By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Mike Piscitelli has waited more than a year for this moment, for his chance to avenge last year’s disappointing blowout loss to Middletown in the Erie Bell game.
Final score: Middletown 42, Port Jervis 0. It served as one of the most lopsided games in a rivalry that dates back to 1897.
“We have anger in our hearts,” said Piscitelli, a running back/linebacker. “That will drive a human being beyond their limits. I’m still hurting. I’ve played in two Erie Bell games and I lost both of them. That just hurts. I think we are going to come out with a different fire that you haven’t seen yet and we are going to play great.”
Port Jervis hosts Middletown in the 139th Erie Bell game at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Glennette Field. Approximately 2,500 fans are expected to attend the game. The Middies lead the all-time series 73-58-7 and have won the last three meetings between the rivals.
“This is a game that everyone members,” said Port Jervis coach Matt Polanis, who played quarterback for the Raiders, graduating in 1990. “Everyone who has played at Port Jervis knows how they did against Middletown. It’s a game that everyone remembers and the fans are already excited. They are already asking ‘are you going to win, are you going to win, are you going to win?’ You have to win the Bell game.”
Middletown dominated Port Jervis last season behind senior running back Jordan Bryan, who rushed for 316 yards and three touchdowns. This year, the Middies enter the game undermanned. Middletown will play on Saturday without seven starters, including five who play on both sides of the ball.
According to first-year coach Tim Strenfel, five of his injured players suffered torn ACL’s. After opening the season with two wins, the Middies have lost to Washingtonville, Pine Bush and Monroe-Woodbury.
“From day one, we said next man up,” Strenfel said. “This has been the year of next man up. These kids are coming to practice and they want to get better. At this point, that’s who we have and we are excited about the Erie Bell game.”
A one-win team last year, Port Jervis is 4-1. The Raiders’ one loss came in shocking fashion, 13-8 to Goshen two weeks ago. The Gladiators entered that game 0-3.
Port Jervis bounced back with a 48-7 win against Wallkill last week. Up next is the Erie Bell game. In terms of games played, Middletown vs. Port Jervis is one of the longest high school football rivalries in the country.
“I’m excited,” Piscitelli said. “It’s the Bell game, so everyone is excited. Growing up, everyone wants to play in this game. For us, it’s our spiritual championship. That’s what (defensive coordinator) Craig Fisher has called it. That’s how I look at it, too. This game is all pride.”
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