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Prep football: Middletown, Oak Hills taking season finale seriously

MIDDLETOWN — Don Simpson keeps shaking his head. His first year at the Middletown High School football helm has been that kind of season.

The Middies have showed promise, but they’re still 1-8 and on an eight-game losing streak heading into Friday night’s season finale at Oak Hills.

Four Middletown losses have been by 7 points or less, all in the last five weeks.

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“The wins and losses will not tell the full story,” Simpson said. “Five out of the eight games we’ve dropped, if the ball bounces one way or the other, it’s a win for us. It’s almost realistic for us to sit here and say we could be 6-3 right now. But we’re not, and it’s something for us to move forward with and grow from.

“I see the building blocks that have been set in place. We’re going to learn how to finish. That’s going to happen in the offseason.”

The Middies had a 303-143 advantage in yards against Lakota West last Friday, but dropped a 7-3 decision.

“Our defense was awesome,” Simpson said. “We had a lot of energy, a lot of excitement and a lot of seniors on that defense. They went out and played extremely well against a much bigger team. And we had a great special-teams night. Our punt team was amazing flipping the field position for us.”

Senior quarterback Jarrenn Thomas was 20-of-37 for 192 yards in his first full game since getting hurt in Week 2. Also showing well was sophomore running back Josh Bryant, who gained 104 yards on 18 carries.

Bryant didn’t finish the game because of a toe injury, but Simpson said he should be on the field against Oak Hills. Bryant is 19 yards away from hitting the 1,000-yard rushing mark this year.

“Going into Week 10, I think one of the biggest positives is that the energy level of our kids has not wilted,” Simpson said. “The positive energy has the younger guys looking forward to the offseason and the older guys looking to that next chapter and wanting to finish the season strong.”

Oak Hills (3-6) has lost its last five games. Senior quarterback Ethan Myers suffered a season-ending injury in Week 5 against West, and that 34-0 defeat began the Highlanders’ losing streak.

“You can definitely see the scheme was there. It was clicking for them early when they had their starting quarterback in there,” Simpson said. “We know firsthand what it’s like to lose your starting quarterback.”

Sophomores Danny Flanigan (45-of-87, 347 yards) and Devin Holt (5-of-9, 35 yards, one TD) have stepped in at QB for Oak Hills, which is averaging only 64 yards per game on the ground.

“We’ve got a lot of young guys in a lot of positions that we didn’t think they’d be thrown into this year, but they had to because of injuries,” Highlanders coach Kyle Prosser said. “It’s been some some crazy stuff, but it’s been good. The kids are dealing with it. They understand the motto of ‘next guy up’ and the importance of practicing like they’re the starter even though they’re not. They’ve really accepted those roles, and we’re starting to take strides that I haven’t seen in the past few years. That’s been nice to see.”

Prosser, in his third season as Oak Hills’ head coach, said Myers will be down six to nine months after undergoing shoulder surgery. He was 69-of-131 for 822 yards and six TDs this year.

Friday is Senior Night for the Highlanders. Nineteen seniors will be honored.

“We knew coming in we’d be pretty young,” Prosser said. “Even though we’ve got 19 seniors, we’ve got a lot of guys that are first-time players. It’s been a big learning curve, but I’m really proud of how far they’ve come. We’ve simplified some things, which helped. The thing we’ve emphasized this year is play fast and eliminate all the thinking.”

Prosser said he’s been impressed with Middletown’s improvement this season.

“They’re athletic and disciplined, and they’ve got big-play capability,” he said. “Defensively, they’re going to pressure us. We’ve been practicing all week making sure we’re up to the task and ready to see blitz packages from the left, right and up the middle.”

Friday’s game

What: Middletown (1-8, 0-7 GMC) at Oak Hills (3-6, 1-6 GMC), 7 p.m.

Where: Rutenschroer/Maher Field at Betz Memorial Stadium, 3200 Ebenezer Road, Green Twp.

Series: Middletown leads 11-4 and won 28-21 in 2017

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