The Middletown Middies rolled to a 10-2 record and their first playoff appearance since 1990 behind strong senior class, including three-year starters Caleb Watkins at quarterback and Antonio Banks at running back. Head coach Jason Krause had his boys ready to play right out of the gate as they won eight straight games to start the season.
Few teams in the area possessed the athleticism and big-play ability that the Middies enjoyed. They dealt a shocking blow to Moeller in the first round of the Region 4 playoffs before losing to Anderson to end their season.
Let's take a game-by-game look at Middletown's 2009 campaign:
Game #1 - MIDDLETOWN 48, AIKEN 6 Senior Jerry Gates started the season off with a bang by returning the opening kickoff back 81 yards for a touchdown and the Middies were off and running. Watkins tossed three touchdowns, two to J.J. Greenwood and one more to Nick McKnight. Middletown picked off Aiken quarterback Anthony Taper three times and held the Falcons to just 139 yards of total offense, including minus-6 yards on the ground.
Game #2 - MIDDLETOWN 27, EAST ST. LOUIS 16 Middletown fared well against their out of town foes and made the big plays when they needed to. The offense was outgained in total yards by East St. Louis 267 to 204, but the Middies' defense would carry the team to victory. Senior linebacker Aaron Lewis recovered a fumble and classmate Kevin Watts added an interception. Junior linebacker Kyle Schwarber's pick six was on the icing on the cake as it gave Middletown a two-score lead midway through the third quarter. It would be the final points in the game.
Game #3 - MIDDLETOWN 61, LIMA 7 After watching the defense take control a week earlier, the Middies' offense would propel the team to victory in this one. They did most of their damage on the ground, rushing 354 yards while holding Lima to minus-4 yards. Six of the team's eight scores came in the form of a run. Watts ran for two scores and caught another touchdown. Watkins rushed for a pair of scores and Banks and Wayne Gregory each added one more.
Game #4 - MIDDLETOWN 40, SYCAMORE 0 Watkins enjoyed his best passing day of the season as Middletown opened up conference play in dominating fashion. The senior signal-caller completed 11 of his 19 passes for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Greenwood pulled in two of the scoring strikes and Watts the other. Watts also rushed for a touchdown while Banks hit the century-mark for the second straight week as he finished with 106 yards and a TD on just 14 carries. Defensively, the Middies would hold the inexperienced Aves out of the end zone while coming up with four sacks and limiting Sycamore to just four first downs in the game.
Game #5 - MIDDLETOWN 61, MASON 24 The Middies hit the road for the first time in the young season and wasted no time in disposing of the Comets. Antonio Banks rushed for a season-high 189 yards and three touchdowns to lead the way. After taking a 15-0 lead after one quarter of play, Middletown let Mason crawl back into the game in second quarter and was only up 21-17 at the half. However, they would outscore the Comets 40-7 after the break as they cruised to a 5-0 record at the midway point of the regular season. The defense continued to shut down the opposition's ground game, limiting Mason to just five yards rushing. Turnovers played a big difference as the Middies enjoyed a plus-three advantage (5 to 2).
Game #6 - MIDDLETOWN 41, FAIRFIELD 0 Defense continued to be the key for the Middies as they dominated the Indians from beginning to end, holding Fairfield to just 36 total yards and three first downs. Gates returned an interception 30 yards for a touchdown and Lewis accounted for two of the team's six sacks as they remained unbeaten.
Game #7 - MIDDLETOWN 27, LAKOTA EAST 0 The Middies spoiled homecoming night for the Thunderhawks, shutting out Lakota East. The game was sloppy as the two teams combined for 11 turnovers. The game was scoreless at the half, but Middletown responded by finishing the game with 27 unanswered points. Gates had an amazing night, picking off three Stephen Donoghue passes and recovering a fumble. Banks scored two of the Middies' four rushing touchdowns to help Middletown to the win.
Game #8 - MIDDLETOWN 40, OAK HILLS 0 It was a special night at Barnitz Stadium, as the Class of 2010 played their final game at home of their careers. The team responded by pitching its unprecedented third straight shutout inside of conference play. Banks scored three times on the ground and Watkins added one more rushing touchdown and threw for a score as well in an emotional sendoff.
