MIDDLETOWN — Midway through the third quarter in Friday night's District Three Class 3A semifinal, a snap for host Middletown dropped to the chilled grass at War Memorial Field.
Without missing a beat, the Blue Raiders' Tymir Jackson scooped it up, barreled into a wall of Lancaster Catholic defenders and pushed the pile 11 yards for a first down.
Jackson's improvisational push was part of a second-half surge that carried the Blue Raiders to a 33-15 victory.
"In the second half," Lancaster Catholic coach Todd Mealy said, "we had guys in spots to make plays, and their backs broke tackles and took them for touchdowns. What can you do? Our kids tried hard, and they were lined up properly, and Middletown was just better today."
Seeking their fourth straight District Three crown, the No. 2 Blue Raiders (10-1) advance to face the winner of Saturday's semifinal between Wyomissing and Annville-Cleona for the title.
Friday, Middletown led 12-7 at halftime and, pinned on its own 8 to start its first offensive series of the second half, got a boost from Jackson, who broke through for a 92-yard touchdown run to stretch the lead early in the third quarter.
"A lot of people talk about him running inside the tackles," Middletown coach Brett Myers said of Jackson, "but today he was able to show a little bit of speed, on an opening screen and on that sweep. He's a special kid, and he runs really hard."
On the Blue Raiders' next possession, Jackson recovered the fumble and pushed the pile, setting up one of three touchdowns from Jose Lopez, who finished the night with 156 yards on 25 carries to eclipse 6,000 career yards.
Lopez had given Middletown a 12-0 lead with a pair of first-quarter touchdowns, but the Crusaders (10-2) rallied, overcoming a pair of first-half turnovers to pull within a score when Gavin Sullivan (13 for 18, 188 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception) hit Alex Cruz for a 60-yard catch-and-run score as time expired in the first quarter.
"We prepared for their offense," Mealy said, "but the RPO [run-pass option] game with the kind of speed that they have, we just hadn't seen that. It enabled them to get up early in the game, but then we came back and made it a one-score game."
After the touchdown runs from Jackson (9-143) and Lopez, Middletown quarterback Tony Powell (6 for 11, 135 yards, 1 touchdown) tacked on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass to Chris Joseph.
Lancaster Catholic answered with a scoring drive capped by Jeffrey Harley's 2-yard touchdown run with 6:20 remaining, but Middletown stemmed the rally and advanced.
"I think in the end," Mealy said, "we just weren't able to make the big plays like we had during the regular season, and it made a difference in the second half."