ANNAPOLIS — Middletown sophomore Jalen Huskey envisioned the desired result three days earlier. His coach, Collin Delauter, will go back even further, saying he saw the makings of the special accomplishment way back in late September.
They cited some of the same quality traits: confidence, execution, togetherness.
So they strongly believed this Knights football team, albeit one that began the season 1-2 and entered Saturday’s Class 2A football state final against Potomac as a No. 6 seed, could accomplish what it did.
“I think it started on Wednesday,” Huskey said after the Knights defeated the Wolverines 34-15 to claim their first state title since 2013. “We had a really good practice, and we were all super confident going into the game.
“I think we had the game won before we even drove here.”
Middletown (12-2) played like a team with supreme confidence in the state title game, racing out to a 20-0 lead in the second quarter behind the right arm of quarterback Reese Poffenbarger, who excelled at buying time in the pocket and extending plays.
On the first of his three first-half touchdown passes, he scrambled to his right to avoid heavy pressure from Maurice Hicks before finding Huskey uncovered at the Potomac 15, resulting in a 65-yard touchdown pass. On his second, the Wolverines’ Anthony James hit him as he released the football, but the senior still lofted an accurate pass down the right sideline to Brian Walker for a 50-yard score.
Poffenbarger finished 19-of-26 for 318 yards and four touchdowns to four different receivers, and Potomac (12-2) coach Ronnie Crump called him the best quarterback his team had faced all season.
“We weren’t accustomed to a team making plays like that,” Crump said, mostly referring to Poffenbarger, who has received offers from Virginia Military Institute and Frostburg State. “ [Poffenbarger], I give him a lot of credit.
“I don’t know who’s not recruiting him. They’re making a mistake.”
While the Knights may have built around the skills of Poffenbarger, Delauter didn’t have visions of winning a state title until Middletown beat Boonsboro 31-14 in Week 4. Back then, other components of the team improved in leaps and bounds.
A defense that experienced some struggles in the second and third week of the seasons against Urbana and Linganore started to turn stingy. That improvement showed against the Wolverines as Huskey and Cole Porter each picked off two passes from dynamic Potomac quarterback Dominique Anthony.
Lawson Halsey, Zach Brady and Martin became big factors on the defensive line, along with Colby Doreen, who shook off injury and returned midway through the season. In the linebacking corps, Conner Meyer and JD Nelson made significant plays in key moments.
Offensively, the Knights’ offensive line began to jell, giving junior running back Kadin Fisher a chance to be effective.
Fisher helped show just how far the Knights’ ground game had progressed in the second half of Saturday’s game, rushing for 92 of his 95 yards to help whittle down the clock.
“As soon as I got the ball, and I knew it was time to run the clock down, I just ran the rock and made sure I did my job and got it done,” Fisher said.
Delauter played for the Knights’ 2011 team, which started a string of three consecutive state titles. He saw some similarities between the 2011 team and this year’s squad, and they centered around strong team chemistry.
“Really, I’ve sensed that confidence with this team pretty much since Week 4,” Delauter said. “We started making some plays and playing Middletown football and playing really hard and playing together, and it’s just been a joy to be around.”
Now the Knights find themselves hoisting a championship plaque for the first time in six years, and they’ll likely never forget the feeling of winning a title.
Sporting a white cowboy hat, Poffenbarger said, “To be able to go out with a win like that for the rest of our lives, we’re going to remember it.”
Before he entered high school, Fisher was in the stands cheering for those Knight teams that went on state title runs. Experiencing a championship firsthand trumped watching those teams of the past from afar.
"When I finally got here, and I was able to go through the process, go through the tradition and just play football with my brothers, I was able to know the whole town had my back, my family had my back and the entire team had my back," Fisher said. "So winning states with them was the best feeling I felt."