MIDDLETOWN — As a freshman on Middletown’s JV football team, freshman Lawson Halsey watched in admiration from afar as Zach Brady made his presence felt.
As a sophomore, Brady consistently found a way to cause havoc in opponents’ backfield as a nose guard on the Knights’ varsity football team last season.
Now a sophomore on the varsity team, Halsey wants to become a Brady clone of sorts.
“He tears it up,” Halsey said of Brady Friday after Middletown opened its season with a 49-0 victory over Thomas Johnson. “He brings the energy to the team ... I want to bring the same energy.”
For much of Friday’s game, Halsey lined up alongside Brady as a defensive tackle, and they spent much of the first half trading big plays, rushing upfield to bring down ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage for a defense that allowed zero rushing yards and 167 total to the Patriots.
On TJ’s first drive, Brady sacked quarterback Adam Cox, leading to a forced fumble that Halsey recovered. Later in the quarter, Halsey brought down running back Jack Puttnam for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-2 from the Knights’ 18-yard line, leading to one of the Patriots’ four turnovers on downs in the first half.
If you listen to Brady talk about his linemate, it seems as if Halsey has followed in his footsteps nicely. Halsey holds the top deadlift mark in his class (445 pounds), which exceeds marks of some upperclassmen on the team. That kind of ambition creates the kind of intrasquad competition that Delauter seeks.
“That just motivates us to push even harder,” Brady said. “To see a kid younger than us doing bigger weight than us, that just [makes us want] to get in there and work harder every day.”
Defensive end Brian Walker and linebackers JD Nelson and Conner Meyer also played well defensively, delivering a standout performance that became a necessity considering the Knights (1-0) took some time to get on track offensively, managing minus-2 yards of offense in the first quarter.
“We just swarmed to the ball,” Brady said. “Everyone was there on every tackle.”
Matthew Mancini scored Middletown’s only points of the first quarter, returning a Cox interception 30 yards for a touchdown.
Eventually, Middletown’s offensive line started developing some continuity, opening up big holes for running backs Clark Cheairs (12 carries, 56 yards) and Meyer (seven carries, 62 yards) and giving quarterback Reese Poffenbarger more time in the pocket.
Poffenbarger completed 4 of 5 passes for 61 yards, including a 12-yard scoring strike to Paul McHugh on a play-action pass. Middletown had 167 yards of offense in the second quarter.
“Guys were frustrated when they made mistakes, but they threw it away, and they were able to bounce back and play the next play not thinking about it,” Delauter said. “Those were all things that I’m really happy with right now.”
Patriots coach Bobby Humphries was pleased with the way his team played, considering nine of his players lined up on both sides of the ball throughout much of the game.
Cox threw 64- and 52-yard passes to Terrell Storrey and Kamani Quander, respectively, twice putting the offense inside the Knights’ 35. Defensively, Ethan Krowlow and Jordan Alexander each recorded sacks in the first quarter.
“These are kids that are going both ways all game long, and they played every single quarter without any breaks,” Humphries said. “They are not giving up. The score didn’t go in our favor this week, but they’re still staying positive.”