URBANA — In a sign of mutual respect, Middletown’s Gage Queen and Conner Meyer stopped and shook hands along the turf field while gathering their belongings after Thursday’s game.
Meyer was one of many Middletown defenders racing off the edge with their sights set on taking down the Urbana passing attack led by quarterback Kyle Howes.
Queen, meanwhile, directed the Knights offense and accounted for all four touchdowns as Middletown posted a 26-6 victory over the Hawks.
“I was a little nervous at the beginning, but after that we settled into place and our defense started making plays and everything fell into place, started clicking,” said Queen, who finished 6-of-15 passing for 117 yards with a pair of passing and rushing touchdowns.
Middletown (3-1) heads into the final week of the abbreviated season with its toughest challenge awaiting at home against an undefeated Walkersville team that has beaten all four of its opponents away from their own stadium.
“We’ve been playing with these same group of guys since we were 4 years old,” Meyer said. “We bust our butts in practice, we attack and we want it all. We’re ready for anyone.”
Trailing 19-0 at halftime, Urbana’s Eric Kolar opened the second half with an 86-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
It would be the only points the Knights (3-1) surrendered against the Hawks (2-2), with the Middletown defense bearing down on Howes, who was forced to scramble out of the pocket often as he finished 14 of 37 passing for 153 yards.
“We’ve got some quick guys in the middle there that do a great job of finding those seams to get up in,” Knights coach Collin Delauter said. “[Howes] is a heckuva athlete, man. He gets away from just about everybody.”
Queen, who overcame a slow start of his own, executed on a fourth-and-6 from the Hawks 21, connecting on a touchdown pass to a wide open Vince Flook III across the middle of the field with 4:32 to play in the third quarter.
“I just lofted that up to him and let him run with it,” Queen said. “I saw their guy go out who was supposed to be covering, so I knew he’d be open, just not that wide open.”
Urbana’s best drive of the game, set up by a pair of penalties against Middletown and completions of 32 and 20 yards to Kolar, brought the Hawks down to the Knights 14. However, three straight incompletions and a blocked field goal with 5:11 to play ended the scoring threat.
The Hawks had one final drive with 1:32 to play, but Tyler Davis and Meyer came up with sacks that led to a turnover on downs and a kneeldown by Queen that ended the game.
“Coach Delauter was sending me on a blitz, so I think he wanted me to get [a sack],” Meyer said. “It was awesome. I was able to get one, get the turnover on downs and finish this out.”
Middletown got things rolling on offense earlier in the game when Queen scored on a 2-yard touchdown run. Then, lined up in a jumbo backfield set, he took the snap, rolled to his left and traveled up the sideline for an 11-yard touchdown run.
“It was designed to throw it to our tight end there, but I saw I could beat my man to the corner, and Meyer took a helluva block on the outside so I knew I had that end,” Queen said.
Urbana’s Ben Malley stopped the two-point conversion, ripping the ball out of Queen’s hands at the Hawks 2 as the Knights held a 12-0 lead.
Howes and the Hawks put together an eight play drive, their longest of the opening half, that stalled at their own 30 and ended in a punt.
The Knights took advantage of the short kick, as Queen dropped back and fired a pass into the hands of Jayson Houck for a 45-yard touchdown, extending the lead to 19-0 with 2:46 left in the first half.
“I knew [Houck] had his guy beat on the first five steps so I just aired it out and knew he’d catch it. I just let it fly,” Queen said.