SMYRNA — For three quarters, it was either teams’ game to win.
But the fourth quarter belonged to Middletown — and thus so did the victory.
Michael Pearson ran for a pair of touchdowns in the final eight minutes as the Cavaliers put away another Harvest Bowl victory, 28-14, over rival Smyrna in a much-anticipated early-season showdown on Friday night.
The contest was played with a standing-room-only crowd of about 4,000 ringing the field.
The Eagles (1-2) haven’t beaten Middletown (2-0) since 2017 when they downed the Cavaliers in the Division I state finals. And while Smyrna beat Middletown twice in state finals, the Cavs have won at least their last eight regular-season meetings against the Eagles, dating back to 2007.
“This is a great atmosphere,” said Middletown coach Zach Blum. “It was great to get our guys down here to Smyrna. They always do a great job with the fans and they’re so well coached, their guys play so hard.
“Last week our game was cut short and our scrimmages haven’t given us a true test to see where we were. So were really curious to see where we would be.”
In a game that was tied 14-14 since halftime, Middletown drove 67 yards on seven plays to take the lead in the fourth quarter. Michael Pearson scampered 26 yards — the longest run of the game — to the Smyrna five before scoring on the ensuing play to put the Cavs up 21-14 with 7:42 remaining in the contest.
After Middletown’s defense stopped Smyrna on a fourth down, Pearson then scored again on a two-yard run with 2:06 left to close out the win.
Pearson finished with 67 yards on 19 carries while Cavalier quarterback Braden Davis completed 20-of-34 passes for 214 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
Smyrna QB Cameron Edge completed 15-of-25 passes for 156 yards. But he was also sacked five times for 45 yards.
The Eagles were also forced to punt four times.
“That was a rough game,” said Smyrna coach Mike Judy. “It was a really good showing by both teams. It was a quality game. It was exciting.
“We left too many plays out there. We’ve got to learn from it. I’m really proud of the fight. Hats off to them for winning the game.”
A blocked punt by Middletown’s Kody Harris-Miller gave the Cavs a chance to break the tie in the third quarter. Taking over at the Smyrna 30, Middletown got as far as the Eagles’ six.
But on a fourth-and-goal from the eight, Smyrna linebacker Dwayne Ratcliffe intercepted a pass across the middle and returned it 29 yards to end the drive.
After a scoreless first quarter, both teams got their high-powered offenses revved up in the second quarter, trading four touchdowns in the 12-minute span.
When junior Bryce Lemons out-jumped a couple Smyrna defenders in the end for a 27-yard scoring pass from Davis with :20.1 left before intermission, the contest was tied 14-14. Tyla Walker hit both PAT kicks for Middletown.
Davis also threw a 16-yard scoring pass Ty’Rene Hynson, who dove and reached the ball over the goal line.
Smyrna turned a fumble recovery at the Cavs’ seven into a three-yard touchdown by Yamir Knight and a 6-0 lead early in the second quarter.
On the Eagles’ next drive, Edge found Denim Smith all alone 30 yards downfield and the two turned it into a 61-yard pass play. On the very next play. Edge lobbed a 27-yard scoring pass to Devin DeMoe, who had a step on his defender down the sidelines.
Yamir Knight’s two-point conversion run gave Smyrna a 14-7 advantage.
In the first half, Davis completed 12-of-17 passes for 146 yards with Edge going 8-of-11 for 102 yards.
Middletown had played only one half of a competitive game this season. The Cavs were leading Meade, Md., 32-6, in their opener last week when the visitors decided to end the contest with 3:53 left before halftime.
Smyrna has a short week before it returns to action on Thursday when it hosts Caesar Rodney at 7 p.m.
“We’ll rebound,” said Judy. “It’s a long season.”