MIDDLETOWN — The Hamilton High School football team is still king of Butler Bowl.
Just when it seemed like Middletown might be able to pull out its first win in the rivalry series since 2014, the Big Blue were able to grind out a long drive for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter to secure an 18-14 win Friday at Barnitz Stadium.
Hamilton (5-2, 5-1 Greater Miami Conference) has won seven straight Butler Bowl matchups and keeps the trophy for another year.
“We’ve been playing as a team all year long, that’s why we’re winning games,” Hamilton coach Arvie Crouch said. “If it ain’t the defense, it’s offense. If it ain’t the offense, it’s defense, and if it ain’t the defense or offense, it’s special teams, and tonight was the offense stepping it up and grinding the ball. I’m just proud of these kids.”
After failing to capitalize on two turnovers early in the game, the Middies took advantage of a short field following a bad snap on a failed punt to take their first lead. Chandler Shields caught a 27-yard pass from Jeremiah Landers to put them up 14-11 with 4:32 left in the third quarter, and coach Don Simpson thought the tide was changing.
Instead, Hamilton responded with a long scoring drive to regain the lead on Cournell Bennett-McCoy’s 1-yard run to put the Big Blue up 18-14 with 8:50 left, and that was all it took. Middletown failed to convert a fourth down in Hamilton territory the next drive, and Hamilton was able to close out the final 4:44 of the game.
Bennett-McCoy finished with 141 yards rushing on 31 carries.
“I thought I had a good night, line was blocking pretty good, the defense was a little slow, but we picked it up and finished it hard,” Bennett-McCoy said. “This is really big. We’ve been playing each other over 100 years, it’s always been a rivalry and we’re just happy to get the dub.”
The Middies seemed to be getting off to a strong start when DeAndre Goodson intercepted Antonio Mathis Jr. near midfield on the opening drive. Even after a drop on third down forced the Middies to punt, they got the ball right back with Tyler Patterson’s fumble recovery on the return but the drive ended in A.J. King missing a 27-yard field goal wide right after a high snap.
On the next drive, Mathis connected with RJ Shephard-Ruffin on a 48-yard touchdown pass for an 8-0 lead after Gracen Goldsmith’s two-point conversion run with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
Middletown got on the board on Landers’ 2-yard touchdown run with 4:12 left in the second quarter, but Hamilton responded with a 30-yard field goal from Connor Stephens to carry an 11-7 advantage into halftime.
Once the Middies got their lead in the third quarter, they just couldn’t get third-down stops. Hamilton also converted a fourth-and-2 instead of settling for a field goal to tie it. Middletown’s Eric Schroeder had 85 yards on 23 carries. Landers finished with 100 yards passing.
“We felt like we were in the game, creating turnovers and then they just bleed us out,” Simpson said. “Tough run attack, we knew they had that. They had the size advantage up front, so that was an obstacle we had to overcome and we didn’t capitalize on our opportunities. ...It’s a tough loss, but we’ll bounce back next week.”