MIDDLETOWN — Sussex Tech had set up the play it wanted on its first drive of its first-round matchup.
It just didn’t unfold how the Ravens wanted.
And it set in motion a Middletown High playoff victory over the Ravens.
Middletown forced a fumble on the third play of the game in a dominating defensive performance on its way to a 42-7 victory in the first round of the DIAA state tournament. The fourth-seeded Cavaliers only surrendered three first downs in the first three quarters before putting their backups in.
Kedrick Whitehead batted down a pitch attempt and recovered the resulting fumble on the Ravens’ first drive. Three plays later Middletown scored its first of six touchdowns.
“It was a perfect play set up — the 127 pitch,” said Sussex Tech Mark Quillin. “It’s not the way we wanted to start. Sometimes, when you go to a place like this, you’re still going to be nervous. We wanted that first drive to be quality and it was not the best start.”
It was a very similar contest to last year’s semifinal game when the Cavaliers won 37-7 while bottling up the Raven rushing attack.
Middletown advanced to play top-seeded Salesianum on Friday at Baynard Stadium (7:30 p.m.). Sussex Tech wrapped up its season at 8-3.
“It’s tough to come here and play,” Quillin said. “They’re a great football program, well-coached and very athletic kids. They’ll give Sallies a heck of a game next Friday night. I’ll be there. I’ll make sure to check that one out.”
Middletown got a pair of rushing touchdowns from Frankie Datillo and one each from Whitehead, Vincent Delpercio and Xavia Green. The Cavaliers scored their final touchdown on a 30-yard pass from Delpercio to Isiah Mitchell.
But Middletown coach Mark Delpercio was more impressed with how his defense played for the second-straight year against the Ravens. It held Sussex Tech’s senior running back duo of Timaun Williams and Pat Griffin to a combined 36 yards in the first half.
“I can’t say enough about the job Zach Blum our defensive coordinator did and the entire defensive staff,” he said. “We didn’t talk about last year. We knew coming in that was a darn good team and we had to play our A-game to beat them. I couldn’t be happier with how our defense played tonight.”
Middletown posted a running clock by the third quarter. The Ravens scored their lone touchdown on sophomore Ja’ron Hunt-Fletcher’s three-yard run with 7:36 left in the game.
The Ravens were led defensively by Williams’ interception and a fumble recovery by senior Brennan Stark.
Sussex Tech will graduate 22 seniors from this year’s squad. In the last three years since Quillin took over the job the Ravens are a combined 23-10.
“Sometimes that last game doesn’t dictate the journey that we’ve gone through,” Quillin said.
“A lot of the people around us didn’t think we could come back and do as well as we did this year,” he added. “It says a lot for our program. We’ve had a really good two-year run. We want to continue to build to the top of the Henlopen and the top of the state. They say it takes four or five years to build a program and we’re at year three as a staff right now.”