Middletown falls in overtime

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

MARTINEZ — Momentum is a tricky thing as Middletown was reminded in Salesian’s comeback 28-21 win in overtime for the North Coast Section Division 4 football title Saturday at Alhambra High.

Middletown's Kyle Brown gets off a pass under heavy pressure from Salesian's Adam Ramirez in the first quarter of their North Coast Section Championship game at Alhambra High School in Martinez on Saturday night, December 11, 2010. Scott Manchester / For The Press Democrat

After the Mustangs methodically took control of the contest with two second-half scores for a two-touchdown lead with eight minutes to go, the Pride’s offense came alive to quickly tie the game. Salesian struck swiftly again in overtime with a first-play touchdown pass, and then Middletown couldn’t find the end zone on fourth down.

“It felt real good there,” Middletown captain Jake Davis said of the Mustangs’ fourth-quarter lead. “But we told each other eight minutes is a long time. They answered right back. We couldn’t play any better. Our team left it all out on the field.”

Familiar foes, the Mustangs and Pride played another tight contest much like Salesian’s narrow win at Middletown earlier in the season, when both teams scored in the 50s. The defenses were much improved Saturday, forcing the offenses to earn points.

A mutual respect between players and coaches grew deeper on this night.

“It was an unbelievable game,” said Salesian quarterback Ikaika Woolsey. “They were really good when we played them earlier and they got even better.”

Defense kept Middletown in the game during the first half and produced the game’s biggest turnover in the second half.

After the Pride ate up seven minutes on the game’s opening drive, Salesian faced a fourth down on the Middletown 14. Woolsey threw a second consecutive incompletion.

Field position was Salesian’s strategy and it worked. Middletown couldn’t muster a first down and the Pride took over after the punt inside midfield.

Again mixing Woolsey’s strikes with Aaron Prier’s scampers, Salesian moved 47 yards on six plays, capped by Prier’s scoring run.

As he has all season, Jereomy Hoefer provided the spark Middletown needed. Hoefer returned the kickoff 62 yards on a run that started left and went right through a gap and up the sideline.

The biggest plays on the ensuing scoring drive came on a pair of Kyle Brown passes to Connor Chick and a toss to John-Wesley Davis. Jake Davis capped the possession with a leap into the end zone.

Again, the Mustangs’ defense kept Salesian from scoring following another sustained possession. After moving 70 yards in 10 plays, the Pride came up inches short on a fourth-down run.

The field-position game worked for Middletown in the third quarter. While the Mustangs threw an interception on a deep fourth-down pass on the first drive of the third quarter, Salesian couldn’t manage a first down when the Pride had the ball.

Taking over on Salesian’s side of the field, Middletown’s dynamic duo of David Pike and Jake Davis carried seven times, covering 43 yards for the go-ahead score on a Davis run over the right side.

Opening the second half with a pair of time-consuming possessions, Middletown kept the prolific Salesian offense off the field for most of the third quarter. Middletown ran 24 plays to Salesian’s six.

Both defenses refused to yield a first down on consecutive possessions.

Then the Mustangs went one better with John-Wesley Davis stepping in front of a Salesian receiver to pick off a pass. The speedy linebacker wasn’t done as he broke tackles and followed blockers 40 yards back up the field.

On cue, Middletown’s sparkplug made another big play. Hoefer found a seam and scampered 29 yards to set up Davis’ third touchdown blast.

Yet the game was far from in hand.

“We had them. We had everything on our side,” said Middletown coach Bill Foltmer. “A play here or a play there can take the momentum away from you.”

Answering less than a minute later, Salesian narrowed the game to 21-14. Marcial Malic was the player injecting energy into his team on a long kickoff return. A Middletown penalty on the play gave the Pride even better field position. Three plays later the Pride were back within a touchdown, with the biggest gain coming on a Woolsey scramble.

“That kickoff return really got us going and then we just kept it rolling,” Woolsey said.

While the Mustangs were doing a great job bottling up Prier and covering Salesian’s receivers in the second half, Woolsey ran away from pressure and gained big chunks of yards.

Twice on the game-tying drive, the strong-armed quarterback showed he was a powerful runner as well. Woolsey also completed four passes on the 80-yard scoring push before taking the ball in for the touchdown.

With both teams getting the ball at the 10-yard line in overtime, the team that scores first puts pressure on the opposite sideline.

Salesian won the coin flip and Woolsey immediately connected with Davion Mize for the go-ahead score.

Two passes and two runs weren’t enough for the Mustangs to keep the entertaining contest going later into the foggy night.

“The kids played with a lot of heart,” Foltmer said. “I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”

Wearing the second-place medal around his neck, Jake Davis said the loss was tough for a team with players mostly together in football since fourth grade. Still, he said Middletown had a great season.

“The only thing this team can do is wear the medal proudly,” Davis said.

You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or mike.coit@pressdemocrat.com.