MIDDLETOWN — Middletown is back.
For the first time since 2010, Lima Senior will play its longtime football rival Middletown.
The Spartans open this season at Middletown’s Barnitz Stadium (Cris Carter Field) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Lima Senior’s series with Middletown dates back to 1955. Middletown leads the all-time series, 34-17-2.
The Lima vs. Middletown series actually goes back to 1924, when Middletown defeated the Lima Central Dragons, 25-13. That was 31 years before Lima South and Lima Central merged to form Lima Senior.
Lima Central’s first win over Middletown came in 1946, 7-0, under legendary coach Seraph Pope. That helped Central post a 10-0 season in ‘46.
Lima South first played Middletown in 1926 and the game ended in a 0-0 tie.
And going back as far as anyone can remember, it’s been a big rivalry.
“It was a great rivalry,” Lima Senior head coach and former Spartans quarterback Mike Fell said. “You grow up not liking Middletown. They were just like Lima, as far as athletes. You remember Cris Carter played there, his brother Butch (Carter) played there. … Every year they had tremendous athletes back in the day.”
In the 1970s, Middletown went 9-1 against the Spartans.
Fell was a junior quarterback back in 1979 when the Spartans had their only win against the Middies in the 1970s. Lima Senior pulled out a 21-20 victory at Lima.
“We had to come back and win it,” Fell said. “We were down 20-14. … We were 6-1 and ended up 8-2. We were ranked in the state and they were ahead of us (until the end).
“I remember that was the year we first beat Princeton and I can remember (Lima Senior coach) Jerry Harris saying that the Middletown game was the biggest win he had ever had at Lima Senior. That was fun.”
In the 1980s, Middletown went 7-3 against Lima Senior. The Spartans then went 6-4 against the Middies in the ’90s.
In Lima Senior’s Division I state championship year of 1996, the Spartans defeated Middletown, 63-14.
“We were fortunate. We went 4-0 against them,” Lima Senior’s quarterback in 1996 Jimmy Morris said. “When I was a senior, we scored 63 points against them and that clinched the league and it was our first GMC (Greater Miami Conference) title. That sticks out in my mind.”
Morris said the big games when he played were GMC games with Middletown, Hamilton, Lakota and Princeton.
“(Coach Leonard (Rush) would get pretty fired up during the Middletown week,” Morris said. “He would get fired up most weeks, but there was that extra feeling against Middletown. If I had to pick one big game in the GMC, it would be the Middletown game. It’s great for the community.”
Middletown has won eight in a row in the series, with the Spartans’ last win over the Middies coming in 1999 (49-7).
The last meeting between the two schools came in 2010, when the Middies posted a 49-14 win in Lima.
“It’s nice to get them back,” Fell said. “It was definitely our biggest rivalry.”
Middletown this season
This is Middletown coach Chris Wells’ second season.
In his first year, Wells’ Middies finished 4-6 (3-4 GMC), which was a definite improvement over 1-9 in 2013. Four of their losses last year were by 10 or less points.
The Middies will run the Wing-T and will lean heavily on the running game. Look for plenty of sweeps and dive plays.
Allante Simmons is slated to be the lead back, after running for 557 yards and seven TDs last year. Wingback Eethan Edwards and wide receiver Vincent Calhoun are also expected to be factors in the offense.
Others to watch include running backs Javen Wright and Dan Fitzgerald and receivers Keonte Million, Elijah Johnson and Xavier Peters.
“They have some great athletes. Calhoun is their free safety and running back and he’s a Division I prospect (in the secondary),” Fell said. “They have some big tackles, one is 6-9 and is one 6-7. They have good athletes, they can run and fly to the football on defense.
“They are in a pistol Wing-T. They’re very run oriented offense, with play action. And they do it out of the shotgun.”
Middletown was picked to finish seventh in the preseason GMC poll.
Spartans’ preseason injury
Lima Senior suffered a tough injury in the preseason. Cornerback/running back B.J. Mays is out for the year with a torn ACL in his knee, which he suffered in a recent scrimmage.
The Spartans’ top running backs will be Jaden Walker and Jaylin Thomas.
Reach Tom Usher at email@example.com or on Twittter at @Lima_Usher.