MIDDLETOWN — Time and again Friday night, Eastern Tech's offense knocked on the door against host Middletown, twice putting together drives of at least 15 plays and three times reaching the red zone.
Finally, the Knights simply slammed it shut.
Held scoreless despite multiple chances in the first half, defending state champion Eastern Tech allowed a 75-yard kickoff return to Middletown's Chris Pirrone to open the second half, then never recovered in a 20-6 loss in the Class 2A state semifinals.
"We had opportunities to put points on the board, and we just didn't do it," said Mavericks coach Marc Mesaros, whose team had 206 yards rushing and 66 offensive plays -- 27 more than Middletown. "That's on us. It's just like anything in life -- you've got to take responsibility for the things that happen. Maybe it's execution, but maybe I should've called a different play. That's the way it is."
The Knights (12-1) advance to the Class 2A state final at M&T Bank Stadium, where the Frederick County team will play McDonough next Saturday at 3:30 p.m., in pursuit of its firststate title.
The Mavericks (11-2), who had won 10 straight games, were denied their fourth straight trip to the final -- primarily because they failed to finish drives deep in Middletown territory.
With Middletown driving on its opening possession, the Mavericks' Kyle Bosserman intercepted Michael Pritts' floating pass at the 7 and returned it to the 27.
The Mavericks then embarked on a 17-play drive -- all runs -- that consumed 8:04 but came up a yard short on a fourth-and-5 at the 8.
Eastern Tech then missed another prime scoring chance after getting the ball back at Middletown's 30 following a punt. On a fourth down, however, sophomore defensive back Zach Welch knocked away Brad Hager's pass toward Devonn White in the end zone.
"That was huge to play against the defending champion -- a storied program -- and be able to hold them like that," Middletown coach Kevin Lynott said. "That gave us confidence to stay in the game. Not only did we stop them, but they took time off the clock. So for them not to come out scoring is kind of a de-motivator."
The Knights then took the lead to open the second half when Pirrone fielded the kickoff at the 25, darted through a hole on the left side and outran a defender 75 yards down the left sideline.
"I saw he was kicking it to me, and I said: 'Give me the ball. I'm going to make a play,' Pirrone said. "I just ran it. I wasn't getting taken down. I wanted that touchdown."
Buried deep in its own end, Middletown then kept a key drive alive with a 23-yard pass on third-and-9 at the 2, and went on to add a pair of touchdowns on runs by Sam Michels in the final 3:30 to extend the lead to 20-0 before Eastern Tech scored its lone points with four seconds left.
Eastern Tech 0 0 0 6 -- 6
Middletown 0 0 7 13 -- 20
M-Pirrone 75 kickoff return (Neubauer kick)
M-Michels 25 run (kick failed)
M-Michels 16 run (Neubauer kick)
ET-Hager 1 run (pass failed)