Stuck in the throes of providing a major assist to the revitalization of Middletown High School football, standout junior Josh Bryant is all in.
“I had a kid come up to me one day and he said, I want to be like you,” beamed Bryant after a 37-14 Week 2 setback to visiting Springboro at Barnitz Stadium. “That’s motivation right there.”
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An elusive running back who’s a double threat as a receiver, Bryant stamped his offensive prowess against the Panthers. He rushed for a team-high 78 yards and also had five catches from junior quarterback Kamari Fuller for another 84 yards. None was better than his 64-yard touchdown reception just 52 seconds into the game that staked the Middies to a 7-0 lead.
Springboro (2-0) responded by scoring the next 31 points.
This is not the Middletown program that electrified its faithful with Jalin Marshall, Kyle Schwarber and others bumping Cincinnati Colerain out of the Greater Miami Conference top spot. Those were the Middies teams and players Bryant grew up rooting for and who stirred his own motivation.
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“I wanted to be like them,” said Bryant, who leads the GMC with 420 all-purpose yards. “It’s something special and it’s something for the future. We’re just trying to build something for the kids, for when they get to high school, they can start winning. It’s real tough. You’re trying to impress the city, impress everyone.”
Uncommitted, Bryant already has impressed the University of Cincinnati, Kentucky, Toledo, Marshall and others, all whom have shown recruiting interest.
Middletown (1-1) begins GMC play with a massive challenge against visiting Fairfield (2-0) in a Week 3 matchup on Friday. The Indians are coming off impressive defeats of Greater Western Ohio Conference members Centerville (33-7) and most recently at Springfield (16-12).
The game also will feature the GMC’s two best running backs in Bryant and Fairfield senior JuTahn McClain, the conference’s reigning offensive player of the year. McClain leads the GMC in rushing (291 yards). He’s verbally committed to Kentucky.
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Middletown has won just three combined games and only two GMC contests the last three seasons. But the current Middies also have separated themselves. It’s Year 2 of a major rebuild by head coach Don Simpson.
The lineup is loaded with talented underclassmen, including many sophomores such as offensive lineman Logan Osborne, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound hammer whose recruiting stock should soar.
There’s also junior linebackers Cameron Junior and Kamron Cooper, two play-making difference makers. That bodes well for the future Middies, if not this season.
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“We want to become competitive in the GMC,” said Simpson, previously the defensive coordinator at Princeton. “It’s been a great experience. I’ve been really welcomed into the community and I have a lot of support from our administration. They believe in the process that we’re trying to do. We’re trying to build this program back up, so it’s an exciting time right now.”
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