Winless Middies hoping to thwart Princeton’s playoff surge

Middletown running back Alonso Corbin (14) is tackled by Hamilton linebacker Miquan Hubbard (28) during their game at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton last weekend. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

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Middletown running back Alonso Corbin (14) is tackled by Hamilton linebacker Miquan Hubbard (28) during their game at Virgil Schwarm Stadium in Hamilton last weekend. GREG LYNCH/STAFF

Middletown High School football coach Lance Engleka said his team has three main objectives heading into its season finale Friday against Princeton: Put together a full game, play the role of a spoiler and, most importantly, send the seniors out on a high note.

The Vikings (5-4, 2-4 Greater Miami Conference) sit in seventh in the Division II, Region 8 computer rankings, and a win over the Middies could propel them to their first postseason berth since 2007.

Middletown (0-9, 0-6) is trying to avoid the program’s first winless season and want to give its 17 seniors a memorable sendoff. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. at Barnitz Stadium.

“The seniors who have committed themselves to the program the last four years, you want to send them off on a winning note,” Engleka said. “For Princeton … if they win they are in (the playoffs), so that’s a huge motivating factor. Last week against Hamilton we played a very good football game for 42 minutes. With six minutes left, we were down 14-10. You put yourself in a position to win, and next thing you look up and it’s 34-10. We have made strides. We are putting together drives, playing defense, so it’s just a matter of putting it all together for a full game.”

Princeton coach Pat McLaughlin said he’s not worried about his players overlooking the Middies. The Vikings have dropped three games in a row, including a 49-14 loss to Sycamore two weeks ago, and Middletown has won the last two games in the series, including 36-13 last year.

“We’re not at a point right now where we can overlook anybody, including Middletown,” McLaughlin said. “They want to end their season on a high, to go into the postseason on a win. We do too. We have to put forth our best effort. We’ve just got to be more consistent, worry about each play, don’t worry about the past. Where we are is where we are. We can’t worry about if we’re in or out of the playoffs. We just have to give ourselves our best shot.”

The Vikings are led by quarterback Solomon Reed, who has thrown for 1,647 yards and 18 touchdowns with six interceptions. Running backs RaQuon Robinson and Tyree Mills account for more than 700 yards rushing combined, and the defense is helped by the return of Jamal Hines, who missed last week’s 28-7 loss against Mason but has three forced fumbles and two recoveries.

Engleka said he hasn’t necessarily seen any weaknesses on film from the past couple weeks, other than that Princeton has been banged up and relying on some less experienced personnel to fill gaps.

“They are playing younger players and moving players into different positions, much like we have been,” Engleka said. “But they want to get into the playoffs and that’s a huge motivating factor, so we are going to have to match that intensity and execute in all phases.”

Princeton especially will be looking to get back on track with its running game, which was effective through a 5-1 start but accounted for just 231 yards over the three-game losing streak.

The Vikings have suffered some injuries on the offensive line and Middletown’s strength up front on defense is especially concerning, according to McLaughlin.

“Their three down guys — 55 (Ayron Thompson), 52 (Keion Williams) and the other defensive tackle — they’ve done a really good job controlling the line of scrimmage, and that makes me nervous,” McLaughlin said. “They are quality players, and we’ve got to be able to block better.”

Friday’s game

What: Princeton (5-4, 2-4 GMC) at Middletown (0-9, 0-6 GMC), 7 p.m.

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

Last meeting: Middletown won 36-13 in 2015

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