ELKTON — Elkton kept Middletown quarterback Reese Poffenbarger contained in the pocket for the majority of its 2A semifinal matchup Friday night. He finally broke contain on the sixth-seeded Knights’ final possession and scrambled his way for the go-ahead touchdown with 19 seconds left, handing the second-seeded Golden Elks’ a heartbreaking 31-27 defeat and ending their season one game short of their goal.
“He’s a playmaker. He made some big plays at times, and we didn’t have an answer a few times. That was the difference,” Elkton head coach Matt Feeney said of Poffenbarger.
The Golden Elks (12-1) owned a 27-24 lead in the final minute thanks to a 32-yard field goal by senior Jacob Bosler with 1:14 remaining, breaking a tie that lasted the duration of the fourth quarter until that point.
After Bosler’s field goal, Middletown started the ensuing possession at its own 32-yard line with 1:06 remaining. Within five plays, the Knights had driven down to the Elkton 15.
On first-and-10 from the 15, the Golden Elks’ defense flushed Poffenbarger from the pocket, so he scrambled to his left and ran towards the end zone. Poffenbarger lowered his shoulder as a defender bore down on him, powering his way into the end zone for the go-ahead touchdown. After the successful extra point that made it 31-27, the Golden Elks got the ball at their own 43-yard line and drove to the Knights’ 42 with 3.2 seconds left, setting up a desperation Hail Mary attempt. Quarterback Nolan Null was sacked before he could get the ball off, ending Elkton’s season just short of the state championship game.
“You couldn’t ask for anything better. It ended one week short, but man, we had a great ride. These guys love practicing together every day, getting together. We all enjoy being together,” Feeney said. “It was a great atmosphere since the weight rooms in January. I loved every second of it.”
Tashawn Watters rushed for 120 yards and two first-half touchdowns, but he made no play bigger than the one he made on defense on the final play of the third quarter.
Middletown running back Kadin Fisher broke through the Golden Elks’ defense on his way to an apparent touchdown, but Watters chased him down, punched the ball loose and wrestled it away from Fisher on the ground at the Elkton 4-yard line to keep the game tied at 24.
“I’ve challenged him for years to make big plays in big moments, and he’s risen to the occasion almost every time,” Feeney said of Watters. “He did once again. I had four good years with that kid, and I’m going to miss him.”
The Golden Elks’ other touchdown was a 29-yard strike from Null to John Rhodan late in the third quarter that gave them a brief 24-17 lead, which was immediately answered by a 70-yard touchdown connection from Poffenbarger to Jalen Huskey on the very next play from scrimmage to tie it at 24.
The Knights’ other two touchdowns were a Fisher 25-yard run in the first quarter and a Poffenbarger 7-yard touchdown toss to Matthew Mancini late in the second quarter.