Middletown still feels pain of title-game loss

By HOWARD SENZELL
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
After having several nights to sleep on the reality of having lost the NCS Division 4 title last Saturday night in overtime, Middletown’s Jeremony Hoefer said he and his teammates were still “absolutely devastated.”
Hoefer set up two of the Mustangs’ scores, returning a kickoff 62 yards in the first half and then racing 29 yards to put his team in position to go ahead, 21-7 in the fourth quarter.

With eight minutes standing between Middletown and a North Coast Section championship, Hoefer seemed destined to go down in Empire football history as the hero in the biggest victory in his school’s history.
However, Salesian rallied to tie and then win, 28-21, in overtime. The game was played at Alhambra High School in Martinez.
“We were so close,” Hoefer said barely above a whisper. “All of us are still absolutely devastated.”

For Hoefer and the other 17 seniors on the team, it was probably their last football game. No college programs have shown interest in any Mustangs player, according to coach Bill Foltmer.
Hoefer, who is listed at 5-8 and 170 pounds, isn’t sitting around waiting for a college to call.
“My best position is linebacker and how many colleges are looking for 5-8, 170-pound linebackers?” he asked already knowing the answer.
“If we won NCS, it would’ve been a great way for the seniors to end their football careers.”

The way the story concluded, the Middletown seniors will relive the final eight minutes and overtime trying to think of what they could’ve done differently.
Foltmer, Middletown’s coach for 25 years, admitted to being numb after watching Salesian win.
However, while his senior-laden squad was having trouble putting the disappointment behind them, Foltmer was telling his players to focus on how much they’d achieved.

“Maybe our biggest accomplishment was how this team was able to unite the community,” Foltmer said. “We were able to create a buzz by the way we played in the regular season and then in NCS. It seemed like the whole town came out to see us play.”
Foltmer pointed to the fan support the team got last Saturday night when playing Salesian.
“Our fans filled the entire visitors’ section of the bleachers and half the home team bleachers, plus we had several hundred people standing near the bleachers on our side of the field,” Foltmer said.
It takes nearly two hours to get from Lake County to Martinez and with a night game, the locals didn’t roll back into Middletown until after midnight.
“It was a show of support that people in our community would make such a long drive for a night game,” Foltmer said. “This was an exciting team that caught everyone’s fancy. We definitely had the larger cheering section.”

All year, Foltmer stopped short of calling this the best team he’s coached in 25 years of leading the Mustangs.
He will say it was his most explosive squad. They averaged nearly 40 points per games and beat the other teams in Lake County (Clear Lake, Kelseyville, Lower Lake and Upper Lake) by a combined 205-0 en route to the North Central League I North title.

“Right now, the kids are heartbroken,” Foltmer said. “I can understand that.
“We started building toward this when most of these guys were sophomores. The coaching staff always thought this group was going to be good enough to beat bigger schools as seniors. We were right about that.
“I was still confident we’d win going into overtime. Salesian won the toss and elected to go on offense first. That’s exactly what we wanted. We wanted to stop them, get the ball and score.”

Instead, Salesian went up 28-21. Middletown was whistled for a procedure penalty before running a play, making it first and 15. The Mustangs moved the ball to the four, but on fourth down, Middletown’s record-setting running back David Pike was cut down almost immediately by a blitzing Salesian defense.

Still, it was a remarkable playoff run for a school with an enrollment of 484.
Someday, Hoefer and his teammates will look back and smile about what they accomplished for themselves and their community.
“I know we’ll get to that point,” he said. “Right now, it still hurts bad.”