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MIDDLETOWN -- Early in the first quarter, Winslow's talented offense was moving the ball at will against a formidable Middletown South defense and was on its way to the end zone for the second time in the opening 12 minutes.

The Eagles were in danger of falling behind by two scores in the NJSIAA Central Jersey Group 4 semifinals, but Middletown South came up with a game-changing play that turned the tide for good and had the Eagles surging toward another appearance in a sectional final.

With Winslow at the Middletown South 14-yard line, sophomore linebacker Luke Wafle recorded a sack and a forced fumble and junior linebacker Colin Gallagher pounced on the loose ball for a much-needed turnover. Four plays later, Middletown South was in the end zone and holding the lead for good as the Eagles, seeded No. 1 in the bracket and ranked No. 3 in the Shore Sports Network Top 10, defeated Winslow, 24-10, to advance to the Central Jersey Group 4 championship game on Friday night at The Swamp.

Two plays after the fumble, Middletown South junior quarterback Jake Czwakiel broke a 54-yard run down to the Winslow 24-yard line, and on the next play junior running back Donovan Summey scored on a 24-yard run to give the host Eagles (8-1) a 10-7 lead. Later in the first half, a 41-yard run by Summey set up Czwakiel for a 1-yard touchdown run that put Middletown South up 17-7 at halftime.

Those were the only points the Eagles would need thanks to a defense that bent often but rarely broke against a Winslow roster loaded with dynamic offensive playmakers. Senior running back Jamil Peterson entered the game with over 1,000 yards rushing and gashed the Middletown South defense for 163 yards on 18 carries. Quarterback James Wilson Jr. threw for 217 yards and wide receiver Cam Miller caught seven passes for 107 yards. But while Middletown South yielded yards in between the 20-yard lines, the Eagles buckled down in the red zone and also forced two turnovers.

Summey ran for 118 yards and a touchdown and also threw a 32-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Logan Colleran in the third quarter. Czwakiel ran for 81 yards and a touchdown, threw for 55 yards, and kicked a 35-yard field goal. On defense, Gallagher recorded a team-high nine tackles and recovered a fumble, Wafle had six tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble, and Will Christopher had a sack and a forced fumble. Czwakiel and Owen Richter had seven tackles each and Joe Capone broke up two passes, including one in the end zone on fourth and goal late in the game.

It all added up to another victory for Middletown South, which has now won six games in a row since a loss to No. 1 Red Bank Catholic in Week 3. The Eagles will play in their 23rd sectional final in program history next Friday and will go for sectional championship No. 11 when they host second-seeded Millville (9-1).

 

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