Setting the scene: Two Greater Miami Conference foes that couldn’t look more different on film, find themselves on common ground entering Week 3.
Both Middletown (1-1, 0-0 GMC) and Lakota East (1-1, 0-0 GMC) head into Friday night’s matchup looking to bounce back from Week 2 nonconference setbacks, while also setting the tone for their 2018 GMC campaigns.
Middletown opened the 2018 season with a convincing 42-0 thrashing of Western Hills in Week 1, and fell victim to Mother Nature and Springboro 42-26 in Week 2.
Also delayed overnight by weather, Lakota East dropped a close one at home to upstart Kings 27-24 last Friday, just a week after running through Walnut Hills 42-7 to open their season.
“We executed in all three phases against West High,” said Middies head coach Don Simpson. “We exploded onto the scene and showed the direction this program is headed. A number of players had great individual performances, but what’s truly important is the results we achieved as a team.
“I felt good about our game plan going into Springboro last week too,” Simpson continued. “We had a lot of success when our athletes were in space and exposed them, but also found it be an extremely physical game in the trenches.”
The series: Middletown and Lakota East did not meet in 2017. However, the Butler Country rivals have clashed on the gridiron 15 times previously. Overall, the Thunderhawks hold a slight 8-7 edge over the Middies.
Middletown football was founded in 1912. Yet, Lakota East has only existed since the 1997 season. From 1980-1996 the Middies and Lakota High School played 16 times, and Middletown owned that series with 12 wins to only four loses.
Air mailed: Currently, Middletown leads the GMC with 444 passing yards and 6 TDs through the air. Senior WR Shandon Morris has led the way for the Middies as he’s hauled in eight receptions for 224 yards and 5 TDs.
Junior WR Au’Braylon Million currently resides in third in the GMC with 11 receptions for 141 yards and a TD.
“In two weeks, Shandon has showed his ability to stretch the field on anyone that defends him, and Au’Braylon’s one-handed TD grab against Western Hills was one of the most incredible catches I’ve ever seen a high school player make,” head coach Don Simpson stated.
Return to sender: Middie sophomore ATH Josh Bryant has quickly solidified himself as one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the Greater Miami Conference.
Bryant is second in the GMC with 335 all-purpose yards through two weeks (104 rush, 25 rec, and 206 ret), and logged 185 yards on two kickoff returns at Springboro.
His 99-yard first quarter scamper was the longest of his career and his first for a TD. Bryant followed that with an 86-yard effort that was returned to the Panthers 5 yard line in the second quarter.
Sophomore RB/LB Cameron Junior added a 49-yard kickoff return to open play in Chapter II of the Week 2 matchup that resumed on Saturday morning at Springboro, and Morris also chipped in two returns for 62 yards.
Overall, the Middies logged an astounding 296 yards on seven attempts.
Just for kicks: Middletown junior kicker Angel Rivera is currently ranks No. 1 the Greater Miami Conference with 14 kicking points. Rivera is 8-for-9 (88.9) when attempting extra points, and has also logged 2-of-3 (66.7%) field goals so far in 2018.
Also, Rivera nailed a career-long FG attempt for 38-yards at Springboro last week.
Top 3 taking them to the turf: Middies’ senior safety Troy Vinson runs the alley of Don Simpson’s suffocating 3-4 defense like a veteran should.
Vinson currently leads the GMC with 25 total tackles, and is followed closely in second by teammates Cheik Fall (17) and Kenny Wilson (17).
The Middies’ trio will need to continue their run stopping effort in Week 3, as Lakota East’s bruising triple-option rushing attack currently ranks No. 1 in the GMC with 278 rushing yards.
“It’s no secret that East is going to invest all their offensive effort this week into running the football against us,” said Simpson. “They have three primary run plays and build their clock management around those plays. It’s our job to line up and stop that.”