Prep football: Middletown battling some adversity with Sycamore next

Middletown’s Josh Bryant takes off with the ball during an Aug. 31 game at Springboro that was ultimately won by the host Panthers 42-26. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ERIC FRANTZ

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Middletown’s Josh Bryant takes off with the ball during an Aug. 31 game at Springboro that was ultimately won by the host Panthers 42-26. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY ERIC FRANTZ

The home sideline might look a little less crowded Friday when the Middletown High School football team hosts Sycamore for its homecoming game at Barnitz Stadium.

A scuffle during the junior varsity game against Princeton last Saturday resulted in ejections of players from both teams, and “a good group of them” will be held from competition this week, according to Middies coach Don Simpson.

To help fill out Middletown’s JV lineup Saturday against the Aviators, some players who normally dress for varsity but don’t play will be sent down, and Simpson said the actual impact Friday will be minimal.

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“We have to watch behavior,” Simpson said. “A couple of our guys are experiencing the consequences of their actions, but we don’t let what happened Saturday be a distraction. It’s a physical rivalry with Princeton, guys are playing hard, and some guys got into it. We had a couple ejections, but all the varsity guys will be ready to go. It’s the same squad, but a couple guys will move down.

“It affects us because it’s a family. We’re not going to have some of our little brothers on the sideline, hooting and hollering with us. It’s an unfortunate event, and we just want to leave it right where we are, take our medicine and move on and learn from it.”

Otherwise, it’s business as usual for the Middies (1-4, 0-3 Greater Miami Conference) as they look to begin the second half of the season the same way they began the 2018 campaign — with a win.

Middletown opened with a 42-0 win over Western Hills but has lost four straight, including a 32-29 loss to Princeton last week in a game the Middies led 21-3 at halftime. The Vikings went up 10 points with two touchdowns in the final five minutes and Middletown managed to get one back but fell short.

“We’re just not quite there,” Simpson said. “We played great three quarters against Springboro (another game the Middies led), but against Princeton, we played a great 44 minutes, so we’re getting closer there. It’s a process getting the program in the right direction. We’re trending in the right direction, but we just haven’t played that full mistake-free effort. Although the Princeton loss was a heartbreaker for us, the silver lining is we are getting close to where we want to be. We are better than we were in Week 1, better than we were Week 4, and we hope we’re saying that next week too.”

Sycamore (3-2, 1-2), meanwhile, is in a similar position coming off back-to-back losses, including a blowout last week against Colerain after an overtime decision against Mason in Week 4.

Simpson said both teams will be scrapping for a win Friday, and the Middies are preparing for a solid Sycamore squad.

“They are a very fundamentally sound, good football team,” Simpson said. “We have to be disciplined, and we can’t make a lot of mistakes. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We’re just trying to sharpen up and get ready for another tough GMC football game.”

The Aves are led by junior quarterback Drew Altemuehle, who has 459 yards and three touchdowns in four games but was held out last week against Colerain. Sophomore Andrew Fehr replaced him, but Simpson said the Middies are preparing for Altemuehle.

Running back Brian Doneghy paces the ground attack with 357 yards and five touchdowns.

Middletown’s offense has been powered recently by quarterback Kamari Fuller, who had 251 of his 442 yards passing last week, and wide receiver Shandon Morris, who leads the league with 453 yards receiving. Josh Bryant adds 335 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

“We’re just getting back to the basics as we start the second half of the season,” Simpson said. “We look forward to being at home in front of our fans after being on the road the last two weeks, and hopefully we can get the second half started the way we started the season with a bang.”

Friday’s game

What: Sycamore (3-2, 1-2 GMC) at Middletown (1-4, 0-3 GMC), 7 p.m.

Where: Cris Carter Field at Barnitz Stadium, 1211 S. Main St., Middletown

Series: Sycamore leads 14-10 and won 34-14 in 2017

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