Speed propels Frederick past Middletown in football opener

Sep. 1—On its opening drive of the season, Frederick High's football team scored on a 31-yard end around by senior Newton Essiem.

First-year starting quarterback Greyson Rollman took a one-step drop and faked like he was going to deliver a quick pass, only to slickly hand it off to Essiem, who was coming back across the formation and then outran the Middletown defense to the goal line.

For its second touchdown, Rollman delivered a quick pop pass to senior receiver Davian Pryor, who was coming across the formation, and he beat the Knights' defense to the edge for a 6-yard touchdown.

And touchdown No. 3 was scored when Rollman fired an intermediate pass to junior Tyrico Morgan Jr., who then raced past defenders and into the end zone on a 64-yard scoring play.

The common denominator on all three touchdowns was the Cadets' speed, and that proved to be the major difference in a 29-12 home win over Middletown on Friday night.

"If you miss a tackle, you are in trouble," said Pat Cadden, drenched in ice water after a full Gatorade bucket was dumped on his head and back to celebrate his first win as Frederick High's head coach.

Morgan Jr. was on Frederick's 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams that set school records in winning Class 3A state track titles during the spring.

Essiem was on the 4x100 relay team that won a state title in 2022 and might have been on this year's state-championship team were it not for a hamstring injury.

And Pryor, the team's top receiver who ran under a 34-yard pass from Rollman to set up a touchdown and also produced two interceptions on defense, runs on the track team and was a state place-winner in the high jump.

"When you've got speed like that, all it takes is a crease, and it's a wrap," Cadden said.

Even Rollman got in on the act late in the third quarter when he rolled out of the pocket and then darted across the middle of the field to score on a 16-yard quarterback keeper, which created the final margin.

"We'll hear about that all week," Cadden said. "He'll want to join the relay team and go, 'Look, I can run.'"

Frederick's speed helped cover up for some sloppy play and some areas of concern that materialized over the course of the game.

The Cadets dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball last season on their way to their first unbeaten regular season since 1968.

But Middletown won the battle in the trenches Friday.

Frederick struggled to generate much of a running game throughout despite having one of the top backs in the county in senior Tae Anderson. And the Knights gashed the Cadets on their opening possession, as senior Griffin Sheridan took a pitch and dashed up the middle virtually untouched on a 52-yard touchdown run.

Middletown also won the physical battle at the start of the second half when it took the kickoff and marched 67 yards in 15 plays, taking 7 minutes and 8 seconds off of the clock. The drive was capped by a 2-yard quarterback sneak by sophomore and first-year starter Brittin Poffenbarger.

"I am proud of our fight in the second half. We definitely did not give up," Knights coach Collin Delauter said. "We had lot of good drives. We were in a difficult situation as to how to continue to move that ball in the second half based on how much time was on the clock."

Poffenbarger's touchdown pulled Middletown within 22-12, but the drive took up more than half of the third quarter.

The Knights were a little too mistake prone to really make a game of it. Penalties, especially in the first half, and three turnovers ultimately doomed their chances, Delauter said.

Frederick will want a few plays back, too. The Cadets turned the ball over twice and couldn't grind out the clock with their running game. They finished with 81 yards on 22 attempts as a team. And 47 of those yards came on the two scoring runs by Essiem and Rollman.

"We'll get 'em right," Cadden said of the offensive and defensive lines. "We are a work in progress ... It's always good when you can win and have a lot of teaching moments."

Follow Greg Swatek on Twitter: @greg_swatek