Game #9 - COLERAIN 10, MIDDLETOWN 7 The GMC title was on the line as Middletown traveled to Colerain. A year earlier, the Middies snapped the Cardinals 61-game GMC winning streak and now it was there chance to once again play spoiler to their GMC foe. With a playoff spot supposedly on the line, the game offered more drama than most regular-season contests provide. The game lived up to the hype as one area's best match-ups of the season. Watkins got the Middies on the board first with a 5-yard TD run, but Colerain answered with a touchdown of their own just before half. The Cardinals got a field goal early in the third quarter and that would be all they needed. Four turnovers by the Middies, including three interceptions thrown by Watkins, would prove to be the difference in the game. Colerain would go on to win a share of the GMC title with Lakota West with the victory.
Game #10 - MIDDLETOWN 49, PRINCETON 28 Middletown entered the final week with their playoff hopes still alive to the surprise of many. After everything fell in place perfectly for the Middies on Friday night, they would simply need to win in their regular-season finale at Princeton. The game was played on Saturday to facilitate television as it was aired live on FOX19. Middletown didn't disappoint. They did most of their damage on the ground, rushing for 352 yards. Gates led all rushers with 156 yards and two scores, which came on just two carries (80, 76). Banks chipped in with 115 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns of his own and Watkins added 105 yards and a score on the ground. The defense bent, but did not break. The unit contained Spencer Ware well enough and came up with three turnovers to help the Middies clinch its first playoff berth in 19 years.
Game #11 - MIDDLETOWN 45, MOELLER 10 Not many gave Middletown a chance as they faced Moeller in the first round of the playoffs at Lockland High School. Nobody expected them to dominate in the fashion they did. The Middies speed was too much for the Crusaders to handle from the outset. Watkins turned in one the best efforts of his prestigious career by rushing for 182 yards and two touchdowns and completing 13 of his 19 passes for 176 yards and another score. Banks hit paydirt twice on his way to 75 yards rushing. McKnight enjoyed a season-high 101 yards receiving and was the recipient of Watkins' TD pass. Sophomore Jaylen Herring came up with two of the Middies' four sacks. Middletown outgained Moeller on the night with 430 total yards to the Crusaders' 175.
Game #12 - ANDERSON 41, MIDDLETOWN 20 The Middies' magical run would come to the end in the regional semi-finals at Nippert Stadium. A week after shutting down Moeller, they had no answer for the Redskins' power-running attack. Anderson ran for 398 yards, including 256 yards by senior running back Kyle Slater. Middletown only trailed 19-14 at the half, but failed to make the big plays necessary down the stretch and faded late in the game. Watkins was held in check, a week after a huge performance against Moeller. The senior finished his final high school game by completing 13 of his 26 passes for 85 yards and a touchdown. He managed just 25 yards on seven carries. Classmate Antonio Banks finished with 96 yards on 18 carries. Gates scored on a 2-yard run and also to a punt 60 yards to the house, but it wasn't enough to overcome Anderson.
MILESTONES AND MORE: --The team featured several of the GMC's top statistical leaders including: Watkins (1,447 passing yards); McKnight (532 receiving yards); Lewis (9 sacks); and Gates (six interceptions).
--Watkins finishes his illustrious career with 6,130 passing yards, 65 passing touchdowns, 1,200 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns over three seasons. Banks was equally impressive, finishing with 2,948 yards on 508 carries (5.8 yards per carry) during his four varsity seasons. He added another 507 yards receiving and scored 41 total touchdowns.
--The defense and special teams put their fair share of points on the board with 12 touchdown returns (2 kickoffs, 2 punts, 5 interceptions, and 3 fumbles) with Gates having a team-high five return touchdowns.
--Middletown held GMC opponents to just 8.9 points per game during seven conference contests, including three shutout efforts.
-- Krause was named Coach of the Year All-State. Watkins was named First-Team All-State on offense and Gates was named First-Team All-State on defense by the Associated Press. Lewis received Special Mention All-State.
-Watkins was named the Southwest Ohio All-District Division I Offensive Player or the year and Krause was recognized as the Coach of the Year. Banks and McKnight were named Second-Team All-Southwest District on offense. Gates and Lewis were named to First-Team All-Southwest District on defense. Rashard Frazier was named Second-Team All-Southwest District as a defensive end. Schwarber and Edwards were Honorable Mentions.
**The Middletown Middies have been nominated as one of six finalists for QueenCityHigh.com's Cincinnati Team of the Year. The award will be handed at our Cincinnati Year In Review show at Buca di Beppo at Rookwood Commons in Norwood on Thursday, January 12th, 2010. The event is open to the public, but you must RSVP by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost for admission is $15 per person and includes family-style Italian buffet. Please stay tuned to QueenCityHigh.com for further details.**