By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Football Insider Staff
WARWICK — Just after the second half kickoff, senior linebacker Rob Maslanka stood on the sidelines yelling that the Wildcats weren’t losing this game. It’s not easy lighting a fire under a team that totaled only 7 points and 26 yards in the first half; but he did.
Not even 10 seconds after he finished his pep talk, senior running back Kyle Rooney ran for a 38-yard touchdown, bringing the Wildcats to within three points. Only 15 seconds after the second half started.
“The way I look at it is if you don’t step up in the locker room and on the sidelines then everything will remain the same,” Maslanka said. “I saw my moment to get the guys fired up and my emotions spilled out.”
The Wildcats punted two more times in the third quarter before Maslanka came over to the offense with another pep talk. “I was telling them that this might be our last opportunity to score. I was confident that if they scored a touchdown (to take the lead) our defense would pay them back.”
That’s exactly what happened.
Led by Rooney and senior quarterback Joe Miller, the Wildcats put together an eight minute, 71 yard drive that gave them a 21-18 lead with 6:42 left — their first lead of the game.
Middletown gained three first downs in the final drive but were stopped at the Warwick 28-yard-line to end the game.
“They are a really solid team,” said Rooney. “We were sloppy in the first half and they made us pay. We were lucky to come out with a win, but a win is a win.”
Middletown (0-1) outgained Warwick (1-0) 325-to-144 in total yards. In the second half, the Middies were held scoreless and compiled four rushing yards; 112 less than they had in the first half.
The Middies were led by junior Dalton Howell who completed 13 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Na’Quan Dolson had both touchdown receptions, which came in the first quarter.
“Tonight showed we have some great leaders,” said Wildcats head coach Greg Sirico. “We’ve got some things to watch on tape and work on in practice and we’ll be ready for Valley Central next week.”