Football: Middletown’s next challenge: NCS title

Middletown's Brad Beckwith and his teammates raise their helmets as the National Anthem plays, before a game in October.  (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat, 2013

Middletown’s Bradly Beckwith and his teammates raise their helmets as the National Anthem plays, before a game in October.
(ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat, 2013)

By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Top-seeded Middletown prepares for the North Coast Section Division 5 playoffs with a bit of bad news for the other seven teams in the field.

“We’re good. We’re right where we want to be,” Middletown coach Bill Foltmer said of his 9-1 Mustangs. “We’re the No. 1 seed and have the home-field advantage. If somebody can come in and beat us in Middletown, more power to them … they must be a really good football team.”

Middletown stormed unbeaten through the North Central League I campaign with a 7-0 record.

How dominant have the Mustangs been? Well, even their only loss was actually a win. It came by forfeit when it was learned that an ineligible player participated in a 21-14 victory on the road at Salesian.

Foltmer won’t let the Mustangs treat preparation for Friday’s 7 p.m. NCS opener against No. 8 Emery (7-3, 4-2 NCL II/Bay League) like a team that hasn’t lost on the field all season.

“We respect every opponent. We don’t take any team for granted,” Foltmer said. “If we can beat Emery, we get the winner of St. Vincent-Salesian. St. Vincent’s coach Gary Galloway knows our program and what we do. We’ve played Salesian every year for 10 seasons, so it’s almost like a league rivalry when we play them.”

Division 5 is set for a competitive postseason in large part because Middletown and third-seeded Ferndale (7-3) have typically played up in Division 4.

“They’ve only had Division 5 for a few years,” Foltmer said. “We’re always kind of on the bubble. We play wherever we end up. We can either be the low guy in Division 4 or one of the higher seeds in Division 5. And, really, this year’s Division 5 might be tougher than the Division 4 field.”

The 13-team Division 4 field has four .500 teams and one 4-6 entry.

“Ferndale has a great program up there,” Foltmer said of the 7-3 Wildcats. “They had a shot at a state championship game a couple of years ago if they’d played in Division 5 instead of Division 4.”

Middletown brings an explosive offense headlined by senior tailback Austin Benson, who has rushed for 1,412 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Benson’s dominance isn’t accurately reflected by his rushing totals as much as his rushing average — an Empire-best 11.9 yards per carry.

“He’s only getting about 10 carries a game because we’ve had games under control,” Foltmer said.

Benson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pounder, runs behind fullback Brad Beckwith (6-3, 200).

Quarterback Josiah Amos runs a balanced attack. “He’s 6-foot-3. Not many small schools have a quarterback like him,” Foltmer said.

Junior left guard Cody Chorjel (6-1, 190) and junior left tackle Wyatt Hall (6-0, 190) anchor the line. Center Garrett Gabaldan is joined on the right side by sophomore tackle Stephen Amos and Ryan Carey.

“It’s a group of smart, quick linemen,” Foltmer said.

Wingback Adam Cade (6-2, 210) and tight end Brad Bologna (6-0, 200) are key blockers, too.

Inside linebackers Beckwith and Cade headline a stifling defense. Hall stars at defensive end opposite Bologna. Chorjel and Benson join safety Anthonie Guzman as standouts.

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