MIDDLETOWN — With Oakdale defenders pinning their ears back and consistently bearing down on him, Reese Poffenbarger had to do something to slow down the Bears.
Sometimes, he nimbly avoided the pressure and gained positive yards. Sometimes, the Knights called his number, and the Middletown quarterback churned out more yardage. Add it all up, and Knights’ offense achieved the balance they sorely needed on offense.
Poffenbarger passed for 226 yards, and he piled up 64 of his 110 rushing yards during a crucial fourth-quarter drive as the host Knights celebrated their homecoming night on Friday with a 27-7 win.
After the game, Poffenbarger modestly dished out credit to his teammates after the game, saying “it wasn’t anything like I put the game on my shoulders. It was a good team win.”
But in the end, the senior quarterback accounted for 336 of the Knights’ 360 yards of offense. Poffenbarger, who finished with 23 carries, said he had never rushed more than 10 times in any particular game.
“Last week, we did a great job of running the ball,” Poffenbarger said. “We knew that if we’re going to pass well, we have to be able to run well.
“You can’t just be good at one thing. You can’t be one-dimensional. If that means I have to run the ball, then that’s what that means. I’ll be happy to do it.”
The Knights (4-2) were in good position to build on a 13-7 lead on their first drive of the third quarter, with a third-and-goal at the Bears’ 1-yard line. But Poffenbarger was stopped for no gain on a quarterback sneak, and then Oakdale’s Shemaiah Sabvute sacked him for a 7-yard loss that abruptly halted the drive.
On Middletown’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Poffenbarger took center stage, faking a handoff to running back Kadin Fisher and rushing to the left for a 29-yard gain. He later scrambled out of the pocket for a 21-yard run that gave the Knights a first-and-goal at the Bears’ 8. Two plays later, Poffenbarger lofted a pass to the back left corner of the end zone, where Brian Walker wrestled the ball away from cornerback Lee Goodson for a touchdown that all but cemented victory.
“He’s really stepped up and just been a fantastic leader for us,” Delauter said of Poffenbarger. “And the offensive line, they’re getting better each week. It is fun to coach a group of guys like this that really care.”
Goodson tied the game at 7-all in the first half when he caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Cameron Dorner on a halfback option pass.
Two Knights drives then stalled inside the Oakdale 30, but kicker Paul McHugh bailed them out by hitting 30- and 46-yard field goals.
Meanwhile the Middletown defense did its part to nurse a slim lead, picking off Bears quarterback Ethan Reifer three times, holding him to 7-of-15 passing for 33 yards. Oakdale finished with only 145 yards of offense.
“The defense got a lot of stops, but then we just gave them the ball right back,” Bears coach Kurt Stein said. “Even if the defense was getting stops, it doesn’t help if we don’t do anything when we go on offense.”
In addition to catching four passes for 49 yards, Middletown defensive back Jalen Huskey also had two interceptions on defense, returning one of them 29 yards for a touchdown with 1:39 remaining.
During a second-quarter Oakdale drive, the Bears (3-3) tested Huskey twice on deep passes to Garrett Witt. Huskey batted down one pass and then made the first of his two interceptions.
“I love it,” Huskey said. “I get to show them what I’m made of. I’m not somebody they can throw the ball [against].”
Huskey sees the Knights’ win as a springboard for better things to come.
“This is a turning point in our season,” Huskey said. “I feel we can really ride this momentum. We’re on a three-game win streak, and hopefully we can keep it going.”