MIDDLETOWN — It was her time to shine in the biggest moment of a historic game that has been taking place since 1897.
Port Jervis football came from behind and took the 33-19 win over Middletown to reclaim the Erie Bell trophy on Friday night at Faller Field at Middletown High School. After falling behind 19-6 with 4:32 left in the third quarter, the Raiders stormed back with 27 unanswered points. Port Jervis kicker Alexa Bennett was a reason why, as she made three of four extra points.
— Melissa Kramer (@MKramerTHR) September 17, 2022
In front of a packed crowd, both teams traded touchdowns in the first half. Middletown opened the scoring with a 13-yard rushing touchdown by Julani Graham and PAT by Jack Moreira and the Middies would lead 7-0 after one quarter.
1Q: TOUCHDOWN Middletown. Julani Grant runs it in for a 13-yard touchdown. Jack Moreira's extra point is good. That is a 77-yard drive. Middletown leads Port Jervis, 7-0, with 5:07 left in the first quarter. #V845 pic.twitter.com/nDUyruDgY4
— Melissa Kramer (@MKramerTHR) September 16, 2022
Port Jervis took advantage of a pass interference call and Carroll Dolshun took in a 1-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter. The 2-point conversion was no good.
The Middies would score the next two touchdowns. Ryan Williams ran in a 4-yard score before the PAT was blocked, capping a 64-yard drive. The Middies missed a field goal with 11 seconds left in the second quarter but took a 13-6 lead into halftime.
Jacob Balmos kept the energy up on the Port Jervis sideline, telling his team a very specific line.
"That we were coming home with the Bell no matter what," he said.
In the third quarter, Idris Daniels recovered a fumble for Middletown. This would ultimately set up a Graham 2-yard touchdown run, before the snap for the PAT was botched. Middletown led 19-6 with 4:32 left in the third quarter.
A fourth-down pass from Logan Morris to Jacob Balmos extended a Port Jervis drive, before Dolshun ran in a 5-yard touchdown, his second of the game. Bennett entered the game and kicked the extra point, cutting the Port Jervis deficit to 19-13 with 1:20 left in the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Middies faced a 4th-and-24 from their own 22-yard line. The ensuing punt attempt ended in a bad snap, which gave the Raiders a 1st-and-goal from the Middies' 6-yard line. Morris' 6-yard pass to Anthony Theodore would knot the game at 19. Bennett's second extra-point attempt of the game was good, giving Port Jervis its first lead of the game at 20-19 with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter.
4Q: Alexa Bennett's second PAT kick of the game is good. This gives Port Jervis a 20-19 lead with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter. First Port Jervis lead of the game. #V845 pic.twitter.com/iB8Q2nmtyn
— Melissa Kramer (@MKramerTHR) September 17, 2022
On the first play of the ensuing Middletown drive, Daniels' pass was intercepted by Maddox McCormick, which set up a new set of downs from the Middies' 10-yard line. This led to a 3-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from Morris to Jaden Demarco, who returned this year from a season-ending injury last year.
Bennett drove her third extra-point attempt through the uprights and her team went up 27-19 with 8:46 left in the fourth quarter. Chris Hicks' sack forced Middletown to punt on a 4th-and-17. The Raiders would add one more touchdown as Morris connected with Balmos for a 1-yard touchdown, before a blocked PAT.
“He told me, ‘You’re going out to kick for us,’ and then the whole team was behind me when I went out and it just felt great," Bennett said coach Damien Striharsky told her.
Before the game, Port Jervis' Tyler Montalvo and Middletown's Mekhi Mercer were awarded with the Steven Faller Memorial Award. It is presented annually to one player from each school who plays in the Erie Bell game. Port Jervis' Tyler Howard won the Rivalry Series scholar-athlete award. TayeIn McKinney won it for Middletown.
What it means
Port Jervis reclaimed the Erie Bell trophy after a one-point loss last season. Middletown will look to bounce back.
Player of the game
Alexa Bennett came up clutch when her team needed her to make crucial extra points. She made 3 of 4 extra points, including the one that gave her team the first lead of the game (20-19) with 11:03 left in the fourth quarter.
By the numbers
Port Jervis (3-0) — Quarterback Logan Morris had three touchdown passes. Carroll Dolshun had two rushing touchdowns (1 yard and 5 yards). Anthony Theodore had a 6-yard touchdown reception. Jaden Demarco added a 3-yard touchdown reception. Jacob Balmos had a 1-yard touchdown catch. Alexa Bennett went 3 of 4 on PATs. On defense, Maddox McCormick had a fourth-quarter interception.
Middletown (0-3) — Julani Graham scored two rushing touchdowns (13 yards and 2 yards) for the Middies. Ryan Williams added a 4-yard rushing touchdown. Jack Moreira went 1 for 3 on PATs and 0 for 1 in field-goal attempts. Defensively, Idris Daniels had a fumble recovery.
They said it
“We had a plan all along to have Alexa [Bennett] come in. We knew what she could do, we were just trying to test out our conversions. Looking at last week it was just by points, that we wanted to make it a game, which worked out. This week, we said as long as the point differential is there, we’re going to then go for one. I told Alexa “listen, it’s nothing personal.” She said, “I get it.” I said “You’re going to have your time to shine” and what a time tonight to do that. And she came through.” - Port Jervis coach Damien Striharsky on the gameplan for kicker Alexa Bennett.
“I know I didn’t want to lose this game, for sure. In the locker room, we went over what we had to switch up and what we had to fix it. So we came out definitely willing to work and we did our thing.” - Port Jervis quarterback Logan Morris on the team's halftime adjustments.
Port Jervis is slated to play a road league game against Marlboro (1-2) on Friday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. Middletown is scheduled to host Newburgh Free Academy (1-2) in a league game on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.
This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Section 9 football: Port Jervis beats Middletown, reclaims Erie Bell