By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Middletown coach Tim Strenfel briefly stopped a film session with his team earlier this week to deliver a passionate message about this week’s game against rival Port Jervis.
Middletown hosts Port Jervis in the famed Erie Bell game at 7 p.m. on Friday night. Both teams enter the showdown 0-2.
“I told them that I don’t care what they see on the game film,” Strenfel said. “This game is huge for Port Jervis and they are going to come out ready. If you know the history of this game, a lot of their players’ dads, uncles, grandfathers and great grandfathers have played in the game. The signs are already going up in Port Jervis and this is a big deal for everyone.”
The Middies lead the all-time series 74-58-7 and have won the last four meetings in a rivalry that dates back to 1897. Middletown gave up a 21-point fourth quarter lead, before edging the Raiders 24-21 in overtime last season. Slovakian exchange student Sam Diak’s 18-yard field goal provided the Middies with their margin of victory.
“If last year was any indication, throw the records out for this game,” said Port Jervis coach Matt Polanis, who played quarterback for the Raiders, graduating in 1990. “I know I sound redundant, but you have to throw out the records, we are both 0-2. Middletown played some good teams and we are young, but we hope our team gets better. This will be a good test for us.”
Middletown opened this season with a 21-18 loss to Warwick and fell to Newburgh 31-0 last week. Port Jervis, which moved from Class A to Class B this season has lost to Class C schools Chester (16-6) and Spackenkill (42-19). The Raiders only have 10 seniors on their roster. Despite the slow starts on each side, approximately 2,500 fans are expected at Faller Field on Friday.
Middletown vs. Port is akin to some of the great rivalries in sports. No matter if each side is playing well or struggling, the Erie Bell game rarely disappoints.
“I really love the tradition of this game and I don’t take it for granted,” Middletown linebacker Shawn Rosa said. “Playing in this rivalry is a great opportunity and it motivates all of us. Both teams might be 0-2, but we still expect a dogfight. We are going to come in with right mindset and I know we have it in our hearts to win.”