 24, 2001|By Bill Blewett | Bill Blewett,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Joppatowne tackle Phil Tillman played less than usual in the Class 2A semifinal game against visiting Middletown last night. The 300-pound senior was in the right place at the right time, however, to preserve a 14-13 victory for the Mariners.

The win gave Joppatowne its first trip to the state finals since 1976.

Tillman, slowed by an ankle injury, stopped Middletown running back Josh Keeney on a two-point conversion attempt that would have put the Knights ahead with two minutes left in the game. Tillman fought off a chop block to make the tackle.

"He chopped me, and the fullback came up and I just wrapped him up," said Tillman. "He reached for it [the goal line], but he didn't get it, and I knew we were right."

The dramatic play at the goal line, before a capacity crowd at Joppatowne's stadium, came after the Knights drove 80 yards in less than one minute to close within a point.

Joppatowne took the lead in the second quarter after pinning the Knights inside their 5-yard line, yielding only 3 yards before the Knights' punter popped up a punt for just 11 yards.

Three plays later, quarterback Dalys Talley scored on a keeper from the 13 around the left side. Gus DiBlasi's kick was wide to the right, leaving the Mariners with a 6-0 lead.

Jack O'Leary quickly put Middletown into the lead with an 83-yard return for a touchdown on the kickoff. The senior running back then kicked the extra point for a 7-6 lead.

Both quarterbacks left the game with injuries. Talley was carried off the field in the third quarter and did not return. Middletown's Chris Anderson left in the second quarter but came back in the third to rally the Knights with his passing.

Talley sustained an ankle injury after an 8-yard gain on a quarterback sneak to the 1-yard line. Josh McKemy, a starter at safety, took over at quarterback and scored two plays later. Doug Green ran for the two-point conversion from the 8-yard line after a penalty, giving Joppatowne a 14-7 lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

McKemy, who had filled in for Talley three times briefly this season, kept the Mariners moving with his running off the option play.

Talley completed only one pass before leaving the game, but the Mariners sustained their offense with the running of Talley, Green and D'Angelo Goffigan.

George Smith, Joppatowne's top receiver, didn't catch a pass in the game but was key to the victory with his punting and a punt return.

Twice, the 6-foot-3 senior pinned the Knights inside their 5-yard line with his punts. He also drew a roughing penalty while punting from his 5-yard line to sustain a drive in the fourth quarter. Smith returned a punt 26 yards to the Middletown 24 in the final five minutes of the game.

Smith also made a touchdown-saving tackle on Brooks Mosier in the fourth quarter.

Anderson returned to quarterback for Middletown in the third quarter after throwing just one pass in the first half, which was intercepted by Joppatowne's Ryan Spann. He got the Knights moving with a 42-yard completion to Mosier before throwing a 16-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Lewis with 2:22 left.

Middletown 0 7 0 6 - 13

Joppatowne 0 6 8 0 - 14

J-Talley 13 run (kick failed)

M-O'Leary 83 kickoff return (O'Leary kick)

J-McKemy 1 run (Green run)

M-Lewis 16 pass from Anderson (run failed)

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